Weighing Two Lives
February 11, 2014 12 Comments
I love biographies. And to me, the thicker, the better.
Probably because I want to know every juicy piece of information on the subject I’m studying.
I recently read two very different biographies.
You’ve heard of both men.
Both were great, their names are immortal, left lasting legacies, were geniuses in their own rights.
One was all-American, while the other was favored throughout all of England, and eventually the world.
One as born in the 18th century, the other in the following century.
One helped found a country, the other entertained audiences the world over.
John Adams, the brains behind the Constitution and advocate of secession from Britain, and second president of the United States, lived a moral, upright life. Though he was criticized and stabbed in the back nearly all his professional life, he loved life, loved his family, and kept his friends close.
Charles Dickens, many may be surprised to hear (as I was), was quite the opposite. Yet, he lived the life every artist dreams, while Adams felt his duty was in some way a curse, yet he stood firm, carrying his tasks faithfully and uncomplainingly.
Dickens was celebrated as the world’s greatest author and storyteller during his lifetime, yet he was unhappy with his life. He hated his wife, despised his children, disowned his father, and was ashamed of his siblings. He was an unhappy man with a short temper, and loose with women who caught his attention.
Adams, the weight of a new and shaky country placed on his shoulders, yet happy, loving, joyful, grateful, loved, and honored.
Dickens, blessed with fame and talent, yet discontent, angry, full of hatred and an unforgiving spirit.
There is sufficient evidence that John Adams was a believer and lover of God. While Dickens gives no such claim or shows no devotion outside his works. Dickens showed interest in merely himself and his wallet, while Adams spent himself fully on his fellow man and for the good of others, yet still found time to give his love and devotion to his family.
It’s an interesting study of comparison.
It’s funny, because I’ve been a fan of Charles Dickens for several years, but now, I’m not so sure I respect his memory much. However, my esteem and love for our Federalist president and founder has gone through the roof. Truly a man worth modeling one’s life and values after.
Truly a great man, and definitely a wonderful read which I’ll be returning to several more times.
Got John Adams’s biography by David McCullough here.
Get Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin here.