I write a fortnightly newsletter, Hortus Scriptorius. That roughly translates as 'the writerly garden'. Started at the end of 2022, I have been writing about the Figures of Speech, tools which used to test and torque talent but which now have been sadly placed by the wayside. My intent is to rediscover them and place them as a small feast before you all. If you want to sign up, hit subscribe wherever you see the link, including right there.
From this page, you will be able to browse the back catalogue of letters. Each letter has some art, some music, and thoughts on the present or past worlds. I write about my children a lot, and increasingly I've tried to set out my theories (borrowed heavily from others, wiser than I) on education. I am a particular devotee of Charlotte Mason. And while I intend to do an in-depth study of classical education in the coming years, with a focus on homeschooling, after I finish my letters on the Figures, I intend to talk about plotting and story structure.
If that sounds like your thing, please enjoy the back catalogue. And, again, you can subscribe here anytime.
Four Happy Years
September 1, 2023
In this letter, I write about one of my many grammatical pet peeves. I also speak of my wonderful wife and lovely daughter, the latter of whom instructs me daily on taking the world as it comes. I write about Henry Ossawa Tanner and his beautiful impressionist art. We cover a species of metaphor in the Figure catchresis, and we (as always) cover articles and music. Who likes Whitney Houston? I do!
So come & listen to her & read me here.
August 18, 2023
In this letter, I write about the sex wars and about what men should be. I quote Ovid and Lewis and Mallory in my defence, and then look at the mystery which is the life of the Catholic painter John Lu, who was born and died in China and survived both the Second World War and the Cultural Revolution. I wish I knew more about him, but what I do know I share. We also review the Figure paronomasia, which is the fancy Greek name for 'Dad Joke', and we (as always) look at some articles and a couple of songs.
Come, pull my finger.
August 4, 2023
In this letter, I write about writing, and specifically about writing letters, how they compress time into a moment. I also write about potty-training our daughter, and the celebratory sadness which comes from watching one's child grow up. I speak also about an obscure Irish artist of the Turn of the Century (that is, the last century) named William Gerard Barry. And we delve into the the Figure anthimeria. I close out, as ever, with articles.
Come, take a gander.
June 23, 2023
In this letter, I write about how the brain processes time through novelty, about how children behave when scared, and the Brandywine School of American Art, which include Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, among many others. There's a lot of art in this one. I also speak about the supposed (and by that word you know I think fictitious) contrast between fun and hard work in schools. Finally, I delve into the Figure enallage as well as articles and music.
Read it for the articles, or even for the pictures.
June 9, 2023
In this letter, I write about reading, speaking a little bit about my own reading and how we all read from year to year. I then talk about the Great Books, The Great Conversation, and my own reading of Northrop Frye's The Educated Imagination. This moves into a poem (if poem it can be called) I think à propos, along with some thoughts on poetry which I've already half-disclosed. Then we have our Figure, the isocolon, which is when phrases share a parallel structure. Penultimately, I share two other people's work and then my own, until I ultimately close down with a paean to Sing the Hours.
Come on in, the water's fine.
May 26, 2023
In this letter, I write about death. I start in speaking about the Holocaust, and thence to the Second World War and memory. I return to death in general to speak of the Memento Mori, which has become a staple of art and literature in the West. I next take a divergence back to the purposes of these letters and talk about the Figure syllepsis, the use of one word to control two clauses with different grammatical senses. I then share two short articles and a book, Unearthed by Meryl Frank, which is a book about the Holocaust and the genesis of this whole letter just about.
Check it out, why don't you?.
May 12, 2023
In this letter, I talk about how my daughter prays for patience. Patience for what? She's less clear about that. I go from there to a contemplation of the Canon, how our forefathers have built it, how we in our generation maintain it. Then I speak a little about the immaculate conception, about how perhaps the longest-surviving institution in the world (the Catholic Church) knows patience. Then I give you all a Figure – the zeugma. I then recommend a series of articles all related to a recent debate about the Canon and how to test it. Finally, I share a vlog (if people still use that term) from a thoughtful vloger on YouTube: 'The Failed Masculinity of Gollum'.
