This is not the very greatest opening sentence in the history of the English novel: that honor still belongs to the first sentence of Rosabella: or, A Mother’s Marriage. It is, however, one of the most striking first sentences ever penned by an American author—though we must admit that it depends for its full effect on the sentence immediately following.

Great men stand like solitary towers in the city of God, and secret passages running deep beneath external nature give their thoughts intercourse with higher intelligences, which strengthens and consoles them, and of which the laborers on the surface do not even dream!

Some such thought as this was floating vaguely through the brain of Mr. Churchill, as he closed his school-house door behind him…

And now, your challenge: without resorting to a search engine, can you identify the author? Winners of the literary challenge earn the right to say, “I know a thing or two about a certain well-known American author that would make your hair stand on end.” The answer will be provided in this space tomorrow.



  1. Clay Potts says:

    My guess is Mike Aquilina – even if I am wrong, I can still say these things about this well-known American Author… :-)

  2. Ann Tiquity says:

    Look at the clues on the book covers, Clay. Mike Aquilina is dead and has been for years. They’ve replaced him with a lookalike. If you won’t believe the clues on the book covers, compare his ears in photos from 1968 to photos in 2008. They’re a lot bigger in 2008.

  3. Peter S. says:

    Good gracious! It began as if it might be sublime, but then . . . !

  4. Peter S. says:

    My guess is Nathaniel Hawthorne, although I doubt I’m even close.

  5. Clay Potts says:

    As the pools still appears to be open, and if the good Doctor will indulge a second guess – was it Edgar Allen Poe? – he always makes my hair stand on end….

  6. Clay Potts says:

    Edgar Allan Poe, with a “A”, that is –

  7. Clay Potts says:

    Dear Ann – I did in fact make a similar observation, but I just assumed his ears appear larger now because his hair is much shorter than in ’68. Besides, everyone knows, a man’s ears are like growth rings on a tree, they increase with age :-)

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