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Confessions (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Confessions (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.9 70
by Saint Augustine, Mark Vessey (Introduction), Albert C. Outler (Translator)

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Confessions, by St. Augustine, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:


Confessions, by St. Augustine, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the first personal histories ever written, The Confessions of St. Augustine offers more than a gripping narrative of one man’s battle against doubt. It is also a brilliant work of theology that helped set the foundation for much of modern Christian thought.

In a series of thirteen books, Saint Augustine displays a profound and searching intellect as he examines his life: his early memories of growing up in Roman North Africa during the fourth century A.D., his disgusted response to his mother’s faith, his agonies and sins as a student, and finally his dramatic conversion in a garden in Milan. Along the way, the Confessions explores with great force and artistry the nature of time, mind, and memory, and lays out Augustine’s interpretation of the Book of Genesis.

Throughout, Augustine’s remarkable depth of thinking is matched only by his elegance of expression, which has powerfully moved readers for more than 1500 years. A timeless classic, the Confessions remains an unforgettable portrait of an individual’s struggle for self-definition in the presence of a powerful God.

Mark Vessey is Professor of English at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Latin Christian Authors in Late Antiquity and Their Texts and co-editor of Augustine and the Disciplines: Cassiciacum to “Confessions”. He has written extensively on the reception of early Christian Latin writings in the Renaissance and later periods.

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Barnes & Noble
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Read an Excerpt

From Mark Vessey’s Introduction to the Confessions

The Confessions stands in a unique relationship to the Western idea of the literary classic. Augustine’s most famous work challenges one of the supreme classics of ancient Latin literature, Virgil’s Aeneid, the epic of Rome’s imperial destiny. It contends against that sacred Roman model in an idiom derived from the Jewish and Christian scriptures, texts with their own strong claim to normative status in cultures of the ancient, medieval, and modern worlds. In the Confessions we witness the collision of two mighty traditions of storytelling, alike devoted to the long-term dealing of god(s) with human beings and societies. This alone would guarantee the work’s historic interest. What makes it startling, even now, is Augustine’s attempt to tell a story of the entire human race throughout all time, in the first person singular. The example of Roman epic encouraged narrative ambition. The Hebrew psalms provided an alternative dramatic voice. To say much more than that is to say more than we can know for certain about the genesis of this strange and utterly original creation. For a long while after Augustine’s death, no one knew what to make of the Confessions. By the time we find readers responding to it with real excitement, between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries of the Christian era, they already resemble the modern selves we call our own.


“To Carthage then I came / Burning burning burning burning.” The mood and movement are Augustine’s, at the beginning of book 3 of the Confessions. As a Roman citizen of the late Empire, Augustine spoke and wrote in Latin. The English lines occur in a modern classic, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), arguably the most influential English-language literary work of the twentieth century. (Its nearest competitor would be James Joyce’s Ulysses, published in the same year, another composition that plays on a long tradition of poetry and myth from Homer forward.) In the explanatory notes that he added to his poem, Eliot acknowledged Augustine as a source, quoting the Confessions in the first translation ever made of it in English, by Tobie Matthew (1620). “To Carthage then I came” was Matthew’s rendering of Augustine’s “Veni Carthaginem.”

The Latin phrase had a special resonance for Augustine’s readers in the early fifth century. In the far-off days of the Roman Republic, Carthage had been Rome’s great enemy. A Carthaginian army under Hannibal once encamped beneath the walls of the city itself. “Carthage must be destroyed!” That was the famous refrain of the Roman statesman Cato in his speeches to the Senate. Ancient Punic Carthage was destroyed, politically and physically. The city razed, its territories became Roman possessions. But the rivalry lingered in historical and mythological accounts of the rise of Roman power.

In the time of Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor, the poet Virgil devised a prophetic storyline in which the Trojan refugee Aeneas, making his way to Italy under the gods’ direction to found the future nation of Rome, was hospitably received at Carthage by Queen Dido. Aeneas’ tale of the fall of Troy, told to Dido and her entourage in books 2 and 3 of the Aeneid, is the leading first-person narrative in Roman literature. Augustine, who composed mock speeches based on episodes in the Aeneid as a schoolboy and taught the poem to his own students for years afterward, would have known it by heart. After relating the wearisome journey of himself and his fellows down to the moment of his father’s death in Sicily, before the storm at sea that cast them on the shore of Dido’s kingdom, Aeneas comes to a stop. Having come to Carthage, he has no more to tell in his own person, and reverts to being the third-person subject of a poet’s tale. In the inner time of the poem, meanwhile, Dido has fallen fatally in love with her storytelling guest. Fatally, because the fate or destiny of Rome and Aeneas is against her. The hero will go on his god-driven way, leaving Carthage and its queen behind without so much as a word of parting. Abandoned and betrayed, Dido takes her own life. As the Trojans sail over the horizon, they look back and see the city lit up by her funeral pyre. It is also the reader’s last sight of Carthage in the poem, burning.

