Monday, June 21, 2021

Henry Adams

The great-grandson of John Adams and grandson of John Quincy Adams, the prominent Bostonian Henry Adams (1838-1918) did not follow their illustrious paths to the U.S. presidency. Instead, he devoted himself to writing, producing several multivolume histories of the nation, an enormous quantity of political journalism, and two novels. He is best known today for two nonfiction works (both privately printed) that grew out of his scientific theory of history, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1904) and  The Education of Henry Adams (1907), a third-person autobiography that imagines Americans in the year 2000 while pursuing one of the earliest investigations into ideas of chaos and complexity. Having moved to Washington in 1877 with his wife (who committed suicide in 1885, an incident not mentioned in the autobiography), Adams quickly became an "insider," forming acquaintances with practically every president until his death at age eighty. See Henry Adams: Novels, Mont-Saint-Michel, The Education (ed. Ernest and Jayne N. Samuels, 1983).

p. 569, The Best American Essays of the Century.

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