Found this book in Simi Valley Public Library’s Harvard Classics set, which I’ll be smoking through on Fridays and possibly Saturdays. Many of the contents of that set are the same as those contained in the Great Books of the Western World set (which I own), but some of them–this one, Luther’s writings, Pliny’s letters, some autobiographies–are not common to both sets and I look forward to smoking through them.
This is truly a great book, but also very intense and some of the language can be difficult to understand fully. It’s deceptively short, but its brevity masks a deeper difficulty that is characteristic of Penn’s work. The book is complete in scope, covering every aspect of man’s existence ranging from his connection with nature to business, marriage, social dexterity, political relationships, and so on. Though explicitly religious, it is grounded in a sympathetic understanding of the limitations of human capability.
For me this provides a nice contrast with Penn’s Essay Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe, which I really loved. The Essay was limited in scope and could only cover so much, whereas this book, due to its presentation, was able to provide so much more insight into Penn’s value system.