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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

A revelatory biography of literary icon Henry Adams - one of America’s most prominent writers and intellectuals of his era, who witnessed and contributed to the United States' dramatic transition from a colonial society to a modern nation.

Henry Adams is perhaps the most eclectic, accomplished, and important American writer of his time. His autobiography and modern classic The Education of Henry Adams was widely considered one of the best English-language nonfiction books of the 20th century. The last member of his distinguished family - after great-grandfather John Adams, and grandfather John Quincy Adams - to gain national attention, he is remembered today as an historian, a political commentator, and a memoirist. 

Now, historian David Brown sheds light on the brilliant yet under-celebrated life of this major American intellectual. Adams not only lived through the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution but he met Abraham Lincoln, bowed before Queen Victoria, and counted powerful figures, including Secretary of State John Hay, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, and President Theodore Roosevelt as friends and neighbors. His observations of these men and their policies in his private letters provide a penetrating assessment of Gilded Age America on the cusp of the modern era. 

The Last American Aristocrat details Adams’s relationships with his wife (Marian “Clover” Hooper) and, following her suicide, Elizabeth Cameron, the young wife of a senator and part of the famous Sherman clan from Ohio. Henry Adams’s letters - thousands of them - demonstrate his struggles with depression, familial expectations, and reconciling with his unwanted widower’s existence. 

Presenting intimate and insightful details of a fascinating and unusual American life and a new window on 19th-century US history, The Last American Aristocrat shows us a more “modern” and “human” Henry Adams than ever before.

©2020 David S. Brown. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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    4 out of 5 stars

An academic slog, and yet.....

.....it was a peek into a life very different than mine but with commonality through shared emotions and travels. Interesting look into the lives of other characters in American D.C. political life post civil war. Also, convinced he was the last American aristocrat (male of female). However, when it was done, I certainly didn't find it a waste of time and would encourage certain friends to read it

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outstanding book, highly recommend it

This is a great book, well-deserving the accolates/awards it has already received. Brown brings Henry Adams real life to the surface in a way never done before, and certainly not done by Adams' own "Education" or 1918 (still a wonderful book itself). Brown is also able to put Adams into his context & related, to some degree, the history of the post Civil War period, up to WW1. Adams comes off as both attractive/interesting/open-minded and narrow-minded/rigid/snob. That is, as a real person. He would have been someone wonderful to meet & talk to at length. His virulent anti-semiitism (& sometime racism & sometime xenophobia aside). Brown does provide useful material on these less appealing subjects without letting those overwhelm the entire story. The narration is excellent.

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Riddle resolved

How should a biographer biograph a biographer? This imponderable is convincingly resolved. One should do it like this.

1 person found this helpful