In a review of John Lukacs’s 1981 book Philadelphia: Patricians and Philistines
, the New York Times
praised the iconoclastic historian for excavating the work of the "elegant essayist" Agnes Repplier, "the Jane Austen of the essay." Now, in American Austen
, Lukacs has compiled a definitive and delightful reader of the best writing of this most unjustly forgotten prose stylist and commonsense philosopher.
In these pages, Repplier (1855 – 1950) emerges as perhaps the wittiest female author in the history of American letters — Dorothy Parker not excepted. Lukacs has gleaned from Repplier’s work the finest essays on her hometown of Philadelphia; excerpts from her biographies of figures such as Junípero Serra; insightful reflections on Puritanism, the suburbs, and writers from Horace to Thackeray; and various other pieces brimming with Repplier’s characteristically pungent commentary on American life. Agnes Repplier’s engaging style, good-natured skepticism, and realistic appreciation of the genuine accomplishments of Western civilization should win for her a new and appreciative audience in the twenty-first century.
What They're Saying...
"Agnes Repplier met the true definition of a writer: she had an ear for music gone awry. Her gift for the rhythm and melody of words made her so quotable that I have run out of Hi-Liters! Bless John Lukacs for giving her back to us."
— Florence King
"In truth, Repplier is old fashioned, approaching her subjects with an armchair leisureliness . . . [b]ut Repplier isn't really squishy in the least; she regularly delivers sentences and similes of epigrammatic sharpness. . . . Throughout American Austen one pauses over sentences worth copying into a notebook."
— Michael Dirda The Washington Post