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Democracy by Henry Adams

Democracy (1880)

by Henry Adams

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Authors:Henry Adams
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Democracy: An American Novel by Henry Adams (1880)



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An incisive and amusing roman à clef, written by Henry Adams and published anonymously in 1880. It's amazing how relevant much of the story still feels, even 125 years on. Political intrigue, personal relationships, and societal tensions - you'll find 'em all here in this delightful satire. ( )
  JBD1 | Feb 28, 2015 |
Like Jane Austen's novels this is about society, relationships between men and women and the mistakes we often make in our judgements of people. Imagine Pride and Prejucide with a fair dose of politics and an exploration of power and corruption. ( )
  denmoir | May 7, 2013 |
A revealing portrait of political pressure in Washington D.C. at the turn of the 19th century. Very entertaining even now. ( )
  markbstephenson | Jun 5, 2010 |
3142. Democracy / An American Novel, by Henry Brooks Adams (read Jan 2, 1999) This was published anonymously in 1880. It is carefully plotted, and credible. Surprisingly, the problem it discusses is still with us and the book is relevant even after all these years. Worth reading. And in print--which tells us something about it. Think of the 100's of books which were published in 1880 which no living person has ever heard of. ( )
  Schmerguls | Dec 8, 2007 |
When I was in Washington, DC for a conference, I picked up this novel which was written anonymously by Henry Adams (though some say it was his wife). They didn’t discover that he had written it until they found references to it in his papers after he died. It was an expose of the corruption in Washington about twenty years after the Civil War. The blurbs on the back are from Maureen Dowd and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. who both say that it is one of the best novels about Washington ever written.

It is the story of a smart, rich, beautiful young widow, who comes to Washington because she is bored with New York. She is completely cerebral, high minded and motivated by her sense of duty, but becomes caught up in the quest for power which an able but morally bankrupt Senator makes a bid to convince her to be his wife.

I think there is something of the subtlety of the human interactions which I didn’t get in this book. There are particular shadings of behavior and explorations of the edges of what is morally acceptable which are not as familiar to me as they would have been to a contemporary reader. For example, in one scene, the new president comes to town and sits in state and shakes the hand of everyone who comes to visit him in the White House. The main character attends, but is disgusted by this “aping of monarchy.” She feels that the president and his lady feel obligated to stand there for hours, dumbly shaking the hands of hundreds of visitors. She also strikes up an animosity with the president’s wife, apparently because she is too fashionable for the first lady’s taste. It seems rather vague.

The most interesting scenes, to me, are the two excursions which the fashionable and powerful make together--the first to Mount Vernon, and the second to the home of Robert E. Lee in Arlington, Virginia, to see the cemetery there. The contemporary reactions to the myth of Washington and the painful memories of the Civil War were quite intriguing, and I think I should go back and read them, because I feel they probably share some resonances with each other which I didn’t fully receive the first time. ( )
  aprille | Jan 1, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
Like O, and the Clinton-era Primary Colors before it, Democracy was an anonymously published roman à clef, causing a stir in political circles when it appeared in 1880. Unlike those authors' anonymity, however, the secret of Adams' authorship held for 35 years. [...] Democracy, though distinctly an artifact of its historical moment, boasts some true artistry.
added by elenchus | editslate.com, David Greenberg (Apr 20, 2011)
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For reasons which many persons thought ridiculous, Mrs. Lightfoot Lee decided to pass the winter in Washington.
“…lurking in the breast of every American Senator…[is the idea that] democracy, rightly understood, is the government of the people, by the people, and for the benefit of Senators.”
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The identity of the Publisher series was found via loc.gov. (http://catalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebre...) It is listed as such on that page.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452009421, Paperback)

First published anonymously in 1880, the mother of all (American) political novels is the story of Madeleine Lee, a young widow who comes to Washington, DC, to understand the workings of government. "What she wanted was POWER." During the course of the novel, she sees enough of power and its corruptions to last her a lifetime.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:38 -0400)

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