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The Mind of a Patriot: Patrick Henry and the World of Ideas Hardcover – October 1, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"No previous work has seriously examined Henry's library and the role it played in Henry's life. Hayes's book stands alone.

(John P. Kaminski, University of Wisconsin, Madison, editor of The Quotable Jefferson)

No one is better qualified to explore [Patrick] Henry's mind than Hayes, author of the magnificent literary biography of Jefferson, "The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson" (2008)...Hayes's superb little book deserves to be widely read--indeed, to be internalized--for the critical lessons it teaches us about literacy, orality, and political performance in Revolutionary America.

(Peter S. Onuf Biography)

About the Author

Kevin J. Hayes is Professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma and the author of several books, including The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson and The Library of William Byrd of Westover, for which he received the Virginia Library History Award.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press; First Edition edition (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813927587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813927589
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,838,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. M. VINE VOICE on March 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Mind of a Patriot: Patrick Henry and the World of Ideas, on page 91, quotes Walter Besant further about the habits (or at least inclinations) of bibliophiles: " 'The lover of books may be distinguished by one trick he has which betrayeth him. If he is in a strange house he makes straight for the shelves: before anything else he hastens to take stock of the library.' " Judge Spencer Roane, who evidently was an avid book lover, got his chance to do just that when he lodged with Patrick Henry and his family. The judge "observed: 'As for the general character of Mr. Henry's library, I readily believe that he had not a complete of regular one....I...saw his library fully. I remarked that it consisted sometimes of odd volumes...but good books.' "

Kevin J. Hayes, a professor of English, explores that library. Or more correctly, he explores the books catalogued as a part of Patrick Henry's estate inventory. Henry's library wasn't extensive, but the fiery patriot known for his "give me liberty or give me death" speech, probably owned more at various times during his life, so the 188 books listed in the appendix also include some volumes that weren't present after Henry's death in 1799 but for which "sufficient evidence survives to justify their inclusion." Among the listed titles were various Latin and Greek primers and classics, manuals and texts for the study and practice of the law, various political theory and history books including ones discussing forms of government and the moral and economic problems of slavery, English and rhetoric books including dictionaries, a few novels, and some travel books.
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Here, Kevin J. Hayes focuses on the books that formed the small library of Patrick Henry.

This short but useful effort does not attempt to be a biography of the great orator of the Revolution, but its reading will help one understand the type of person Patrick Henry was and the intellectual influences that shaped him as a young attorney and beyond.

Those who enjoy this book would certainly also enjoy another of Professor Hayes' books: "The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson."

As an aside, I think April Leidig-Higgins did a fine job designing the book's dust jacket.
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This book is well-made and an obvious mini-labor of love, and serves several valuable purposes: cataloging Henry's book collection assiduously, introducing the reader to this rather unknown figure, and summarizing the contents of many books the standard American gentleman of the time might have had in his library.

The book does have its limits, subsisting on a lot of circumstantial evidence about Henry reading such and such book and being influenced by it in his actions. These are not unreasonable speculations, and the author is not given to many flights of fancy, and the book is short, so it makes for fairly satisfying reading.

The book is reasonably entertaining, with amusing quotes from Henry and his contemporaries on anything from French cooking to weightier (if less creamy) matters. And it is well-written, with very few phrases that made me cringe upon reading: a medicine book "well-worn from frequent bethumbings" and "David Henry knew more about Grub Street than grubworms" being a couple.

The author alludes to Henry's reputation as a man without system, of his somewhat unlearned pronunciation, and other sparsely documented traits, in effect telling the reader that there is probably much we'll never know about Henry, who as an old man apparently composed splendid sonnets for his family, only to burn them after his children played and sang them.

Thanks to this book, I am awash in memories of my time living in Williamsburg VA, and am even more eager to read the bios by Beeman and Mayer. Any bibliophile or lover of colonial American history will probably find this brief book worth adding to their personal library.
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The Revolution of 1776 was a revolution of the mind, as much as in the flesh. So, it goes to figure that the literary forces driving the thought of the day is worth examining.

Thus, a 'book on books' proves much more interesting than I first thought it would... at any rate quick read, and lots of relevant information.
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The book provides an excellent overview of the life of Patrick Henry. It was a great supplement to the information I needed to teach a class on the founders of the American Revolution
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