Discussion Topics

In what significant ways does Henry Adams differ from his father and grandfather?

Are Adams’s political and religious ideas more effectively presented in his fiction or in nonfiction works such as his autobiography?

Does Adams offer a convincing interpretation of Roman Catholic devotion to the Virgin Mary in Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres?

Why is Adams so critical of his formal education? Does it seem to have benefited him more than he realized?

Characterize Adams’s attitude toward the time in which he was living.

How convincing do you find Adams’s assertion of his own “failure”?


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Adams, Henry Brooks. The Education of Henry Adams. Edited with an introduction by Ernest Samuels. Washington, D.C.: Privately printed, 1907. Reprint. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974. One of the most distinguished autobiographies of the twentieth century. Adams’ best-known work.

Adams, Henry Brooks. The Letters of Henry Adams. 3 vols. Edited by J. C. Levenson et al. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982. Includes bibliographical references and index. Adams’ letters are valuable in that they reveal his thoughts and reflect the times in which he lived.

Adams, Henry Brooks. Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres. With an introduction by Ernest Samuels. Washington, D.C.: Privately printed, 1904. Reprint. New York: New American Library, 1961. The best starting point for a study of Adams would be the above works, especially The Education of Henry Adams, one of the greatest autobiographies of all time.

Brookhiser, Richard. America’s First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735-1918. New York: Free Press, 2002.

Bush, Clive. Halfway to Revolution: Investigation and Crisis in the Work of Henry Adams, William James, and Gertrude Stein. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991. Examines Adams’s theories of history.

Byrnes, Joseph F. The Virgin of Chartres: An Intellectual and Psychological History of the Work of Henry Adams. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1981. Discusses Adams’ relationships with women. Concentrates mainly on Mont-Saint-Michel...

(The entire section is 705 words.)