Skip to main content

tv   Book Discussion on The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe  CSPAN  May 14, 2016 10:15am-11:31am EDT

10:15 am [inaudible] good evening everybody. thank you all so much for coming out tonight for this event. i'm muskotino husband co-owner is floating around in the back somewhere. and on behalf of our staff here we welcome all of you to the event tonight. a few housekeeping matters before we get started most of you have been to entses here for anyone who hasn't, our guest will speak about her book, and then we'll take questions at the end. we do record these events. we also have c-span here tonight
10:16 am
if you can possibly make it to the microphone that is right here next to this pillar we would be really grateful because that makes the audio much more enjoyable for those who are trying to listen who aren't actually physically in this space it if you have a phone or nose making device on your person and you could possibly silence it or make it so that it won't make noise, we'd be grateful for that. and then lastly at the end of the event if you wouldn't mind folding up your chair and putting them to the side, elaine will sign bookings up here, we have plenty of copies up front. i think, you all know what it looks like, and she'd be happy to sign at the end up here at table. i also want to just point out that we are -- coming to the end of warm's history month it's been a great month for us here at the store. we've had some terrific events i think for me this unwith is the highlight. we have a whole table dedicated
10:17 am
to books related to women's history up at the front of the store and we're very, very happy to be able to celebrate this month with such terrific authors and terrific books. with that, i just want to say what a privilege it is to host walter at pnp tonight she'll be talking about her new book a 10th book called civil wars of julia ward how, i'm sure many of you saw that it was the lead review in the sunday new york times few weeks ago so congratulations on that and very well deserved and very exciting to see that. [applause] and i'll get to the book in a minute but i want to mention that several of elaine family members are here tonight too, and it's just frankly not fair that so much talent results in one family gene pool at the back she was handing out the beautiful lings m&m's because a friend and former colleague of mine from clinton white house, and i have to say she's too humble to say this but she's one
10:18 am
of the finest writers in the country. was then, has been since, still is now. her brother and son mike sell here but may know of him getting director known as hello my name is doris and director and writer -- deborah canon is correcting me. thank you deborah. [laughter] and lastly, so you know this always happens at politic and pros. somebody always knows a little bit more. so thank you for that. and lastly elaine's husband english show at or professor for years and scholar where did you go, over here. scholar of 18th century french who is devoted a partner an champion as any spouse could possibly be. this sort of spouse sadly that julia ward how herself never had. welcome to all of you family members. [applause]
10:19 am
most of us know julia ward how very having written a battle helm of the republican and slightly more studious students of history we might also know that she was a poet and later an abolitionist and advocate for women suffrage but didn't know depth of her misery, marriage, and secret writings and company she kept with a cultural and political elite of her day. in this wonderful biography we become deeply immersed in her public and private world, and as a title of the book suggests we've become witnesses to her civil war. gallant but attempt to match up her great gift opinion against challenge and expectations placed on women in 19 century america i just love this book and i'm not going to be shine this. i love this book not simply because it's a great biography or not simply because it's a great work of historical scholarship, though, it is surely both of those it is just narrative nonfiction at its best
10:20 am
it's an incredible story. a story that tells a much bigger story, and in such a way that engages reader so deeply and on so many levels that if you pick this book up, you will not put it down. and that should be no surprise given the author. elaine is a professor of meredith of englishes at princeton and most respected feminist literary critic eve her generation. her previous books all ait's to her profound influence on academy as she's reshaped scholarship about american women. for many elect chuls that would be for career publishments not any intellectual had or scholar and never been be content to have herself in an ivory tower. she's afterall at heart a teacher. and welcomely for these princeton students several generations of them have gotten to know that first hand, and i might also say that here at pnp we know this and i frankly cannot believes we're so lucky because elaine is teaching classes here now. and not surprisingly is one of
10:21 am
our most popular instructors, in fact, just found out a few minutes before the went started that there are only two spots left in her upcoming class on great short stories by american women so if you have any interest i suggest signing up right away. and thank you for coming and teaching here, we really appreciate it. beyond her teaching and book writing she's enthusiast popular culture and written tv review for "people" magazines and are a regular on twitter and confessed in print -- to a passion for shopping. [laughter] describing herself as woman and feminist, quote, who never saw an ear ring i didn't like who has many back copies as vogue of idea of bliss afternoon in the makeup department at sachs. so in thinking about her latest book and why it resonates deeply with me and so many others maybe it's because many parts of elaine scholar, teacher, intellectual, feminist, popular cultural enthusiast come
10:22 am
together so fully in her writing and story telling. this is, obviously, an important book, but more importantly it's just a marvelous book. thank you so much for being here. [applause] >> thank you so much. everybody here the most wonderful destruction i love that introduction. i'm going to start out with a little bit of what we know. >> please stand and sing this song with me -- [inaudible] >> the battle hymn of republic. you know the words, i know you do. ♪ seen the glory ♪ everybody sing with me ♪
10:23 am
♪ glory, glory, hallelujah ♪ glory, glory hallelujah ♪ his truth is marching on ♪ all right. [applause]
10:24 am
thanks so my grandson jakscht for setting that up for me and all of you for the tech assistance. that's whitney houston and 1991 in her performance at the naval air station, welcoming home our troops from the gulf war. and if you see the video which is on youtube singing to about 3,000 military personnel and by the end of this she does a kind of gospel version and everybody is rocking out it's really kind of amazing it's my favorite version of the battle hymn and everybody has recorded it. elvis did it johnny cash did it joan and mormon tabernacle choir all the ones that you can imagine this is the one i like the best it is tremendous, and it all kind of brings together element of the military and spiritual and rousing that i think have made it such a classic lyric. well when julia ward was growing
10:25 am
up in new york, she was a studio redhead. living in manhattan despitely other five feet tall and she dreamed as a teenager of becoming an important american writer. she said to all of those years, i had the vision of some great work which i myself would give to the world. i would write the novel or the play of the age. now that did not work out. first of all, her father who was a very rich bank or in new york he owned what is now half of midtown, manhattan. he centered her reading of fiction so she read few novels as a girl but she did did read george song. she was not aloud to go to theater and when she wrote this she had actually never seen a play. so this kind of vision of her future was quite unrealsistic.