The Ugly Duckling Theory of Human Excellence
May 5, 2023
In this letter, I get reaquainted with myself after our break. I tell a story about arrogance (my own) again, and a story about the stories I was told in school. Teachers who evangelize the theory of illegitimate authority do quite a deal of damage to their own credibility. I talk a little more about our daughter, whose fevers seem only partially explained and can only be partially controlled. But she's a remarkable girl (if I do say so myself). I include several drawings by Arthur Rackham, the famous English illustrator, and sum up my thoughts on education for the meantime with recursive reference to my own arrogance. Finally, I share two lovely essays I've read, one on Latin instruction and the other on Dostoyevsky.
Come read with me.
To Last 1,000 Years
March 31, 2023
In this letter, I talk a bit about originality, copyright, and the great traditions. I crib from W.E.B. du Bois and Seneca too. There are pictures of Cathedrals (more than you can now see), as well as a beautiful rendition of "Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar, with corresponding thoughts on Easter. And I write about the Ternary, a Figure of Speech which many call 'The Rule of Three'. Basically, any time you put two together, you get a straight line. Any time you put three together, you get perfection.
Come on in and see how it works.
What are children for?
March 24, 2023
In this letter, I talk about our duties to the dead and most especially to the living. Starting off with some chronology, I speak about the Founding Fathers and a little about the founding father of my particular family line. In The Schoolroom section, I do a deep dive into Affection, C.S. Lewis's name for storge, the love between family. I use it to talk about our duties to our children in relation to their education, and I also use it as an excuse to talk about Emma, the Austen novel, which is concerned mostly with seeing but also with how we love our family and friends. I end the letter with two recommendations, articles about fatherhood and teaching, plus a return to the Founding Fathers and other past American notables.
Come on in and see for yourself.
The Great Story Tree
March 17, 2023
In this letter, I take a jab at proving while originality is bunk. I also try to pose a counterargument I first heard from Scott Raines, a scholar, honest thinker, and friend. I also recommend another two articles, one from Mr. Raines and another from a Mr. Dalrymple (whom many know). The first is about education, the second about Joseph Conrad and (in a way) his education. In anticiption of the Easter uprising (and because I just love me some Irish Trad), I include a version of The Foggy Dew. And I include a five-minute review of Timothy Hickson's On Writing and Worldbuilding: Volume II. But the centerpiece of this letter is a breakdown of the anaphora and how that Figure works. I use Shakespeare, of course, but also President Whitmore.
Repairing the Patrimony
March 10, 2023
In this letter, I talk about how our work is a generational work, and what role I envision myself and my Hortus playing in that work. I also give a brief description of the life and times of Edwin Frederick Church, an American of immense talent. He's one of those whose work ought to have been continued, but he and the whole Hudson school found themselves washed away by modernism. In The Schoolroom, I enumerate the advantages of homeschooling as against what I've taken to calling 'away-schooling', and I speak a bit about just how diluted our education has become in the past century. As per usual, I include two article recommendation. This time, they're both about the skill children uncorrupted by modern pedagogy can display, and ought to display.
Come on over and give it a gander.
Of Living Biblically
March 3, 2023
In this letter, I give a little autobiography which culminates in my mother-in-law not knowing what a Jew is. I also speak a bit about children and sleeping beside them, which slithers into a talk about what our forebearers knew that we do not. I give a short biography, including a fine vignette from the Holy Land, about Good Sir Douglas (pictured above and in this letter). We need more stories like his! I include two short articles again, on Chivalry (C.S. Lewis) and Ellison (by a Samuel Kronen). I decide to keep going and post a poem read on YouTube called Horatius by the irrepressibly English Thomas Babington Macaulay. There's also a YouTube video which is a short summary of the symbolism of the Novus Ordo mass. Finally, I write about the epistrophe, which is when you end several sentences or clauses with the same word. As always, I try to cite widely, from Emerson to Shakespeare, Steinbeck to the Bible and even The Lord of the Rings movies.
Come stroll with me.
Speak Loudly and Carry Nothing in Your Hands
February 24, 2023
In this letter, I introduce The Schoolroom where I will endeavor (and fail) to keep my thoughts on education. I also tell a stroy which illustrates how argumentative was the family in which I grew up, then another about how I was raised to be as bad or worse. This is a trend that continues and that I doubt I'll ever overcome, but I wish I would. (And yes, I do distinguish argumentativeness, which can be a boon, from tendentiousness, which never is.) I talk a bit about art and show a picture from Maximilian Albert Josef Liebenwein. And I end with two article recommendations, a podcast recommendations, and the original plus a cover of Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come.
Please follow, and I hope you enjoy.