In a review of John Lukacs' 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 expected. Lukacs has gleaned from Repplier's work the finest essays on her hometown of Philadelphia, excerpts from her biographies of figures such as Junipero 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 attentive audience in the twenty-first century.
Agnes Repplier, who published for sixty-five of her ninety-five years, was the author of more than two dozen books, all of which are out of print. A native Philadelphian who never moved and never married, during her lifetime she was a popular essayist who wrote for virtually every major literary outlet in America, including the Atlantic, Harpers, and Life.
John Lukacs is the author, most recently, of Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat: The Dire Warning: Churchill's First Speech as Prime Minister. He taught for many years at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and makes his home in Chester County, Pennsylvania.