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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by…

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (edition 2011)

by David McCullough, Amy Hill (Designer), Wendell Minor (Jacket designer), William B. McCullough (Author photographer)

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1,955635,459 (3.93)141
This is the inspiring and, until now, untold story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. None had any guarantee of success. That they achieved so much for themselves and their country profoundly altered American history. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America; future abolitionist Charles Sumner; staunch friends James Fenimore Cooper and Samuel F. B. Morse (who saw something in France that gave him the idea for the telegraph); pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk; medical student Oliver Wendell Holmes; writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and Henry James; Harriet Beecher Stowe, seeking escape from the notoriety Uncle Tom's Cabin had brought her; sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and painters Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent; and American ambassador Elihu Washburne, who bravely remained at his post through the Franco-Prussian War, the long Siege of Paris and even more atrocious nightmare of the Commune. His vivid account in his diary of the starvation and suffering endured by the people of Paris (drawn on here for the first time) is one readers will never forget. Nearly all of these Americans, whatever their troubles, spent many of the happiest days and nights of their lives in Paris.--From publisher description.McCullough mixes famous and obscure names and delivers capsule biographies of everyone to produce a colorful parade of educated, Victorian-era American travelers and their life-changing experiences in Paris.… (more)
Title:The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
Authors:David McCullough
Other authors:Amy Hill (Designer), Wendell Minor (Jacket designer), William B. McCullough (Author photographer)
Info:Simon & Schuster (2011), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:history, Paris

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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

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Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Very interesting. Not my favorite by McCullough, but not bad. If you are interested in Americans in Paris in the 19th century, then I would definitely recommend this book. If you are not interested, then it would be a pass. ( )
  tntbeckyford | Feb 16, 2019 |
I have a colleague who likes to say of her favorite authors that, if they wrote a book about paint drying, she'd be delighted to read it. Though perhaps exaggerated, I feel that just this sentiment applies here. I am, by training, a theologian and a biblical scholar. By avocation, I am a reader of history but usually of the mid-20th century (World Wars, Civil Rights, etc). Thus, a book on Americans in 19th-century Paris is anything but my area of expertise or interest. Reading about 19th-century Europe is about as close as I come to reading works of the "paint-drying" variety.
Yet, David McCullough has once again managed to captivate me with these interwoven stories of inventors, doctors, and artists and the deep entwinement that marks American and French history. The book is interesting, first of all, because the book centers on a place rather than a person (McCullough is perhaps first thought of by most as a biographer), so I was curious to see if and how he could "bring to life" a 19th-century city.
Of course, this is the David McCullough of "John Adams" fame, so there was never much in the way of doubt as to what he could actually accomplish. There is an unbelievable ease to his writing. Though his scholarship is immense (especially when you consider all the excerpts from personal letters and diaries), it never weighs the story down nor does it give the book the "clunky" feel so common to most academic works. Perhaps that is due to McCullough's virtually-inerrant sense for the "telling" anecdote that encapsulates the point or captures the spirit of what he is trying to convey. Here are stories of the formative years of many of America's "leading lights" of the 19th century: Samuel F.B. Morse, George Catlin, Mary Cassatt, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Singer Sargent, among others…all told with ease and grace and fine sense of the entanglement that makes human life and society so rich and exciting.
If the book does anything, I believe it shows, first of all, the deep kinship that bonds the United States of America to the country of France. It also reminds me that, though world history is vast and complicated, for all intents and purposes, the modern world revolved around Paris for much of the 19th century…artistically, technologically, medically, politically. Perhaps our postmodern ethos has made us so intent on telling the "forgotten" stories of history (a moral duty, no doubt) that we've almost lost the ability to discern the "pivotal" stories that have shaped not just the contemporary moment but the trajectories of decades and even centuries to come. There are "centers" to world events (assuredly not all Western European or North American), and McCullough's thoughtful portrayal has me considering where such influence might be found today. That is the ultimate power of good history: to recall the past in such a way as to reshape our comprehension of the present. And that is precisely what David McCullough's work unfailingly does. ( )
  Jared_Runck | Jan 12, 2019 |
Easy to digest, bland history. No firecrackers tossed. No bombs thrown. Just earnest, unsophisticated Americans in Paris in the 1800s. No dancing. Some fooling around. Medical School. Art School. Just hanging. And the French were friendly back then--so says McCullough. ( )
  kerns222 | May 25, 2018 |
I love David McCullough. You can feel his passion for history when reading his works. This book looks at the American presence in Paris during the 19th century. It focuses on the artists, writers, and a cast characters from inventors, to musicians, to politicians. As background, the history of Paris throughout the 19th century is discussed, but the focus always returned to the Americans living there. I think the reason this book is not rated higher by most people (myself included) is that it looks at too many people over too great a time span. It is difficult to follow at times as many of the people discussed are not well known. Another issue is that for someone not used to reading about art history, is it not easy to follow the discussions on art technique and why some art was more appreciated than others. I feel like I learned a lot and would recommend it to people who either love McCullough or this type of history. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
  katbook | Oct 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Unlike the heroes of the American Revolution, whose experiences Mr. McCullough has already addressed so well, these travelers did not necessarily have diplomatic business in France. They had sights to see, minds to broaden, effusions to emit (“My mind was smitten with a feeling of sublimity almost too intense for mortality,” gushed Emma Willard, who would eventually found her eponymous school in upstate New York) and journals to fill with ecstatic observations about the Louvre, the cuisine and the weather. In trying to establish this as a raison d’être for the book, Mr. McCullough writes that “not all pioneers went west.” He provides a slogan worthy of a movie poster: “At home it was known as the Old World. To them it was all new.” But Mr. McCullough is hard-pressed to sustain the idea of a unified “them” at the heart of his book. So he is forced to make awkward juxtapositions and segues among people who did not cross the Atlantic at the same time (though “everyone knew the perils of the sea”), did not live a shared narrative and did not share all that much common ground. He ends up delivering the kinds of space-filling observations that might not even pass muster in a high-school history paper. This is not the side of Mr. McCullough that has made him a national treasure.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David McCulloughprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hill, AmyDesignersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Herrmann, EdwardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For we constantly deal with practical problems, with moulders, contractors, derricks, stonement, trucks, rubbish, plasterers, and what-not-else, all the while trying to soar into the blue.- Augustus Saint-Gaudens
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They spoke of it then as the dream of a lifetime, and for many, for all the difficulties and setbacks encountered, it was to be one of the best times ever.
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