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BOOK REVIEWS83 and values, his two marriages and seven offspring, even his lack of success , were entirely conventional. What set him apart was his literary habits . From 1845 to 1858 he religiously kept a daily journal, recording his observations of weather, crops, slaves, family, community, business, enemies, creditors and other matters. He "kept faith with his journal" for thirteen years; then "for thirty years more he lugged it around in exile, periodically reading it and penciling in afterthoughts." Tombée, like Rosengarten's oral history of Nate Shaw (All Gods Dangers), is a big book. Half of it is a meticulously researched biography of Chaplin, unconventionally organized by topics: family, planting, estates , social life, slavery, and so on. The other half is Chaplin's edited journal. Despite a few inconsistencies, both as biographer and editor, Rosengarten has done an excellent job. Chaplin is a strangely compelling figure, and a wealth of social history is recorded in these pages. This impressive book belongs on the shelfwith Mary Chesnut's Civil Warand Children of Pride. Ted T UNNELL Virginia Commonwealth University A Biography: Jessie Benton Fremont. By Pamela Herr. (New York: Franklin Watts, 1987. Pp. xiii, 496. $24.95.) Intelligent, energetic, aggressive, ambitious, and outspoken, Jessie Benton Fremont chafed under the restrictions of the conventional nineteenth -century woman's role. Unable to stand passively and comfortably on that century's pedestral for women, yet unwilling to defy societal requirements, she compromised by channeling her ambitions into her husband's success. She lived, as many women did, through her husband; unlike most, she was more visible, active, and forceful. In this extremely readable biography, Pamela Herr has explored the difficulties and paradoxes faced by strong nineteenth-century women and has explained how one woman came to terms with her role. Jessie Benton Fremont, daughter of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton and wife of the famous pathmarker John Charles Fremont, was essential to her husband, shaping his reports of western exploration into popular accounts, becoming a focal point in his 1856 bid for the presidency ("Jessie for the White House"), and even (as "General Jessie") defending her husband in a confrontation with President Lincoln. When John's career tumbled into ruins, it was Jessie who supported the family by her writing. Throughout the vicissitudes of his career, from the heights of fame and popularity to the depths of court martial, disgrace, and poverty, Jessie Fremont was tenaciously loyal, even blind to her husband's faults. As her friend Elizabeth Blair Lee wrote, "she belongs to him body and soul (p. 416) ." Both of the Fremonts became caught in the web of image, 84CIVILWAR history what Emerson called the "passion for seeming" (p. 121). The perpetuation and fulfillment of that public image became a controlling force for John Fremont and resulted in increasingly questionable actions and dubious business practices. Jessie never faltered in her devotion to him— called "insanity" by her friends—and she struggled "to protect him against himself" (pp. 416, 356). In writing a woman's biography, the historian faces the perplexing problem of how to relate that life to the larger context of the traditional concerns of history, and at the same time to develop the meaning of women's lives beyond a recital of quotidian events. Herr ably accomplishes that feat, giving significant insights into what it was like to be a woman in the nineteenth century. Each chapter is prefaced by short quotations from a variety of sources which deal with the female experience , including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Wright, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, in addition to cautions and prescriptions from doctors, preachers, advice manuals, and Godey's Lady's Book. Herr effectively develops the tension between society's restrictive demands and Jessie Fremont's ebullient ambition. There are some disadvantages to describing events through the eyes of one person. For example, when Herr explains Fremont's activities in Missouri during the first year of the Civil War, she emphasizes Jessie's views and thereby leaves the readerwithout a clear understanding of the actual situation. Was Fremont wronged? Did the Blairs betray him? Was Lincoln correct in removing Fremont? Fremont was Jessie's "insanity," and the reader needs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 83-84
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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