Count of Concord

Overview

Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, was -- as Nicholas Delbanco writes -- "world famous in his lifetime," yet now he has been "almost wholly forgotten." Like Delbanco himself, Sally Ormsby Thompson Robinson -- the narrator of this novel and the Count's fictional, last-surviving relative -- is "haunted" by one of history's most fascinating and remarkable figures. On par with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, Count Rumford was, among many other things, a politician, a spy, a philanthropist, and above all, a ...

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Overview

Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, was -- as Nicholas Delbanco writes -- "world famous in his lifetime," yet now he has been "almost wholly forgotten." Like Delbanco himself, Sally Ormsby Thompson Robinson -- the narrator of this novel and the Count's fictional, last-surviving relative -- is "haunted" by one of history's most fascinating and remarkable figures. On par with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, Count Rumford was, among many other things, a politician, a spy, a philanthropist, and above all, a scientist. Based on countless historical documents, including letters and essays by Thompson himself, The Count of Concord brings to life the remarkable career of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This haunting novel will not warm your heart -- it is more likely to leave you a little chilled, even on a bright summer day -- but it will compel your attention.' -John Wilson, Chicago Tribune

Dalkey Archive Press

Jerome Charyn
He hardly seems to have the flesh or the cunning for the hero of a novel. Yet in The Count of Concord, Nicholas Delbanco has fashioned a wondrous story around him, having been "haunted" by Thompson's doomed persona, he says, for over 20 years. And perhaps Thompson is the perfect dream—or nightmare—of a novelist's mind. He seems to have existed utterly outside the crack of emotion. Despite his various affairs and activities, Count Rumford cast a very small shadow. Delbanco sculpts around him, creating an energetic panoply of characters who bump in and out of his mysterious life.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

From humble beginnings in colonial New Hampshire through to the courts of imperial Europe, Delbanco (Spring and Fall) imaginatively maps the deeds, misdeeds and accomplishments of the real-life polymath Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814), an American contemporary of Franklin and Jefferson, and their equal in scientific inquiry and sociological (if not philosophical) thought. Thompson has been neglected by American history because he was a Tory-i.e., he sided with the British during the Revolution-who was eventually made a count of the Holy Roman Empire under Francis II. Delbanco covers that material nicely, but is equally interested in Thompson's cunning study of household thermodynamics and horticulture, and his invention of such appliances as roasters and coffee pots. Along the way, Delbanco celebrates Thompson's social reforms and innovation (Thompson patented none of his gadgets, believing that they should belong to the poor) and his military genius, while casually detailing the married Thompson's libertine lifestyle and varied sexual peccadilloes. Unfortunately, the story is told from the point of view of Sally Ormsby Thompson Robinson, Thompson's fictional present-day descendant: her rat-a-tat voice is often intrusive, and the whole ends up more a collection of variously colorful set pieces than a character-driven novel. (May)

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Library Journal

Delbanco (What Remains) here fictionalizes the life of one of the most widely accomplished yet unknown characters in American history. Benjamin Thompson married well; betrayed and abandoned his country; invented, among other things, the most efficient fireplace of his time; made tremendous contributions toward the welfare of the poor in Munich; proudly acquired titles, including count of the Holy Roman Empire; and established the Royal Institution of Great Britain. But as seen here, he had an irrevocably fractured relationship with his daughter. Although the narrator, a distant relative of Thompson's, writes pulp romances for a living, the novel is far from formula and titillation. Thoroughly researched, it will appeal to readers who are interested in the history of science, the early years of this nation, and the turbulent central Europe of Napoleon. But it should also appeal to a wider audience because Delbanco writes beautifully. In the penultimate chapter, for instance, he skillfully depicts the count's loneliness and deteriorating mind as he catalogs his contributions to humanity, justifies his transgressions, and lashes out at his second wife. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.
—K.H. Cumiskey

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564784957
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Series: American Literature Series
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

NICHOLAS DELBANCO has published twenty-five books of fiction and non-fiction. His most recent novels are The Count of Concord and Spring and Fall; his most recent work of non-fictionis Lastingness: The Art of Old Age, whichwas published by Grand Central Publishing in 2011.As editor he has compiled the work of, among others, John Gardner and Bernard Malamud. Director of the Hopwood Awards Program at the University of Michigan, he has served as Chair of the Fiction Panel for the National Book Awards, received a Guggenheim Fellowship and, twice, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship.

Dalkey Archive Press

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