Hyperbolic biography of the Massachusetts patriot and author, told largely through her correspondence with John and Abigail Adams.
Stuart (The Reluctant Spiritualist: The Life of Maggie Fox, 2005, etc.) longs to discover in Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814) a long-lost feminist heroine, and her overeagerness is palpable in such breathless section titles as “Conscience of the Revolution” and “Penwoman to Posterity.” Yes, Warren was the author of numerous popular satirical plays that criticized the British, as well as a three-volume history of the American Revolution. But she was first and foremost a devoted wife and mother who came to her patriotic ideals largely through her firebrand brother James (“taxation without representation is tyranny”) and their father, a merchant and judge in West Barnstable, Mass., who had long clashed with British authorities. She and husband James Warren, the high sheriff of Plymouth County, were swept up in the events of the early rebellion, clashing in particular with loyalist governor Thomas Hutchinson. They hosted Sons of Liberty gatherings, Mercy composed a mock epic entitled “The Squabble of the Sea Nymphs” on the occasion of the Boston Tea Party, and James became president of the Provisional Congress after Bunker Hill. The revolution won, the Warrens moved aside from the political mainstream, feeling that the old patriotic, Puritan values were giving way to new money, profiteering and materialism. Though John Adams had urged her to write it, History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution (1805) assessed the presidency of her neighbor and literary mentor in moderately unflattering terms, putting an eight-year damper on their friendship. Abigail Adams remained in touch with Mercy, and Stuart emphasizes throughout her account that notable women such as these were relegated to the wings, passing frenzied notes to their men taking action at center stage.
A valiant resurrection of an important early American author.