The Letters of Henry Adams (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Henry Adams of Massachusetts, the grandson of one president and the great-grandson of another, “born,” as he claims in the famous opening sentences of his autobiography, “in the shadow of the Boston statehouse,” was doomed by temperament, chance, and history to spend his life as an observer of power. A disappointed romantic, Adams created from his own limitations and deficiencies a role that could mask his impotence without deflating his self-esteem. As a professional pessimist, an ironic commentator on the political foibles of his contemporaries, he brought to those who cared to or were permitted to listen, the lofty perspectives of a national history which happened by chance to also be a family one.
Adams spent his early years as a historian, teacher, and occasional novelist, his later ones as an analyst, essayist, and autobiographer. Although in sheer quantity, the productions of his first half-century, including his biographies of Albert Gallatin and John Randolph, his nine-volume History of the United States of America (1889-1891), and the satirical novels, Democracy: An American Novel (1880) and Esther (1884) outweigh the works of his last three decades, it is for the products of his later life, Mont- Saint-Michel and Chartres (1904) and The Education of Henry Adams (1907), that he is most likely to...
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The Letters of Henry Adams (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
As any student of American history knows, the epistolary talents of the Adams family are a great and still only partially mined national natural resource. For more than a hundred and fifty years, the pens of this small group of curious, articulate New Englanders scratched out descriptions of the events and discussions of the ideas that shaped the intellectual and political consciousness of their country. Narrow, bitter, and contentious as they sometimes are, the Adams letters have provided a unique record of the American past and a fascinating study in the interplay of personality and politics.
Publication of The Letters of Henry Adams makes available to the general reader for the first time an important vein of this mine hitherto only glimpsed. In the past, scholars or casual readers who did not have access to the Adams family papers could read the letters of this celebrated grandson and great-grandson of presidents only in highly abridged or selected editions, notably the two-volume collection published in the 1930’s by Worthington C. Ford, which deleted comments that might have been an embarrassment to the still-surviving members of the Adams family and their immediate circle of friends. According to the current editors, more than fifteen hundred letters survive from the period covered by these three volumes; of these, 1,277 appear here, 710...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
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Chicago Tribune. February 5, 1989, XIV, p.6.
Chronicle of Higher Education. XXV, September 15, 1982, p. 27.
Library Journal. CXII I, November 1, 1988, p.92.
London Review of Books. XII, January 25, 1990, p.13.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. August 21, 1983, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. February 12, 1989, p.2.
New England Quarterly. LVI, September, 1983, p. 472.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVIII, March 6, 1983, p. 9.
Newsweek. CXXI, April 11, 1983, p. 95.
Time. CXXI, April 11, 1983, p. 95.
The Washington Post Book World. XIX, January 15, 1989, p.1.
The Wilson Quarterly. XIII, Summer, 1989, p.98.
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