Henry Adams' letters reveals secrets of his private life

A collection of 19 handwritten letters from the noted American historian and political journalist Henry Adams are to feature in Bonhams' Fine Books, Atlases, Manuscripts and Photographs auction on November 12 in London.

Adams' letters have been described as 'one of the greatest records of American experience.'

Adams (1838-1918) was professor of history at Harvard and editor of the North America Review. He was at the forefront of America's intellectual society and welcomed some of the nation's greatest thinkers to his home.

Adams' letters were published in the book The Letters of Henry Adams after his death, with editor Ernest Samuels describing him as "perhaps the most brilliant letter writer of his time".

The archive is valued at �10,000-15,000. Never published, its contents were withheld from print by Adams' family, as many reveal intimate details of Adams' often troubled personal life.

Henry Adams letters
One of the few surviving photographs of Adams taken by his tragic wife Clover

A large number of the letters refer to Adams' wife, Clover, who killed herself following a long bout of depression. Adams destroyed all of Clover's letters and photographs following her death, and refused to talk about her, failing to make mention of his wife in his autobiography.

As such, the collection is important to collectors, revealing details of a little known period in Adams' life.

Even 14 years after her death, Adams refers to Clover's suicide as "the disaster which has broken my life into pieces" and admits, "Life has no purpose, and nothing that life can offer seems to me worth the trouble of taking."

The letters were all received by Charles Gaskell, one of Adams' most important correspondents and a childhood friend of British Prime Minister William Gladstone.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a number of signed letters from the world's greatest minds.

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