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.”
“Do you want to know how I pass my day?” White wrote to his mother. He was awakened at his lodgings by a servant at nine-thirty, then chose to stay in bed for another half-hour, until he headed out for breakfast at 3 rue Herschel—“and ring the doorbell five times, which is my private ring.” Coffee, eggs, and oatmeal being swallowed, we forthwith make our way to the studio, and both set to work at our respective businesses. Then comes lunch hour. This is a very simple matter for Saint-Gaudens,
Catlin, The Adventures of the Ojibbeway and Ioway Indians, Vol. II, 211. 170 “in the most free and familiar manner”: Ibid. 170 “Tell these good fellows”: Ibid., 212. 170 In the winter of 1797–98: Dippie, Catlin and His Contemporaries: The Politics of Patronage, 120. 170 “This,” wrote Catlin: Catlin, The Adventures of the Ojibbeway and Ioway Indians, 212. 171 With ceremony befitting a head of state: Ibid., 212–14. 171 “and sounding the frightful war-whoop”: Ibid., 215. 172 “the most
imprisonment”: Ibid., 22. 241 “the delights” of Robinson Crusoe: Ibid., 24. 241 His father apprenticed him: Ibid., 32, 38. 241 “a miserable slavery”: Ibid., 28–39. 241 “When he was not scolding me”: Ibid., 38. 241 “Sculptured heads”: Scientific American, November 6, 1847. 242 The success of a cameo: Saint-Gaudens, The Reminiscences of Augustus SaintGaudens, Vol. I, 37. 242 The apprenticeship with Avet: Ibid., 43. 242 The boy refused: Ibid. 242 He later spoke: Ibid. 242 He went to work
Benjamin West and John Trumbull. On his passport, lest there be any misunderstanding, he wrote in the space for occupation, “historical painter.” For a much younger, still struggling, and little known artist like George P. A. Healy of Boston, Paris was even more the promised land. While Morse longed to move beyond portraits, young Healy had his heart set on that alone. He was the oldest of the five children of a Catholic father and a Protestant mother. Because his father, a sea captain, had
brothers. Most important, Morse worked out his own system for transmitting the alphabet in dots and dashes, in what was to be known as the Morse code. In a larger space in which to string their wires, a vacant factory in New Jersey, he and Vail were soon sending messages over a distance of ten miles. Demonstrations were staged successfully elsewhere in New Jersey and Philadelphia. There were continuing reports of others at work on a similar invention both in the United States and abroad, but by