NEW YORK - Over the past half century, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. wrote more than 20 books and thousands of essays, served in the administration of President John F. Kennedy, consulted numerous leading Democrats and befriended countless artists and fellow historians.
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He also kept a journal.
"None of us really knew about it," says the late historian's son, Stephen Schlesinger. "It never really occurred to me that he actually had been doing this for 50 years."
Arthur Schlesinger, who died last February at age 89, kept his private writings in dusty manila envelopes above a refrigerator in his office and apparently didn't think much about them until his agent, Andrew Wylie, spotted them during a visit in 2006 and suggested they be published. The historian handed over his papers, some 6,000 pages, to his sons Stephen and Andrew.
"He never asked us what we were doing with the journals, or made any comments. He seemed to just trust us," says Stephen Schlesinger, adding that the project was about half completed when his father died.
"Journals: 1952-2000," edited to about 850 pages and just released by the Penguin Press, allows readers to eavesdrop on all those dinner parties and strategy sessions around Georgetown in Washington, D.C., New York City and Martha's Vineyard, when the political, intellectual and cultural would gather to socialize and analyze, to review history and attempt to shape it.
Schlesinger was already a Pulitzer Prize winner for his landmark biography of the Jackson administration, "The Age of Jackson," and a leading voice of liberal anti-communism when he began his journals in his mid-30s.
"He has good phrases, but he also has a tendency toward mysticism," Schlesinger wrote of Gore, who was defeated in 2000 by George W. Bush. "I weakly agreed to try my hand at something, but I really don't understand what he wants or what he was talking about."