The Education of Henry Adams By Henry Adams Summary and Analysis Chapter XXXV - Nunc Age

Summary

In this short, concluding chapter, Adams briefly mentions scientific power and politics, but despite the forward-looking chapter title, Nunc Age (Latin for "Now, take action!"), his focus really is on the past and on endings. On November 5, 1904, as he approaches New York City, returning from yet another trip to Europe, Henry is excited by the vitality of the great city, which "became frantic in its effort to explain something that defied meaning. Power seemed to have outgrown its servitude and to have asserted its freedom." This is the age that he has anticipated in the last third of the Education, but he leaves the work of the future to the next generation. Adams feels that he and his contemporaries are near the end. Clarence King died — broken — in 1901; John Hay is in poor shape and, despite Henry's efforts, dies on July 1, 1905. Three days later, Henry writes to Mrs. Hay to express condolences and reflect on the twilight of his own life: "I had not the heart to telegraph. All the world will have done that, and will have overwhelmed you with messages of condolence. I can say nothing. You will understand it. . . . As for me, it is time to bid good-bye. I am tired. My last hold on the world is lost with him." Adams has privately printed the Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres in 1904; the first private edition of the Education will come out in 1907. He will write a little more in the next few years, but he suffers a disabling stroke in 1912 and dies on March 27, 1918.

However, the story of the education of the boy from Boston stops in 1905. Henry wonders, at the end, whether he and his old friends may be allowed to return just for one day — in 1938, say, their centenary — to see the "mistakes of their own lives made clear in the light of the mistakes of their successors." He wistfully wonders if it will be, for the first time in history, a world that "sensitive and timid natures could regard without a shudder." For once, Henry's speculation seems wrong. With Hitler leading the Third Reich into World War II, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki soon to come, 1938 will be no time for timid natures. But having completed this journey with him, the reader knows that Henry already suspects something like that.

Glossary

querulous inclined to find fault; complaining.

repine to feel or express unhappiness or discontent.

"The rest is silence." Hamlet's dying words (V, ii, 372) in William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1600-1601).

assent agree; concur.

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