10:26 am
but like many gifted young women in the 19th century, she turned to poetry as a safe outlet, a feminine outlet for a young woman, in fact, her own mother who had died at the age of 27 also bearing six children as julia would managed within her 27 years to publish a few poems herself. in the u newspapers and in the ladies annual these fancy volumes that were published every year gifts to give women at christmas. now, in the end, julia did publish sel books of poetry and she even wrote a few -- extremely unsuccessful plays. battle hymn of the republic was hers. i've written one poem which although composed in the stress and strain of the civil war is now a song south and north by the champions of a free government. okay, so one poem under the 19th
10:27 am
century that's a lot more than than many poets get and more than most 19th century american poets got. and she deserves her place in history and her police on the postage stamp and so on simply or for that. over 154 years since she wrote it's become a part of not only american but international repertoire of music about heroism, honor, justice, mourning, certainly. spiritual mission. it was performed at the national cathedral in washington after 9/11. and one critic has said about it that battle hymn has become the closer, it is the music that accompanies the end of great american lives. it was played at the funeral of bobby kennedy. ronald reagan, and very recently nancy reagan too. and that was really extraordinary. i noticed that because very few women are included in the list of those who had it played at their funeral because very few
10:28 am
women have state funerals although battle hymn was played at the funeral of winston chunk hill it was not played for margaret thatch sore kind of interesting. it is identified i think with heroism. on the other hand it has become a kind of a meme you know a reference point for determined women. you think about the battle hymn as the tiger mother for example, and also the battle hymn of sarah palin. now, if you don't know the battle hymn of sarah palin and you have free minutes i recommend that you google it because it is unbelievable. [laughter] okay. and of course it's all inspired title of a number of great american novels most famously john the great. she wrote it in washington probably all know the ledge. she wrote is in november 1861 on a trip to washington with her husband dr. samuel gridly how
10:29 am
i'll be talking about him a little bit later and friends from boston. and that winter they were say staying in the willard hotel with a plaque for julia that winter she sent it to the atlantic monthly and in february 1862 the atlantic monthly princed it on the cover and they paid her had $5. within a short time, it was the anthem of the union armies, and in 1864 it was performed before president lincoln. and then in december 2012, the original manuscript signed by hao the script written on the willard hotel auctioned for $782,000. now that's quite a appreciation over time. i don't know who batting it maybe somebody will find out it doesn't say. but malcolm forbes sold it and,
10:30 am
in fact, first biography of julia was published exactly a century ago in march 1916. and that was very much in my mind in writing this book. immaterialed it to come out to mark 100 years of that biography. it was in two volumes a big book written by three daughters and i'm pretty sure i can't guarantee. but i'm pretty sure that it was the first substantial biography of an american woman. before the 20th century, biographies of women were collective. you get a good volume that would say celebrated women of maryland or great women of the american revolution. that kind of thing but a biography of one woman, two volumes long that was really remarkable. and a year after it came out in 1917, it won the first pulitzer prize for biography and that was, in fact, the first year
10:31 am
that the pulitzer prizes were girch so the first prize for a biography and first one that was given for biography at english. when it was done columbia university was running the awards excuse me a minute. and nicholas butler who was the president of columbia -- said that it was the best american biography teaching patriotic and unselfish service to the people. so unselfish. this is not the term that we woulded or ordinarily use to describe our heros and we think jfk the unselfishth. it's not you know what we're looking to reward and the house daughters definitely edited story of their mother's life to
10:32 am
smooth over any selfish moment -- [laughter] and particularly they presented their parents turbulent marriage as the union of two noble souls. on the other hand this biography is not as dull as you might think from that description it's pretty sparkling because it is very hard to make julia ward hao sound dull. and, in fact, when it came out apart from the here we go -- apart from the pulitzer prize -- a critic in the north american review was kind of puzzled by biography because he said he'd never -- couldn't quite guess that a portrait of such a distinguished american, distinguished woman somehow failed to develop that you unity that epic quality that distinguished greatest biography, and i think by unity he meant a consistent personality of the figure and
10:33 am
julia's personality as u you've heard a little bit is not totally consistent with what people thought of as heroic. reviewer went on to say her life is a blending of saintliness and friskiness. steady love of virtue and recurrent bondness for jewelry. deep intellectual interest and the capacity for joist nonsense julia loved shopping, fashion and parties and if you get why i was very attracted to her as a subject for a biography. now, shaping the lives of overwhelm lived a public life to display epic qualities of a real challenge for the 20th century. and it wasn't until 1989 that another biography of a woman, by a woman found the pulitzer prize for biography took a long while for another one to turn up. in the middle of the century, hao mostly appeared in the series of popular books about
10:34 am
