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Orestes A. Brownson
American Religious Weathervane
POD; Published: 10/19/2004
ISBN: 978-0-8028-4300-5
Price: $ 37.50
456 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803- 1876) was a philosopher, essayist, and minister whose broad-ranging ideas both reflected and influenced the social and religious mores of his day. This superb biography by Patrick Carey provides a thorough, incisive account of Brownson's shifting intellectual and religious life within the context of American cultural history.

Based on a close reading of Brownson's diary notebooks, letters, essays, and books, this biography chronicles the course of Brownson's eventful life, particularly his restless search for a balance between freedom and communion in his relations with God, nature, and the human community. Yet Carey's work is more than an excellent account of one man's development; it also portrays the face of an important period in American religious history. What is more, 200 years after Brownson's birth, America is marked by the same pressing social and religious issues that he himself addressed: religious pluralism, changing religious identifications, culture wars, military conflicts, and challenges to national peace and security. Carey's book shows how Brownson's values and ideas transcend his own time period and resonate helpfully with our own.
Catholic Press Association, First Place, Biography (2005)
Books & Culture
"[A] splendid intellectual biography. "
Catholic Historical Review
"A shining example of how looking back at our past can illuminate our present. . . Carey's work presents us with the first modern critical biography of Brownson, which supersedes Thomas Ryan's often unwieldy and uncritical tome."
American Historical Review
"Carey's biography manages to discuss Brownson's religious and political evolution in a single, streamless narrative. . . The definitive treatment of this fascinating ? if incorrigibly idiosyncratic ? writer and thinker."
William L. Portier
"Formidable and prolific among nineteenth-century American intellectuals, Orestes A. Brownson tends to elude his biographers. Patrick Carey, longtime student of Brownson and editor of the projected seven-volume series of Brownson's Early Works, is uniquely qualified to pursue his subject. Carey's take on Brownson as a synthetic thinker succeeds in capturing this mercurial man. At the center of Brownson's life, right where it belongs, Carey puts the signature doctrine of life by communion. He has spent a lot of years with Brownson, and this biography shows it. Rich in detail, intellectually satisfying, and deeply appreciative of Brownson's religious nature, Carey's is the fairest and most accessible Brownson biography to date."
David J. O'Brien
"Patrick Carey, our best historian of American Catholic thought, has given us a badly needed and wonderfully fresh examination of Orestes Brownson, considered, before his conversion, to be one of America's most important and original intellectuals. Few nineteenth-century thinkers are more interesting, and Carey helps us understand the significance of Brownson's journey."
Journal of Ameican History
"Destined to become the standard account of Brownson's life and thought. Carey clearly and capably knits together the complex threads of Brownson's theological development . . . to create a remarkable narrative."
Elizabeth McKeown
"A comprehensive assessment of the life and work of Orestes Brownson. Scholars will appreciate Patrick Carey's deeply learned biography of this key figure in American cultural and religious history, and all readers will be especially informed by the broad national and international context of Carey's account."
James Hitchcock
"A balanced and incisive discussion of a major figure in American Catholic intellectual history."
H-Net Humanities Online
"Patrick Carey has done more to advance the study of Orestes Brownson than anyone since Henry Brownson, a dutiful son who published a twenty-volume collection of his father's writings, along with a three-volume biography. Carey's biography provides us with an unparalleled consideration of Brownson's thought, carefully situated within the relevant American, French, and Catholic context."