“[Alger] was an utterly American artist . . . and the truth of his books is the truth of the power of the wish. . . . Alger was perhaps American capitalism’s greatest and most effective propagandist.”–Richard Wright
Introduction by David K. Shipler
Written to inspire schoolboys to strive for “honesty, industry, frugality, and a worthy ambition,” the novels of Horatio Alger (1832-99) are infused with great humanity, broad humor, and a surprisingly sophisticated view of Gilded Age propriety.
Central to Alger’s philosophy is the notion that heroes like Ragged Dick, a poor boot-black, manage to get ahead by dint of hard work, resourcefulness, luck, pluck, and fair play.
Alger’s upwardly mobile heroes have become paragons of middle-class comfort and moral standing, and their journeys from rags to respectability have long been viewed as the very embodiment of the American Dream.
In this Modern Library Paperback Classic, the text of Ragged Dick is set from the first American book edition of 1868. Includes a Modern Library Reading Group Guide.
About the Author
Horatio Alger, Jr. was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1832, the son of a Unitarian minister. He received a strict upbringing and was educated for a life in the church, graduating from Harvard in 1852. After leaving Harvard, Alger, to his father's disappointment, took a job as a historian in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and later worked as a teacher at a boys' boarding school in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He traveled in Europe for a year, and then returned to the United States in 1857 to complete his studies at the Harvard Divinity School.In 1864, Alger was ordained a minister at the First Parish Unitarian Church of Brewster on Cape Cod. Sixteen months later, however, he was dismissed from the pulpit after being accused of engaging in homosexual relations with two boys. After his dismissal, Alger began to focus on his writing career, which spanned more than three decades and 110 books. He wrote mainly children's books about boys and girls who rise from rags to riches through hard work and faith in the American dream. His first major success came with the publication of his eighth novel, Ragged Dick, in 1868. Other popular novels include Luck and Pluck (1869), Tattered Tom (1871), and Strive and Succeed (1872). Alger also wrote several adult novels, including A Fancy of Hers (first published as The New Schoolma'am in 1877) and The Disagreeable Woman (1895).Alger, who never married, spent the last decades of his life living at his family home in South Natick, Massachusetts, where he died in 1899.
David K. Shipler reported for The New York Times from 1966 to 1988 in New York, Saigon, Moscow, Jerusalem, and Washington, DC. He is the author of six books, including the bestsellers Russia and The Working Poor, as well as Arab and Jew, which won the Pulitzer Prize. He has been a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and has taught at Princeton, American University, and Dartmouth. He writes online at The Shipler Report.