childhood of famous american, some of you may remember you have orange o covers, they were in the library all lined up and julia is a girl of old new york in a story that was mostly invented by very inspiring. in the 1940s she was also hailed in the wonder woman comics as a 19th century amazon figure. [laughter] and finally in 1979 deborah who was a distant relative of the family published first modern biography, seen in the glory. clifford was first one who looked at the hao family archive and they are massive, they are huge and she was first scholar to look at them and she revealed some of the facts about this really disastrous marriage. in the 1970s whole krcht women biography changed as woman's
10:35 am
movement developed and carolyn in her books that she wrote called writing a woman's life posed a lot of questions. she said is very little sense of what a woman's biography should look like. where do you begin? do you begin with her disappointment that she was not a boy? how does she cope with the fact that her central is determined by how attractive men find her? if she marries, does marriage fail or succeed? and what is a successful marriage look like from a woman's point of view? so what i wanted to do with this week book was to bring her alive for a new generation of readers and consider these questions also to embrace the contradictions that made her both saintly and frisky and i especially wanted to think about her marriage as a domestic civil war. a battle from imaginative dominance going on between two strong people. and in my --
10:36 am
pattern about her life she was fighting for her independence from bonds of ma tray moanny at the time that she was fighting slavery and her liberation coincides with the civil war. now some say about the marriage, she married dr. samuel when she was 22, and it seemed like the ideal match. he was said to be the handsomest man in boston and he was a foot taller than she was. he was 18 years older, and -- sorry i'm going to have to cough again. a terrible cold all week. he had followed byron to greece and he became a hero of the greek revolution for independence against the turks.
10:37 am
in the 1830s he went back to boston and he immediately became the first director of the perkins institution for the blind. and a world famous pioneer of education for the behind blind f and later became a champion in the abolitionist movement and a real activist. but unfortunately although he was a champion of the o oppressed in every area from the handicap to the slaves, what she called him after he came back are from greece, king eve greece that is ironic after the six years of revolution greece ended up with o oppression king. king bestowed she called him chev insisted that married men should be totally fulfilled by their homes and children. and they should not speak in public.
10:38 am
he was -- really quite a brilliant man remarkable man in many ways he was a very difficult husband and decided where they would live andmented to punish her said they have to live in the perkins institution which was a big drafty -- marble former hotel and boston two miles from the center of the city. he took control of her income from her brother and uncle and he lost almost all of it in real estate speculation most sergesly for her forbidded to publish her poetry or to keech or lecture or to preach or otherwise to act in the public sphere. it was his idea to have six children and a insisted on eight children except that their youngest son died and broke their hearts so he decidedded to stop at six. now, chev was a strange man in many ways and makes wonderful villain and one of the chamgs in
10:39 am
writing the book was to imagine a marriage from his perpghtive and didn't want to make hill the classic villain. and really is a challenge for biographer because julia was very close to her to her two sisters annie and she wrote to them enormous letters about her feeling what was going on in the marriage. he had several close male friends especially charles who famously was beaten up on the floor of the senate. not discuss but in generic terms and didn't know in his words about what was going on. was talking last week at a boston bookstore about this and i met for the first time jim trend who is the buying biographer of chev we were not attorneys like in a divorce. i've learned an awful lot as a terrific book but it was interesting as biographer of the wife to meet the biographer of
10:40 am
the husband, and i notice a couple of differences between us. first of all, in the life story of a prominent man wife often playses very small part. and there are only a handful of references to julia in jim's biography of chev husband of a prominent woman is central to her life story and i wrote a lot about him in my book. and the second difference i noted is that jim's biography is called the manlyist man which is what -- how he was described by his friends that giveses you an idea of what he must have been like and seen and the way he saw himself and for a while i thought about calling my biography womanlyist woman. but -- i gave up on that idea. because powerful i think that's a very diminishing pulpit for a woman and not the same as manlyist man, and really julia did not see herself as a par
10:41 am
paragone and as kairnl said she often wished that she had been a boy. she was very envious of her brother ab in first decade of her marriage she tried to write a book about about a creature of both sexes experiencing life as a man and as a woman. this extraordinary manuscript is at the library hazard and we know about it because of the heroic scholarship of a small number of house spernlist. but mainly gary williams who edited it and plirked published it, gary are you here? there's gary. the first house scholar i ever met. we met in london some years ago one of the most generous, and i'm delighted he's here tonight. this is the book that -- published by university of nebraska press with a sexy
10:42 am
cover. we really owe everything that we know about it to gary. in speaking of the marriage, i was influenced by a wonderful book called parallel lives from phyllis rose which you may know that looked at the political dynamic of five victorian mearmings. rose argues that major is a political negotiation. it's a story with two points of view deeply often in conflict sometimes luckily congruent and i tried to see the house two living and two separate stories to try to figure what was going on in chev's head at the time he was writing to the sisters. now he held cards but julia and i want you to be clear about this she was capable of fighting back and, in fact, a woman who can write always has a rep against the domineering husband.
