If the letter is an ideal lens through which to view late 19th century American society as it underwent radical change, then Henry Adams is an ideal correspondent. Joanne Jacobson shows how Adams used letters to broker authority, and to construct alliances with correspondents. She demonstrates the rhetorical complexity of the letter and underscores its role in the struggle over cultural authority which shaped much of the late 19th-century American literature. ""Authority and Alliance"" takes the reader through the evolving stages of Adam's letter writing. His earliest letters, to his older brother Charles Francis Adams, Jr, and to his friend Charles Milnes Gaskell, provided him with an arena in which he could claim authority to establish parity with his correspondents. In succeeding letters the priority of equalising authority between himself and his correspondents shifted to that of building alliances which bound Adams and his correspondents in shared, private opposition to the public discourse of mass democratic culture. Ultimately, Adams emerged in his letters with aggressive authorial control over ""reality"" by writing himself and his correspondents into narratives whose terms were advantageous to Adams himself. Jacobson also discusses the unity between Adam's letters and his other literary work, to demostrate the extent to which authority and alliance remained fundamental concerns for him, bound up with and shaped by the problematic status of authorship and audience. In an important final chapter, she compares Adam's letters with those of Alice James and Walt Whitman, demonstrating the readiness of all three to deploy the letter as a means of reinforcing the writer's own rhetorical authority, by exploiting the tension between narrative and authorship and between public and private discourse.