Maverick's Progress: An Autobiography

Synopsis

For more than sixty years, James Thomas Flexner, one of America's most distinguished men of letters, has written with distinction about American history and American art. Praised by reviewers and scholars alike, his works have garnered the most prestigious awards, including the National Book Award, a Special Pulitzer Prize, and the esteemed Gold Medal for Eminence in Biography from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Despite this wide acceptance of his work, Flexner entitles the story of his life Maverick's Progress; one need only read through these pages to understand why. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, Flexner worked as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune before taking up his career as a biographer. His first book, Doctors on Horseback, published in 1937, was an immediate success. In 1939, Flexner's America's Old Masters was hailed by a distinguished biographer as "the best book of its kind". In 1947, Flexner began what would become a three-volume study of America's artists, History of American Painting. Of the first volume, First Flowers of Our Wilderness, Allan Nevins wrote: "This book is indispensable to any student of our civilization". From art Flexner shifted his focus to the infamous American traitor Benedict Arnold, and from there to our illustrious Founding Father George Washington. Flexner explains his transition in subjects: "I had hardly realized, and in any case did not care, that according to established scholarly conceptions what I intended was heresy, presumption, and insanity. Heresy because a scholar was required to occupy a single field of study, hardly looking over the surrounding fences. Presumption because scholars should notinvade each other's fields. Insanity because I lacked the formal training in any directions I intended to explore. But all of the fields would be integral parts of the same American landscape, and I was concerned with human na