Synopses & Reviews
Though he was a hero of the Revolutionary War, a prominent New York politician, and vice president of the United States, Aaron Burr is today best remembered as the villain who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
But as H. W. Brands demonstrates in this fascinating portrait of one of the most compelling politicians in American history, Burr was also a man before his time—a proponent of equality between the sexes well over a century before women were able to vote in the US. Through Burr's extensive, witty correspondence with his daughter Theodosia, Brands traces the arc of a scandalous political career and the early years of American politics. The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr not only dramatizes through their words his eventful life, it also tells a touching story of a father's love for his exceptional daughter, which endured through public shame, bankruptcy, and exile, and outlasted even Theodosia's tragic disappearance at sea.
A Paperback Original
"The relationship of Aaron Burr and his daughter Theodosia Burr Alston is one of the most affecting bonds in the history of major American political figures. Each cherished and doted on the other after the death of Burr's wife when their daughter was 11. And more tragedy was to come: after the death of Theodosia's son, she herself drowned at sea in 1813, aged 29, thus leaving two crushed men, her husband and her father. University of Texas Austin historian Brands (The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin) brings alive this story largely through the affectionate letters between father and child. But it's a slight, curious work. Written in the present tense, which gives it a formal, Gallic tone, it's all narrative and takes us nowhere into character. The history it rehearses has long been known, and it introduces not a single idea. Burr's enigmatic politics and schemes are warp and woof of all written history of the era. But Theodosia? Here, Brands lets us down. For example, it's clear from her letters that she abetted her father by egging him on in many of his schemes instead of cautioning him against acting unwisely. What could have been an insightful dual portrait is instead an insubstantial, if pleasing, work. Illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
H. W. Brands is the Dickson Allen Anderson Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography for The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, and for Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.