Saturday, January 2, 2021

Guelzo's Lee biography coming in 2021

At least in the general public's imagination, fighting the Civil War always comes down to Grant versus Lee. Both still have ardent supporters and detractors, but Grant clearly appeals most to modern biographers. When it comes to major full-length biographies published over the past three or four decades, the Lee output has not at all kept up with the number of Grant tomes that have emerged from the likes of McFeely, Simpson (though his is still incomplete), Smith, Brands, and most recently Chernow and White. With the passage of nearly ninety years, there is certainly no reason to be scared off by Freeman. Largely theme-based Lee bios of limited scope pop up occasionally, but it is strange to realize that after more than two decades Emory Thomas's Robert E. Lee (1997) still maintains its position as the best modern all-around (though still not exhaustive) birth to grave biography without any real challengers (Pryor's well-received doorstopper was biographical in nature but not a biography of the traditional format). It may not come as a surprise to some, but I was caught offguard to learn last week that Allan Guelzo (a first-rate historian but certainly not widely known as a Lee scholar) has been hard at work on a big Lee biography that will be published this coming fall by Knopf under the rather prosaic title of Lee: A Biography (Sept 2021).

I am definitely interested in checking it out. I never did read Guelzo's Gettysburg book and don't recall much of anything already out in the wild regarding the author's thoughts on Lee. Hopefully, Knopf's book page will have more information soon.

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