ADAMS, HENRY

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ADAMS, HENRY - “Authors are sensitive both to praise and blame because they know better than anyone else the shortcomings of their own works”
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ADAMS, HENRY - “Authors are sensitive both to praise and blame because they know better than anyone else the shortcomings of their own works”

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ADAMS, HENRY. (1838-1918). Historian, author and grandson of John Quincy Adams whose celebrated The Education of Henry Adams is an American classic. ALS. (“Henry Adams”). 3pp. 8vo. Washington, D.C., October 30, 1889. On his H Street stationery. To American lecturer and writer CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER(1829-1900) who co-authored The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today with his friend Mark Twain.

 

Many thanks for your extremely kind letter. Authors are sensitive both to praise and blame because they know better than anyone else the shortcomings of their own works, and are either delighted if they can deceive readers into thinking it good, or are irritated at their finding out the intended fraud. The book you have been kind enough to read deserves to be mentioned only as Chinese gentlemen speak of their houses: You do honor to my pigstye [sic.]! As for the blunder you point out, it is mortifying and without excuse. It proceeds from a certain peculiarity of brain which causes some men to write one word when another stands before them. With repeated thanks, your very grateful servant…”

 

The grandson of President John Quincy Adams and the fourth of seven children of Charles Francis Adams and Abigail Brooks, Henry Brooks Adams was an ambitious youth who decided while still a teenager to travel the world and become a great politician and author. After graduating from Harvard and spending two years in Europe, he worked as his father’s secretary, a Republican congressman at the time.

 

Adams began his writing career by secretly using his position to dispatch anonymous news reports from Washington, D.C. to the Boston Daily Advertiser. In 1861, his father, Charles F. Adams became minister to England and ordered his son to join him in London. Once again, Henry submitted anonymous articles, this time to the New York Times. Finding considerable success and pleasure in his clandestine vocation as a foreign correspondent, young Adams also displayed a talent for diplomacy.

 

Following his return to the U.S. in 1868, Henry taught medieval history at Harvard but, in 1877, he was drawn back to Washington where he worked as a journalist and historian, forming a select circle of friends. “Men of distinction and women of charm sought his house; and happy was he who was privileged to breakfast at 1603 H St. These breakfasts became almost an institution in Washington,” (DAB). Adams’ well-known salon attracted the cream of Washington society, including President Theodore Roosevelt and his second wife, Edith.

 

Adams’ historical works include Life of Albert Gallatin, the 1891 Historical Essays and the nine-volume The History of the United States of America (1801 to 1817), published two volumes at a time beginning in 1889. In 1894, Adams was elected president of the American Historical Association. He also penned two novels: Democracy and Esther, but, his most famous work is undoubtedly his 1918 The Education of Henry Adams, a privately printed reflection on how society had changed during his lifetime.

 

Warner was the author of essays, travelogues, novels, and editor of The American Men of Letters series. With Mark Twain, he collaborated on the 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which gave the era its name. Additionally, he was on the editorial staff of The Hartford Press and The Hartford Courant as well as Harper’s Magazine. Like Clemens he traveled and lectured widely, and he is well known for a quotation, often attributed to Clemens, that “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Our letter is penned the same year Warner published his novel A Little Journey in the World.

 

Not published in The Letters of Henry Adams: 1858-1892, ed. Levenson. Written on a folded sheet in his neat, baroque hand. In excellent condition, with the original envelope. Rare.

 

 

 

Item #20419


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