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The EDUCATION Of HENRY ADAMS.

von Henry Adams

Weitere Autoren: Siehe Abschnitt Weitere Autoren.

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2,452374,569 (3.77)120
'Every generalisation that we settled forty years ago, is abandoned'As a journalist, historian and novelist born into a family that included two past presidents of the United States, Henry Adams was constantly focused on the American experiment. An immediate bestseller awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, his The Education of Henry Adams (1918) recounts his own andthe country's education from 1838, the year of his birth, to 1905, incorporating the Civil War, capitalist expansion and the growth of the United States as a world power. Exploring America as both a success and a failure, contradiction was the very impetus that compelled Adams to write theEducation, in which he was also able to voice his deep scepticism about mankind's power to control the direction of history. Written with immense wit and irony, reassembling the past while glimpsing the future, Adams's vision expresses what Henry James declared the `complex fate' to be an American,and remains one of the most compelling works of American autobiography today.… (mehr)
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    Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis von David M. Potter (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: Two great books covering the same period and events but one from perspective of a close cotemporary observer and the other eighty years later.
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    Main Line WASP: The Education of Thacher Longstreth von W. Thacher Longstreth (bertilak)
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This is one of the more unusual memoirs I’ve read. Rather than a self-satisfied appraisal of the author’s achievements, Adams casts himself as a failure. Of course, measured by the standards of his heritage – grandson and great-grandson of presidents – perhaps an understandable feeling, since he never held public office. In fact, the only job he held was that of assistant professor of history at Harvard for seven years, which he treats in a chapter entitled Failure. Perhaps the closest analogies among books I’m familiar with would be the confessions of Augustine and Rousseau.
The key to the work is that he titled it neither memoir nor autobiography, but “education.” So I continually asked myself what he meant by that. The author describes himself repeatedly as a product of the 18th century, although born in 1838. He laments that his classics-based education did nothing to prepare him for a world dominated by coal and capital. It seems then that by education he means some guidance in how to figure out what’s going on in a rapidly changing world and make his way in it. But he describes his first spring in D.C., with the beauty of Rock Creek Park, as one of the best parts of it. Contrasted with this was the 10 days he spent at the bedside of a beloved older sister, witnessing her death agony, also described as education. All the more strange, then, that he passes over the twenty years of his marriage. He never refers to his wife, their happiness, nor her suicide; there is only an enigmatic reference to the bronze figure he commissioned his friend St. Gaudens to place in Rock Creek Park. Was none of this part of his education, or was the lesson too painful to share?
On the more mundane level of education, that of curriculum, apparently he would have preferred mathematics, natural sciences and modern languages. Well, his program carried the day, the education I received was very much what he outlined. What do educators say about that today? Is it still the recipe? What should education aim to accomplish, how should it go about the task? What about the student, the subject of education? Adams seems to doubt that the cherished 18th century liberal values of extended suffrage and universal education will produce a better society. He is undeniably an elitist. Recounting his experience on the Harvard faculty, he reports that:
“The number of students whose minds were of an order above the average was, in his experience, barely one in ten; the rest could not be much stimulated by any inducements a teacher could suggest. . . Adams [the author refers to himself in the third person throughout] thought that, as no one seemed to care what he did, he would try to cultivate this tenth mind, though necessarily at the expense of the other nine.”
His aristocratic tendencies are also on display as he shudders on his journey through Pennsylvania and Ohio on his way to the St. Louis exhibition in 1904 at the hordes of Germans and Slavs who came to service the mines and furnaces. And whenever he needs a stock figure to express comic disapproval, he reaches for the Jew.
The book culminates in two chapters in which he expounds what he calls a dynamic theory of history, accompanied by a law of acceleration; it involves applying concepts borrowed from physics to questions of historical process. He had laid the groundwork for this theory in an earlier chapter, The Dynamo and the Virgin, in which he contrasts these two great forces. This contrast sheds light on his decision to write a memoir at all. His previous book, Mont St. Michel and Chartres, deals with the high middle ages, the apogee of mankind feeling itself as a unity. Subsequent development, Adams maintains, was in the direction of multiplicity, even fragmentation. He chose to chronicle his lifelong feeling of ignorance as an exemplum of this new state of affairs.
One of the rewards of reading this book was that it is liberally sprinkled with his acerbic wit. Overall, though, the tone reminded me most of Koheleth, as the unknown author of Ecclesiastes is sometimes referred to. Both look back at the end of life with the realization that the achievements of each were a striving after wind.
( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
This book was interesting but moved slowly. Adams didn't have many friends, was a misanthrope, and didn't fit anywhere except as mediocre student in the school of life. ( )
  Jimbookbuff1963 | Jun 5, 2021 |
The Education of Henry Adams is rich in personal observations, filled with nineteenth-century US history. Even his mile walk to school at age 6 has historical interest, because the 77-year-old man who held his hand and walked with him was the sixth US president, John Quincy Adams, Henry’s grandfather.

