Historian Smacktalk

Yesterday I checked out a book that has been on my “to read” list for ages:  William Cabell Bruce’s 1922 two-volume biography of John Randolph of Roanoke.  Randolph was one of the towering figures of history in my little part of Virginia, and the Bruces were also a prominent family in that region.  (I’d read the works of Williams’ brother, Philip Alexander Bruce, as part of my graduate career.)

Anyway, while reading through the introduction, I came to a point that really made me laugh.  History nowadays requires a bit of circumspection, even when you think the other guy is full of shit and/or lying through his teeth to intentionally mislead his readers.  Apparently, William Cabell Bruce felt no such compunctions to pull his punches when talking about one of the prior biographies of Randolph.

In its pages, [Henry Adams] has fully availed himself of the opportunity that it afforded him to direct against the memory of Randolph the thrice-refined venom in respect to its subject which had filtered into his own veins from those of his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father [John, John Quincy, and Charles Francis Adams, respectively].  The book is really nothing but a family pamphlet, saturated with the sectional prejudices and antipathies of the year 1882, and why its author should have been selected to write a biographical essay on Randolph is one of those questions which it is just as well not to ask in the year 1922.

WOOHOO, Victorian-era BURN!

😀

Advertisements

5 Responses

  1. “…thrice-refined venom…”

    Yep, working that into my tagline, somehow. Awesome.

    Yes it was!

  2. Oh That Is So Interesting

    Glad somebody thinks so!

    It turns out that he delivers a few smackdowns to Adams in the text here and there as well. Which if he correctly quotes Adams’ own biography is richly deserved.

  3. You gotta admit…. This explains A LOT about my husband, doesn’t it? 😀

    *ducks*

    Indeed.

  4. I’ve long wanted to get a better understanding of John Randolph. He seems a fascinating figure. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll begin with the 1922 bio you reference and see what has been written more recently.

    Do you also consult the I Ching? The Book of Changes? Sometimes it speaks so clearly and other times — I don’t have a clue.
    “Cranky73”

    Randolph truly was fascinating…I learned a lot about him in undergrad while writing a paper on the 1829-30 Virginia Constitutional Convention. Definitely a protector of the old Virginia order. Cantankerous old bastard, quite frankly. And yet he freed his slaves in his will AND provided land and money for them.

    I’ve read the I Ching a long time ago, but I can’t say I do so regularly. I don’t even read the Tao Te Ching with any regularity anymore, although I keep it in my desk drawer and will occasionally pull it out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: