Synopses & Reviews
The New York Times Book Review
called Paul Nagel's highly acclaimed Descent from Glory
"magnificent;" The Christian Science Monitor
proclaimed it "splendid." While that book focused on the men in the Adams family, many readers--and Nagel himself--felt that the story of the women represented the more compelling and stirring part of the Adams family saga. Now we have the book so many readers have urged Nagel to write: the full story of some of the most fascinating, important, and articulate women in American history. Nagel does not treat this volume as merely a sequel to the first book; he, instead, strives to do justice to an extraordinary group of individuals who happened to be women and whose personal stories and outlooks have historically played a subordinate role to the lives of the famous men who surrounded them.
Nagel presents three generations of remarkable women, including Abigail Adams, who achieved fame and recognition as a First Lady and as America's outstanding woman letter writer; her younger sister--also a writer--Elizabeth Shaw Peabody; Nabby Adams Smith, Abigail's daughter, who found herself caught between a domineering mother, a rascal husband, and a distracted father; Louisa Catherine Adams, John Quincy's wife, who ultimately triumphed over family difficulties, including Abigail's disapproval, to become the Adams matriarch and heroine of their story; Abby Brown Brooks, Boston's richest young lady as well as Henry Adams' mother; and Nancy Harrod and Mary Hellen, who struggled to survive marriage to alcoholics.
Using the abundant commentary and confessions these women shared with one another, much of it surviving in the Adams Papers, Nagel portrays his subjects as they saw themselves and each other. No other American historical record offers such a degree of frankness and detail. Nagel reveals the joy, sorrow, dreariness, and peril which came to them, as it did to all women of that era. This intimate and candid portrait, thus, stands as one of the best records of how American women actually lived and thought between 1750 and 1850.
Paul Nagel's Descent from Glory
was an extraordinary critical and popular success, a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection hailed by reviewers as "magnificent" (The New York Times Book Review
) and "splendid" (The Christian Science Monitor
). That book focused on the men in the Adams family, but many readers--and Nagel himself--felt that the most interesting and stirring part of the Adams family saga was the story of the women. Here at last is the book many readers urged Nagel to write: the full story of some of the most interesting and important and articulate women in American history. This is no mere sequel to the first book; it is an attempt to do justice in their own right to some extraordinary individuals in their own right who happened to be women and whose personal lives and outlooks have been eclipsed by the famous men who surrounded them.
Nagel portrays his subjects as they saw themselves and each other. This is possible because of the abundant comment and confession they shared with each other, much of it surviving in the Adams Papers. They spoke to one another about their existence with a frankness and detail which is unmatched in American historical sources. We find them in the joy, sorrow, dreariness, and peril which came to females of that era, no matter who they were. Thus this intimate and candid portrait may be our nearest approach to how American females actally lived and thought between 1750 and 1850.
About the Author
About the Author
Paul C. Nagel is Distinguished Lee Scholar for the R. E. Lee Memorial Association. Formerly Director of the Virginia Historical Society, he is the author of many books, including Descent from Glory.