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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.

Topics: Paris, United States of America, Gilded Age, Belle Epoque , Informative, Art & Artists, American History, French History, Architecture, Writers, Expat Life, Doctors, and Creativity

Published: Simon & Schuster on
ISBN: 9781416576891
List price: $16.99
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The theme of this book as stated in the opening chapter states that of the first group of Americans to go overseas to Paris: “Great as their journey had been by sea, a greater journey had begun . . .and from it they were to learn more, and bring back more, of infinite value to themselves and to their country than they yet knew.”McCullough focuses on the development of American culture, as artists and thinkers such as the painter Mary Cassatt, the future Senator and abolitionist Charles Sumner, who studied at the Sorbonne, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., then a young medical student, and so many others experienced Paris in the 19th century.It was a time and pace of excitement apace in the world of ideas with the expansion of knowledge in medicine, the arts, philosophy, and Paris was a center of this activity. Americans were drawn to this center throughout the century from Samuel F. B. Morse and Nathaniel Willis, painters, to Augustus Saint Gaudens, the sculptor. Writers as diverse as James Fennimore Cooper and Henry James. In fact Henry and his brother William spent some of their youth in Paris while getting a European education. The breadth of those who participated in these journeys was incredible, especially given the dangers of ocean crossing which early in the century before the advent of steamship lines took about a month. "Paris was the medical capital of the world. Our medical training was woefully behind. And this was a chance to perfect their skills and their profession, but also to come back and teach what they had learned, which almost all of them did. And the others were pioneers in launching into careers for which there was no training available here. There were no schools of architecture. There were no schools of art. There were no museums where you could go and look at paintings. It's hard to believe that, but that's how it was. It was the cultural capital of the world." (from an interview with David McCullough on PBS) Harriet Beecher Stowe wondered what was the mysterious allure of Paris. She thought it might be the river Seine, likening it to the Ohio which she knew well. She went beyond to compare art to literature, matching authors with painters. While she questioned the value of French art when she stated “French life has more pretty pictures and popular lithographs . . . but it produces very little of the deepest and highest style of art.”, the Americans who were beginning an new American tradition learned much from their experiences in Paris.One Frenchman who inspired many of the Americans who journeyed to Paris was the inimitable Marquis de Lafayette. His efforts in the revolutionary war and his return visit to America in 1824 when he received tremendous acclaim led several of the travelers his way on their sojourns in Paris. Primarily this book is a history of lives and ideas. McCullough's book challenges the reader to expand his notion of what education meant and what Americans gained from the French beyond their diplomatic and financial support as the United States grew into a great nation in the nineteenth century.more
A fine history, but unfortunately not up to McCullough's (extremely) high standards.

McCullough is an excellent biographer, and an excellent narrative historian. However, this book, trying to cover such a broad topic as Americans in Paris in the 19th century, he seems to almost flounder. Many of the chapters are excellent, and his usual skill shines here.

Unfortunately, some of the order and presentation of all this information seems erratic. There are lots of interesting narrative stories, and background information, and you really get a narrative feel for Paris. But again, things just seem almost thrown together.

I'd give it 3.5 or 4 stars if possible, but I'm forced to round down. If it was any other author, it would be a guaranteed 4. Don't take it too hard, David, I still love you.more
Fascinating stories of both famous and less famous Americans who went to Paris to study. Many of these Americans who we know by name become fleshed out with their personal stories and idiosyncrasies are told so well by the author. Most interesting were the colonists who made the trip which was both a hardship financially and in physical comfort. The book ended abruptly with Mary Cassette.more
Not an easy read, but full of history!more
Read all 25 reviews

Reviews

The theme of this book as stated in the opening chapter states that of the first group of Americans to go overseas to Paris: “Great as their journey had been by sea, a greater journey had begun . . .and from it they were to learn more, and bring back more, of infinite value to themselves and to their country than they yet knew.”McCullough focuses on the development of American culture, as artists and thinkers such as the painter Mary Cassatt, the future Senator and abolitionist Charles Sumner, who studied at the Sorbonne, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., then a young medical student, and so many others experienced Paris in the 19th century.It was a time and pace of excitement apace in the world of ideas with the expansion of knowledge in medicine, the arts, philosophy, and Paris was a center of this activity. Americans were drawn to this center throughout the century from Samuel F. B. Morse and Nathaniel Willis, painters, to Augustus Saint Gaudens, the sculptor. Writers as diverse as James Fennimore Cooper and Henry James. In fact Henry and his brother William spent some of their youth in Paris while getting a European education. The breadth of those who participated in these journeys was incredible, especially given the dangers of ocean crossing which early in the century before the advent of steamship lines took about a month. "Paris was the medical capital of the world. Our medical training was woefully behind. And this was a chance to perfect their skills and their profession, but also to come back and teach what they had learned, which almost all of them did. And the others were pioneers in launching into careers for which there was no training available here. There were no schools of architecture. There were no schools of art. There were no museums where you could go and look at paintings. It's hard to believe that, but that's how it was. It was the cultural capital of the world." (from an interview with David McCullough on PBS) Harriet Beecher Stowe wondered what was the mysterious allure of Paris. She thought it might be the river Seine, likening it to the Ohio which she knew well. She went beyond to compare art to literature, matching authors with painters. While she questioned the value of French art when she stated “French life has more pretty pictures and popular lithographs . . . but it produces very little of the deepest and highest style of art.”, the Americans who were beginning an new American tradition learned much from their experiences in Paris.One Frenchman who inspired many of the Americans who journeyed to Paris was the inimitable Marquis de Lafayette. His efforts in the revolutionary war and his return visit to America in 1824 when he received tremendous acclaim led several of the travelers his way on their sojourns in Paris. Primarily this book is a history of lives and ideas. McCullough's book challenges the reader to expand his notion of what education meant and what Americans gained from the French beyond their diplomatic and financial support as the United States grew into a great nation in the nineteenth century.more
A fine history, but unfortunately not up to McCullough's (extremely) high standards.

McCullough is an excellent biographer, and an excellent narrative historian. However, this book, trying to cover such a broad topic as Americans in Paris in the 19th century, he seems to almost flounder. Many of the chapters are excellent, and his usual skill shines here.

Unfortunately, some of the order and presentation of all this information seems erratic. There are lots of interesting narrative stories, and background information, and you really get a narrative feel for Paris. But again, things just seem almost thrown together.

I'd give it 3.5 or 4 stars if possible, but I'm forced to round down. If it was any other author, it would be a guaranteed 4. Don't take it too hard, David, I still love you.more
Fascinating stories of both famous and less famous Americans who went to Paris to study. Many of these Americans who we know by name become fleshed out with their personal stories and idiosyncrasies are told so well by the author. Most interesting were the colonists who made the trip which was both a hardship financially and in physical comfort. The book ended abruptly with Mary Cassette.more
Not an easy read, but full of history!more
Without promoting France as a country, this book does detail the impact of Paris on American architecture, medicine, literature, and art, not to mention technology and communications.more
Very evocative of a nearly century long period in Paris (ca. 1820-1900) when American artists, medical students, writers, and others travelled to Paris to learn, live, and bring back. Absolutely fascinating. I wish the entire book had been read by David McCullough but unfortunately he only handled the first chapter. Just as well, hopefully he spent the time writing some more.more
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