The hidden story of one of the most fascinating women of the Gilded AgeClover Adams, a fiercely intelligent Boston Brahmin, married at twenty-eight the soon-to-be-eminent American historian Henry Adams. She thrived in her role as an intimate of power brokers in Gilded Age Washington, where she was admired for her wit and taste by such luminaries as Henry James, H. Read more...
The hidden story of one of the most fascinating women of the Gilded AgeClover Adams, a fiercely intelligent Boston Brahmin, married at twenty-eight the soon-to-be-eminent American historian Henry Adams. She thrived in her role as an intimate of power brokers in Gilded Age Washington, where she was admired for her wit and taste by such luminaries as Henry James, H. H. Richardson, and General William Tecumseh Sherman. Clover so clearly possessed, as one friend wrote, "all she wanted, all this world could give." Yet at the center of her story is a haunting mystery. Why did Clover, having begun in the spring of 1883 to capture her world vividly through photography, end her life less than three years later by drinking a chemical developer she used in the darkroom? The key to the mystery lies, as Natalie Dykstra's searching account makes clear, in Clover's photographs themselves. The aftermath of Clover's death is equally compelling. Dykstra probes Clover's enduring reputation as a woman betrayed. And, most movingly, she untangles the complex, poignant -- and universal -- truths of her shining and impossible marriage.
- ISBN-13: 9780618873852
- ISBN-10: 0618873856
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Publish Date: February 2012
- Page Count: 318
- Dimensions: 1.25 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-03-19
- Reviewer: Staff
Clover Adams, wife of historian Henry Adams (a great-grandson and grandson of American presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, respectively), spent time with "a wide array of writers and artists, politicians and dignitaries, doctors and academics." She "poured her energies and ambition into Henry's work," collected art, read widely, and traveled often. She was not, however, without her own preoccupations and worries. In this substantial biography, Dykstra sheds light on Clover's remarkable life and her unfortunate suicide at 42, when she drank potassium cyanide, a chemical crucial to her nascent passion for photography, selected prints of which are published here. "With her camera, she recorded her world for herself and for others to see, and in less than three years, her collection would grow to 113 photographs arranged in three red-leather albums." By studying these images, as well as notebooks and correspondence over the years, Dykstra distills insight on her subject's beliefs and emotions. Though she sometimes relies too heavily on the letters themselves (primarily those from Clover to her father), she manages to re-create a compelling story. With empathy and compassion, she gives voice to a woman nearly written out of existence. After Clover's death, Henry "almost never spoke of her and did not even mention her in his Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams." With this volume, Dykstra provides Clover's life renewed significance. B&W photos. (Feb.)