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All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Rooseveltby John Taliaferro
Synopses & Reviews
If Henry James or Edith Wharton had written a novel describing the accomplished and glamorous life and times of John Hay, it would have been thought implausibleand#8212;a novelistand#8217;s fancy. Nevertheless, John Taliaferroand#8217;s brilliant biography captures the extraordinary life of Hay, one of the most amazing figures in American history, and restores him to his rightful place.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;John Hay was both witness and author of many of the most significant chapters in American historyand#8212; from the birth of the Republican Party, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, to the prelude to the First World War. Much of what we know about Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt comes to us through the observations Hay made while private secretary to one and secretary of state to the other. With andlt;Iandgt;All the Great Prizes, andlt;/Iandgt;the first authoritative biography of Hay in eighty years, Taliaferro has turned the lens around, rendering a rich and fascinating portrait of this brilliant American and his many worlds.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Hayand#8217;s friends are a whoand#8217;s who of the era: Mark Twain, Horace Greeley, Henry Adams, Henry James, and virtually every president, sovereign, author, artist, power broker, and robber baron of the Gilded Age. As an ambassador and statesman, he guided many of the countryand#8217;s major diplomatic initiatives at the turn of the twentieth century: the Open Door with China, the creation of the Panama Canal, the establishment of America as a world leader.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Hayand#8217;s peers esteemed him as and#8220;a perfectly cut stoneand#8221; and and#8220;the greatest prime minister this republic has ever known.and#8221; But for all his poise and polish, he had his secrets. His marriage to one of the wealthiest women in the country did not prevent him from pursuing the Madame X of Washington society, whose other secret suitor was Hayand#8217;s best friend, Henry Adams.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;With this superb work, Taliaferro brings us an epic tale.
"John Hay (1838-1905) ranks among the nation's great secretaries of state. A native of Illinois, he became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, served as the president's White House secretary, cowrote Lincoln's biography (with John Nicolay), then became ambassador to Britain, before joining both William McKinley's and Theodore Roosevelt's cabinets as secretary of state. He did in fact win 'all the great prizes.' Taliaferro's skillful, admiring biography (the first since 1934) brings Hay vividly to life by setting him among family, friends (many of them well-known figures in their own right), and the well-heeled political circles in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, in which Hay moved with ease. The author also does his best to see into his subject's emotional life — especially his deep, unrequited affection for another man's wife. It is, however, too often in the nature of biographies — even a fine one like this — to let interpretation yield to narrative. Thus Taliaferro raises few of the issues that characterized U.S. foreign affairs in the seven years (1898-1905) of Hay's secretaryship under Roosevelt, and which historians of American diplomacy have long debated. This book will inform its readers but, alas, not affect or advance those debates. 16-page b&w photo insert. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From secretary to Abraham Lincoln to secretary of state for Theodore Roosevelt, John Hay remained a major figure in American history for more than half a century. His private life was as glamorous and romantic as it was privileged. This first full-scale biography since 1934 is a reflection of American history from the Civil War to the emergence of the nation as a world power as Woodrow Wilson is about to take office.
Much of what we know about Lincoln’s years in the White House is drawn from the writings of the young John Hay, the president’s secretary, who was with Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address and at his bedside when he died.
Afterward, Hay successfully worked to elect fellow Ohioans James Garfield, Rutherford B. Hayes, and William McKinley for president. As McKinley’s Secretary of State, he plotted the nation’s emergence as a world power after the Spanish-American War. Hay arranged the annexation of the Philippines, the treaty for a canal across Panama, the Open Door policy for China.
After McKinley’s assassination, Theodore Roosevelt persuaded the aging Hay to stay on. The relationship between Hay and Roosevelt, which has not been explored, is of lasting interest. If Lincoln was a second father to Hay, Hay was a second father to TR—Roosevelt the bully wielder of the big stick; Hay the polished, urbane diplomat who walked softly, carried out TR’s policies, and helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Hay is one of the most pivotal figures in American public life. But, as Taliaferro writes, that is only half the story. He knew everybody from Mark Twain to Henry James, and every president and world leader. He was best friends with Henry Adams, and the two were in love with the same married woman, Lizzie Cameron, the Madame X of Washington Society. Both wrote her voluminous letters.
All the Great Prizes chronicles a life that reflects the story of America from the devastation of the Civil War to its emergence as a world leader and power.
About the Author
andlt;b andgt;John Taliaferroandlt;/bandgt; is the author of four books, most recently andlt;iandgt;In a Far Country: The True Story of a Mission, A Marriage, A Murder, and the Remarkable Reindeer Rescue of 1898andlt;/iandgt;. He is a former senior editor at andlt;iandgt;Newsweekandlt;/iandgt; and a graduate of Harvard University. He lives in Austin, Texas, and Pray, Montana.
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