Plutarch's Lives, Gilbert Sewall argued in a recent essay addressed to high school teachers, were for centuries not only extremely popular entertainment and an extremely influential "handbook of public leadership," but also "a guide to probity and time-honored clues to a successful life."[1]  --  Writing in American Educator, Sewall identified Plutarch's biographies as short treatises on character formation that, for Americans, have a special interest because of their link to the origins of the United States:  "Plutarch had an enormous influence on the 18th-century revolutions.  George Washington modeled himself on Plutarch's old heroes, and Napoleon considered the Lives a manual of military and civil rule. . . . His stories of the patriotic Spartan women stirred Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, and Judith Sargent Murray."  --  Thus by reading Plutarch, Sewall argued, "students may obtain insight into the foundation of their liberties."  --  In particular, he argued, they offer a corrective to the prevalence of "Hollywood values" in American pop culture.  --  COMMENT:  Sewall's juxtaposition of Tiger Woods and 50 Cent, with which he ends his essay, has a different ring read after Woods's 2009 scandal.  --  The notion of a Plutarchian contrast of the two lives is still appealing, though.  --  As an essay by Jules Evans suggested, though, a cautionary note is in order:  "[T]he Plutarchian cult of the hero was championed in the 19th century by thinkers like Thomas Carlyle, who seemed to believe that hero-worship could replace Christianity as the glue that held society together.  But Plutarch’s ‘great man’ theory of history was criticized and undermined from the middle of the 19th century by rival theories of history, particularly Marxism, which insisted that historical events were driven not by ‘great men’ but by impersonal socio-economic forces.  And after the terrors of Nazism, Stalinism and Maoism, the idea of emulating or even worshipping military heroes seemed dangerously fascist."[2]  --  Rory Stewart, for example, aruges that "with the decline of empires in the 20th century, there was no longer a space for military heroes to play out their grand conceptions of self.  Anyone who tries to play the grand hero in modern politics ends up looking ridiculous.  As he notes, the classical ideal of the hero only really exists on our film screens, blown up to ridiculous proportions as superheroes."  --  But this goes too far.  --  Plutarch teaches not only political ambition but also Stoic virtue and the other qualities Sewall emphasizes...

Le Mourre is a vast encyclopedic dictionary of history drafted by a single man, Michel Mourre.  --  Mourre devoted the last decades of a brief reclusive life to the drafting of reference works that are perhaps unique in the 20th century for their solitary erudition.  --  Little-known in the English-speaking world, le Mourre, as the work has popularly come to be known, was first published in France in 1978, several months after the author's death at the age of 49.  --  It has gained a certain reputation as a monument of erudition, and has been kept up to date in several subsequent editions.  --  The 1996 French edition runs to 5,884 pages, eight of which, summarizing the enormously complex history of Syria (up to 1991), are translated below.[1]  --  Mourre's imperturbable impassivity and blasé attitude of nil admirari will not be attractive to many readers, but the sober virtues of his prose have an appeal of their own....

Le Mourre is a vast encyclopedic dictionary of history drafted by a single man, Michel Mourre.  --  Mourre devoted the last decades of a brief reclusive life to the drafting of reference works perhaps unique in the 20th century for their solitary erudition.  --  Little-known in the English-speaking world, le Mourre, as the work has popularly come to be known, was first published in France in 1978, several months after the author's death at the age of 49.  --  It has gained a certain reputation as a monument of erudition, and has been kept up to date in several subsequent editions.  --  The 1996 French edition, published by Bordas, runs to 5,884 pages, three of which are translated below, recounting the life and accomplishments of Julius Caesar.[1]  --  They exemplify Mourre's sobriety and attitude of nil admirari and offer, to the language of hype that is now nearly universal in the 21st century, a contrast that some may find salutary and refreshing...