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The Stammering Century (eBook)
Gilbert Seldes, the author of The Stammering Century, writes:
This book is not a record of the major events in American history during
the nineteenth century. It is concerned with minor movements, with the
cults and manias of that period. Its personages are fanatics, and radicals,
and mountebanks. Its intention is to connect these secondary movements
and figures with the primary forces of the century, and to supply a back-
ground in American history for the Prohibitionists and the Pentecostalists;
the diet-faddists and the dealers in mail-order Personality; the play censors
and the Fundamentalists; the free-lovers and eugenists; the cranks and
possibly the saints. Sects, cults, manias, movements, fads, religious
excitements, and the relation of each of these to the others and to
the orderly progress of America are the subject.
The subject is of course as timely at the beginning of the twenty-first century as when the book first appeared in 1928. Seldes’s fascinated and often sympathetic accounts of dreamers, rogues, frauds, sectarians, madmen, and geniuses from Jonathan Edwards to the messianic murderer Matthias have established The Stammering Century not only as a lasting contribution to American history but as a classic in its own right.
About the Author
Gilbert Seldes (1893–1970), the younger brother of famed foreign correspondent and investigative journalist George Seldes, was an influential American journalist, writer, and cultural critic, noted for championing the popular arts. Born into the Jewish agricultural community of Alliance Colony, New Jersey, to philosophical anarchist parents of Russian Jewish descent, he attended Philadelphia’s prestigious Central High School and graduated from Harvard University, where he became friends with e. e. cummings and John Dos Passos. After working as a newspaper reporter in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and as a war correspondent in England during World War I, he joined the staff of The Dial and became the New York correspondent for T. S. Eliot’s The Criterion. In 1923, however, he went to Paris to write a book in praise of popular culture. The result, The Seven Lively Arts, appeared the following year to both considerable acclaim and criticism for its celebration of the likes of Al Jolson over John Barrymore and Charlie Chaplin over Cecil B. DeMille. In Paris, Seldes met and married Alice Wadhams Hall; the couple would have two children, Timothy, a literary agent, and Marian, a Tony Award–winning actor. Seldes later wrote columns for The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire, adapted Lysistrata and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Broadway, made historical documentary films, wrote radio scripts, and became the first director of television for CBS and the founding dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. His other many books of cultural criticism and social analysis include The Years of the Locust (1932), The Movies Come from America (1937), The Great Audience (1950), and The Public Arts (1956). Seldes also published a novel, The Wings of the Eagle (1929), and, under the name Foster Johns, two books of detective stories.
Praise for The Stammering Century…
“One of the most perceptive and entertaining studies of the American spirit in the nineteenth century.” —Richard Hofstadter