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1876: A Novel Paperback – February 15, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375708723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375708725
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The more things change, the more they stay the same: "The last few days would have brought down any parliamentary government. As it is, the Grant Administration is a shambles, and there is even talk that the President may resign."

Charles Schuyler, the narrator of Burr, returns to the United States after an absence of nearly 40 years, with his widowed daughter, Emma, in tow. While they try to find a suitably rich husband for Emma among the New York social set, Charles concentrates on the scandals in Washington--including accusations of corruption and obstruction of justice against Ulysses S. Grant--and the presidential race between Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden (Tilden apparently, in fact, won the election, only to have it taken away because of electoral fraud). Cameo appearances by Chester A. Arthur, Mark Twain, Charles Nordhoff, and others enliven the proceedings. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Suspenseful and extravagantly decorated. . . . If you think politics are dirty now, you should have witnessed the goings-on a hundred years ago. . . . Impossible to resist." --Cosmopolitan

"Vidal writes so well that you find yourself holding your breath over something that is a foregone conclusion. . . . Vidal's talent makes the bloated characters of Washington live in a way history books don't."  --The Boston Globe

More About the Author

Gore Vidal has received the National Book Award, written numerous novels, short stories, plays and essays. He has been a political activist and as Democratic candidate for Congress from upstate New York, he received the most votes of any Democrat in a half-century.

Customer Reviews

Recommended for fans of history/historical fiction.
Although the setting of the book is 1876, and the main narrator is Charles Schuyler, Vidal is clearly providing his critique of modern America.
R. McOuat
I found the characters to be fairly one dimensional and, in the end, not that interesting (unlike the characters in Burr.)
S. Tschinkel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on September 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a general rule, I am almost ashamed to confess, I am not really drawn to historical fiction. I find most novels either too cheesy, too boring, or both. 1876, however, is neither. Rather, it is a terrific, timeless, timely novel. The novel is narrated by Charlie Schuyler (who apparently narrated Vidal's earlier novel Burr, one which I have not yet read), as he returns to the United States, after spending many years in Europe, in late 1875 with his 30-something, widowed daughter Emma. Charlie is in his sixties and is returning to the United States to write, earn some money, settle his daughter and hopefully, earn a diplomatic post in France. He attaches himself to Samuel Tilden, the New York governor who will surely, Charlie thinks, win the next election. As we all know, there is winning elections and then there is getting inaugurated, but more on that later. The first portion of the novel takes place in New York City and reads very much like an Edith Wharton novel: it is all balls and social events, etc., but told with Charlie's relentless cynicism and wonderful sense of humor. Charlie then travels to Washington D.C. and again regales the reader with more of that cynicism. That later portions of the novel are largely political, with the recounting of the shocking, to read them now, events surrounding the presidential election of 1876. If Vidal had published this novel say last year, I would say that much of what he has Charlie say is motivated by the politics of the present day. Perhaps it was motivated by the politics of the mid-1970s. The fact that the commentary relating to the 1870s written in the 1970s is still relevant in 2004 is a testament to just what a fine novel 1876 is. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite my historical fiction misgivings. If only all authors of historical fiction were as talented as Vidal. Enjoy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on September 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
It is a great pleasure to read something by this disillusioned man that can surprise me: I have read most of the novels in his American Cycle and (with the exception of his "Lincoln") was growing tired of his cynicism. Well, I picked up this one - its theme is the corruption of the Gilded Age and its plot revolves around the stolen election of 1876 - and was delighted to learn that Gore Vidal genuinely cares about how the US democracy works/worked. Moreover, this is a wonderful accomplishment by a novelist at the height of his powers, one of the best of the series.
The protagonists in the story are Charlie Schuyler, from "Burr", and his incomparable daughter as they wend their way into the New York and Washington "City" of the Gilded Age. While blatant corruption is corroding the foundations of the Republic, Charlie is wined and dined by the politically indifferent rich as a celebrated political writer (on Europe) while he seeks to find a suitable mate for his recently widowed and now penniless daughter. As a courtiers at the court of Napoleon III, they fit in brilliantly as Charlie attempts to find any writing work he can; the subtleties of the behavior of the ruling classes come across as both comic and sinister, but also realistic. It is a brutal indictment of decadence at the Centennial of America that gets worse and worse as the machinations of stealing a presidential election are revealed. Though it is from an observers eyes, which is consistent with the style of most of Vidal's series, political events take much more of the center stage and as such, there is a great deal of history to learn (of which I for one was largely ignorent).
As a novel, this is also great fun.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on July 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
1876 is a stylish and thought-provoking book that functions well as both political commentary and character-driven novel.

An aging expatriate writer returns to the US with his widowed French daughter to find his country changed nearly beyond recognition. He throws his strength and support behind the Democratic candidate and uses his position as journalist to explore and exploit the corruption in the Grant administration.

Vidal gives us no clear heroes or villains in this book-- either in the political or private stage. The time depicted is particularly relevant given recent electoral disputes. Vidal is a skilled and smooth writer. I enjoyed the quality of the prose, but never found the styling getting in the way of the subject.

1876 is my first Vidal, but I will be picking up others. Recommended for fans of history/historical fiction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on March 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
In the afterword of "1876," a novel about the centennial written in the bicentennial, Gore Vidal calls the portentous year "probably the low point in our republic's history" and warns us that history repeats itself in the most interesting ways. This was the year of the presidential election in which Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden received the majority of the popular vote *and* the electoral vote -- but Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes was "elected" and inaugurated. This scandal was somewhat of a turning point in American history, for it set a deleterious precedent for the influence of partisan politics in directly altering the outcome of an election.
The details of the election are narrated by Charlie Schuyler, an American journalist who has been living in France as a diplomat for over three decades and has just returned to the United States with his widowed daughter Emma, a French princess. Facing unemployment, he accepts jobs covering timely events like the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia for various periodicals including the New York Times, edited by his friend William Cullen Bryant, the country's most celebrated poet, and the New York Herald, a newspaper of lesser distinction, published by an impulsive young man named Jamie Bennett. Meanwhile, Emma's status as part of the stock of European aristocracy permits her (and her father) entry into the upper echelons of New York society as she considers options for a new husband.
The country has changed considerably during Schuyler's absence; what was once a nation of farmers is now a nation of factories and railroads with money as the prime mover, driving and corrupting the current federal government under Grant's administration.
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