Edited by a professor of American History at Cornell University, this volume in the American Profiles series consists of excerpts from twelve different studies of George Washington, compiled with the laudable object of presenting the real man as distinguished from the legendary stuffed shirt. This effort is only partially successful. As each essay deals with a particular phase of Washington's life, emphasizing his successes and with few exceptions glossing over his weaknesses, the composite portrait that emerges bears a faint but unmistakable resemblance to the wooden image of Folklore. Writing of Washington, however, is not easy. A ""living legend"" even in his lifetime, a man of hard commonsense and a talent for adapting to circumstance, his deification began in 1799 when ""Parson"" Weems published his best-selling life of Washington and continued until Lee and Lincoln stole some of his glory. More serious than Weems' inventions were the libels heaped on Washington in his second term. The essays in the book (not one to be read all at once) range from pedestrian to brilliant; among the best are: ""The Young Man Washington"" (Morison); ""Washington on the Eve of Revolution"" (Nettles); ""Cincinnatus Assayed"" (Flexner); ""To Avert Some Awful Crisis"" (Freeman).