Paul L. O'Connor (review date 17 June 1939)
SOURCE: "The Mystery of a Bronze Head," in America, Vol. LXI, No. 10, June 17, 1939, p. 237.
[In the following review, O'Connor maintains that Schlesinger's Orestes A. Brownson is "the history of [America's] intellectual development, the biography of a mind in its lonely search for truth."]
Two years ago a bronze head, knocked off a pedestal by a group of playful boys and found rolling down Riverside Drive, New York, started zealous reporters searching for someone who knew something about the name "Brownson" on the monument. Only after a hectic day of interviews and research—a sad commentary on American Catholic scholarship—was the search concluded with the knowledge that the original head belonged to Orestes A. Brownson, 1803–1876, philosopher, controversialist and convert to Catholicism. The bronze head brought Brownson back to public attention; Mr. Schlesinger's biography [Orestes A. Brownson] will keep him there.
For Brownson's career was as violent, as astonishing, as unpredictable to the people of his day as his rolling likeness to Riverside Drive residents. At an early age he renounced Presbyterianism for ordination as a Universalist minister. His unorthodox preaching and rebel theology jarred his congregation. Rejected, he fell into agnosticism, rose to announce himself an independent minister. He dabbled in politics, sifted and discarded Transcendentalism,...
(The entire section is 436 words.)