When T. S. Eliot was asked to give a lecture on Virgil in wartime London—another city lit by fire—he made his subject the question “What Is a Classic?” (1944). He answered it by claiming Virgil as the universal classic of European literature, and the Aeneid as the poem par excellence of European civilization. For Eliot, the Roman destiny of Aeneas already prefigured the Christian destiny of the Western nations after Rome. The idea was not altogether original; like others who appealed to Virgil as guardian spirit of “the West” during the dark years of the mid-twentieth century, Eliot was deeply indebted to Dante, the Christian poet who, in the Commedia (Divine Comedy) had taken the pagan Virgil as guide for part of his journey. Central to Eliot’s vision of the literary classic is a scene of poignant separation that is also a promise for the future. There are only two moments in “What Is a Classic?” when he refers to a specific place in a literary text. The first is when he remembers how the shade of Dido refused to speak to Aeneas on his visit to the nether world. That passage in book 6 of the Aeneid Eliot calls “one of the most civilized . . . in poetry,” because of the assurance that he found in it—in his own intuition of what Aeneas must have felt—that Virgil’s hero possessed a “consciousness and conscience” suitable to the forerunner of European civilization. The second moment occurs at the very end of the lecture when Eliot quotes the lines spoken by the figure of Virgil as he takes his leave of Dante in the Commedia, having, says Eliot, “led Europe towards the Christian culture which he [Virgil] could never know.” These twin scenes of Virgilian wayfaring provided Eliot in 1944 with the emotional grounds for a joint definition of the literary classic and of the Christian destiny of the West, one that appealed at the time to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and whose echo has not yet died away. Neither scene, however, could have appeared in such a light without the intervention, between the pagan Virgil and the Christian Dante, of the wayfarer of Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine, not Virgil, created the plot of the “divine comedy” onto which Eliot and other post-Romantic readers of Dante would one day graft their personal histories of the West. And that is perhaps the best reason for rating this work a classic in the twenty-first century. To read the Confessions is to go back to a place in memory from which the most expansive projections of Western civilization have been made—the place that Augustine, like Virgil before and Eliot after him, calls “Carthage.”

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The Confessions 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far the best translation I've read. It is vibrant and the wording flows with an excellent rhythm.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm only somewhat more than halfway through the Confessions just yet, but I already find St. Augustine's extremely deep knowledge of God, His Triune nature, His Incarnation, et cetera, are amazing! No other saint that I've heard of can take you so deeply into the mysteries of God, with such simple language! Now, there are times where he gets more philosophical, and one needs to read a paragraph several times in order to understand exactly what he's getting at, but that is rare. For the most part, St. Augustine's story of how he went from sinner to saint is a truly amazing story- not even so much that it's amazing in itself, but that the way it will move one towards God is certainly amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very readable and good translation. Vessey's introduction is informative and helpful in appreciating Augustine's work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent Read, great gift
Jeff_Cann More than 1 year ago
Books 1 through 9 were enjoyable because I could relate to his struggles. I then struggled with Books 10 - 13 as St. Augustine dove into the deep end of philosophy. I did appreciate the additional materials, in particular the introduction definitely helped me understand. Also, there was another reviewer who was apparently offended that this author translated deus into god (lower case). I wanted to point out (from the introduction) that the author was trying to be faithful to the original Latin codex. Unfortunately, codex written in Augustine's time had minimal punctuation and proper nouns were not capitalized consistently like they are these days. Here's the quote from the author in the introduction: "There would be no initial capitals for proper names or other key terms. Not even the words for “god” (deus) and “lord” (dominus) would be capitalized, though they might on occasion be abbreviated."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For clarification, this is a review of the Barnes & Noble Classics Series edition of Confessions by St. Augustine in NOOK Book format, translated by Richard C. Outler and with an introduction by Mark Vessey.  The biggest problem I have with this version is that it uses lower case for God, Lord, and other terms for our creator throughout the book. What was particularly odd about this is that I've seen at least one other printing of Outler's translation that does not omit the conventional use of capital letters for God's name. It is as if the editor was deliberately trying to minimize the importance of God. The editor is entitled to believe what he wishes, but clearly this book was written by someone who believes in and respects the Lord, and who would certainly have used capital letters had he been writing in contemporary English. (Heck, while I don't believe in Zeus, I still capitalize his name, because that's it's conventional to capitalize words used as names. I also noticed the footnotes making a reference to "Augustine's mythology, referring to Christianity. After a few chapters, I decided to find another translation from someone who was so clearly a non-believer, to ensure that the translation, format and footnotes captured the spirit with which St. Augustine wrote.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seghetto More than 1 year ago
If you expect a stuffy book written by a Saint of The Catholic Church then you are reading the wrong book. St. Augustine details his days as a sinner as well as his time among the nicomacheans. He was disillusioned so he found God and the church. Augustine actually goes pretty deep into the psychology behind his worship and his epiphany. This translation was fantastic and I couldn't have imagined any other version.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It seems as though all this version gave me was part way through book 2? Where is the resr?
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LatinScholar More than 1 year ago
This page has the Garry Wills translation and commentary I need--but it is not the version that downloaded onto my Nook after buying it. The commentary is what I need for an academic paper and I am appalled that I did not receive what I bought. This is unacceptable.
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