This book just had a really interesting premise. Instead of being just another biography of Shakespeare, this attempt to chronicle his life looked atThis book just had a really interesting premise. Instead of being just another biography of Shakespeare, this attempt to chronicle his life looked at the world in which Shakespeare lived and the influence that that world had on the playwright's works.
The author takes a very systematic approach to these things, examining certain well-known aspects of Shakespeare's life and outlining evidence in various of the plays which shows the influence that these aspects had on his work.
My one reservation with the book is that there was a remarkable amount of speculation that, while confessed as speculation, was often treated with the same degree of credulity as the well-established facts of Shakespeare's life....more
The president mentioned in the title is none other than Thomas Jefferson, he of the famous "all men are created equal" Declaration of Independence. MrThe president mentioned in the title is none other than Thomas Jefferson, he of the famous "all men are created equal" Declaration of Independence. Mr. Jefferson not only owned slaves, but had two children by one of them. The slave's name is Currer and their two daughters are Clotel and Althesa.
This book turned out to be much, much different from what I'd anticipated. I'd expected a biography of Clotel. What I got were little alternating snippets about the family that Currer is sold to, Clotel and her family, and Althesa and her family. Interspersed with these were philosophical discussions about Christianity, slavery, and basically what it means to be human. These discussions irked me at first, as especially the anti-slavery arguments seemed like preaching to the choir since nobody nowdays would attempt a pro-slavery argument. When I reminded myself that this was written in a very different time and relaxed into it a little, I found myself fascinated.
The whole approach, though, with so many different characters and different arguments left the whole book with rather a scattered feel. I found myself frequently having to remind myself which character I was reading about and what had happened to them previously.
To avoid that in the future, a spoilery summary to remind myself what happened to each character:
(view spoiler)[Currer is sold to a wealthy southern preacher/farmer named Mr. Peck. He and his daughter Georgiana are then the main characters of Currer's story--we never actually hear about Currer again until her death.
The Pecks provide the author with the opportunity for providing a healthy Christian viewpoint on slavery, and I found these bits redundant and preachy to the point of skipping most of them.
Clotel has fallen in love with a Mr. Green in Richmond. He buys her and they get married. However, as marriages to slaves are not considered legal, Mr. Green decides he wants to pursue a career in politics and chooses to marry a white woman. He asks Clotel if she'll still let him come see her and she basically tells him to go to hell (go Clotel!). Mr. Green lets her have the house they'd lived in together and keep their daughter, Mary, with her.
For some reason, Mr. and the new Mrs. Green drive past Clotel's house one day and Mr. Green sees Clotel and Mary out in the yard. He reacts strongly enough to make his new wife suspicious. She finds out about Clotel, forces Mr. Green to sell her, and then brings Mary into their house so she can mistreat her and heap guilt on her husband.
Clotel is light-skinned enough that she makes the wife of her new master jealous enough that she has Clotel's hair cut off and treats her horribly. Clotel is sold again. The new master has another slave named William who has been earning a salary somehow and saving it. William sees how upset Clotel is and offers her his savings so she can escape. She convinces him to come with her. She dresses up as a wealthy young nobleman and William as her servant. They get safely North, but Clotel can't continue without her daughter and decides to return to Richmond for her.
This is right during the Nat Turner riots, so every stranger is under suspicion. Clotel is arrested before she can ever see her daughter. She attempts to escape, and chooses to jump off a bridge rather than be captured again.
Althesa goes all the way to New Orleans to be sold. She's bought by a family who is close friends with a Dr. Morton. He and Althesa fall in love, Dr. Morton buys her and they get married. They live very happily, have two daughters, and all seems to be grand. There is a yellow fever outbreak in New Orleans that kills both Althesa and her husband. Dr. Morton's brother comes to collect his nieces and bring them to his house. The law, however, says that since they're the children of a slave, they are slaves. None of them had any idea of this law and all are very distressed.
The brother tries to save the girls, but they are sent to auction. The older takes poison her first night in her new owner's home and dies.
The younger had fallen in love with a Frenchman. After she was sold, she got word to him somehow and he came to rescue her. She was climbing out of her window down to him when her master found them and shot and killed the Frenchman. The girl died a few days later, of a "broken heart."
Fortunately, the book ends with the story of Mary, Clotel's daughter. Mary stayed in her father's house with his new wife as her new mistress. As soon as the mistress saw that her husband was too numb to truly suffer over what was happening to his daughter, she started treating her more kindly. And so Mary grew up.
She'd met and fallen in love with another slave named George. George had been arrested during the slave revolt, but had been kept in jail for over a year instead of being put to death because he'd rescued some important papers for the city from a fire earlier. They finally decide to kill him to set an example, but Mary doesn't want to let that happen.
Mary convinces George to trade clothes with her and escape. It takes some convincing, but George finally agrees. He gets to Canada, tries to find Mary but can't, decides to move to England and pursue a law career. He's traveling around Europe eventually and ends up in a graveyard in Dunkirk.
A veil-obscured lady with a young boy enters the graveyard, sees George, and immediately faints. This turns out to be Mary, who had been sold after her involvement in George's escape was revealed. A young Frenchman saw her on the boat to New Orleans, told her she reminded him of his sister and begged her to run away with him. She did, they got married and had the son. He died so now she lives in Dunkirk with her father-in-law and her son.
The last biography-like part of the story says that Mary and George were married a few days later. (hide spoiler)]
The biography bits were fascinating, and would have gotten four stars. The philosophical discussions frequently bored or frustrated or annoyed me, so they'd probably get two stars. So overall, I think I'll settle on 3.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more