James Baldwin (1841–1925) was an American educator and editor whose books of stories for children had a great influence on the education of young people in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth. Born in Indiana, Baldwin was largely self-educated and became a teacher at the age of twenty-four. He served as the superintendent of Indiana’s school system for eighteen years before becoming a publisher of educational textbooks as well as other children’s stories. He wrote more than fifty books including Fifty Famous Stories Retold (1896) and Abraham Lincoln, a True Life (1904).
Author: James Baldwin
In this parable, attributed to Italian historian Girolamo Benzoni’s History of the New World (1565) and taken from James Baldwin’s collection, Thirty More Famous Stories Retold, Baldwin invites us to consider how anyone can know whether something cannot be done.
This ancient parable was first recorded in the fourth century B.C. in Xenophon’s Memorabilia, an account of the teachings of Socrates. In the story, Hercules, the half-mortal son of the god Zeus, is confronted by two beautiful women—virtue and vice—and forced to choose which path he will pursue. This modern adaptation is by James Baldwin (1841–1925), who included it in a reader for schoolchildren, Hero Tales Told in School (1904).