Tuesday, June 20, 2023 on the Library lawn
About the book:
In this unique biography, Fred Kaplan emphasizes Thomas Jefferson’s genius with language and his ability to use the power of words to inspire and shape a nation. A man renowned for many talents, writing was one of the major activities of the statesman’s life, though much of his best, most influential writing—with the exception of the letters he wrote up to his death, numbering approximately 100,000—was done by 1789, when Jefferson was just forty-six. All of his works demonstrate his remarkable intelligence, prescient wisdom, and literary flair and reveal the man in all his complex and controversial brilliance.
In His Masterly Pen, readers will find a new appreciation of Jefferson as a whole, of his strengths and weaknesses, and particularly of the degree to which his writing skills—which James Madison admired as “the shining traces of his pen”—are key to his personality and public career. Though Jefferson could wield his pen with unrivaled power, he was also a master of using words to both reveal and conceal from others and himself the complications, the inconsistencies, and the contradictions between his principles and his policies, between his head and his heart, and between his optimistic view of human nature and the realities of his personal situation and the world he lived in.
About the author:
Fred Kaplan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of John Quincy Adams: American Visionary and Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, which was named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times and the Washington Post. His biography of Thomas Carlyle was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of biographies of Henry James, Charles, Dickens, Mark Twain, & Gore Vidal. His latest book, His Masterly Pen: A Biography of Jefferson the Writer, “closely examines the Founding Father’s written works to reveal his inspirations, resentments, and mythmaking” (Washington Post). Professor Kaplan is currently writing Difficult Friendships: Jefferson and the Adams Family. A former New Yorker, he lives in East Boothbay, Maine.