The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought, by Susan Jacoby (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-300-18892-9). 256 pp. Hardcover, $25.00.
The life of nineteenth-century freethought orator Robert Green Ingersoll has been chronicled by five previous biographers, the most recent previously being Frank Smith, whose Robert G. Ingersoll: A Life appeared in 1990. Unfortunately for Ingersoll’s memory, each biographer was too fond of his subject, and each book was less an authoritative biography than a hagiography marred by the scent of “look-how-wonderful-he-was” special pleading. Ingersoll admirers have long wished for a more comprehensive, scholarly, and objective biography.