The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee, by Honoré de Balzac


Coffee was novelist Honoré de Balzac’s elixir and his downfall. In this essay, he explains the right way to drink it – but only for “men of excessive vigor, men with thick black hair and skin covered with liver spots, men with big square hands and legs shaped like bowling pins.” All others do so at their own risk…

The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee, by Honoré de Balzac {8:39}

A Proposal to Girdle the Earth, by Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly

Summer is vacation time, but some among us aren’t content with a week or two at the beach, but go all out. Journalist Nellie Bly, for example, thought it would be relaxing to “girdle the earth” in under eighty days, using Victoria era technology. In those simpler, pre-Facebook days, “travel” still meant something!

This excerpt is taken from Bly’s book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, first published in New York in 1890.

A Proposal to Girdle the Earth, by Nelly Bly {15:22}

The Game of Billiards, by Alphonse Daudet

A. Daudet

If Alphonse Daudet enjoys a reputation as a cheerful, even sunny author, it is due to his popular collection Lettres de mon moulin, which I have drawn upon numerous times over the course of this podcast. But Daudet also had a darker side, reflecting the very dark times he lived in, namely the years 1870/71, when France was crushed by a superior German army in the Franco-Prussian War and its capital was reduced to starvation, rubble and eventually ashes during the German siege and the Commune, along with the latter’s brutal suppression by French government forces. This story, from Daudet’s collection Contes du lundi (Monday Stories), sums up the author’s bitterness over the French army’s and government’s behaviour during those traumatic events.

The Game of Billiards, by Alphonse Daudet {12:29}