Adams, Henry

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Adams, Henry,

1838–1918, American writer and historian, b. Boston; son of Charles Francis AdamsAdams, Charles Francis,
1807–86, American public official, minister to Great Britain (1861–68), b. Boston; son of John Quincy Adams. After a boyhood spent in various European capitals, he was graduated (1825) from Harvard and studied law under Daniel Webster.
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 (1807–86). He was secretary (1861–68) to his father, then U.S. minister to Great Britain. Upon his return to the United States, having already abandoned the law and seeing no opportunity in the traditional Adams vocation of politics, he briefly pursued journalism. He reluctantly accepted (1870) an offer to teach medieval history at Harvard, but nonetheless stayed on seven years and also edited (1870–76) the North American Review.

In 1877 Adams moved to Washington, D.C., his home thereafter. He wrote a good biography of Albert GallatinGallatin, Albert
, 1761–1849, American financier and public official, b. Geneva, Switzerland. Left an orphan at nine, Gallatin was reared by his patrician relatives and had an excellent education.
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 (1879), a less satisfactory one of John RandolphRandolph, John,
1773–1833, American legislator, known as John Randolph of Roanoke, b. Prince George co., Va. He briefly studied law under his cousin Edmund Randolph. He served in the U.S.
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 (1882), and two novels (the first anonymously and the second under a pseudonym)—Democracy (1880), a cutting satire on politics, and Esther (1884). His exhaustive study of the administrations of Jefferson and Madison, History of the United States of America (9 vol., 1889–91; reprinted in a number of editions), is one of the major achievements of American historical writing. Famous for its style, it is deficient, perhaps, in understanding the basic economic forces at work, but the first six chapters constitute one of the best social surveys of any period in U.S. history.

Never of a sanguine temperament, Adams became even more pessimistic after the suicide (1885) of his wife, Clover. He abandoned American history and began a series of restless journeys, physical and mental, in an effort to achieve a basic philosophy of history. Drawing upon the physical sciences for guidance and influenced by his brother, Brooks AdamsAdams, Brooks,
1848–1927, American historian, b. Quincy, Mass.; son of Charles Francis Adams (1807–86). His theory that civilization rose and fell according to the growth and decline of commerce was first developed in The Law of Civilization and Decay (1895).
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, he found a satisfactory unifying principle in force, or energy. He selected for intensive treatment two periods: 1050–1250, presented in Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (privately printed 1904, pub. 1913), and his own era, presented in The Education of Henry Adams (privately printed 1906, pub. 1918). The first is a brilliant idealization of the Middle Ages, specifically of the 13th-century unity brought about by the force of the Virgin, which was dominant then. The second was classified by his publishers as an autobiography, although it was written in the third person and was unrevealing about much of his life. It is, however, a tour de force, and describes his unsuccessful efforts to achieve intellectual peace in an age when the force of the dynamo was dominant. These two books, containing some of the most beautiful English ever written, rather than his monumental History, won Adams his lasting place as a major American writer.

The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma (1919), edited by Brooks Adams and prefaced with a memoir by Henry Adams, contains three brilliant essays on his philosophy of history—"The Tendency of History," "A Letter to American Teachers of History" (pub. separately in 1910), and "The Rule of Phase Applied to History." Friendships, especially those with John HayHay, John Milton,
1838–1905, American author and statesman who was an important political figure from the mid-19th cent. into the early 20th cent.; b. Salem, Ind., grad. Brown. He practiced law at Springfield, Ill., where he met Abraham Lincoln.
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 and Clarence King, played a large part in Adams's life, and his personal letters reveal a warmer man than one might suspect.


See his letters (ed. by W. C. Ford, 2 vol., 1930–38) and H. D. Cater, ed., Henry Adams and His Friends: A Collection of His Unpublished Letters (1947); W. Thoron, ed., The Letters of Mrs. Henry Adams, 1865–1883 (1936); biographies by J. T. Adams (1933, repr. 1970) and E. Samuels (3 vol., 1948–64); biography of his wife by N. Dykstra (2012); W. Dusinberre, Henry Adams: The Myth of Failure (1980); E. Chalfant, Better in Darkness (1994); R. Brookhiser, America's First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735–1918 (2002); G. Wills, Henry Adams and the Making of America (2005).

Adams, Henry (Brooks)

(1838–1918) historian; born in Boston, Mass. (grandson of President John Quincy Adams, son of Charles Francis Adams, brother of Brooks Adams). After graduating from Harvard and studying law in Germany, he served as secretary to his father during the latter's term as ambassador to England (1861–68). On returning to the U.S.A. he went to Washington, D.C., but, disillusioned by the new government, he turned to teaching both medieval and American history at Harvard (1870–77) (where he is credited with introducing the seminar system into U.S. education). He left teaching and returned to Washington, D.C., where although he had a small circle of elite friends, he remained out of step with the new nation; he expressed this in his novel Democracy (1880). He continued to publish biographies and a nine-volume History of the United States of America from 1801 to 1817 (1889–91). After the death of his wife, Marian Hooper (1885), he traveled to many parts of the world but he always returned to Washington. He privately published Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1904) and The Education of Henry Adams (1907), but their success led to trade editions (1913 and 1918, respectively); the latter, now regarded as an idiosyncratic American classic, was his detached view of his problematic relationship with his times, and he did not have to deal with the irony of its receiving a posthumous Pulitzer Prize (1919).
References in periodicals archive ?
But Henry Adams was too wise to give it overmuch thought.
Many rooms are named in honour of master shipbuilder Henry Adams and we stayed in Pacific, which was thoroughly charming and had a separate small twin room for children.
12 to discuss "The Education of Henry Adams,'' by Henry Adams.
Stockton, and Henry Adams, Gilbert Sorrentino, Donald Barthrlme, Paul Auster, Flann O'Brien, puritanism in Thomas Pynchon, and several interpretations of James Joyce.
Another was die home of master builder Henry Adams who, sadly, died just four days after Trafalgar and before news of Nelson's victory reached Britain.
Another was the home of master builder Henry Adams who, sadly, died just four days after Trafalgar and before news of Nelson's victory reached Britain.
Henry Adams called his reminiscences The Education of Henry Adams.
The first section offers a good example of what commentators on Southern literature seem to have overlooked: the neo-medievalism of that class of scholars in the nineteenth century called the "Boston Brahmins," in particular that of Henry Adams, who represented "an awkward paternity" for both T.
STUDIO 11 opens at 7pm on Saturday, March 23, 2013 at the San Francisco Design Center, 101 Henry Adams Street in San Francisco.
Like Henry Adams, the great historian, Vidal disdained immigrants, especially Jewish immigrants, as nouveaux arrivistes lacking in manners and breeding.
To a large degree, the same thing is true of an editor that the American writer Henry Adams said of a teacher: He "affects eternity; he can never know where his influence stops.
president, and the son of a congressman and a diplomat, Henry Adams (1838-1918) had a lot to live up to.