Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lional Trilling by Gertrude Himmelfarb
Gertrude Himmelfarb, one of America's most distinguished intellectual historians, here explores the minds and lives of some of the most brilliant and provocative thinkers of modern times: Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill, Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill, Jane Austen and George Eliot, Charles Dickens and John Buchan, Walter Bagehot and the Knox brothers, Michael Oakeshott and Lionel Trilling. In their distinctive ways, Ms. Himmelfarb argues, they exemplify what Burke two centuries ago and Trilling most recently have called the “moral imagination.” Behind the drama of ideas that played itself out in the lives and writings of these individuals was the free play of the moral imagination. From her own long engagement with these subjects, Ms. Himmelfarb describes how each of these thinkers, coming from different traditions, responding to different concerns, writing in different genres, shared a moral passion that permeated their work. And it is the liveliness of their imaginations that makes their reflections—on politics and literature, religion and society, marriage and sex—sometimes unpredictable, often controversial, always exciting, and as illuminating and pertinent today as they were then. In this eminently readable book, Gertrude Himmelfarb captures the wit and wisdom—and foibles and frailties—of a dozen memorable writers and thinkers, statesmen among them. The Moral Imagination possesses the clarity and persuasion of Ms. Himmelfarb's best work.
Gertrude Himmelfarb's other books include The Roads to Modernity; One Nation, Two Cultures; The De-Moralization of Society; On Looking into the Abyss; Poverty and Compassion; Marriage and Morals Among the Victorians; Victorian Minds; Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution; and Lord Acton. In a distinguished career as an historian, she has received a great many honorary degrees and fellowships and, most recently, the 2004 presidential National Humanities Medal. She lives in Washington, D.C.