Books by Jean Strouse

HENRY JAMES by Henry James
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

As recently as a hundred years ago, in a more assured age than this, the enduring importance of a literary career could be measured by whether an edition of an author's collected works was issued. Bound in calfskin for the wealthy bibliophile, in a more modest cloth of some subdued hue for the less well-to-do, these sets made several statements about an age. They suggested that readers could most appreciate writers by knowing the entirety of their work and not simply one or two particularly flashy efforts. And those ranks of volumes, filling the shelves of home libraries, further showed that it was possible for individuals to possess much of the best work by the best minds. Read full book review >
MORGAN by Jean Strouse
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: April 1, 1999

A superbly researched, well-written biography of a great—and, in the author's view, somewhat misrepresented—figure in American history. J. Pierpont Morgan's (1837—1913) every touch, it seemed, yielded pure gold. Some of his contemporaries admired his skill at making money, whereas most others despised him. Bancroft Prize-winning biographer Strouse (Alice James, 1980) writes that their disdain, fueled by populist and progressive views, has colored the historical take on Morgan such that he's seen "as an icon of capitalist greed"—as mere robber baron and plutocrat. She paints a far more complex portrait of someone who, she argues, deserves to be rated as the chief architect of American industrial democracy. At his death, Morgan was the world's most prominent banker; he—d overseen the economic restructuring of America from a debtor nation into self-sufficiency; he built railroads, engineered the mergers of huge corporations (to form, for instance, US Steel), and surrounded himself with rare works of art and literature, now housed in some of the nation's leading museums and libraries. He accomplished all this, says Strouse, with a forceful intellect and a strong character—but also by taking any number of ethical shortcuts: He amassed an early fortune, for example, through profiteering in the Civil War. The author recognizes that Morgan's critics, then as now, had reason to resent the man; after all, he controlled a huge share of the international economy and did much to break unions and thwart the ambitions of workers' organizations. He showed little regard for "class conflicts and social problems," and evidently believed that "his financial expertise conferred political prerogatives, and that his larger concerns took precedence over the interests of the people who opposed him." Still, Strouse gives us an eminently human version of Morgan as a man guided always by profit but not without a sense of of social responsibility, a figure who, for good or ill, contributed in many ways to the structure of the modern world. Especially at a time when American wealth and monopoly again reign, this life of a notable dollar-diplomat is most welcome. (b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour) Read full book review >