10:43 am
her first book of poems passionflowers i think on both is her personal battle hymn and revenge book like nora if you know that book she wrote after her split from charles byrne seen so i want to read a tiny bit from my book that is about julia when she was working on passionflowers in the fall of 1853. she decided to write this book with long fellow also kept a secret, and many of the poems were about the marriage. and they were or very strong. so all that fall she was thinking sha she was going to keep it a secret from chev and not tell him that she was writing this book and not publish it. aside she wrote to canny i have a great minds to keep the matter entirely from him and not let him know anything until the morning the volume comes out.
10:44 am
then he can do nothing to prevent its sale and its proper form. dear annie could one do this? he is known all summer that i intended publishing and made no objection and not much comment. u uh-uh now he disapproved of married women publishing and had power to prevent her from making a work public will you knew she had little sympathy with poetry and long fellow would bring him a signed book and shev would put it away somewhere -- and she thought that he really are was doesn't understand poetry and he would not guess what the poems were about. so his lack of interest made her feel that it was safer to go ahead with publication. in any case important not to seek his permission to write or to publish. towards the end of december, the proofs arrived and checking them with unexpectedly taxing. she complained to annie about it.
10:45 am
endless plague of looking over proof sheets the doubts about phrases, rhyme, expressions, tomorrow i get my last proof. then a fornight must be allows for drawing and bingeding then i shall be out fairly out do you hear? so far any secret is well kept and secret to bear a single title passionflowers. without my name, according to long fellow's advice, long fellow has been reading a part of the volume he says it will make a sensation. chev knows nothing as of yet i feel much excited. quite unsettled even a little frantic. if i succeed i feel i shall be humbled by my happiness, now, i will not write anymore about it. well that was some christmas at
10:46 am
the house. passionflowers change balance of power in the marriage in both directions really. and it changed julia's idea about her own -- you want to know what happened. i tell the whole story in the book but it was pretty intense. and then the civil war also change haded 19th century ideals of the separate seres of men and women. that change assumptions about gender as well as race and propelled women under domestic confinement into public live and careers. and at the end of the civil war in 1865, joule is ya made up her mind she would no longer follow worshiply behind shev but dedicate her life as he had dedicated his to the highest needs of humanity the needs she saw and valued according to the conviction of her heart, in fact, on their 22nd anniversary
10:47 am
in 1865 she decided to go and speak to the women prisoners at the sale and penitentiaries that celebrated the event so pretty strong j'sture as she approached her 50th birthday in 1869 she had a vision of a new world of womanhood. during the first two-thirds of my life she recalled, i look to masculine adeal of character as only true one and unexpected hour a new light came to me. the world of womanhood. this discovery was like the addition of a new continent to the map of the world. her true mission became women suffrage and went on the road with the suffrage and never stopped federalling, writing, speaking anding working for women rights in pretty lace cap designed by a son-in-law. she became known as the dearest old lady in america. but that was not how julia saw herself at all.
10:48 am
refused to be stuck in the birthday and told an interview that her advice to american women was being up to date. [laughter] that's on the m&m's i think maybe. [laughter] she took -- readily she was up to date herself. she took very readily to the telephone the the typewriter, the of from a, the automobile and especially elevator including the children stalled in her house to define to upper stories. she entertained oscar wild to the horror of the boston who wrote about it in the newspaper she wrote back, i will have to dinner anyone i like he's a very clever young man. she took two walks a day in hosting this and ate what she damn pleased including fried foods, minced pie and champagne and two weeks before she died
10:49 am
honorary degree. of course there as everywhere she went, they sang the battle hymn of the republic. julia ward hao never achieved level of unity of relentless cheerfulness and austerity that society still nandz from female worthies. she remained unsettling mixture and friskiness but she didn't mind. as she declared, i do not desire extactic saint hood. i do not wish to any one of the attributes of my humanity. i cherish everyone the infirmity bind me to my kind and be american, human and a woman. these are words i think for a biographer to live by and glory, glory hall u lieu ya for that.
10:50 am
[applause] does anybody have questions, i'd love to hear them. >> and if you can make your way to the mike that would be great. >> how long did she live after her husband died, 18 year older? >> they were married for 33 years and she lived 34 years after his death. chght how did her life change? >> it changed tremendously one of the first things that happened -- while he was dying they had a reconciliation and she says in her journal she said i had my double bed moved into his room an they had separate rooms i don't know how long. a long time she moved double bed in the room with his double bed, and last few days they shared and she thought it was wonderful ending. but a few days after he died they read the will and he left
10:51 am
her nothing in the will and not only did he leave her nothing in the will but he said in the will to julia, to my wife i leave nothing because she's so capable of taking care of herself. and of course he had sent all of her -- she had -- had inherited a sixth of the fortune who had owned manhattan so she was really an err. tremendous amount of money and property and he -- lost it all. nothing. so she had tiny, little income left, and basically from the moment he died she had to support herself. pretty much till end of her life eventually her son helped out and daughters helped out so she was not only on the road for women suffrage but lecture everywhere for money, and wrote for money, and didn't get much money for lecturing or o writing at that time but she was pretty active. on the other hand, she liked us.
