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The education of Henry Adams

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 453 pages
  • Publisher: [Adams] (1907)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006E3L4W
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Format: Paperback
The writing of Henry Adams can take some getting used to. At times he seems pompous, and falsely modest (after all, how modest can you be when you have decided to write an autobiography of your life), but I suspect the reality is that Adams is simply the product of another time. Clearly influenced by his illustrious family (great grandson of John Adams, grandson of John Quincy Adams, and son of Charles Francis Adams, a Congressman and Ambassador), one can clearly imagine that this is precisely how he was brought up to be, a product of the 18th and 19th centuries. The result is a biography, "The Education of Henry Adams" which is both personal, and yet touches on several important moments in history.

In this book, Adams thinks little of formal education and sees it as not preparing him for his life to come. The education he is talking about for most of the book, is the education he gets from the experiences of life. Those experiences come from his travel, the deep and long friendships he develops with Clarence King and John Milton Hay, and of course from reading.

From his early life, one story really stuck with me, and that is Adams relating his Grandfather, and at the time former President, escorting a stubborn and defiant young Henry Adams to school. Such a scene probably could never happen again, but imagine the impact on the other students to have a President of the United States bring a classmate to school.

One of the most interesting political stories from the book is a long one, detailing his father's period as Ambassador to the United Kingdom during Lincoln's administration. Adams discusses the attitude towards the representatives of the Union and how his father built up a tremendous amount of respect after initially being viewed as a lightweight.
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Format: Hardcover
I first read EDUCATION in graduate school. The book has a great deal of interesting commentary on events of Adams' times. The touch-and-go in England to prevent aid to the South is one example. The autobiographical and historical commentary alone make the book worthwhile. Adams' discussion of the Virgin and the dynamo, however, are even more applicable now than in the early nineteenth century. (Adams also wrote a poem on this theme. It was not in my earlier Modern Library copy, but was reprinted in a journal or book.)
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