Searching for the men behind the icons of emancipation and evolution, Adam Gopnik shows us, in this captivating double life, Lincoln and Darwin as they really were: family men and social climbers; ambitious manipulators and courageous adventurers; the living husband, father, son, and student behind each myth. How do we reconcile Lincoln, the supremely good man we know, with the hardened commander who wittingly sent tens of thousands of young soldiers to certain death? Why did the relentlessly rational Darwin delay publishing his âGreat Ideaâ for almost twenty years? How did inconsolable grief at the loss of a beloved child change each man? And what comfort could either findâfor himself or for a society now possessed of a sadder, if wiser, understanding of our existence? Such human questions and their answers are the stuff of this book.
Above all, we see Lincoln and Darwin as thinkers and writersâas makers and witnesses of the great change in thought that marks truly modern times: a hundred years after the Enlightenment, the old rule of faith and fear finally yielding to one of reason, argument, and observation not merely as intellectual ideals but as a way of life; the judgment of divinity at last submitting to the verdicts of history and time. Lincoln considering human history, Darwin reflecting on deep timeâboth reshaped our understanding of what life is and how it attains meaning. And they invented a new language to express that understanding. Angels and Ages is an original and personal account of the creation of the liberal voiceâof the way we live now and the way we talk at home and in public. Showing that literary eloquence is essential to liberal civilization, Adam Gopnik reveals why our heroes should be possessed by the urgency of utterance, obsessed by the need to see for themselves, and endowed with the gift to speak for us all.
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