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Peter Bridges

Peter Bridges received degrees from Dartmouth College and Columbia University, and after two years as an Army private spent three decades as an officer of the United States Foreign Service in Washington and at American embassies in Panama, Moscow, Prague, Rome, and Mogadishu. He’s published three books: Safirka: An American Envoy (Kent State University Press, 2000), Pen of Fire: John Moncure Daniel (Kent State, 2002), and Donn Piatt: Gadfly of the Gilded Age (Kent State, 2012). His shorter work has appeared, in addition to VQR, in the Christian Science Monitor, California Literary Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Notes & Records of the Royal Society of London, and elsewhere.


Corsica, with a Collie

Fall 2004 | Memoir

I stood with Bella in the sunny piazza in Livorno, one noon in May. My wife had gone to buy French francs; the era of the euro had not yet arrived. I noted to the collie that this was a city full of pretty girls . . . but what were we getting into? A couple of Francophile friends, hearing we were bound for Corsica, suggested gently that we should remember that that was the place where they set off bombs.

Playwrights, Presidents, and Prague

The press reports that Czech president Vaclav Havel recently unveiled a bronze statue of Masaryk in a Washington park. Masaryk, for most American readers, is only the dim memory of a foreign minister found dead in a Prague courtyard, after the Comm [...]

A Pen of Fire

Winter 2002 | Essays

John Moncure Daniel was ever quick to attack what he saw as wrong. He minced no words during the seven years he spent as a top American diplomat, including a moment which may have deeply affected the history of Italy. Subsequently, Daniel spoke bluntly as the Confederacy's leading editor. When he died in Richmond just before the Confederacy's final defeat in 1865, Daniel's newspaper was the most influential publication in the South. He had long been one of Jefferson Davis's harshest critics; there were those in the South who wished him hanged; he had recently fought, and lost, a duel with the treasurer of the Confederacy. If loss of morale was a reason, or even, as has been argued, the chief reason that the South lost the war, it might be argued that the piercing attacks of that Southern arch-patriot John Daniel actually helped move the South toward that final defeat. Yet historian-editor Virginius Dabney has argued that notwithstanding Daniel's sharp attacks on Davis—a president who certainly had grave faults—Daniel helped to maintain Southern morale when days turned dark.


A Prince of Climbers

Before he was 40 he had become one of the greatest modern mountaineers, and perhaps the greatest overall explorer of his time. When he died in an African village, The New York Times recalled that when he was a boy, he had met a Gypsy woman along a [...]

The Polymath From Vermont

Winter 1999 | Essays

No American of any century has excelled in a greater number of diverse areas than a New Englander named George Perkins Marsh, who was born in the town of Woodstock, Vermont in 1801. Marsh is best remembered today for his pioneering book on the environment Man and Nature, which was first published in 1864 and is still in print.

Prince Albert and King Lothar

In a long Foreign Service career I had some difficult posts— Panama when anti-U.S.feelings were running high; Moscow in the 1960's; Mogadishu, as Somalia neared collapse. But none of these was as tough as my months as an Army recruit in Missouri. [...]