"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass

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Monday, April 18, 2016


The Biographer's Quest

Many people might think that the biographer's peak moment is in seeing his (or her) book come to publication, and that the completion and publication of a biography is, in a sense, the biographer's greatest connection to his subject. In fact, the published biography is only the result, the offspring of the biographer's greatest experience. For the biographer comes closest to connecting with his subject in the research and writing, not in the final product. It is the reflection and writing that gives us the greatest fulfillment--the virtual satisfaction, however illusory, of having actually communed with our subjects. This is something that I suspect only biographers--or people who love biography as a discipline--can appreciate. I don't know if others share this experience in their work, whether in composing music, exegeting a text, or sculpting an image. When all is said and done, it is the joy of doing of it--not the success of having done it--that we yearn for the most.

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