Cover image for American characters : selections from the National Portrait Gallery, accompanied by literary portraits
American characters : selections from the National Portrait Gallery, accompanied by literary portraits
Lewis, R. W. B. (Richard Warrington Baldwin)
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xviii, 412 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 26 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Subject Term:
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CT215 .L49 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This volume brings together 160 famous American figures from Pocahontas to Louis Armstrong, providing visual and verbal portraits of their place in American life. The portraiture is paired with literary images taken from eyewitness accounts, memoirs, poems, letters and biographies.

Author Notes

Chicago native Richard Warrington Baldwin Lewis, the son of Leicester and Beatrix (Baldwin) Lewis, was born on November 1, 1917.

Lewis was educated in Switzerland, at Phillips Exeter Academy, at Harvard University, at the University of Chicago, where he received his M.A. in 1941.

Lewis spent World War II engaged primarily in intelligence work for the British. Following the war, he began a long academic teaching career, focused mainly on American literature and social studies, at Bennington College and Princeton, Rutgers, and Yale universities.

Lewis has created such critical and biographical books on authors and 19th-century United States history as The American Adam (1955), Edith Wharton (a 1975 biography that won the Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft, and Critics Circle awards), and The Jameses: A Family Narrative, about author Henry James and his family.

(Bowker Author Biography) R. W. B. Lewis, professor of English & American studies at Yale University, is the author of "Edith Wharton: A Biography", which won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, & the Bancroft Prize. His other books include "The City of Florence", "The Jameses", & "American Characters". He most recently was given the award for lifetime achievement as a biographer by he American Academy of Arts & Letters. He lives in Bethany, Connecticut.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This well-illustrated collection of portraits of 160 famous Americans, drawn from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, runs the gamut from patriots and presidents to artists, performers, and athletes. Contemporary descriptions or evocative texts accompany each visual image on a facing page, together with a brief biography. Image and text are thus mutually complementary, intended to be interactive in establishing the character of the individual portrayed. Typical of the miscellaneous nature of the Portrait Gallery's collection itself, this book represents quite well the richness of American democratic culture as it has recorded the presence of varied figures in our history and sometimes elevated them into prominence; no less varied than the subjects so represented are the images and texts, often taken from the popular media and uneven in quality. Truly a miscellany in every sense of the word, the selection is generous in its choices and offers a representative sampling of worthy and, occasionally, not so worthy Americans. General readers; lower-division undergraduates. R. Brilliant; Columbia University