Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Great Agnostic



It seems "Fighting Bob" Ingersoll is enjoying a bit of a resurgence.  As  I noted before, I was first drawn to Ingersoll in newspaper clippings that my Great Grandfather had kept.  Apparently he was a great fan of "Fighting Bob."  Seems Susan Jacoby is too, as she has written a short biography on The Great Agnostic, whose favorite target was religion.

Jennifer Michael Hecht noted in her review of the book that Ingersoll was most noted for his quips, which have survived down the years.  Apparently, it was this wry sense of humor that endeared him to so many followers during his time.  He also had his fair share  of detractors, past and present.  I noticed that David Barton took a swipe at Ingersoll in his book on Jefferson.

Jacoby tries to figure out what it was that made "Fighting Bob" an American original, and also why his voice of reason hasn't fared as well as others over time.  Mark Twain is a household name.  Robert Ingersoll is the  kind of guy who pops up in trivia games.

It seems you had to hear him speak to feel the full weight of his arguments, and sadly no voice recordings have survived.  We can only imagine what his printed speeches might have been like from anecdotes like the one Hecht provides of Eugene Debs buying a train ticket from Terre Haute to Cincinnati just so he could stay with Ingersoll a little while longer after having heard one of his famous speeches.

8 comments:

  1. I'm one of those who know nothing about him. I almost ordered this one when it first came out -- she's supposed to be a good writer -- but never got around to it, and now my hands are full again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. let me know if you do. I'll probably try to pick it up later.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I saw that I could pick up her book on The Age of Unreason for a pence (+ shipping) so will probably go with that one first.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It seems that the Ingersoll book grew out of her earlier book on Freethinkers,

    http://am-perspectives.blogspot.com/2012/05/this-looks-refreshing-at-time-when.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. Now that our discussion of the Searchers is complete, this sounds like a good book for our next topic.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I started reading her book on The Age of Unreason and am not very impressed with Jacoby's writing. However, Ingersoll is a great subject. He is one of those largely forgotten figures in history that shaped political discourse without getting much credit for it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. At one time we discussed the possibility of reading from a series of books that dealt with cod fish and the East Coast. Can't remember the author but if I recall correctly, some folks here expressed considerable interest in the series.

    ReplyDelete