"With his characteristic wit, verve, and analytical precision, Michael O'Brien illuminates Henry Adams as yet another northern observer whose reaction to the South is best understood in the context of a larger perception, of not only the rest of America but the rest of the world as well."
—James C. Cobb, University of Georgia
Thinking about the South, says Michael O’Brien, was “part of being an Adams.” In this book O’Brien shows how Adams (grandson of President John Quincy Adams and great-grandson of President John Adams) looked at the region during various phases of his life. O’Brien explores the cultural and familial impulses behind those views and locates them in American intellectual history. He begins with the young Henry Adams, who served as his father’s secretary in the House of Representatives during the secession crises of 1860-1861 and in the American embassy in London during and after the Civil War, until 1868.
O’Brien then covers a number of topics relevant to Adams’s outlook on the South, including his residency in that deceptively “southern” city, Washington, D.C.; his journalism on the Reconstruction-era South; his biographical or historical works on the Virginians John Randolph, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison; and his two novels, especially Democracy. Finally, O’Brien ponders the vein of southern self-criticism--exemplified by Wilbur J. Cash’s Mind of the South--that embraces the notorious slur so often quoted from The Education of Henry Adams.
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