Stopped at Bridge Street Books in Georgetown at lunch. Found newly translated novels by Celine and Cendrars there, which made me very happy, magnifying the effect of our Indian summer warmth and sunshine.
There was also present a large new biography of Seward, something I’ve been waiting for over a long time. I picked it up and noticed the dust jacket blurbed by all the wrong people: two plagiarists (Goodwin and McPherson) and a dialectical materialist (Foner). As if further red flags were needed, the praise was about readability – as if the previous works on Seward are unusable because they are unreadable. (The dust jacket could not hold all the praise craptastic authors had for this book, so check out Amazon if you want to see storytellers and recapitulators lavishly praise one of their own.)
I put the index through my McClellan test. There were a grand total of 13 references to GBM in 717 pages. They were appallingly ignorant. In addition to relying on the usual, imaginary “letters to his wife,” author Walter Stahr showed no inkling that Lincoln had been McClellan’s employee pre-war. In discussing the Scott-McClellan relationship, he shows no awareness of the McClellan-Scott family connections described by Rafuse, nor does he have any inkling of the Scott-Seward-McClellan patronage ecology, described in part by Gideon Welles in his diary. Stahr paints McClellan and Scott one-dimensionally as enemies. He does the same with McClellan-Seward, relying on a few snippets from Sears. Seward’s early patronage takeover (from Chase) of GBM is missing, as much as it annoyed Chase, and Seward’s other military clients are also missing from this book, if my quick skim can be relied on.
It’s likely I could find a few interesting points of departure for further research in these pages, but a biographer this tone-deaf and blinkered appears more of a menace than a help to readers.
You could hitch up your pants, grit your teeth, clothespin your nose shut and start reading, but what kind of fun would that be?