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A new book I got for Christmas: "Nathan Hale" by M. Williams Phelps

Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Dec 31 2008, 7:22pm


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A new book I got for Christmas: "Nathan Hale" by M. Williams Phelps [In reply to] Can't Post

I was very excited to hear that this book was in the offing, and even more so that the movie based on it may also be in the offing. It makes use of the recently-discovered diary (found in 2003) of Consider Tiffany, a Tory who was an eyewitness to Hale's capture, the details of which have been a mystery for two centuries.

The new information suggests that British Major Robert Rogers, who is something of a swashbuckling character, grew suspicious of the schoolmaster who was nosing around, and met him in a tavern. Rogers persuaded Hale that he too was an American spy, possibly with the help of generous quantities of alcohol, and asked him to meet him the following day at his quarters. Hale showed up and was promptly arrested. This could be pretty good in a movie.

The book itself is kind of dry reading for all but the most ardent fan (like me). It's written in an academic style, with lots of footnotes and page and pages of bibliography, which is good if you're after detailed information (me) but makes for a slow read. Sometimes the author slips into a jarring colloquialism, as when he calls the young Nathan and his brother Enoch "two kids accustomed to the confines of a farming village", which sounds odd next to the academic tone of most of the book.

On the other hand, I did find this gripping by the time I reached the last chapters, and couldn't put it down, reading by flashlight as my husband drove us home from another town. I was especially moved by the account of Enoch trying to find out what had happened to his brother. Enoch was a rather prim theology student, not a soldier, but he haunted soldier's camps asking questions as he heard disturbing rumors that his favorite beloved brother had been hanged. When he at last faced the truth of those rumors, he went on for a search of his body, which he never found, since it was buried in an unmarked grave next to the gallows. (It had been hanging there for several days while British soldiers spat on it and pinned insulting cartoons to it. )

I was also reminded again that I've always seen a little of Sam Gamgee in Asher Wright, who was Nathan's boyhood friend and who became his personal servant when Nathan was an officer in the army. Asher suffered from post-traumatic shock after Nathan's death, and hadn't really recovered from it sixty years later, when Hale's biographers interviewed him.

I was pretty familiar with almost everything in this book already, but it's nice to have it in one place. One observation that no one's made before and that I liked was a UUT that Phelps had about why Hale taught a class for girls at a time when girls, if they went to school at all, only went for a year to learn to read and write and sew. His inviting girls to his school was pretty radical, but most biographers have said he did it to make extra money. (I have noticed, though, that when he was in college he debated on the topic of education for girls, so it was clearly of interest to him beyond that.) Phelps speculates that Hale was partly motivated by the example of his mother, who died in childbirth when he was twelve, giving birth to her twelfth child. He might have wanted other women to have better lives than his mother did, and saw education as the key to that. A nice idea.

So if you want a biography that reads like a story, this isn't for you (you might check out the one I wrote a while back, which is online here.) But if you can read between the lines to see the story behind the facts, this book tells a great story.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Subject User Time
"Read the books you already own!": The Weekly Book Review Thread, New Year's Edition a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Dec 31 2008, 4:23pm
    No more books til we've read the ones we've got!! Jazmine Send a private message to Jazmine Dec 31 2008, 4:35pm
        Sister of Another Mother!!! a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Dec 31 2008, 4:45pm
    Anathem and War for the Oaks Laerasėa Send a private message to Laerasėa Dec 31 2008, 5:22pm
        Emma Bull & Neil Gaiman are good friends Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Dec 31 2008, 8:02pm
    We can only choose what to do with the books we are given Lily Fairbairn Send a private message to Lily Fairbairn Dec 31 2008, 5:49pm
    Working my way through my book Christmas gifts Elberbeth Send a private message to Elberbeth Dec 31 2008, 6:19pm
    Christmas reading Nienna Send a private message to Nienna Dec 31 2008, 6:54pm
    A new book I got for Christmas: "Nathan Hale" by M. Williams Phelps Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Dec 31 2008, 7:22pm
    Review and Summary Bladorthin Send a private message to Bladorthin Dec 31 2008, 7:41pm
        another interesting take on the story Annael Send a private message to Annael Dec 31 2008, 9:46pm
    I know what you mean! Compa_Mighty Send a private message to Compa_Mighty Dec 31 2008, 7:47pm
        Have you thought about the bathroom? Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Dec 31 2008, 8:23pm
            the used-book store is my salvation Annael Send a private message to Annael Dec 31 2008, 9:50pm
    The Indigo King Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Dec 31 2008, 8:08pm
    Kushiel's Mercy (and a book recommendation on Christian mysticism) Annael Send a private message to Annael Dec 31 2008, 9:34pm
        **takes notes a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Dec 31 2008, 10:08pm
            another book recommendation, then Annael Send a private message to Annael Dec 31 2008, 10:15pm
            Christian mysticism? *perks up* Kyriel Send a private message to Kyriel Jan 1 2009, 12:32am
                **takes more notes a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Jan 1 2009, 2:01am
                I went to a lecture Annael Send a private message to Annael Jan 1 2009, 4:21am
                    Actually, it can be a lot funnier than that Kyriel Send a private message to Kyriel Jan 1 2009, 1:07pm
                        we had a whole lecture about Annael Send a private message to Annael Jan 1 2009, 4:50pm
                *copies notes from a.s.* Menelwyn Send a private message to Menelwyn Jan 1 2009, 9:05pm
        Did you read Kushiel's Mercy Ataahua Send a private message to Ataahua Dec 31 2008, 11:43pm
            hard Annael Send a private message to Annael Jan 1 2009, 4:16am
    Oh dear. Would you believe (and forgive me for reading) Tintallė Send a private message to Tintallė Jan 1 2009, 2:35am
        at the risk of being a "reverse snob"...or something, I think a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Jan 1 2009, 10:28pm
        no judgment here Annael Send a private message to Annael Jan 2 2009, 12:41am
            There's an interesting split in the fandom (some Twilight spoilers) entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Jan 2 2009, 2:24am
                well . . . Annael Send a private message to Annael Jan 2 2009, 3:31pm
                    I think the approach was the same for all three entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Jan 2 2009, 3:57pm
                That's not what I hated about the fourth book. Laitholiel_the_SeaElf Send a private message to Laitholiel_the_SeaElf Jan 3 2009, 4:07am
                    I can understand that (book four spoilers) entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Jan 3 2009, 4:33am
        I loved the Twilight series entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Jan 2 2009, 2:13am
    How Fiction Works. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 1 2009, 11:19pm
        Cather and Robinson a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Jan 2 2009, 12:56am
    I have! bearwen Send a private message to bearwen Jan 5 2009, 8:48pm

 
 
 

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