The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

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A treasure trove that enriches understanding of some of the men and women who helped shape events from World War II to the present.


This extraordinary collection gathers the never-before-seen correspondence of a true American original—the acclaimed historian and lion of the liberal establishment, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
An advisor to presidents, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and tireless champion of progressive government, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., was also an inveterate letter writer. Indeed, the term “man of letters” could easily have been coined for Schlesinger, a faithful and prolific correspondent whose wide range of associates included powerful public officials, notable literary figures, prominent journalists, Hollywood celebrities, and distinguished fellow scholars.
The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. reveals the late historian’s unvarnished views on the great issues and personalities of his time, from the dawn of the Cold War to the aftermath of September 11. Here is Schlesinger’s correspondence with such icons of American statecraft as Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, and, of course, John and Robert Kennedy (including a detailed critique of JFK’s manuscript for Profiles in Courage). There are letters to friends and confidants such as Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kenneth Galbraith, Gore Vidal, William Styron, and Jacqueline Kennedy (to whom Schlesinger sends his handwritten condolences in the hours after her husband’s assassination), and exchanges with such unlikely pen pals as Groucho Marx, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Bianca Jagger. Finally, there are Schlesinger’s many thoughtful replies to the inquiries of ordinary citizens, in which he offers his observations on influences, issues of the day, and the craft of writing history.
Written with the range and insight that made Schlesinger an indispensable figure, these letters reflect the evolution of his thought—and of American liberalism—from the 1940s to the first decade of the new millennium. Whether he is arguing against the merits of preemptive war, advocating for a more forceful policy on civil rights, or simply explaining his preference in neckwear (“For sloppy eaters bow ties are a godsend”), Schlesinger reveals himself as a formidable debater and consummate wit who reveled in rhetorical combat. To a detractor who accuses him of being a Communist sympathizer, he writes: “If your letter was the product of sincere misunderstanding, the facts I have cited should relieve your mind. If not, I can only commend you to the nearest psychiatrist.” Elsewhere, he castigates a future Speaker of the House, John Boehner, for misattributing quotations to Abraham Lincoln.
Combining a political strategist’s understanding of the present moment with a historian’s awareness that the eyes of posterity were always watching him, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., helped shape the course of an era with these letters. This landmark collection frames the remarkable dynamism of the twentieth-century and ensures that Schlesinger’s legacy will continue to influence this one.

Praise for The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
“Schlesinger’s political intelligence in his correspondence is excellent, the level of discourse and purpose high, the sense of responsibility as keen as the sense of fun. . . . The best letters—and there are many—come from the typewriter of the public Schlesinger, the fighting liberal, especially when he’s jousting with a provocative antagonist.”—George Packer, The New York Times Book Review

“Arthur Schlesinger’s letters are full of personal, political, and historical insights into the tumultuous events and enormous personalities that dominated the mid-twentieth century.”—President Bill Clinton

From the Hardcover edition.

About Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

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ARTHUR SCHLESINGER, JR. (1917-2007) was an American historian and social critic whose work explored the American liberalism of political leaders including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. Schlesinger served as special assistant and "court historian" to President Kennedy from 1961 to 1963. He wrote a detailed account of the Kennedy Administration, from the transition period to the president's state funeral, titled A Thousand Days, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. He won a second Pulitzer in 1946 for his book The Age of Jackson. ANDREW SCHLESINGER is the author of Veritas: Harvard College and the American Experience and co-editor with his brother Stephen of Journals: 1952-2000 by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. In 1980 he joined ABC News in their documentray division where his film scripts won two Emmy Awards and a Writers Guild Award. STEPHEN SCHLESINGER is the former Director of the World Policy Institute at the New School from 1997-2006 and former publisher of the quarterly magazine, The World Policy Journal. After editing and publishing The New Democrat Magazine, he became a staff writer at Time, then served as a speechwriter and foreign policy advisor to Governor Mario Cuomo. He is the author of Act of Creation: The Founding of The United Nations (Harry S. Truman Book Award winner), Bitter Fruit: The Story of the U.S. Coup in Guatemala, and The New Reformers. He is a contributor to magazines, newspapers, and sites, including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation Magazine, The New York Observer, and In 1978, he was a finalist for the National Magazine Award.

Author Residence: New York, NY; Cambridge, MA

Author Hometown: New York, NY
Published October 29, 2013 by Random House. 672 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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on Oct 21 2013

A treasure trove that enriches understanding of some of the men and women who helped shape events from World War II to the present.

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NY Times

Reviewed by George Packer on Dec 20 2013

The best letters — and there are many — come from the typewriter of the public Schlesinger, the fighting liberal, especially when he’s jousting with a provocative antagonist like William F. Buckley...or, even better, arguing a matter of principle with a friend at the breaking point.

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