The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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July 16, 2018

'Join'd by Friendship, Crown'd by Love'



When I lived (briefly) in Delaware, I drove down to Virginia to visit Mount Vernon.  I loved it, and hope I'll have another chance to send some time there. That was part of the reason that I was drawn to this joint biography of George and Martha Washington; the other was reading Antonia Fraser's memoir, loving that too, finding out that she was the daughter of one biographer and the mother of another, and going in search of their books.  (As for why I eagerly bought this book in 2015, and have only read it now... Sigh. there's no good reason for that.)

But I loved this, too.  Flora Fraser (the daughter) gives us a look at their early lives, and provides details on the Revolutionary War and Washington's work as president (it was a good reminder of history I'd learned but forgotten -- when and why did Washington cross the Delaware?) but focuses mostly on their marriage and family life.  They had a very loving and companionable marriage for almost 50 years. George was already a decorated soldier, living (but only as a tenant) at Mount Vernon, and Martha was a rich and pretty widow with two young children, when they married in 1757. Their personal lives revolved around improving and essentially making a living from Mount Vernon, and caring for the children  (and later, their grandchildren) and other relatives. I knew about this a little, from a visit to Valley Forge with my cousin, but during the war Martha would travel to military headquarters to be with George, spending time here in Cambridge, at Valley Forge, in Philadelphia, and in many other places; her presence helped him cope with the stress of command.

The book is filled with domestic details -- of the houses they lived in, and the work of running Mount Vernon {both George and Martha did a lot of shopping :) }.  All together, I think this book was the perfect way for me to learn more about them.

{I just noticed that the book cover shown above has a different subtitle than mine. The phrase on mine is on their tomb...so lovely.}

The Washingtons:  George and Martha, 'Join'd by Friendship, Crown'd by Love',
by Flora Fraser

Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
From my bookshelves

1 comment:

JoAnn said...

This sounds wonderful! I've been to Mount Vernon a couple of times, but have SO much more to learn about George and Martha. A new visitor's center was built between our first and second visits. Hoping the third visit will happen on one of our drives to/from Florida. With any luck I can read this book first :)

Thank you for visiting!

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