This review was first published in the Historical Novel Society magazine early 2011.
Thought it might be time for this one, as I've learned that one of our over-privileged media blow-hards has recently added another book to the "inventions" column on the subject of George Washington--our famous citizen/general who would NOT be King. If you happen to read that one, this book should be taken immediately as an antidote.
INVENTING GEORGE WASHINGTON
by Edward C. Lengel
HarperCollins, $ 17.15, 2011, 272 pp,
George Washington, hailed by a modern biographer as “indispensible,” was once a man, but he has become a kind of inkblot, a projection of the times in which we live, a projection of the causes dear to our hearts. This book, written by the editor-in-chief of The Washington Papers project, has grown from the author's professional life of study of this subject.
died, in 1799, Americans felt as if they’d lost a father. His death deprived the country of the grand old man a mere decade after the Founding of the Republic, at a time when both political divisions and external threats were running high. After all, he’d been our first president, our greatest general, and a public person for much of his life. By the turn of the 19th century, a fantastic image had already begun to separate from the real, human Washington , and his early death certtainly accelerated the process. Washington
With a razor wit and a wealth of source at his fingertips, Mr. Lengel dissects the growth and proliferation of every
story you ever heard--and some you might not have--from the holy treacle dispensed by “Parson” Weems to the accusations of angry revisionists and the outright fabrications of tea party politicians. Creating a multiplicity of Washington , as Americans attempt to find the person behind the symbol, continues to be both a profitable and politically useful enterprise. Washingtons