The story of Martha Washington s life has not been an easy one to tell, so largely has she, as a distinct personality, been overshadowed by the greater importance of the figure that has stood beside her. As the wife of Washington she has always been presented upon the pages of history; and thus, with true wifely devotion, would she have chosen to stand. Hence, in writing of Mrs. Washington, except during the early years of her life in Williamsburg, the author has unconsciously drawn the picture of husband and wife together as they appeared to her mind.
By this means have come to us some glimpses of Washington as husband, host, and country gentleman, which have added not a little to the charm of a personality that has sometimes seemed remote and solitary in its greatness.
At the outset of her task the biographer was confronted with a serious difficulty from the apparent inadequacy of material, in the form of personal and family letters, all of Mrs. Washington s letters to her husband and his to her having been destroyed at her own request, while some ofher nieces completed the holocaust by making a bonfire of nearly all the family letters.
In the pursuance of this work there has, however, come to light so much of interest in contemporaneous descriptions, and from family traditions of Mount Vernon handed down from one generation to another, while the few letters of Mrs. Washington’s that have escaped destruction are so characteristic, that it seems possible to present the bare outline of facts, long known to the world, clothed with some charm of individuality and some warmth of human interest.
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