All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt

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Simon and Schuster, May 14, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 673 pages
2 Reviews
From secretary to Abraham Lincoln to secretary of state for Theodore Roosevelt, John Hay remained a major figure in American history for more than half a century. His private life was as glamorous and romantic as it was privileged. This first full-scale biography since 1934 is a reflection of American history from the Civil War to the emergence of the nation as a world power as Woodrow Wilson is about to take office.

If Henry James or Edith Wharton had written a novel describing the accomplished and glamorous life and times of John Hay, it would have been thought implausible—a novelist’s fancy. Nevertheless, John Taliaferro’s brilliant biography captures the extraordinary life of Hay, one of the most amazing figures in American history, and restores him to his rightful place.

John Hay was both witness and author of many of the most significant chapters in American history— from the birth of the Republican Party, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, to the prelude to the First World War. Much of what we know about Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt comes to us through the observations Hay made while private secretary to one and secretary of state to the other. With All the Great Prizes, the first authoritative biography of Hay in eighty years, Taliaferro has turned the lens around, rendering a rich and fascinating portrait of this brilliant American and his many worlds.

Hay’s friends are a who’s who of the era: Mark Twain, Horace Greeley, Henry Adams, Henry James, and virtually every president, sovereign, author, artist, power broker, and robber baron of the Gilded Age. As an ambassador and statesman, he guided many of the country’s major diplomatic initiatives at the turn of the twentieth century: the Open Door with China, the creation of the Panama Canal, the establishment of America as a world leader.

Hay’s peers esteemed him as “a perfectly cut stone” and “the greatest prime minister this republic has ever known.” But for all his poise and polish, he had his secrets. His marriage to one of the wealthiest women in the country did not prevent him from pursuing the Madame X of Washington society, whose other secret suitor was Hay’s best friend, Henry Adams.

With this superb work, Taliaferro brings us an epic tale.

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User Review  - Schmerguls - LibraryThing

On 26 Jan 1999 I read the biography of John Hay which won the Pulitzer prize for biography in 1934, and enjoyed it. So I really did not think I needed to read another biography of John Hay. But this ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Schmerguls - LibraryThing

5051. All the Great Prizes The Life of John Hay from Lincoln to Roosevelt, by John Taliaferro (read 12 Aug 2013) On 26 Jan 1999 I read the biography of John Hay which won the Pulitzer prize for ... Read full review


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About the author (2013)

John Taliaferro is a graduate of Harvard College, a former senior editor at Newsweek, and the author of four previous books. He lives in Austin, Texas, and Pray, Montana.

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