Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Biography
Finalist Los Angeles Times Book Prize & the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Named one of the Best Books of 2006 by the New York Times Book Review, NPR's Fresh Air, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, & American Heritage Magazine
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“Applegate…rescues Beecher from popular obscurity in this illuminating and thorough book….For readers seeking the roots of the popular religion and popular culture of our own time, Applegate’s resurrection of … Beecher is an excellent place to begin.”—John Meacham, Washington Post
“Applegate…tells this grand story with aplomb, intelligence and a sure feel for historical context….By illuminating Beecher’s position in history, Applegate has produced a biography worthy of its subject.”— Michael Kazin, New York Times Book Review
“A wonderful portrait of a charismatic preacher with a deeply flawed private life, this biography vividly conveys the color and contradictions of 19th century America. With a sure grasp of history, penetrating insights into religion, and many marvelous turns of phrase, Applegate brings to life a time that uncannily prefigures our own.”
“At last, Henry Ward Beecher receives the comprehensive treatment he is due, in this perceptive, engaging and balanced study.”
“Henry Ward Beecher was a phenomenon: the scion of an amazing family, the most renowned American preacher of his day, an anti-slavery stalwart—and the main protagonist in one of the most sensational sex scandals of the Victorian era. If you thought that the personalities and machinations surrounding the Clinton impeachment scandal were interesting, you will find the Beecher exposé riveting. More important, Debby Applegate has vividly brought Beecher and his entire era to life, in all of their piety, idealism, pomposity, and pride.”
“The title is not misleading. Thoroughly researched, passionately written, and richly detailed, this book is the biography of America’s greatest nineteenth-century preacher, Henry Ward Beecher. Through Applegate’s discerning eye, the moral strengths and sexual vulnerabilities of the ‘most famous man in America’ come clearly into view. In the process, Applegate tells the larger story of nineteenth-century America’s religious transition from a Puritan and theocratic past to a ‘modern’ liberal orthodoxy premised on happiness, love, and the banishment of original sin. Applegate’s biography is must reading for serious nonfiction readers of American religion, politics, and culture in Victorian America.”
– Harry S. Stout, Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Religious History, Yale University, author of Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War