Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Life on the Lagoons
Horatio Forbes Brown (1854–1926)
Life on the Lagoons, by Horatio F. Brown (1890). Beginning where Nature began to hint at Venice, Mr. Brown describes the peculiar topography of the region: the deltaed rivers flowing into the broad lagoon; the Lidi, or sandy islands, that separate the lagoon from the Adriatic, and guard the city for seven miles inland, from attack by war-fleet or storm; and the Porti, or five channels that lead from the lagoon to the sea. When the reader knows the natural geography of Venice as if he had seen it, he may pass on and behold what man has done with the site, since the year 452, when the inhabitants of the near mainland, fleeing before Attila the Hun, the scourge of God, took refuge on the unattractive islands, amid six miles of shoals and mud-banks and intricate winding channels. The descendants of these fugitives were the earliest Venetians, a hardy, independent race of fishermen, frugal and hard-working, little dreaming that their children’s children would be merchant princes, rulers of the commercial world, or that the queen city of the Middle Ages should rise from their mud-banks. Mr. Brown gives a concise sketch of the history of Venice, from its early beginnings to the end of the Republic in 1797, when Napoleon was making his new map of Europe. These preliminaries gone through (but not to the reader’s relief, for they are very interesting), he is free to play in the Venice of to-day, to see all its wonderful sights, and read its wonderful past as this is written in the ancient buildings and long-descended customs. He may behold it all, from the palace of the Doges to the painted sails of the bragozzi. The fishing boats, the gondolas, the ferries, the churches, the fisheries, the floods, the islands across the lagoon, the pictures, the palaces, the processions and regattas, and saints’ days, all have their chapters in “this spirited and happy book,” as Stevenson called it. All the beauty and fascination of the city, which is like no other city in the world, have been imprisoned in its pages; and the fortunate reader, though he may never have set foot in a gondola, is privileged to know and love it all.  1

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