For the record, Henry’s great-grandfather was the second US president, John Adams (signatory of the Declaration of Independence), then his grandfather John Quincy Adams the sixth president, and his father the US ambassador to England during the Civil War. His maternal grandfather Peter Chardon Brooks was one of the 100 wealthiest Americans, a merchant millionaire, which was rare in the 1700s and early 1800s.

Adams was alive twenty-two years before the Civil War, and from his earliest years was appalled at slavery and the retrograde violation of human dignity in the southern defense of slavery (100). He met presidents from, of course, his grandfather John Quincy, through Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and many more, through twentieth-century presidents McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt. He died in 1918, the same year that World War I ended. It was a long way from the early American pioneer days of 1838 when he was born. When Adams was born, transportation and communication had not changed in 10,000 years. When he died he had seen the introduction of new transportation and communication that the twentieth century took for granted.

Henry served as assistant to the ambassador to England for eight years when he was fresh out of Harvard University. Returning to the US around 1869 he started a career he loved as a journalist. But his family, friends, and professors he respected, persuaded him to take the position of history professor at Harvard. He did it for seven years. One of his students was Henry Cabot Lodge.

Other than the friends he made during this period, he hated teaching and considered it a waste of seven years. He had little faith in standard teaching methods and outcomes. He valued the active mind and to “know how to learn” rather than the stuff that people spend most of their time studying (314). He believed in slower-paced learning to more fully and deeply absorb subjects as opposed to fast-paced surface learning.

On the other hand, he felt a little guilty after Harvard had greeted him as an adult with open arms: “Yet nothing in the vanity of life struck him as more humiliating than that Harvard College, which he had persistently criticized, abused, abandoned, and neglected, should alone have offered him a dollar, an office, an encouragement, or a kindness” (305).

He returned to his writing career, which over his lifetime included novels, the eight-volume History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, historical and legal essays, the two books I’ve reviewed, and many others. He was one of America’s most esteemed historians though he spent his life with a sense of personal failure and a low estimation of his own education.

His lifelong pursuit was to extrapolate and understand the trajectory of human evolution, socially, politically, industrially, scientifically, theologically, and technologically. One of his comments on human evolutionary development sounds very modern. As history students know, Ulysses S. Grant had been a great general, but was corrupt as president. Speaking of Grant, Adams cuts to the chase: “He had no right to exist. He should have been extinct for ages. … That, two thousand years after Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, a man like Grant should be called…the highest product of the most advanced evolution, made evolution ludicrous. … Darwinists ought to conclude that America was reverting to the stone age” (266).

The Education is rife with insightful commentary on the world spinning around him, sometimes moving too fast to comprehend, sometimes moving incomprehensively backwards. He saw paradigm-shift inventions from telegraph and trains, to telephone and automobiles (he even bought a car in his later years), steam then electricity, inventions like photography, then film and the early Hollywood silent films, finally airplanes and the discovery of radium and radiation.

