Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Woman – And the First Great Scandal of Eighteenth-Century America
Unwise Passions is an engaging, thought-provoking biography that provides fascinating insight into an old scandal that wreaked havoc among several of the oldest families in post-Revolutionary War Virginia. Author Crawford, with his engrossing writing style and meticulous attention to detail, vividly relates the story of lovely, privileged Nancy Randolph of Tuckahoe and her cousin and brother-in-law, Richard Randolph of Bizarre. Their story involves not only their large extended family, but enmeshed such famous figures as Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and John Marshall.
Nancy Randolph was only 18 when she was accused of having seduced her sister Judith’s husband Richard, borne him a child, then aiding him in its horrific murder. They were defended in a sensational trial by Patrick Henry and acquitted. However, the rumors persisted, and, fueled by Richard’s notorious congressman brother, John Randolph of Roanoke, increased after Richard’s death in 1796. Forced to flee Virginia, Nancy, at age 34 and living in poverty in New York, was hired by Revolutionary veteran Gouverneur Morris as his housekeeper. He later married her, and their happy union produced a son. After Morris’s death, she fought greedy relatives for her very inheritance. Triumphant, the unfortunate Nancy, at long last, was able to find a measure of peace.
Unwise Passions, with its elements of true crime, romance, intrigue, treachery, and colorful personalities, played out against an already decaying plantation culture, is a biography that reads like the best historical fiction. A helpful family tree, pertinent illustrations, and notes are included.