“The Life and Times of William Howard Taft” by Henry Pringle was published in 1939 and is often considered the definitive biography of the 27th president. Pringle won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Theodore Roosevelt and was a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism. He died in 1958 at the age of sixty.
It is immediately clear that this two-volume behemoth does not provide light reading: it is lengthy (with 1,079 pages), it exudes a dated writing style and it is often detailed beyond the point of comfort. This sometimes overwhelming breadth and depth were made possible by special access the author was granted to a massive collection of Taft’s papers.
In contrast to his biography of Theodore Roosevelt (where Pringle was openly hostile to his subject) this book proves reasonably sympathetic toward Taft. And even some of the author’s previous animosity toward TR…
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