Favorite Non-Fiction Books, #53: Successful New Hampshire Men
I'm going to break one of my own rules and include a book I haven't yet read. Coming home yesterday from vacation, among the bills and junk mail was a package containing this gem, a gift from a very old friend. (Thanks, Mama Peabody!) She sent it to me as a balm in the aftermath of my electoral setback a few months back, and by way of friendly encouragement for the future. It's a beautiful volume, heavy and leatherbound, printed in Manchester in 1882. Nearly 90 profiles appear in its 315 gold-gilt pages, each with a gorgeous steel portrait. God, it smells amazing.
These men (and yes, the title doesn't lie - all men) were prominent in the political, financial, or social New Hampshire of 1882. The family names are a familiar roll call - Adams, Bartlett, Currier, Gilman, Pierce, Spalding, Stark, Tuttle - but here's the thing: almost none of these titans of the day will evoke recognition in any but the most studious historian. Nearly a century and a half after their exploits and prestige demanded an entire tome dedicated to their greatness, I could barely pick any of them out of a lineup (and I pay some attention to this stuff). Once I read the profiles, I'm sure there will be moments of clarity, but as it is, this is who Shelley's Ozymandius was talking to.
As for the greats of our day, the Shaheens and Sununus and Greggs, what dusty tome will their forgotten careers inhabit long decades from now? We scramble for a seat at the table, seek and strive to raise a voice in the debate of our day, we win or lose elections, we succeed or fail in our efforts to shape the future of our beloved state and the fortunes of her people. And in the end, does it even matter? Even the winners erode into the crumbling past.