It is good to take note of the sage he became in his late, great books: Mont-St. Michel and Chartres and The Education of Henry Adams. This biography explains how Henry Adams became the man both admired and feared in his later years. He was first a bright, unformed young man who was a diplomatic assistant to his father; then an ambitious journalist, a writer of several "sensational" newspaper and magazine articles. Next he became a provocative and innovative teacher, and a historian unequalled in his presentation of the Jeffersonian period. Until his wife's tragic death, he was a willing actor on the social scene of his beloved Washington, D.C. Throughout, he remained a friend and instigator of the careers of friends in artistic and scientific fields. His writings speak to us still and seem contemporary in their tone as well as their view of cycles of culture and their warnings of decline and achievement.
The author explores the new sense of self and the world during this period, especially evident in the writings of Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, Robert Frost, H. L. Mencken, Glenway Wescott, William Faulkner, and others. Stevenson writes about numerous facets of the 1920s: the brilliant entertainers, Harlem's brief period of glory, the worsening conditions in the South, the hero worship of Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh, and the stockmarket crash in 1929 that brought an abrupt end to the golden years. In the new introduction, the author reflects on her personal experience and discusses how the 1920s affected her family. She goes on to talk about how living in the tumultuous 1960s prompted her to write Babbitts and Bohemians. While she concedes that there were some not so glorious times during the 1920s, she still considers it a period where the vitality of life exhibited itself in all sorts of interesting and entertaining new ways.
Elizabeth Stevenson succeeds admirably in conveying the spirit and the history of the era: the people and the mood that shaped the times; the political, international, and economic apathy; the conformity and rebellion of a decade unlike any other before or since. Babbitts and Bohemians will be enjoyed by all, especially historians, sociologists, and political scientists.