The Unexpected George Washington: His Private Life
Could there be a new biography that reveals anything unexpected about the Founding Father? Possibly, but this isn’t it. Unger utilizes correspondence and Washington’s diary, but since both often cover Washington’s agricultural pursuits in mind-numbing detail, frequent quoting of these sources makes for long, boring passages. Unger’s unfortunate prose reads like a second-rate romance; about George and Martha at an assembly he pronounces, “Others stepped back to marvel at his grace – she, like a feather, floating in his gentle arms. The dance left Martha breathless and giddy, George thoroughly enchanted, and both of them laughing and madly in love.” The equivalent in Washington’s diary was probably “…seedlings doth better in Manure than fish Compost and ye Chinese hogg is mated. Mrs. W. & I at Assembly til 2.”
Unger paints a picture of a caring man who, though childless, raised/supported many of his and Martha’s minor relatives and was effusive in his goodwill towards friends. On the flip side is a man disingenuous about his desire for power whose insatiable greed for land and the latest goods/fashions resulted in a habit of vastly outspending his income. All in all, Unger offers a window into the first George W.’s domestic life, but it’s neither private nor unexpected, and not particularly interesting.