Horatio Alger

Horatio AlgerAs noted, I’m out and birthday posts are the hardest thing to do under these circumstances. So I’m presenting an edited and expanded version of part of last year’s birthday post. It is not, as you will see, a guy I like very much.

On this day in 1832, Horatio Alger was born. He was a very popular writer in the 19th century. He wrote what is charitably called “crap.” Typical kind of story: poor boy goes to rich man’s house in search of employment; rich man has a dog that immediately takes to the poor boy; rich man hires poor boy because of the dog likes him. It is up, up, and away for the poor boy after that! He will probably end up marrying the rich man’s daughter who is beautiful, intelligent, and sweet. It’s exactly the kind of stories that the people wanted to believe during the Gilded Age and exactly the kind of stories the rich wanted the poor to be reading. Today, “Horatio Alger” is a synonym for any kind of unbelievable rags to riches story. In general, we don’t see such stories in their pure form because we are a much more cynical people. (For good reason!) There have been times when there were jobs for the asking. There were times when what most of the Republican Party now believes was true: if you aren’t working, you aren’t trying hard enough. Sorry folks, that’s now no more true than the statement, “Horatio Alger was a great writer!”

There is also the minor issue that Alger was a pedophile. While a young man, he was a pastor for the First Unitarian Church in Massachusetts. He was forced to resign and left town. His crime was “unnatural familiarity with boys.” Apparently, in those days (or in liberal churches), people actually did something about that kind of thing. But he didn’t seem to have any of that trouble in the future. He probably found an acceptable outlet for his homosexuality, but we don’t know that much about it.

Happy birthday Horatio Alger!

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