i dont read a lot of history,but the main character in this book got my attention on the outline i read.if i hadnt needed sleep,i would have read it in one sitting.i wish i had more like it.i cant say enough about it.even a non-history buff would enjoy the saga of nancy.5 stars!
Dawn O. (dowings36) reviewed Unwise Passions : A True Story of a Remarkable Woman---and the First Great Scandal of Eighteenth-Century America on
Gossip can be more potent than the truth...and it can destroy lives. This was a lesson Nancy Randolph was destined to learn the hard way.
Ann Cary "Nancy" Randolph was born on the eve of the American Revolution. The eighth child of a well-connected planter, her life was one of great privilege. She was the cousin of President Thomas Jefferson; his daughter Patsy was her closest childhood confidant and future sister-in-law.
Intelligent, attractive and popular, Nancy was also headstrong, and by the standards of the day, lacking in discretion. Yet nothing suggested early on that her life would end in scandal. She seemed destined to marry early and well, like most women of her class and era. All this changed after the death of her mother in 1789. Her father soon remarried and Nancy was packed off to live with her newlywed sister Judith. Nancy's opposite, Judith was serious and conventional. She wed their cousin Richard Randolph. Another resident of the household was Richard's brother, future Congressman John (Jack) Randolph of Roanoke. Jack quickly fell in love with Nancy and soon proposed, but Nancy rejected Jack, something he seems to have never forgiven.
As the years passed, people began to suspect that Jack was not the only Randolph interested in Nancy. Richard and Nancy had become the best of friends. Evidence suggests that Richard had become tired of Judith and infatuated with his high-spirited sister-in-law. Were his affections returned? Or were Nancy's feelings for him platonic (or at least never acted upon)?
Whatever the truth, in 1793, a slave on their plantation put forward a shocking claim: Nancy had given birth in the dead of night and had then (with Richard's help) murdered the infant. Both Nancy and Richard were accused of murder. Richard was eventually put on trial. He was defended by no less than founding father Patrick Henry and future Supreme Court Justice John Marshall.
Publicly the family denied the existence of an affair or a child, let alone murder, but in private Judith made Nancy's life a misery. Richard died in 1796. Having limited means and nowhere else to turn, Nancy remained in Judith's household another nine years. During these years it would appear that Jack continued to court Nancy, but again, was rejected. Finally, in 1805, Jack had her tossed off the plantation.
After leaving Judith's plantation (appropriately named Bizarre), Nancy settled for a few years in Richmond before fleeing North. There she accepted a position as housekeeper to Gouverneur Morris, who promptly fell in love with Nancy.
She hoped to leave her scandalous past behind, but Jack Randolph wasn't through with her yet. Having fallen out with Judith, he moved to Roanoke Plantation, where he spent most of his days reading poetry, taking opium, and nursing his bitterness against Nancy. He was convinced that Nancy was responsible for Richard's death and he shared this belief with anyone willing to listen.
When Jack learned that she had wed one of New York's wealthiest men he was apoplectic. He began conspiring with her new in-laws to ruin her reputation. He published a letter to Nancy not only accusing her of being a slattern and murdering her child, but also of murdering his brother and their nephew. He claimed that she once slept with a slave. Last, but not least, he accused her of plotting to murder her new husband.
Nancy's husband chose to ignore the accusations, but Nancy wouldn't go down without a fight. She responded with a letter of her own, stating that his "former constituents should know the creature in whom they put their trust." She went on to accuse him of being an embittered hypocrite, asking if he believed, when he courted her years ago, "that you held in your arms, that you pressed to your bosom, that you kissed the lips of a common prostitute, the murderess of her own child and of your brother?"
Did Nancy and Richard have an affair? Did they even conceive a child (let alone murder one)? Could Nancy have played a role in Richard's death? Or were these accusations just the ravings of an embittered and jealous former suitor? I will leave you to decide.