A New Nation

by Thomas Boylston Adams. Globe Pequot, $14.95. As former president of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Mr. Adams has access to a great deal of detail—significant or bizarre—about the American past. He uses his information skillfully in these short essays on the development of what he considers the national character, formed by areas and influences extending far from New England. The writing is delightful, shifting unexpectedly from an almost eighteenth-century formality to irreverent colloquialism. The facts have a similar unpredictability. Who except Mr. Adams would consider the importance of Joseph Warren’s wig pins?