Joyce's Reviews > Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life

Clover Adams by Natalie Dykstra
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's review
May 11, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: biography
Read from May 11 to 21, 2012

The title tells the story. Clover was quintessential old-money New England founder stock, wired into the Transcendentalist and philanthropic mindset, married into another illustrious family. She became clinically depressed and a suicide in her 50s. In Rock Creek Park in DC there’s a St. Gaudens sculpture to her memory, commissioned by her husband. It’s a large bronze figure, downcast, face deep within a cloak.
But her mother "delighted in telling stories of Clover's precocity, reporting how the baby, not yet a year old, would 'stick out one finger and say 'Hark!'" She told her father that "Clover is inestimable." She studied Latin, French, chemistry, astronomy, rhetoric and Greek history. A proto-feminist, she married somewhat late. She divided her time between DC, Brookline, North Shore, and Berkshires homes, each distinctive and beautiful and no doubt now an SPNEA or Trustees of Reservations property. But she wasn't shallow. She had strong political beliefs and acted on them, she was intellectually active, and towards the end of her life she experimented with early photography.
Oddly, her relationship with her husband Henry Adams (as in The Education of...) is a big blank in this book. They were always together, so no letters – and his autobiography does not mention his marriage.
If I could pick any time and place in history to have lived, it’s in Clover’s rich, broad-minded Boston of the 1800’s. This story brings home the fact that depression, suicide and tragic loss was nevertheless part of the package.

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