The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
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The #1 bestseller that tells the remarkable story of the generations of American artists, writers, and doctors who traveled to Paris, the intellectual, scientific, and artistic capital of the western world, fell in love with the city and its people, and changed America through what they learned, told by America’s master historian, David McCullough.
Not all pioneers went west.
In The Greater Journey, David McCullough tells the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, and others who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, hungry to learn and to excel in their work. What they achieved would profoundly alter American history.
Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, was one of this intrepid band. Another was Charles Sumner, whose encounters with black students at the Sorbonne inspired him to become the most powerful voice for abolition in the US Senate. Friends James Fenimore Cooper and Samuel F. B. Morse worked unrelentingly every day in Paris, Morse not only painting what would be his masterpiece, but also bringing home his momentous idea for the telegraph. Harriet Beecher Stowe traveled to Paris to escape the controversy generated by her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Three of the greatest American artists ever—sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, painters Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent—flourished in Paris, inspired by French masters.
Almost forgotten today, the heroic American ambassador Elihu Washburne bravely remained at his post through the Franco-Prussian War, the long Siege of Paris, and the nightmare of the Commune. His vivid diary account of the starvation and suffering endured by the people of Paris is published here for the first time.
Telling their stories with power and intimacy, McCullough brings us into the lives of remarkable men and women who, in Saint-Gaudens’ phrase, longed “to soar into the blue.”
satisfaction and contentment than the faces of the people under the genial November sun. They were each and every one the picture of self-congratulation.” Shoes were polished, children “sportive.” At one of the public concerts, a young lady who had performed beamed when she received, instead of a bouquet of flowers, a generous portion of cheese. In the meantime, the cattle and sheep that had filled the Bois de Boulogne were to be seen no more. Horsemeat had become the mainstay of Paris. And all
hundred, were hauled to the tents of the ambulance by the carriage load. Gratiot had been with the volunteers who went to the battlefield to help. One soldier had died in Gratiot’s arms. The cold of winter had arrived, and Washburne continued to chronicle in his diary the steady worsening of conditions and decline of hope. Numbering the days of the siege, he filled page after page, writing in a clear, straightforward hand, leaving little margin on either side and rarely ever crossing out or
of Bright’s disease at age forty-five on a dismal, rain-soaked November 7, 1882. Mary had never known the death of someone close to her. When Alexander, Lois, and the children arrived in Paris three weeks later, Mary told Lois how desperately lonely she felt. Perhaps she would have been better off to have married, she said, than face being “left alone in the world.” II In 1882, the year of Lydia Cassatt’s death, John Sargent’s genius took hold as never before. In that one year, at age
55. 165 His debut at the Salle Pleyel: Ibid., 59. 166 “Good, my child”: Ibid., 60. 166 “the neatness and elegance of his playing”: Le Courrier de la Louisiane, May 17, 1845. 166 “chiefly to the upper ranks”: Ibid. 166 Midway into April: Galignani’s Messenger, April 17, 1845. 166 Besides the more than five hundred paintings: Catlin, The Adventures of the Ojibbeway and Ioway Indians, Vol. II, 211. 166 Catlin’s story: See generally, Obituary, New York Times, December 24, 1872, and William
liberties. Contrary to what many assumed, neither the emperor nor Haussmann profited personally from the project, though certainly others close to the emperor did, and handsomely, including the American dentist Thomas Evans. Acting on “inside” information, Evans purchased land that would rise thirty times above what he paid for it. He would, as well, build his own grand mansion on the broad new boulevard leading from the Place de l’Étoile, where the Arc de Triomphe stood, to the entrance of the