As part of our Fashionable Frolicks through history, costuming, and other topics, we plan frequently to post about books, films, or other media that spark our interest and that we hope might be interesting to you as well. When you see a post with the title Notes on… , you will know that it is one in this “feature.” We will also be sure to tag each of these posts with a label of the same name so that you can easily click on the link to the right and find all of the posts in this group. And now I present to you our very first Notes on...
By Alan Pell Crawford
As an unmarried young woman who finds herself at odds with her new stepmother, Nancy moves to her sister’s new home at Bizarre on the Appomattox River. Unfortunately, her presence only brings trouble. She becomes engaged to her cousin Theodorick Randolph, who is the brother of her new brother-in-law, but he dies before they are married. Rumors begin to circulate that Nancy is carrying a child, and that her brother-in-law is the father. Suspicions are raised further after a strange night of occurrences; while staying with some friends, mid-night screams and footsteps were heard, though no one would be allowed to enter the rooms where Nancy was staying with her sister and brother-in-law. The next morning, servants find a dead baby on the plantation, and Nancy is blamed for murder as well as incest. The family and their friends are forced to appear in court and publicly denounce the accusations against them. It is declared that they are innocent, but the family is forever divided by their feelings for her. When her strongest advocate dies, she is cast out of the family and their homes and is forced to find her own way. I won't tell you how it ends (because I do recommend that you read the book yourselves!); however, I will say that it is in a way satisfying to see how the different characters meet their fates.
Amidst the story of Nancy’s tribulations, Crawford recounts the political upheavals of the new nation, which involve several members of the extended Randolph family and other well-known figures of the time, including Patrick Henry, Gouverneur Morris, and St. George Tucker. I was also grateful for the extra insights Crawford provided concerning the other characters. For example, I was very intrigued to read about Nancy's nephews. One of them, St. George Randolph, was born deaf. After his father's death, his uncle took him to a school in Europe, and although he was a very bright young man, St. George never learned how to speak. He suffered additional traumas, including watching his home burn to the ground, and it is said that he later went mad. While searching for additional information about St. George Randolph, I came across this interesting excerpt from Littell's The Living Age, which is available through Google Books.