Sunday, January 17, 2021

Lewis Leary's "The Book-Peddling Parson" and George Washington biographer Mason Locke Weems


Weems Bott Museum Dumfries VA

Author: Lewis Leary

Title:The Book-Peddling Parson

Subtitle:An account of the life and works of Mason Locke Weems- patriot, pitchman. Author, and purveyor of morality to the citizenry of early United States of America

Publication: Chapel Hill, NC, Algonquin Press, 158 pages, hardcover, Introduction, 9 chapters, Appendix, Index.

Saturday, January 2, 2021 was a mild day in northern Virginia, and given the circumstances of social distancing, I went on a short day trip,.alone, to Dumfries, just off I-95, and visited the outdoor area of the Weems Bott Museum.

discuss G W biography

There is a sign that talks about the first biography of George Washington, authored by a pastor Mason Locke Weems (which is an expensive collectible on Amazon) who in turn gets a biography by Lewis Leary, which is bookbound in colonial style.  It’s pretty easy to imagine it being assigned in an English class in high school in eleventh grade (American literature). Maybe this year for online school.

The parson made bringing, selling and distributing books to rural areas away from the coastal cities, which had few bookstores, a life priority.  That’s rather ironic for me.

The book has a silly middle chapter “To all the singles … the pleasures of the married state”, which in rather verbose flowery manner preaches and lists family values, in an era when people needed to have many children.

Blacks, who were usually slaves, are spoken about with some deference in Weems’s own writings, as were native Americans, who were (incorrectly) viewed as not well socialized.

This is a very curious little book.

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