SPECTATOR IN AMERICA by Edward Dicey

SPECTATOR IN AMERICA

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Throughout the 19th century, beginning with de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, European visitors exhibited a perennial fascination with the political and social habits of that strange, new, mongrel breed, The American. Edward Dicey, British jurist and man of letters, conducted his investigations in 1862 when the Civil War monopolized American political life. Dicey, a staunch partisan of the North, was ""keenly aware of the almost morbid anxiety which Americans feel for the judgment of England."" He recorded some revealing contemporary assessments of Lincoln (""When you have called the President 'honest Abe Lincoln' you have also said all that can be said in his favor. . . he will be no more regretted than Buchanan"") and many melancholy reflections on the future of race relations in America: ""The general feeling in the North. . . was an equal desire to make an end of slavery, and to get rid of the Negro."" Interspersed with his thoughts on the war are ruminations on the pleasingly high level of mediocrity among public men, the monotony of the architecture, the vulgarity of the press and the gregarious, hail-fellow-well-met character of the natives. Some historic value and an urbane, gracious style relieve the frequently questionable and cliched valuations of American national character.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1970
Publisher: Quadrangle