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About the Book
When James Ogilvie arrived in America in 1793, he was a deeply ambitious but impoverished teacher. By the time he returned to Britain in 1817, he had become a bona fide celebrity known simply as Mr. O, counting the nation’s leading politicians and intellectuals among his admirers. And then, like so many meteoric American luminaries afterward, he fell from grace.
The Strange Genius of Mr. O is at once the biography of a remarkable performer--a gaunt Scottish orator who appeared in a toga--and a story of the United States during the founding era. Ogilvie's career featured many of the hallmarks of celebrity we recognize from later eras: glamorous friends, eccentric clothing, scandalous religious views, narcissism, and even an alarming drug habit. Yet he captivated audiences with his eloquence and inaugurated a golden age of American oratory. Examining his roller-coaster career and the Americans who admired (or hated) him, this fascinating book renders a vivid portrait of the United States in the midst of invention.
About the Author
Carolyn Eastman is an Associate Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University where her work is particularly concerned with the connections between civic culture, gender, and print, visual, and oral media in early American history. She is the author of the prizewinning book, A Nation of Speechifiers: Making an American Public after the Revolution. Eastman serves as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Her most recent piece, “The Fever that Struck New York,” appeared in the March 2021 issue of Smithsonian Magazine. She is a member of the Washington Library’s 2021-22 class of research fellows.