Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Education of Henry Adams

The Education is a history of Henry Adams' education. This process started when he first started remembering, and continued on up until immediately before his death. Since he was the grandson of a president, this education had a fairly elitist flair to it. OK, it comes across as very elitist. Even the many attempts at questioning come across as pompous. Telling the story in the third person doesn't help.
It is interesting, however, to see how somebody lives through the many changes happening through the time of the civil war to the beginning of the 20th century. He was a diplomat in England at the time of the year, and observed England doing pretty much what America has done in many conflicts since. Idealistically, England supported the US in the war due to the anti-slavery view. However, commerce pre-empts idealism, and England officially was on the side of the confederacy.

We also get Adams questioning some of the "accepted" wisdom of changes. Darwin and science were providing revolutionary alternatives for grounding in basic values. However, all of these theories had their weaknesses, and were simply the trendy thing of the day. He seemed to be not a big fan of the "all-encompassing" theory, and seemed to somewhat ironically choose one as the modern invention.

At times he delves into issues that were big concerns of his day, but seem trifling to us. At other times, he just seems to ramble on about things. He betrays remarkably little about his actual day to day life and employment, and instead focuses on his thoughts, especially as compared to other times. There are plenty of good parts here, but it is more a book about exploration than "found wisdom".

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