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.”
Washburne’s, who was trying his hand as a war correspondent for the Cincinnati Gazette. For some Americans, like the elderly Moultons of the banking family, Paris had been home for so long they simply could not bring themselves to leave. Now choice in the matter was no longer anyone’s privilege to make, and Washburne least of all. “However anxious I might be myself to get away, I would deem it a species of cowardice to avail myself of my diplomatic privilege to depart and leave my nationaux
in Galignani’s Messenger, “Everyone passing was forced to bring forward a paving stone or an earth bag, and any refusal would have been dangerous. Women and children worked just as actively as the National Guards themselves.” At about nine o’clock the Communard batteries on Montmartre opened fire on the city and the shells came in “thick and fast.” Tired of waiting and doing nothing, Washburne mounted a horse and rode off to see more, entirely without concern for his own safety, it would seem.
M.D., 178. 128 Our autumnal fever: Jackson, Memoir of James Jackson,Jr., M.D., 58. 128 “What shall I say of his ambition?”: Ibid., 65. 129 “They buried the old patriot”: Willis, Pencillings by the Way, 459. 130 “great crowd”: Warren, The Parisian Education of an American Surgeon, 243. 130 George Shattuck: See Warner, Against the Spirit of System, 76–77. 130 “every kind of hurt”: Pierce, Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner, Vol. I, 249. 130 “Blessed be science”: Oliver Wendell Holmes to
view from Montmartre, 38–39 Willis’s observation of, 84–85 writing career of, 69–71 Cooper, Paul, 73 Cooper, Susan (J. F. Cooper’s daughter), 5, 69, 74, 96–97 Cooper, Susan (J. F. Cooper’s wife), 58, 68–69, 70, 71, 73–74, 88, 98 Cooper, William (J. F. Cooper’s father), 75 Cooper, William (J. F. Cooper’s nephew), 68 Cooper Institute, 242, 245 Copley, John Singleton, 64, 146 Corneille, Pierre, 51 Correggio, Antonio da, 141, 338, 339, 341, 351 Courbet, Gustave, 418 Courval, Alphise de,
Polish-American Committee, where, as probably nowhere else that side of the Atlantic, the guests were treated to hot buckwheat pancakes. Every American welcomed into the enclave of the Coopers seems to have treasured the experience. “Some of the best hours are spent with Mr. Cooper and his family,” Emma Willard had written. “I find in him what I do not in all who bear the name American, a genuine American spirit.” Morse became such an established presence it was as if he were part of the