Henry Adams and the American Scene, Part I
John Raymond profiles a man whose forbears had fought to win the Republic. Henry Adams, however, witnessed and testified to the birth of a nation.
France was a land, England was a people, but America having about it still the quality of the idea, was harder to utter—it was the graves at Shiloh, and the tired, drawn, nervous faces of its great men, and the country boys dying in the Argonne for a phrase that was empty before their bodies withered. It was a willingness of the heart...
Scott Fitzgerald’s epitaph on the America of his youth may properly stand at the entrance to a re-discussion of Henry Brooks Adams. Although Adams was always a formidable phrase-maker, he studied, perhaps painfully, for most of his life, to avoid willingness of the heart—as his great autobiography of ideas, composed in relative old age, The Education of Henry Adams (1908), sufficiently demonstrates.