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Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy Paperback – August 1, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"I've embraced this biography.... Richard Côté’s engaging writing style and demeanor are delightful. I highly recommend it." -- Greensboro, N.C. News & Record, Feb. 1, 2004

An excellent account of Theodosia's life as the mistress of a Southern rice plantation.... This biography is a good read. -- Henry Bischoff, Ph.D., Director of Historical Studies, The Hermitage

Côté has successfully woven together all the elements of Theodosia's story into a highly readable, scholarly piece of work. -- Katrina P. Lawrimore, Director, The Kaminski House Museum, Georgetown, S.C.

In this exciting, carefully-researched biography, Côté has rescued Aaron Burr's daughter from 200 years of obscurity. -- Ray Swick, Ph.D., Historian, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park

Meticulously researched and superbly written... An engaging and remarkable look into a formidable woman's life in the early nineteenth century. -- Midwest Book Review, October 2002

Should you consider John Adams a compelling figure in early America, wait until you behold Theodosia Burr Alston. -- The State newspaper (Columbia, S.C.), November 10, 2002

This engaging account of Theodosia Burr Alston is filled with enough intrigues to satisfy the most jaded conspiracy theorist. -- Walter Edgar, Ph.D., author of South Carolina: A History

[Côté] addresses myths and misconceptions about Theodosia.... [Her] famous disappearance at sea in January 1813...is the most interesting part. -- The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

From the Author

Ovid’s saying, "time devours all things," was never more true than when applied to Theodosia Burr Alston. During her life, her friends, family, and acquaintances knew her as a vivacious, mischievous little girl; a charming, intelligent young woman; a tender, loving wife; a caring, attentive mother; and a devoted daughter. In addition, she was trained by her obsessive and loving father as an intellectual prodigy and educational role model for women of the future. On the day of her marriage in 1801, Theodosia, aged seventeen years, seven months, and nine days, was without question the best educated woman in the United States. However, she was not being prepared solely for adulthood, marriage, and motherhood. Burr was grooming her to become a president, queen, or empress.

This book was written to restore to the daylight the flesh-and-blood Theodosia, the girl who giggled on her mother’s knee; the thirteen-year-old who presided alone over a formal dinner for a powerful Indian chief; the young woman who pinned back the ears of her overbearing fiancé only days before their wedding; and the elegant lady who floated gracefully down the Ohio River on a flatboat, headed, she believed, on a one-way-trip to become Theodosia I, Empress of Mexico. In addition, I hope that this book will be the front door through which the next generation of scholars and readers will pass to meet Theodosia and explore the many facets of her heritage, personality, experiences, and destiny for themselves. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Corinthian Books; 1st Edition edition (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1929175442
  • ISBN-13: 978-1929175444
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #603,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

An insightful account of a very colorful period of American history.
Patricia B. Ross
Richard N. Cote, the author of this biography of Aaron Burr's daughter certainly did meticulous research.
Linda Linguvic
For anyone with an interest in history, or anyone wanting a great read, I highly recommend this book.
G. Batts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Richard N. Cote, the author of this biography of Aaron Burr's daughter certainly did meticulous research. Add to that his skill as a storyteller, and this fascinating woman's short and sad life becomes real. It's not just her story, however, that comes alive. It is the story of the early days of America. The author traces her roots back to the 13 colonies, adding to the background of this family and its place in history. Living during those times meant living with medical problems and risking death from a wide variety of causes. For example, two of Aaron Burr's relatives died as a result of smallpox vaccinations.
Aaron Burr, a vice president of the United States under Thomas Jefferson, is known primarily for his duel with Alexander Hamilton. After that he fell into disfavor and had grandiose dreams of invading Mexico and making himself emperor. He later spent time in exile and finally returned to the United States to live to a ripe old age.
Burr had grand plans for his daughter Theodosia, his only child born in 1783. Unlike the women in her generation, he had her educated as boys were then. By the time she was 11, she was studying classical literature and speaking French. That's around the time her mother died and she took on the responsibility of running her father's New York home. She was only 18 when she married Joseph Alston, a South Carolina planter. Soon afterwards her son was born. The birth, however, was a difficult one and for the rest of her life, she was in constant pain.
The book centers on the relationship between Aaron Burr and his daughter. They were extremely close and their letters reveal that he even would write to her about his amorous adventures. After her marriage, they visited often, usually for months at a time.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
I entirely disagree with the reader below me. (Everyone owned slaves back then, except for, notably, Alexander Hamilton, who hated slavery, and yes, he wasn't the only one. But still, the focus of the book was Theodosia, not Aaron.)
I came across Theodosia while I was watching the PBS Home Video "The Duel" (which I recommend if you are interested in Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, the duel itself, or politics in that time period). I wanted to know more about her and purchased this book. I'm glad I did! This biography seems more like a novel because of the incredible, fast-paced journey it leads you on into the past. I especially liked the last few chapters, when the author explored Theodosia's possible fates and the "mystery of the Nag's Head portrait." This whole book never had a boring moment, so if you are interested in this great yet unknown woman or her infamous father, read this book ASAP!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Betty B. Davidson on April 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
What an in depth and at times riveting account of Theodosia, the beautiful and very gifted daughter of Vice President and scheming traitor, Aaron Burr. This is a story that has been told before but never brilliantly as in Mr. Cote's sweeping tale. The author brings to life the romantic and tragic heroine, Theodosia, so vividly that the reader truly feels her joys and pain. From her privileged upbringing by a father who was a brilliant but flawed man to her marriage into South Carolina's wealthiest family and eventually to her mysterious death at age 28, this is a story that carries us through the ballrooms and political intrigue of the 18th and early 19th Century. Theodosia, the most well educated woman of her time, was destined by her ambitious father to be empress of Mexico in a scheme both treasonous and ultimately ruinous. Theodosia vanished at sea in 1812 leaving behind a haunting portrait that washed up on a North Carolina beach and a story so intriguing that it lingers in the heart and mind long after the book is finished.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "dgnettles" on October 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Well researched, well written, this book is a great read. Mr. Côté has given us the fascinating story of Aaron Burr's daughter. Multi-lingual, sophisticated and beautiful, Theodosia interacted with some of the greatest personalities of her time. The author refers to her as a prodigy, but she might well also be considered to be a true super woman, molded by an education based on the then-radical concepts of Mary Wollstonecraft. Her father conspired with a foreign power to carve her an empire out of Mexico and part of the young United States. Instead, his plans were crushed.
Even after her mysterious disappearance at sea, Theodosia's mystique lives on, as can be seen by anyone who as ever read a collection of Carolina ghost stories, or taken a tour in Georgetown or Charleston. She is surrounded by a mist of local legends. However, the author has given us a chance to see the real Theodosia, extracted from the nefarious shadow of her infamous father. He gives us, not a legend, nor a dry history, but a portrait of a real woman, with real emotions and concerns. Yet again, his approach is analytical, and where there are unanswered questions or conflicting data, he carefully examines the possible arguments to aid the reader in drawing his or her own conclusions.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes biographies of fascinating people, but also to reading groups (a discussion guide is available). It is also a book for anyone who loves art or a great mystery (The portrait that surfaced after her death is just one example). It is an engaging read that will leave you dreaming about what might have been, lost in admiration for its subject, and trying to unravel its mysteries long after you finish the last page.
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