10:52 am
you be she was enabled to do thingings that she always dreamed of being in some ways we used to say in women movement she became the man she had married or you married the man that yowpts to be or something like this and after she became a public figure as he had been. he was a famous speaker and traveler, lecturer and she took his life on. she was very happy had, though, traveled all over the world traveling incredible in the age before jets. doing this on steamships -- everywhere. she went around the world twice. went to england like you know like we go to new york. so pretty amazing thanks for the question. >> i'm looking forward to your book because i knew little about her and i glanced i'm italian american so i found that you have something on italian immigrants aside from being
10:53 am
suffrage and abolitionist she on page 236 said she became involved with new social issues including abolition of the death penalty protection of italian immigrants indian affair, coal miner strike, and rebellion of the armenian against the turks -- how did she -- i mean, she took these positions but did she take these positions and a publicize them through writing and speech or anyone listen to her? >> yeah, they did especially in boston where she became really a great figure. great public citizen. and mostly towards end she wrote a law. she traveled very, very later to life she was making national -- and did speaking on the west coast. and she used to go to the massachusetts space house regularly wherever the e legislature was in session she would go and address them and she did it that way she was busy
10:54 am
and opposed lynching she really was committed to just about all of the social issues of the turn of the century. they were a lot. so second question since no one is behind me, did you access what was it called houten material for this book -- >> i did but not all of them. i could not have done it and i could have not done that except psychological larceny had been there and written about it and published it. it is enormous i don't know how many scholar would take it to read it. >> it was a big family, it's the whole family. samuel is in it too. all of the sisters and brothers, aunts, really aretives so it is huge but i did read it, and of course had terrible handwriting. stacey such a great biographer she said there are a couple of things to keep in mind when you decide whose biography to write
10:55 am
and first is did they win the pen menship prize and she did not let me tell you that was my big mistake. but i did look at them and husband came with me -- i couldn't have done it without him and we sat in the houten library and i read julia and he read shev and back and forth. [laughter] that was kind of fun. >> any particular religion? >> she went through several -- she was very, very interested in religion. i would say more than being devotely religious she was very interested in theology it was a life fascination of hers. she was brought up in a call have a scientist household and rebelled against that. but her salvation she came to
10:56 am
the age and knew transdentallist through a friend. and she very quickly u through them became interested in unitarian church and she was that but read widely in all religious tradition. she said that the are reason for her conversion is she was reading something i think it's in an essay and she said she was suddenly struck by the fact that the god she was worshiping must be the god of the japanese and this was cultural comparison and never thought of that before and when that idea hit her, her had idea of religion changed. but she -- preached often too especially when he was traveling and she traveled a lot in central america and the caribbean. and when she was there, she had
10:57 am
often take the opportunity to preach in a local church. so her religious writing are extense of by i didn't really deal with them in this book. >> follow-up on that, there's over here -- [laughter] i had forgotten this until you just started talking about it. but there's an interesting little mention in the book of her when she's in rome. of study or meeting with a rabbi learning hebrew which was interesting i thought. >> she was a great and her had idea of a really great archl was to read greek, and -- she knew six languages, and when she was in rome she found a rap buy in the ghetto she says he was in the ghetto in the 1850s. and he came to tutor her hebrew remarkable and not at all --
10:58 am
not a trace of it. she on the other hand spent quite a lot of time in rome and did not like the catholic church. did not like what she saw of it. and it was not a particularly good period of the catholic church just after the -- after the the the revolution failed in germany but everywhere she went, she was fascinated and traveled a lot in the middle east she was interested in islam. everything was sort of intellectually fascinating to her. >> you have to read the book, though, to know what had else she found in rome. not going to comment on that. >> thank you. yeah. >> did she have any interaction at all with emily dickinson? >> none. as far as i can tell she never read a word by emily dickinson but emily dickinson only published seven poems° her lifetime emily dickinson poems
10:59 am
not published until close to the end of the 19th century and julia never read them but she did read whitman interesting to me because exactly same age as whitman and in the book i talk about -- the way that the odds were so much against a 19 century american woman poet. same age at whitman both group in new york at same age he was running around the city totally free. he says go into the theater every day, every night taking everything in she was not allowed out of the o house without enormous number of chaperons, and she was not allowed to go to theater so different. i mean, the range of experience that he was able to draw in. when she finally read whit man towards the end of 19th century got interested in writing why she didn't like him very much. she did read --
11:00 am
some experimental european poetry i don't know what she would have made of mly dickerson. fascinating to think about this. emily dickinson is the one really important woman american woman poet of the 1th century as whitman i think is one important male poet of the 19th century. not a good century for poetry because they were so -- restricted by piety an by sense poetry was a serious business and you had to use a certain kind of vo vocabulary and she ds that kind of thing. we thinks that nobody -- nobody ever talks it. she wrote, she could write in vernacular. her best poems are like that. ...
