Books

In this unnerving biography of Norman Douglas, a prolific British
novelist, travel writer, and an undisguised and unrepentant pedophile,
Rachel Hope Cleves grapples—at length and with feeling—with the
interrelated questions of how to write the biography of a repulsive man
and why. She focuses less on defining who Douglas was than on why
Douglas seems so monstrous to us when he often did not to those who
knew and (yes) loved him. Cleves does more than sketch the conditions
and influence of Douglas’s life and work; she probes how changing
social norms affect our aesthetic and moral assessments.
Charity and Sylvia is the intimate history of two ordinary women who lived in an extraordinary same-sex marriage during the early nineteenth century. Based on diaries, letters, and poetry, among other original documents, the research traces the women’s lives in sharp detail. The story of Charity and Sylvia overturns today’s conventional wisdom that same-sex marriage is a modern innovation, and reveals that early America was both more diverse and more accommodating than modern society imagines.
When the French Revolution degenerated into violent factionalism and civil war during the early 1790s, American conservative northeasterners reacted in profound terror. Alarmed by the possibility that the United States would follow her “sister republic” into chaos and civic bloodshed, northern Federalists and their Congregationalist allies reacted by aggressively attacking the violence of the French Revolution and its supposed American votaries. The Reign of Terror in America argues that American fears of the violence of the French Revolution led to antislavery, antiwar, and public education movements in the nineteenth-century United States.

 

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