He rose early, cared little about his clothes, his customary ensemble a rumpled three-piece civilian suit, stiff detachable collar, black tie with stickpin. His main pleasures were food – virtually anything set before him – horseback riding, a glass of beer, conversation, and books, his reading being done according to a lifetime routine.

He always kept three books at hand – one scientific, one of classical literature or history, one light fiction – which he took up in turn, giving each exactly twenty minutes according to a pocket watch placed on the table beside his chair. In this fashion, he said, he was able to remember what he read.

He loved especially the adventure stories of H. Rider Haggard,” his daughter would recall; King Solomon’s Mines! I think those books had a great deal to do with his enthusiasm  for the adventure of Panama, for being there in the jungle then.”


from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914, by David McCullough (p426)