11:01 am
every pregnancy when she finds out she is pregnant is a disaster. she has names for the children while she is pregnant, i will call this one dolores and stuff
11:02 am
like that. when they were born she adored them of course and they adored her and they said she was absolutely wonderful mother, very imaginative, very engaged in all their games and he was too. they were good parents and made a good parenting team. when the children grow up and wrote the biography and they actually read her diaries and read the letters and found out -- they couldn't really believe it. they had to smooth it out in the biography but they really didn't believe it anyway. they had their own image. this couldn't have been true. they really adored each other, a little trouble here and there. marriage is a torrent in the wind, two very turbulent people but they really adored each other. interestingly they grew up, one of the sons died as a young
11:03 am
child, one of the daughters died so she has three surviving daughters and one son and the sun became a very distinguished scientist but when they grew up it was the daughter she was closest to. the sun in some ways -- he had a career like shed and was getting honors from international bodies and something, the relationship -- very close to the daughters and the daughters were all writers. and i think wonderful writers. laura, the oldest, wrote 90 books. amazing. in those days they could really turn it out. the second one, not as much but was quite prolific and i think a very entertaining writer and mod, the youngest one wrote a number of books. they always looked down on mod because they thought she was spoiled and frivolous but i like
11:04 am
her very much and eventually she moved to newport where she is quite a revered citizen in the town. >> you said that her plays were disastrous. was that deservedly so or was she ahead of her time, or was it the subject matter, not one that lent itself? >> i don't think the plays are that good. i am not sure they were ahead of their time but they are in two categories. some of them were so cerebral you couldn't imagine making a play out of them, when she was a young girl she was trying to make a play out of the rise and fall of the roman empire.
11:05 am
she did write a play during a period when in principle she was not supposed to publish anything but she did. it was produced in new york which was a melodrama set in italy. i blocked the title of it and it ran for a week. the new york times just hated it and they thought it was scandalous and incoherent. there are scholars now who disagree and think it is an interesting play. her brother, sam ward who was a lobbyist, the king of the lobby they called it. almost invented lobby. he thought it was terrific. not very many other people did. she was trying to write a play, a play she worked on for a long
11:06 am
time and her dream was to have edwin booth play hippolytus. then there was the assassination and this was another incredible thing. they were close friends of edwin booth who lived in boston and went to almost all his performances and when they found out john wilkes booth had killed lincoln they were in double morning. the whole town collapsed, edwin booth stayed off the stage for a long time and that fell apart. >> how many of her works, plays or poetry, had her name on it at the time of their publication? >> interesting question. by the end of her life probably several did because a lot of them were reprints, collected
11:07 am
poems and so on. in the early part of her life, the first two were anonymous and then they would be published by the author of sort of thing. by the end of her life they did have her name, and sadly and i think inevitably the poetry declined towards the end because after passionflower's she really cracked down. any kind of growth she was developing as a poet, i think she was really talented and gifted but i don't think she had any chance to develop that gift. he really cracked down in terms of subject matter and she really didn't know any poets. if she had known emily dickinson imagine what might have happened. the poets she knew, longfellow, friends of theirs in boston were very genteel poets. nobody really read them anymore
11:08 am
either, she didn't know anyone who was really challenging her and she certainly didn't know any other women who were writing poetry and by the end of her life these books were coming out with her name on them and still getting reviewed but even the critics were saying, one review said she has become the average poetess, someone who started out incredibly unconventional and exciting and new and it is not there anymore. what also happens is after the end of the civil war she decided to go out and have a public life, poetry became less interesting to her. a lot of women in the 19th century in england and america and probably other places too turned to writing, sometimes fiction, sometimes poetry because they were barred from all the other professions.
