blood in words

August 7, 2006

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I love the Dictionary of American Biography. I do not have time to truly express the many reasons my love, and why I dedicate myself to it, treasure it and believe it to be the ultimate summation of goodness. Instead time will allow only this idiotic dotage to serve the place of what should be a massive explanation holding up my communication with the Dictionary of American Biography as an instrument of learning like a hammock upon which sleeps the happiest cat swinging gently.

Nevertheless, let this space exist as the space that always shall, yielding honorable sympathy, in my heart… I will post my favorite paragraphs from the DNB especially those first paragraphs of entries which dearly manage to always include statements of lineage, ancestory and bloodlines consituting the individual of note. I may be simpleminded, but talk of blood makes me downright thirsty. In the following paragraph on James Truslow Adams, not even of the base set of DNB, rather from Supplement 4: 1946-1950 one feels A. S. Eisenstadt is so well versed in the art of the first paragraph that he leaves a praiseworthy mark on dearest J. T. Adams himself heartily involved with the DNB project. So, get ready:

Adams, James Truslow (Oct. 18, 1878 – May 18, 1949), historian, was born in Brooklyn, N. Y., the second son and youngest of three children of William Newton Adams, Jr., and Elizabeth Harper (Truslow) Adams. He was of Virginia ancestry, his Adams forebear–an indentured servant who rose to landowner–having settled there in the seventeenth century. He had a Spanish grandmother, for William Adams, Sr., while representing an American mercantile firm in Latin America, had married the daughter of a prominent family in Caracas, Venezuela. Both of Adams’ grandfathers were prosperous businessmen. His father, by contrast, was an unsuccessful Wall Street broker, whose precarious financial condition closely defined the course of Adams’ education and early career. For reasons of economy, he attended the Brooklyn Polytechnic School (1890-1894) and its Institute (1894-1898), from which he received the A.B. degree in 1898. His graduation as class president, valedictorian, and poet gave evidence of his intellectual and literary talent.

This one is good, but it pales in comparison to any of the entries credited ‘Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936.’ Oh those sweet words! How they make my tongue swell. If I could, I would and I will because I can find every description of women from the base set 1928-1926, as duty to my dirty mind. For instance read how Mary Edwards, wife of Timothy Dwight is described in brief within the first paragraph of Dwight’s entry authored by Harris Elwood Starr.

Six feet and four inches tall and well-proportioned, he was by actual test as strong as an ox. In contrast, his wife, Mary, daughter of Jonathan Edwards, was so petite that, according to tradition, he could hold her at arm’s length on the palm of his hand. She bore him thirteen children, of whom Timothy was the firstborn.

Let “hold her at arm’s length on the palm of his hand” stand as the best euphemism for sexual congruency in the history of the written word! Thirteen children bore… sigh.


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