Democracy - An American Novel

Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)

(4.7 stars; 12 reviews)

Not until after his death in 1918 was it revealed that Henry Adams was the anonymous author of Democracy, which had been published to great acclaim in 1880. Though the book avoids dates and the characters are fictitious, the setting is no doubt that of Washington in the 1870s, the age of Presidents Grant and Hayes. The young widow, Madeleine Lee, wealthy and independent, is the protagonist, who leaves her New York for Washington to turn her intelligence to politics and to see what makes her country tick. There she meets (among others) Senator Silas P. Ratcliffe of Illinois, one of the most powerful and influential (if somewhat uncultured) men of the capital, who is considering a run for the presidency, and who needs a wife to act as First Lady, a position that (he thinks) Mrs. Lee would admirably fill. Through the book Adams plays with the themes of political necessity, compromise, corruption -- particularly the kind of corporate domination of national politics that he saw becoming all too powerful. Should honest and intelligent men keep their integrity by avoiding politics? Or would that simply mean turning over the governance of the country to power-hungry, scheming, and none too honest hacks? For all the witty conversations in his novel, this was a theme that plagued Adams (a presidential grandson) in life as well as literature, and it is a theme that has by no means disappeared today. (Introduction by Nicholas Clifford) (7 hr 16 min)


01 - Chapter I 14:36 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
02 - Chapter II 29:59 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
03 - Chapter III 32:51 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
04 - Chapter IV 19:29 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
05 - Chapter V 34:21 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
06 - Chapter VI 38:11 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
07 - Chapter VII 41:15 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
08 - Chapter VIII 36:40 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
09 - Chapter IX 41:11 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
10 - Chapter X 35:33 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
11 - Chapter XI 45:21 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
12 - Chapter XII 26:38 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
13 - Chapter XIII 36:13 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)
14 - Conclusion 4:19 Read by Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019)


An American Trollope

(5 stars)

The styles might be slightly different, but this felt a bit like a Trollope novel set in the halls of the US government rather than the British. Does a good man enter politics and get corrupted, or does politics only attract the corrupt? So much of the actions of government are making deals and compromise, it's hard for one to hold high principles. Superb reading by Nicholas Clifford. Technical quality was excellent.

Nicholas Clifford

(5 stars)

How sad to hear of his death. But it's good to know his lovely voice and readings will live on. This is one of my favourite American books - witty and penetrating,

In Politics Nothing Really Changes

(4 stars)

Finely read by Nicholas Clifford, this story set in post-Civil War Washington DC includes elements that seem as current as today's political headlines.

(5 stars)

The 5th star for Nicholas Clifford's reading!

(5 stars)

Probably the best novel ever about American politics. Especially relevant in the Trump era.