11:09 am
she would have made a great professor, she was so intellectual, would have been a great professor at harvard. that was totally impossible. harvard didn't hire -- as late as 1970 or something like that. so that was out. a politician, anything like that. administer which she was very attracted to. none of those things were open to her so poetry was the channel into which they poured their creativity and anger and protests and intellect and i think she herself realized, she says that at a certain point, i am never going to be a great poet. this is not the way i am going to fulfill myself but i think i am a good speaker and she went on the road and worked very hard and said she got the other suffragists to teach her how to talk to a room of angry people which she encountered very often. how to deal with roughnecks, insulting them and throwing things at them, all this kind of
11:10 am
stuff, she really studied how to do it and got very good at it as a speaker and that was very fulfilling for you. the end of her life she felt she had found her vocation in doing that and she never stopped and the poetry trailed off. she continued to write comic poetry and some of it is very funny but none of those published her in her lifetime. >> the suspicion that she was the author, people didn't know who wrote these. >> passion, i should have said that, the book came out, it was published anonymously. in boston, a pretty small town, everybody knew in a week who it was and there is no record in her letters or hints of that conversation which must have been really something but everybody in boston new. and created an incredible sensation and some people were
11:11 am
very shocked. hawthorne, in england at the time of the -- in liverpool, got the book from his publisher, sent it over to him and hawthorne said it is one of the most outstanding american books. along with walden, one of the two books i recommend to somebody wanting to read american literature. but she should be with her writing it. that was the general opinion. it was really scandalous and particularly women she knew, women friends were hostile to it too. >> you have talked a lot about her closeness, writing to her sisters. can you say a few things quickly
11:12 am
to her more intimate circle of female friendships? >> that is interesting too. when she was growing up, she didn't have close female friends until she was almost 20 years old. that was because her father, who was a strict calvinist, society was a temptation to sin and they had so many brothers and sisters and cousins they should only mix within the family, they lived in a kind of family compound on broad street, the house they lived in, was very appropriate, lived in a fabulous mansion but was never able to mix with other
11:13 am
girls socially and never knew any other young women. she felt it was a great loss and in her 20s after her father died she made her first woman friend who remained her friend for the rest of her life and lived in boston and they met in newport in the summer and that was a tremendous boom to her. they shared so much. mary boone introduced her to the transcendentalist and unitarian church, who supported her at every juncture in her life. she didn't have that many close friends in boston, they were not very close. she found boston very chilly socially, other people have too. once she got into the suffrage movement, one of the reasons she took to it so much was the
11:14 am
suffragists were so sisterly. one moved to rome, the other moved to new jersey and california and they were her closest companions, not until the suffrage movement did she have intimate women friends in particular mary livermore who was very warm and motherly and talks about how they traveled together, how wonderful and how enriching and enabling, how much fun and how terrific no matter how bad the weather or rude the audience, traveling with mary livermore. >> we have time for one more question and if there are no takers i will ask it but i am happy to have someone from the audience raise their hand. i feel like an auctioneer.
11:15 am
my question i don't want to give away too much, so many new uncensored intricacies in this book, but the relationship between her and this repressed sexuality and romance you feel is part of the source of tension, and i wonder if you would dare regulate, if they lived in a more tolerant time where they could be who they really were, who would they have been? >> the ideal model would've been elizabeth barrett browning and robert browning who she knew and she was very jealous of both of them and that was the model for her. she knew a lot of women in boston who in principle had very companionable marriages but as it turned out, i don't know what
11:16 am
she knew at the time, none of them did. she thought they did, lucy stone for example thought that is a wonderful marriage, not such a great marriage, but the brownings had the marriage she wanted and he totally supported her and it was very romantic and he was very handsome, and seemed like the perfect match. it could have been very interesting. he was certainly the most exciting man who came across her path i think at that time in her life. she waited until she was 22 to mary him which was quite old for that period and he was definitely the most suitable person she met. they should have been perfect. in the beginning of the honeymoon although they were on a steamship going away, sounds like it was starting pretty well but just didn't. it has to be blamed on him. she was so much younger, so inexperienced in certain ways,
11:17 am
he was such a workaholic, started having all these babies. it was impossible, potentially what could have been between them is electric and is one of those things, imagine a parallel life, another place, another time what they could have been. they should have been one of the great romantic couples of history. >> there is a reason he was still a bachelor at 40 too. he goes off to "the battle hymn of the republic" -- he goes to greece. >> a lot of speculation about his sexuality. he was very attached to his male friends. notably uninterested in women and had a lot of journals, he was in greece for six years, past up all the temptations, pretty much all of them.
11:18 am
was not even interested particularly. there is some speculation that he was -- most of his sexual and emotional feelings were directed towards men and especially charles sumner. gary has written about this. it is hard to be sure. certainly i think myself, charles sumner was much more likely to have been gay, sumner, they used to say about sumner he didn't get married until he was in his 50s and they used to say about sumner he isn't going to be married because he doesn't want to make any woman a slave or something like this but -- his marriage lasted a very short time, his wife ran off with somebody else. i think he was at least bisexual if anything. at that age they didn't really deal with these feelings and
11:19 am
these issues. they had more leeway to express themselves. his letters to sumner are very passionate and emotional and intimate and they were very close and he doesn't write like that to julia at all. it is not there for women. i don't think he was incapable of it. towards the end of his life when they had this reconciliation, people think that he told her he had affairs and i'm not sure about that either. it sounds like he did. you don't really know. it would be interesting, the letters were all destroyed so you don't really know. what happened. if they were affairs they must have been pretty limited. i don't think he was the kind of man do that. he was certain of his sexuality, i think it went into his work mainly. >> you can tell from the last hour that this is an incredibly
11:20 am
fascinating story about a fascinating woman and fascinating people around her. we have copies of the book up front if you haven't had a chance to get it please do, elaine showalter will be happy to sign. what a great session and thank you for coming out. if you don't mind putting your chairs to the side you will make our factory very happy. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> you are watching booktv on c-span2, television for serious readers. here is a look at what is on
11:21 am
prime time tonight. we kick off the evening at 7:00 pm eastern with david kessler who talks about the history of mental suffering. on afterwards, i and ran fellow don watkins discusses in committee quality. 's book is equal is unfair. we finish our primetime programming at 11:00 with veteran pete eggself, talking about citizenship in a public address. that happens tonight on c-span2's booktv. >> arthur nick adams, if you read your books, it is safe to say you love america more than anybody else in the world.
