Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913. First edition. Quarto, paper boards over brown cloth spine, top edge gilt, uncut, original paper slipcase. Slipcase worn and split but intact. Fine. Item #342
"THE HIVE OF SAINT THOMAS SHELTERED GOD AND MAN, MIND AND MATTER, THE UNIVERSE AND THE ATOM, THE ONE AND THE MULTIPLE, WITHIN THE WALLS OF AN HARMONIOUS HOME"
First trade edition of Henry Adams' widely influential “hymn of praise for the High Middle Ages” (ANB), illustrated with a tissue-guarded color frontispiece and twelve black-and-white plates. Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres is a “profoundly reflective and intellectually stirring” book, elaborately expressing “the dilemma of the genteel mind confronted by our modern industrial civilization” (Kunitz & Haycraft, 9). The book represents a Victorian lamentation reflecting an aesthetic and spiritual distaste for the industrial age, prefiguring the later work of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Dawson and T. S. Eliot. Russell Kirk declared that "to dislike Henry Adams is easy" but proceeded with this declaration of high praise: "A case might be made that Henry Adams represents the zenith of American civilization. Unmistakably American, the end-product of four generations of exceptional rectitude and remarkable intelligence, very likely (despite his autobiography) the best-educated man American society has produced." (Kirk, The Conservative Mind). Adams decided to resume his "education" in the 1890s, “settling down to a quiet life of study, and following his taste, he delved long and patiently in the Middle Ages. The result appeared in Mont Saint Michel and Chartres, probably the best expression of the spirit of the Middle Ages yet published in the English language. Mont Saint Michel deserves to rank among the best American books that have yet been written. It is a model of literary construction and a fine illustration of how a skilled writer may use the history of a small piece of activity as a means of interpreting a great phase of human life” (Cambridge History of English and American Literature, XVII, Part II). This first trade edition was "Published by the Authority of the American Institute of Architects" with an introductory "Editor's Note" by Ralph Adams Cram, dated "Whitehall/Sudbury, Massachusetts/June, 1913." First published in 1904 in an edition of only 100 copies. Henry Adams referred to this book as A Study of Thirteenth-Century Unity, and its expansive scope, together with the author's deep understanding of the period, makes it a classic in art history as well as in American literature. He wrote, I wanted to show the intensity of the vital energy of a given time, and of course that intensity had to be stated in its two highest terms-religion and art.