The Man in the Mirror: A Life of Benedict Arnold

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9780679401063: The Man in the Mirror: A Life of Benedict Arnold
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Shows how the personal insecurities and longings for material wealth of the brilliant military leader undermined his superior qualities and how his transgressions eventually caught up with him. 12,500 first printing. $15,000 ad/promo. Tour.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A biography that explains coherently--despite its rather thick layer of pop psych--why Benedict Arnold became the American Revolution's Lucifer, the brightest angel who suffered the steepest fall from grace. Colonial historian Brandt (An American Aristocracy, 1986) locates the seed of Arnold's treason in ``the great American virus: social insecurity.'' In his teens, Arnold was forced to leave an elite private academy because of his alcoholic father's bankruptcy. Brandt's prose can rise to an almost hysterically portentous pitch (Arnold ``teetered on the brink of an inner abyss that had been gouged in his soul by the earthquake that had struck''), but despite a lack of subtlety in characterization, her thesis enables her to identify ambition as the connecting thread between Arnold as energetic, intelligent, and courageous soldier and Arnold as greedy traitor. Notoriously touchy about the most dimly perceived slights, Arnold could take no solace in his reputation as the best American battlefield general of the war. Lacking a moral compass, he saw money and social prestige as his surest validations of character- -and, when these were lacking, he alienated potential allies with petulant outbursts. His downfall began when, as military commandant of Philadelphia, he mixed with well-heeled Loyalists (including his future wife, the beautiful Peggy Shippen) and engaged in war profiteering. Brandt takes us through the familiar events that followed: Arnold's court-martial for financial malfeasance, his bungled attempt to hand over West Point to the British, and his final years as a financially insecure social leper in Canada and England. Despite Arnold's ``mighty heart,'' he was brought down by self-delusion and a reckless unconcern for any but himself (he sealed Major John Andre's doom by needlessly sending him behind Continental lines disguised as a civilian). Piercing insights into one of our most infamous figures, though no match for Willard Sterne Randall's superb Benedict Arnold (1990). (Maps and b&w illustrations--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Brandt ( An American Aristocracy: The Livingstons ) convincingly portrays notorious colonial turncoat Arnold's (1741-1801) actions as the result of numerous insecurities, slights and ambitions. Though her psychologizing is at times overwrought, Brandt's lively account is multidimensional, based on a wealth of sources. She traces how young Arnold's hopes for a college education were dashed by his alcoholic father, and how as a New Haven, Conn., entrepreneur he craved wealth as a sign of his worth. Arnold continually battled his inner demons--as a militia officer arguing with rivals, as an ambitious soldier bereft of his dead wife, as a hero who saved his country from the British fleet but made numerous enemies among his compatriots and in congress. Stung by court-martial charges, Arnold turned to the British, but his plot to deliver the West Point garrison failed. Stripped of his image as "Patriot-Hero," Arnold concocted rationalizations for his treachery and arguments for British military strategy. But his plans to restore his reputation went awry, and, intending only to visit England in 1792, he stayed there until his death. Illustrations not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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