Weighing Two Lives

I love biographies. And to me, the thicker, the better.

Probably because I want to know every juicy piece of information on the subject I’m studying.

I recently read two very different biographies.

You’ve heard of both men.

Both were great, their names are immortal, left lasting legacies, were geniuses in their own rights.

One was all-American, while the other was favored throughout all of England, and eventually the world.

One as born in the 18th century, the other in the following century.

One helped found a country, the other entertained audiences the world over.

John_Adams_bookJohn Adams, the brains behind the Constitution and advocate of secession from Britain, and second president of the United States, lived a moral, upright life. Though he was criticized and stabbed in the back nearly all his professional life, he loved life, loved his family, and kept his friends close.

Charles Dickens, many may be surprised to hear (as I was), was quite the opposite. Yet, he lived the life every artist dreams, while Adams felt his duty was in some way a curse, yet he stood firm, carrying his tasks faithfully and uncomplainingly.

Dickens was celebrated as the world’s greatest author and storyteller during his lifetime, yet he was unhappy with his life. He hated his wife, despised his children, disowned his father, and was ashamed of his siblings. He was an unhappy man with a short temper, and loose with women who caught his attention.


Adams, the weight of a new and shaky country placed on his shoulders, yet happy, loving, joyful, grateful, loved, and honored.

Dickens, blessed with fame and talent, yet discontent, angry, full of hatred and an unforgiving spirit.

There is sufficient evidence that John Adams was a believer and lover of God. While Dickens gives no such claim or shows no devotion outside his works. Dickens showed interest in merely himself and his wallet, while Adams spent himself fully on his fellow man and for the good of others, yet still found time to give his love and devotion to his family.

It’s an interesting study of comparison.

It’s funny, because I’ve been a fan of Charles Dickens for several years, but now, I’m not so sure I respect his memory much. However, my esteem and love for our Federalist president and founder has gone through the roof. Truly a man worth modeling one’s life and values after.

Truly a great man, and definitely a wonderful read which I’ll be returning to several more times.

Got John Adams’s biography by David McCullough here.

Get Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin here.

Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

12 thoughts on “Weighing Two Lives

  1. I must admit I love biographies, too, and they’re all I’m reading at the moment (almost exclusively on the presidents). So far, McCullough’s John Adams is my second favorite of over sixty biographies – only Chernow’s bio on George Washington was slightly better in my opinion. And I’m adding the Dickens bio to my list to read once I get through the presidents – thanks!


  2. I so appreciated your comparison and reviews on these two. I admit I am bit astounded that Dickens was so bitter, or angry. I have read Dickens and liked how he portrays reality and learned a lot from his works. I have not read any of Adams, but wish I had time to get to it. I think reading is a potent key to being a healthy person. I enjoyed reading your post on these! 😀


      1. I have a McCullough book on Truman, but have never read it yet. its huge. lol. Have you ever read more than this one biography on Dickens?


  3. My comparison would be about their respective childhoods. I have no knowledge of Adams, but I do know that Dickens endured poverty and abject misery, perhaps his view of God was formed then? I know God’s presence in my life has made me a better person, but I know a few Christians who are petty and mean; maybe Dickens was just a nasty so-and-so?


    1. Jennyrecorder, would be an interesting look into Adams childhood. I think, in part, because Dickens suffered so much, he had insight into human nature and affairs, which, I personally feel shows up in his writing. both men contributed good to humanity in their works, in that sense.


    2. These are interesting thoughts, and definitely worth considering. Which goes to show that the earlier years in a person’s life can be the most important.


  4. Superb review of the two men and books. John Adams by David Mccullough is in my top five all time favorite books. Adams was an amazing man of faith and conviction. As you stated above, after reading this biography, my “love for our Federalist president and founder has gone through the roof.”


  5. I like John Adams, never read the McCullough Dickens, but I have read others. I need to get on it, my biography thus far would be… about.. oh… TWO paragraphs long.

    Short paragraphs.


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