TIDEWATER DYNASTY: The Lees of Stratford Hall by Carey & Rebecca Seely Roberts

TIDEWATER DYNASTY: The Lees of Stratford Hall

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KIRKUS REVIEW

These meticulously detailed cluster biographies of headline members of Virginia's remarkable Lee family (circa 1718-1810) center mainly on the evolution of the Lees' public political stances--which fueled the founding of the Republic; but though this book is admirable in scope and organization, it's sorry stuff as fiction. The narrative begins with Thomas Lee, the first Lee to build on Virginia's Northern Neck after a jumble of land claims. But the bulk of the chronicle, of course, is devoted to Richard Henry Lee and his noble ""Band of Brothers"": doctor-lawyer-pamphleteer Arthur, a lobbyist in England for a generous Colonial policy who also becomes instrumental in obtaining French aid when revolution's in the wind; William, appointed alderman in London, meanwhile working as an agent for the American cause; Francis Lightfoot, signer of the Declaration and member of the Continental Congress. And Richard Henry himself speaks out against slavery in 1759; is a leader in urging concerted action in response to the Stamp Act; introduces the motion paving the way for the Declaration; works for a Bill of Rights; and holds many offices, including Senator from Virginia. Nor have the authors forgotten cousin ""Lighthorse Harry"" Lee--a daring and dashing military man, a major voice in ratifying the Constitution, a governor of Virginia, and the father of Robert E. (who appears in a brief epilogue). Throughout the dinners, meetings, balls, and treks to Philadelphia, great personages come and go: Washington (cool, austere); both Adamses; Franklin; Madison; and other Founding Fathers. And there are a goodly number of weddings and courtings, all featuring smitten young men and pretty girls. Unfortunately for readers, however, there's not one untidy pepperpot in the lot: there's no fire in the excesses of Lighthorse Harry, Patrick Henry, or Ben Franklin; too discreet a distance is kept from Richard Henry's other brother, Colonel Phil, who causes his younger dependents to flee his house. . . or sister Missy, who lives in sin to save her inheritance; and the dialogue, whether about politics or mating, is generally history-text flat. Certainly this covers the Lees' major contributions, but for the casual reader of fiction it's awfully severe.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1981
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich