Best biographers

SOME years ago I published under the title “German With Tears” a survey of German education, past and present. Strangely enough, a chance remark occurring in the book—a remark which had very little to do with its main theme—produced more comment, more correspondence, more approval, and more violent attacks than any other statement. I wrote: “I personally believe that the real roots of National Socialism go down to the reformer Martin Luther, who seems to me more of a political demagogue than a religious reformer, and whose teachings and sayings are the foundations on which later Germans built.”

Early pages describing LBJ’s time as a new Senate Minority Leader are a fascinating study in aggregating and wielding power, and the discussion of Johnson’s early months as Majority Leader proves even more compelling. Dallek’s behind-the-scenes account of the 1960 presidential nomination process (which JFK, not LBJ, ultimately won) is probably better described than in any of the JFK biographies I’ve read. And the LBJ-for-VP discussion is the best I’ve seen anywhere (caveat: I’ve not yet tackled the Caro series).

Perhaps the most important aspect of Anne Bradstreet's poetic evolution is her increasing confidence in the validity of her personal experience as a source and subject of poetry. Much of the work in the 1650 edition of The Tenth Muse ... suffers from being too imitative, too strained. The often wooden lines with forced rhymes reveal Bradstreet's grim determination to prove that she could write in the lofty style of the established male poets. But her deeper emotions were obviously not engaged in the project. The publication of her first volume of poetry seems to have given her confidence and enabled her to express herself more freely. As she began to write of her ambivalence about the religious issues of faith, grace, and salvation, her poetry became more accomplished.

Bradstreet's recent biographers, Elizabeth Wade White and Ann Stanford, have both observed that Bradstreet was sometimes distressed by the conflicting demands of piety and poetry and was as daring as she could be and still retain respectability in a society that exiled Anne Hutchinson. Bradstreet's poetry reflects the tensions of a woman who wished to express her individuality in a culture that was hostile to personal autonomy and valued poetry only if it praised God. Although Bradstreet never renounced her religious belief, her poetry makes it clear that if it were not for the fact of dissolution and decay, she would not seek eternal life: "for were earthly comforts permanent, who would look for heavenly?"

In a statement of extravagant praise Cotton Mather compared Anne Bradstreet to such famous women as Hippatia, Sarocchia, the three Corinnes , and Empress Eudocia and concluded that her poems have "afforded a grateful Entertainment unto the Ingenious, and a Monument for her Memory beyond the stateliest Marbles ." Certainly, Anne Bradstreet's poetry has continued to receive a positive response for more than three centuries, and she has earned her place as one of the most important American women poets.
— Wendy Martin, Queens College

Best biographers

best biographers


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