Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943


Unless otherwise indicated, all Institute books are published and distributed by The University of North Carolina Press. For ordering information, call 1.800.848.6224 or fax 1.800.272.6817. Please note that these books can be purchased only through UNC Press and not through the Institute.

A Speaking Aristocracy

Transforming Public Discourse in Eighteenth-Century Connecticut

Christopher Grasso

Paper ISBN 978-0-8078-4772-5

Copyright 1999 by the University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  Homer D. Babbidge Jr. Award, Association for the Study of Connecticut History (2000)

Visit the University of North Carolina Press web page for this book.

An extraordinary work of scholarship,... A Speaking Aristocracy is unquestionably the finest study of revolutionary Connecticut ever written.

--Joseph J. Ellis

This book is a wonderful portrait of leadership and public discourse in the Revolutionary era. Grasso’s signal achievement is to integrate the cumulative legacy of evangelical preaching, legal reasoning, enlightenment science, republican ideology, literary sensibility, and political debate.

--Nathan O. Hatch

A Speaking Aristocracy a deeply researched, subtle, and compelling story of continuity and change that challenges all easy generalizations about the stability and homogeneity of the early Connecticut elite.

--Ruth Bloch

Grasso's book, among its many strengths . . . convinces us that how people think about themselves is supremely worthy of the historian's study. It becomes essential reading for all serious students of American civilization.

--William & Mary Quarterly

Grasso traces not simply the transformation of the modes of discourse, and of the membership of the speaking elite, but also throughout this fine study analyzes the words and ideas of their eighteenth-century world.

--Connecticut History

A hugely impressive book, with an engaging style and a nice eye for anecdote.

--Times Literary Supplement

[An] outstanding new book. . . . A wide variety of scholars will be fascinated by this book. Even though there have been many fine studies of eighteenth-century intellectual history, few are as sophisticated, as subtle, and as learned as A Speaking Aristocracy.

--Journal of American History

Grasso has written an important book. Historians of public life throughout the early modern Atlantic world will want to explore his account of how the learned men of eighteenth-century Connecticut—the speaking aristocracy—reshaped their discursive practices in an age of revolution.

--American Historical Review

Although Dickinson is mentioned briefly in only four separate instances, Grasso's well researched and organized study advocating anger as a 'mode of inquiry' may stimulate scholars to revisit Dickinson's poems and letters.

--Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin

A significant contribution to our understanding of high culture in one place and time. . . . Engaging.

--Journal of the Early Republic