Tocqueville: A Biography

Overview

" Tocqueville: A Biography is a book of considerable importance, primarily because of its comprehensive treatment of both Tocqueville's public life and his private life--including many details necessarily absent from the two previous biographical essays."--John Lukacs, The New Yorker

In this first major biography of the author of Democracy in America, André Jardin traces Alexis de Tocqueville's eventful life from his birth in 1805 to aristocratic parents in post-revolutionary ...

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Overview

" Tocqueville: A Biography is a book of considerable importance, primarily because of its comprehensive treatment of both Tocqueville's public life and his private life--including many details necessarily absent from the two previous biographical essays."--John Lukacs, The New Yorker

In this first major biography of the author of Democracy in America, André Jardin traces Alexis de Tocqueville's eventful life from his birth in 1805 to aristocratic parents in post-revolutionary France, through his trip to antebellum America as a young man, his adventures in Algeria, and his political career in France's Second Republic, to his return to writing and the publication of his other classic work L'Ancien régime et la révolution in 1856. Jardin also offers an illuminating critical analysis of Democracy in America, arguing that the concerns for just government that inform this famous work dominated Tocqueville's thought throughout his life.

"His scholarship is meticulous, his judgment careful and fair, his style plain and clear... Jardin has put all students of Tocqueville deep in his debt... More than any of his contemporaries--more than Marx, more than Mill, much more than Mazzini, Comte or Proudhon--[Tocqueville] is the man for the late twentieth century. It is the triumph of André Jardin's biography that it shows so clearly how this is so."--Hugh Brogan, Times Literary Supplement

"Mr. Jardin is the complete master of his subject. His portrait of the writer is lucid and well composed, his comments are penetrating, and he draws on a wide range of unfamiliar material... Mr. Jardin is telling astory that has been told many times before. But he manages to recapture much of its original freshness, and he makes effective use, as elsewhere, of previously unpublished documents."--John Gross, New York Times

"Jardin gives us a concise and balanced account of Tocqueville's public positions and passions. He does this with economy, grace, thoroughness, and reliability."--George Armstrong Kelly, New Republic

Gracefully traces the trajectory of Tocqueville's multifaceted career and provides and illuminating critique of Democracy in America and Tocqueille's later works.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alexis de Tocqueville was an aristocrat, a severe prison reformer, a colonialist who applied the lessons of Canada to French rule in Algeria. He was also, in his classic Democracy in America , a farsighted observer of the U.S. egalitarian experiment; in his analyses of rampant individualism, tyranny of the majority, creeping bureaucracy and alienation within a consumerist society, he seems very much our contemporary. This magisterial and absorbing biography is by a French historian who is general editor of Tocqueville's collected works. Jardin delineates his subject as a sickly, sensitive child, short-tempered husband of a middle-class Englishwoman, indefatigable traveler, ambitious politician and, above all, as a moralist who felt that only a spiritual force could lift the masses above petty, selfish interests to create a true democracy. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) is chiefly remembered for two perceptive and influential books: Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. Although a knowledge of Tocqueville's life helps one better to understand his writings, this biography fails to convince the reader that the study of his career is important for much else. That is more the fault of Tocqueville than of Jardin. Tocqueville was a member of the Chamber of Deputies and, briefly, foreign minister, but his was a secondary role. Jardin writes clearly and his research is impressive, but readers with little background in French history and geography will find this hard going. Jardin's work must be supplemented with The Two Tocquevilles , Father and Son , edited by R. R. Palmer (Princeton Univ. Pr., 1987). Thomas J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., N.Y.
Booknews
Originally published in French as Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805- 1859, this biography explores Tocqueville's youth in France, his travels in America, his authoring of Democracy in America, and his subsequent political career. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Armstrong Kelly
A concise and balanced account of Tocqueville's public positions and passions. -- New Republic
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374521905
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 11/28/1989
  • Pages: 562
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

André Jardin is the director of the Tocqueville Commission in France and the general editor of a thirty-volume edition of Tocqueville's works. His work includes Le France des notables, translated as Restoration and Reaction, 1815-1848.

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