Books: Cracked Alabaster

THE YOUNG HAMILTON, A BIOGRAPHY by James Thomas Flexner Little, Brown; 497pages; $15

Like Hamlet and Polonius interpreting the shapes of clouds, psychohistorians tend to find whatever emotional apparitions they need to prove a thesis—as if the Third Reich, for example, could be explained by little Hitler's toilet training. Fortunately, Historian James T. Flexner is temperate and plausible enough in his psychologizing about the young Alexander Hamilton to offer a fascinating new analysis of a precocious and odd career.

His earlier biographers, often hagiolatrous in their enthusiasm for Hamilton, have known that he was born illegitimate in the Leeward Islands of the West...

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