Adams traveled more than most Americans in the nineteenth century. He spent many years throughout Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa, the Pacific islands and the Caribbean. He was an early observer of the merging of Western Cultures, noting “Hamburg was almost as American as St. Louis” (414).

The Education has hidden treasures, offhand observations that end up being the most memorable. For example, he notes the affectation of eccentric behaviors in people considered highly eccentric. Eccentricity itself becomes a convention. He observes that “a mind really eccentric never betrayed it. True eccentricity was a tone—a shade—a nuance—and the finer the tone, the truer the eccentricity” (370).

Adams’ final thoughts show his disappointment: “He saw his education complete, and was sorry he ever began it” (458). He abhorred the ever-worsening “persistently fiendish treatment of man by man;…the perpetual symbolism of a higher law, and the perpetual relapse to a lower one” and principals of freedom deteriorating into principals of power and the “despotism of artificial order” (458), referring to the rise of corporate dominance over society. He particularly disliked the growing influence of corporate power: “The Trusts and Corporations stood for the larger part of the new power that had been created since 1840, and were obnoxious because of their vigorous and unscrupulous energy…They tore society to pieces and trampled it under foot” (500).

Adams had good friends who met tragic fates, his wife committed suicide at a young age, and as he grew older, found himself “A solitary man of sixty-five years or more, alone in a Gothic cathedral or a Paris apartment…” (460). So this is The Education of Henry Adams. You may wonder why I liked it so much, and recommend it. The book is a retrospective provided by one of our most observant students of life, with access to the most interesting places and people in their most interesting times. The book itself is a fascinating education for anyone who reads it.
( )
  Coutre | Dec 23, 2020 |
Ultimately this is an old man grousing about how the country has gone to hell in a hand basket. Plus he was no doubt bothered that he had sat out the Civil War as an aide to his father the ambassador to Great Britain. Unlike today that disqualified him from holding elected, and especially high, office as his grandfather and great grandfather had. ( )
  JoeHamilton | Jul 21, 2020 |
For the first several chapters it reminded me very much of how I felt about my own experiences in school.

I am delighted with how nicely the third person narrative fits this autobiography. He is a very skilled writer.

He was a deep thinker and there is much that I don’t understand. Part of my inability to understand is I only have vague familiarity with many of his intimate acquaintances and this historical events he was in the middle of.

I grew curious as to whether he ever married since he was writing at length about various powers, including the power of the feminine. From Wikipedia I found that he had married, she committed suicide, and he was totally silent about her in his autobiography. (Chapter 30)

It would take a much more careful reading to understand the depth in this book. ( )
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
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» Andere Autoren hinzufügen (28 möglich)

AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Henry AdamsHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Lodge, Henry CabotVorwortCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Morris, EdmundEinführungCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
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Under the shadow of Boston State House, turning its back on the house of John Hancock, the little passage called Hancock Avenue runs, or ran, from Beacon Street, skirting the State House grounds, to Mount Vernon Street, on the summit of Beacon Hill; and there, in the third house below Mount Vernon Place, February 16, 1838, a child was born, and christened later by his uncle, the minister of the First Church after the tenets of Boston Unitarianism, as Henry Brooks Adams.
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'Every generalisation that we settled forty years ago, is abandoned'As a journalist, historian and novelist born into a family that included two past presidents of the United States, Henry Adams was constantly focused on the American experiment. An immediate bestseller awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, his The Education of Henry Adams (1918) recounts his own andthe country's education from 1838, the year of his birth, to 1905, incorporating the Civil War, capitalist expansion and the growth of the United States as a world power. Exploring America as both a success and a failure, contradiction was the very impetus that compelled Adams to write theEducation, in which he was also able to voice his deep scepticism about mankind's power to control the direction of history. Written with immense wit and irony, reassembling the past while glimpsing the future, Adams's vision expresses what Henry James declared the `complex fate' to be an American,and remains one of the most compelling works of American autobiography today.

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