THE FIVE OF HEARTS: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends 1880-1918 by Patricia O'Toole

THE FIVE OF HEARTS: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends 1880-1918

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

O'Toole (Corporate Messiah, 1984) gives an excellent account of Henry Adams and his circle of friends in Washington, focusing on the years 1880-1918 and including everything that Ernest Samuels (the three-volumed Henry Adams, 1948-1964) glossed over. Adams is the center of the group portrait here. There are two other male ""Hearts"": John Hay, secretary to Lincoln and later secretary of state under two Presidents, and Clarence King, geologist. The two women ""Hearts,"" Clara Hay--John's wife--and Clover Hooper Adams (Henry's wife) remain shadowy. By staying out of public life, remaining an observer and scholar-gentleman, Adams avoided comparison with his distinguished ancestors. He and Clover, whom Henry James called a woman with ""intellectual grace,"" rode horseback every morning, breakfasted at noon; Adams spent afternoons writing in his study, emerging at 5 p.m. for tea with Clover and Washington society friends who came to call. The socializing went on through the evening. In 1885, after 13 years of marriage, Clover, depressed by the death of her father, committed suicide. Adams withdrew, immersing himself in travel and his writing. But he fell in love with the beautiful, unhappily married Lizzie Cameron, who welcomed Adams' ardent attentions while keeping him at a safe distance. The two colluded with John Hay as he carried on a clandestine affair with Henry Cabot Lodge's wife. Meanwhile, Clarence King roamed the world in search of fortune, while keeping his secret, common-law black wife and their five children in luxurious style, on money borrowed from Hay. She believed King was a Pullman porter named James Todd. O'Toole has done careful research, weaving the political background of the period into her readable account of personal lives. What emerges from this intimate portrait is that--despite their material comforts and professional and social success--each ""Heart"" battled a sense of failure. Although presumably close friends, they all lived complex lives of deception.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
Publisher: Harmony/Crown