The Dark Side of the Enlightenment -- Wizards, Alchemists, and Spiritual Seekers in the Age of Reason by John V. Fleming, Norton '13, $27.95, 414 pages, ASIN #0393079465. Index, b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the dust jacket:
"In the Dark Side of the Enlightenment, John V. Fleming shows how the impulses of the European Enlightenment -- generally associated with great strides in the liberation of human thought from superstition and traditional religion -- were challenged by tenacious religious ideas or channeled into the 'darker' pursuits of the esoteric and the occult. His engaging topics include the stubborn survival of the miraculous, the Enlightenment roles of Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, and the widespread pursuit of magic and alchemy.
"Though we tend not to associate what was once called alchemy with what we now call chemistry, Fleming shows that the difference is merely one of linguistic modernization. Alchemy was once the chemistry, of Arabic, of Arabic derivation, and its practitioners were among the principal scientists and physicians of their ages. No point is more important for understanding the strange and fascinating figures in this book than the prestige of alchemy among the learned men of the age."
John V. Fleming, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, taught humanistic studies at Princeton University for 40 years.
Jane Austen's England by Roy & Lesley Adkins, Viking '13, $27.95, 422 pages, ASIN #0670785849. Index, bibliography, notes, list of maps and illustrations, chronological overview, two groupings of b&w glossy images, b&w images, including maps, sprinkled through text.
Young women looking for love is a sure sell in any literary market, as Jane Austen realized centuries ago when she began writing her novels focusing on the gentry and aristocracy of Regency England. In their new book, authors Roy and Lesley Adkins contrast that rarefied atmosphere with the culture in which Austen actually lived.
A brief excerpt from the Adkins's Introduction:
"In her novels Jane Austen brilliantly portrayed the lives of the middle and upper classes, but barely mentioned the cast of characters who constituted the bulk of the population. Mansfield Park was started in 1811 and published in 1814, and her account of how the Price family lived at Portsmouth is the closest she came to portraying the lower classes. It would be left to the genius of the next generation, Charles Dickens, to write novels about the poor, the workers and the lower middle classes.
"Born in Portsmouth in 1812, before most of Jane Austen's books had even been published, Dickens was sent to work in a factory in London at the age of twelve and came to rely on writing to earn money. Looking back to the time of the French Revolution, his novel A Tale of Two Cities starts with the celebrated age of wisdom, it was the age of foollishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of Hope, it was the winter of Despair.'"
About the authors:
Roy and Lesley Adkins are husband-and-wife historians and archaeologists.
Still Fighting the Civil War -- The American South and Southern History by David Goldfield, Louisiana State University Press '04, $22.95, 375 pages, ASIN #0807152153, Index, notes, two groupings of b&w images.
From the back cover:
"In the updated edition of his sweeping narrative on southern history, David Goldfield brings this extensive study into the present with a timely assessment of the unresolved issues surrounding the Civil War's sesquicentennial commemoration. Traversing 150 years of memory, Goldfield confronts the remnants of the American Civil War that survive in the hearts of many of the South's residents and in the national news headlines of battle flags, racial injustice, and religious conflicts.
"Goldfield candidly discusses how and why white southern men fashioned the myths of the Lost Cause and Redemption out of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and how they shaped a religion to canonize the heroes and diefy the events of those fateful years. He also recounts how groups of blacks and white women eventually crafted a different, more inclusive version of southern history and how that new vision competed with more traditional perspectives."
David Goldfield is Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and is the author and editor of 16 books on the American South.