11:22 am
>> it is the greatest country in the history of the world, the constitution is the best political document ever written, the united states military is the finest the world has ever seen. when i came to america i am taken by the initiative, boldness, excitement, there is no place like america. >> host: people are going to wonder why someone from australia loves america so much. >> guest: a simple question to answer. what is good for america is good for the world. what america is strong the world is strong. when america is weak the world is dangerous. that is not a nick adams hypothesis, that is a reality we see right now. that is why every single person no matter what you do, who you are, what color you are, everyone has an investment in keeping america as robust and
11:23 am
powerful as possible. >> host: when did you come to this? >> guest: all my life, i was drawn to the united states, arnold schwarzenegger, stuart varney, elon musk, a whole tradition of people around the world with an inexplicable desire to get to the united states. it is something about energy in america, the optimism. this is where magic can truly happen. that is what i subscribe to and i got to tell you, no one has been disappointed. this is still the land. and the circumstances of their birth, that is an elegant and youthful principle that we have got to preserve for as much and
11:24 am
as long as possible. >> host: the title of your most recent book is "retaking america: crushing political correctness" which seems to indicate we are doing something wrong. what is that? >> guest: political correctness is behind every single problem in america today. we are talking about borders, diminished america on the world stage, police having to wear their own handcuffs, declining educational standards, inability to defeat the islamism rampaging throughout the world, all these things are political correctness and the solution to those problems can be implement it also because of political correctness. there is no greater moral imperative than crushing this totalitarian ideology that is producing a choking conformity, and intellectual purity that is un-american, anti-american, and foundational principles of the
11:25 am
united states. right now people are sick and tired of being accused of micro-addressing and micro-addressing and trigger warning and not knowing the 77 event genders and being accused of being a racist should they use chicago sarcastically in a sentence. people have had enough of these moral and intellectual lilliputian's that want to bully us into silence and force us into conformity. america has always been about identity and individualism. and everything political correctness firmly has in the process. >> host: what is one of the real-life examples you use in your book? >> there are lots of real-life examples. i am an australian and i have seen what political correctness is done to my country and what it has done to england, england, it is not an exaggeration to say
11:26 am
you can't even look at somebody the wrong way. that is the trend throughout western civilization and my book is a message to americans to be aware i believe in the future and i am here to tell you you are going to like it. you need to arrest the problem. you need to punch this cultural totalitarian in the nose, you got to hit first, hit hard and you can't stop because if you don't, we will end up in a situation where america will become belgium, another european country. that is not what we want. we want america to remain the indispensable nation of the world. we want america to be the rainbow of the world's class, we want america to be the refuge for people all around the world that want to take a risk.
11:27 am
other countries are wonderful if you want a life characterized by small steps but if you really want to do something different, take a risk, there is no country on earth like america, initiative, confidence and risk in the united states, anywhere else, that is why america is a beautiful idea that transcends geographical entities. >> host: when you take that message to australia what do they say? >> guest: a lot of australians are very grateful for america's role in the world, very proud that we are the only country to have fought alongside the united states in every single major military conflict since the beginning of the last century and we hold that distinction because the brits didn't go to vietnam and that is something we are proud of and there is a lot of connection between america and australia and i think there
11:28 am
is a lot that we can really take from the australian example and give to america. i want america to be a very special place, remain a special place and not let and ideology dilute that strength and power america has always had. >> host: nick adams, "retaking america: crushing political correctness" is the name of his latest book. >> guest: if you love america and hate political correctness this is the book for you. >> booktv tapes hundreds of other programs all year long. these are the events we are covering this week. the historical society in ohio covering author howard maines who will talk about his book 67 shots about the 1970 shooting of students by the national guard at kent state university. we are recording an event with
11:29 am
journalist, author of the not the hunter college, in his book he profiles men and women who dedicated their lives to tracking down nazi war criminals. tuesday booktv is at the library of congress to cover joshua kindle, whose latest book is first dance, parenting and politics from george washington to barack obama. wednesday we had to baltimore, they look at the history of ghettos, the event featuring princeton university, recently wrote a book on the topic. thursday, joshua talks about the seven sins, power, fortunate survival in the age of networks at new york university's bookstore. the vice chairman of kissinger associates will be in a talk with malcolm gladwell. friday we are back in new york city for the opening session of the annual left forum held at the john jay college of criminal justice.
11:30 am
speaking are medea benjamin and chris hedges that is a look at some of the other programs booktv is covering this week. many of these events are open to the public. and they will air in the near future on booktv on c-span2. >> host: joining us onset is radio talkshow host and author of seven books dennis prager. his most recent book is called "the 10 commandments: still the best moral code". dennis prager, what is on your mind? >> guest: very good opening question and i will answer you completely honestly, what is on my mind? it is not totally germane but quite germane to the 10 commandments, what i believe is the undoing of the american revolution and the decline of my beloved country, the greatest experiment in liberty and decency in human history. i do believe that a big part of


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on