The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring - and until now, untold - story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work.

After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a greater journey in the City of Light. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. None had any guarantee of success. That they achieved so much for themselves and their country profoundly altered American history. As David McCullough writes, "Not all pioneers went west." Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, was one of this intrepid band. Another was Charles Sumner, who enrolled at the Sorbonne because of a burning desire to know more about everything. There he saw black students with the same ambition he had, and when he returned home, he would become the most powerful, unyielding voice for abolition in the U.S. Senate, almost at the cost of his life.

Two staunch friends, James Fenimore Cooper and Samuel F. B. Morse, worked unrelentingly every day in Paris, Cooper writing and Morse painting what would be his masterpiece. From something he saw in France, Morse would also bring home his momentous idea for the telegraph.

Pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk from New Orleans launched his spectacular career performing in Paris at age 15. George P. A. Healy, who had almost no money and little education, took the gamble of a lifetime and with no prospects whatsoever in Paris became one of the most celebrated portrait painters of the day. His subjects included Abraham Lincoln.

Medical student Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote home of his toil and the exhilaration in "being at the center of things" in what was then the medical capital of the world. From all they learned in Paris, Holmes and his fellow "medicals" were to exert lasting influence on the profession of medicine in the United States.

Writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and Henry James were all "discovering" Paris, marveling at the treasures in the Louvre, or out with the Sunday throngs strolling the city's boulevards and gardens. "At last I have come into a dreamland," wrote Harriet Beecher Stowe, seeking escape from the notoriety Uncle Tom's Cabin had brought her. Almost forgotten today, the heroic American ambassador Elihu Washburne bravely remained at his post through the Franco-Prussian War, the long Siege of Paris and even more atrocious nightmare of the Commune. His vivid account in his diary of the starvation and suffering endured by the people of Paris (drawn on here for the first time) is one readers will never forget. The genius of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the son of an immigrant shoemaker, and of painters Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent, three of the greatest American artists ever, would flourish in Paris, inspired by the examples of brilliant French masters, and by Paris itself.

Nearly all of these Americans, whatever their troubles learning French, their spells of homesickness, and their suffering in the raw cold winters by the Seine, spent many of the happiest days and nights of their lives in Paris. McCullough tells this sweeping, fascinating story with power and intimacy, bringing us into the lives of remarkable men and women who, in Saint-Gaudens's phrase, longed "to soar into the blue." The Greater Journey is itself a masterpiece.

Title:The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781416571766
Format Type:

About David McCullough

David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback; His other widely praised books are 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, and The Johnstown Flood. He has been honored with the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the Na


    The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris Reviews

  • Grumpus

    Dear Goodreads Community:This is not easy for me to do and I am sorry to have to do this in this forum. I realize it is a bit cowardly and beg your understanding but you need to know it is not you, it...

  • Marita

    “Not all pioneers went west.” Unlike the many books which focus on American authors who flocked to Paris during the first half of the twentieth century, eminent historian and Pulitzer Prize winni...

  • Diane

    This book made me wish I could travel back in time to Paris in the 1830s. The collection of artists and writers there was remarkable.In "The Greater Journey," David McCullough tells stories of a varie...

  • Chrissie

    I wasn't sure how much I would like this even though I know I like the way David McCullough and his team put together books. I was hesitant because the book focuses on many different individuals, all ...

  • Tony

    We went to see McCullough 'launch' this latest offering. He's 78 now but still looks and sounds like God. (With apologies to Morgan Freeman and Alanis Morissette, who some people also think look like ...

  • Randy Auxier

    (This review appeared in the Carbondale Nightlife, February 28-March 6, 2013, p. 14.)David McCullough became a household name in the most unlikely way. He wrote a biography of John Adams, who was tedi...

  • Jill Hutchinson

    This book is atypical of McCullough's others works which are usually concentrated on one person's life. This is a dual biography......that of Paris between 1839-1900 and of the Americans who visited/w...

  • Stephen Escalera

    Ever since I picked up John Adams, I have been an avid fan of David McCullough. His biography of Harry Truman is perhaps the best one I’ve ever read. McCullough has a knack for taking people or thin...

  • Rachel

    I can see how, in all the wild Sturm und Drang of this modern world, you just might get in the mood for a couple of peaceful evenings in the parlor listening to a softly ticking clock and a mild, gran...

  • Beth

    This was the first book I read after returning from a trip to France, and it was a perfect choice. Not only did I enjoy revisiting various Parisian sites in my mind’s eye, I was also fascinated to s...