The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., 1835-64

In This Review

The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., 1835-64

By Carol Bundy
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005
560 pp. $35.00
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Bundy's careful and sensitive biography of this little-known Civil War hero is a triumph, and announces the arrival of an important new voice in American letters. Lowell, first in his class at Harvard and hailed by men such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne as one of the brightest lights of his generation, floundered through a difficult life marked by family financial reversals and tuberculosis before finding his vocation as a cavalry commander in northern Virginia. Bundy's portrayal of her distant ancestor and the Boston milieu that shaped him is gripping. Her reflections on war and its effects on both sexes approach the sublime. Her ability to evoke the mix of tragedy and grandeur that surrounded Lowell's promising but abbreviated life shows a major talent at work. Most Lowells may, as the old toast has it, speak only to Cabots, but Bundy's Charles Russell Lowell speaks to us all.