Twentieth Century Literary Club

The May 19, meeting of the Twentieth Century Literary Club was held at the home of Anne Tangeman, who also presented the program. Two guests, Linda Harritt and Kathy Klawater attended. 

Anne Tangeman, the treasurer, made her report and Pat Hopf, the secretary, read the minutes of the meeting on October 21, 2020, which was held at the home of Judy Welp. Due to COVID-19 and bad weather, there were no meetings in November 2020, February or March 2021. No meeting is held in the month of January. A Christmas Luncheon was held December 16, 2020 at the Schnitzelbank Restaurant. The 119th anniversary luncheon was held April 21, 2021. The meeting was the last meeting of the Literary Club until September 2021. Future meetings of the Literary Club will begin at 2 p.m., and as usual, be on the third Wednesday of the month. A tentative schedule of meetings and hostesses for the 2021-2022 season was discussed. 

Anne Tangeman reported on the book “Washington’s End” by Jonathan Horn. This book begins when George Washington steps down from the presidency after serving eight years. This peaceful transition was an unknown event in the world, as kings and dictators left their positions only when they lost their heads. The author reveals how difficult it was for the 65 year old Washington to step down and withdraw from public life. The patriarch who dedicated his life to uniting the country would leave his name on a new capital city destined to be identified with political divisions. 

Leaving Philadelphia on March 9, 1797 were George Washington, his wife, Martha, also 65 years old, grandchild Nelly Curtis, almost 18, George Washington Lafayette, 17, a refugee of the French Revolution and also the son of the Marquis de Lafayette who found a place in Washington’s military family. Washington’s other adopted grandchild, G.W. Park Curtis, 15 years old, had gone to the College of New Jersey, Princeton, to study.

Washington felt attacked by the newspapers of the day. “Every act” of his life, he believes, has been “misrepresented and tortured with a view to make it appear odious.” For eight years, he fought the British in the field. Now because he recently signed a treaty with the British, “infamous scribblers” hiding behind pen names dared to suggest that he supported the redcoats all along. Throughout the presidency, he resisted responding to these obvious lies. But he spent part of his last full day in office finishing a letter exposing the falsehoods for the public and posterity. 

On the afternoon of March 15, 1797, Washington could say, “I am once more seated under my own vine and fig tree.” But the man sitting there feels his age in his bent back, unsteady hands, weakened hearing and nearsightedness. His face looks distorted. His last real tooth has recently fallen out and the gold coils wiring the upper and lower ivory bases will spring out if he dares unclench his jaw. And people are talking about him suggesting he is senile. 

He is so glad to be back at Mount Vernon and jumps right back into being a hands-on owner. He does not have overseers but wants to be involved and watches the budget. Repairs began at once on a building on his fifth farm, and he would check the state of things, then back into the house for breakfast a little after seven. Breakfast consisted of hoecakes soaked in honey, slathered with butter, and washed down with tea. The mushier the cakes, the better for his dentures. The daily ride around the estate could range as far as 20 miles, and this is where he was most comfortable. “No pursuit is more congenial with my nature and gratifications than that of agriculture,'' he said. 

Then his country called on him again. July 4, 1798, the Philadelphia based Aurora newspaper featured on page three, “George Washington of Virginia appointed Lieutenant/General and Commander in Chief of the Armies of the United States of America.” As for Washington, he felt he was retired from service and quite busy with his five farms which made up Mount Vernon. True, there had been letters back and forth on conditions of such a position. The book continues through Washington’s death in December 1799, and the aftermath. There are almost 100 pages of sources, notes, and acknowledgments in the book. Anne Tangeman felt the book was well worth the read. It gives an idea of what Washington’s life was like and looks back through the letters he wrote. 

The next meeting will be September 15, 2021. Pat Hopf will be the hostess and present for the program.

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