My copy of this book was kindly sent to me by the publishers, Dover Thrift, in exchange for a review.
I must confess that I was slightly disappointed, as I through the first eulogy, and then the second, and then a third, to discover that the book was simply a collection of eulogies given to men history has considered great, without any accompanying study or analysis, and rather than eulogies considered great for one reason or another.
It would have been great to have a guided tour of how the form has evolved throughout the centuries, and to have had some historical information regarding the particular circumstances surrounding the writing of each of the texts included, as well as what made those particular eulogies a cut above any others. I feel that such a more comprehensive book would probably appeal to a much wider audience, apart from being a much more rewarding read for many of us, as it would no doubt enable a much more fulfilling reading and learning experience, in a more guided fashion.
This said, I found the book very carefully thought out and executed, and all the eulogies presented were quite historically pertinent, albeit from a very American perspective. Despite my initial disappointment, and though it is not exactly my field of study, I was able to follow the changes in emphasis and semantics from eulogy to eulogy, and found it a quite informative read. I enjoyed reading this choice of eulogies, though some more than others, some for their form and rhetorical elaboration, some for their historical detail, and more than a few because of their political and historical perspective.
It is no doubt a very useful book to any student of the form, students of rhetoric and oratory, and to historians and other academics, apart from being a very useful reference book for teachers and lecturers of history and politics.
I do not hesitate to recommend it, however, but with a warning to the more average reader: I’m afraid that, for many, and unless this is the kind of thing you know you might just love, this book might prove a bit too dry. Give it a try though, as it might well capture your curiosity, and there’s no telling what bit of interesting and useful information you might find hidden in there. You might even enjoy it in the end. I know I did.
Verdict: an interesting read
Shelf: other non-fiction