[Rachel: It is truly amazing how much his bad travel luck sounds like mine. Substitute planes for ships and trains for coaches, and this could be my diary. The hotel problems don’t even need any substitution.]

3. Had very carefully put Mr. Achaud's letter, my handkerchiefs, and other small articles in the pockets of the coat I intended to wear. Anna had put my room in order before I got down. After being two hours on the way, missed my handkerchiefs, and, upon quiet examination, discovered that I had taken the wrong coat. What a curse to have two coats at a time!

[Rachel: I once arrived in New York City during a record snowstorm with no coat. When I opened my suitcase to see if I had accidentally packed rather than wearing it, I discovered that I still had no coat but had brought two bottles of red nail polish. No idea why; no recollection of packing them or need for even one, let alone two. I was visiting colleges to see which I might want to apply to and decided I didn't want to live anywhere that gets snowstorms, so the trip definitely helped me make up my mind on that. Anyway, I completely identify with Burr’s coat and handkerchief predicament.]

27. Spent two hours in hunting for some bank bills, my whole stock, and finally gave them up as lost. Found them when and where least expected.

[Rachel: This too is my life.]

29. Caught in the rain, having yesterday left my umbrella at Brentford — no doubt lost.

[Rachel: Same umbrella he borrowed/stole from a friend? Given that this is Aaron Burr, I can’t tell if the answer is “yes, of course,” or “No, because he lost that one earlier and this is a new one.”]

Read out the review of the "Life of Washington" by Marshall and Ramsay. The review is full as stupid, and as illy written, as either of the books. Came down to bring up your journal since Saturday, the 7th, lest such important incidents should not be recorded. I know you will rave like a little Juno if you are not told what I do, and where I go every day. I could write six or eight very amusing pages of the incidents of the last three days, but they must be said and not written. (My journal is four days in arrear. Half will be forgotten. This is Saturday evening. I will try to recollect.)

[Rachel: I will give Burr this: he sounds like a pretty good Dad. He and Theodosia (“you”) obviously have a great relationship. For that matter, he also seems to have been an excellent husband to Theodosia senior (now deceased.)]

7. Went to the stage-house in Piccadilly to inquire for my umbrella, but with little hope. It was there, brought by the coachman; 1 shilling 6 pence. How very honest people are here, and yet I am cheated most impudently every hour!

Sunday. Took leave of B., and sent for hack to transport me and my trunk, being, as you will see by your map, three good miles. No coach was to be had. Went myself — no coach; so here is Gamp [Burr], at 1 in the morning, at Queen's Square Place, writing nonsense to T.B.A. [Theodosia] having let all his fire go out and the last candle just gone. Played chess an hour with K. I have ordered Ann to wake me at 7. For what? When shall I get off?

12. Tom is to bring word of the hour of the stage going to Gaddesden, being determined to go somewhere today. Tom did not return till 1, and brought word that the stage would go at 1; so got coach and went off at a great rate. The stage had been gone 10 m. before I got there.

[Rachel: This ALWAYS happens to him. If he’s on time, his transportation is late. If he’s late, his transportation leaves without him.]

I thought I would go and hunt for some coach going any hour today or night ; but having no place to put my trunk, was obliged to keep the coach. After running about for two hours and spending 9 shillings in coach hire, I discovered, what at any stage-house they might have told me, that no coach would go to Gaddesden till 1 P. M. to-morrow.

[Rachel: Burr gives up and gets a room at a hotel. Needless to say…]

A bed with very dirty sheets, to which I objected; but the maid assured me, upon her honour, that they were very clean, and that she put them on herself. So I am bound to think them clean; but shall, nevertheless, not undress.

[Rachel: Wise of him.]

Since beginning the preceding page, the servants have been three different times in my room to inquire whether they should put out my candles. To the first message I replied very distinctly that I always put out my own candles, and desired that I might not be again interrupted. This did not defend me against the two subsequent intrusions. The object of this affected civility is to save one inch of tallow. This very rigid calculation is universal.

[Rachel: Never not funny how the man who was a distinguished commander in the American Revolution, nearly became President, and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel is invariably bullied, blackmailed, defied, disobeyed, ignored, snubbed, ripped off, and ditched by maids, coachmen, laundresses, bootmakers, and random passengers. Check him out attempting to extract a piece of soap from the maid at his fleabag hotel:]

13. Rose at 9. At the tavern. No soap. Asked for a piece to wash hands. The maid said
soap was so dear that she could not give it without leave, but she would go and ask her mistress, which I forbid, but gave her 1 shillings to go and buy me a piece. She "would tell the footman" — every one in their department! A cake of soap was brought for 15 pence, which will probably last me three months, which is at the rate of 1 penny a week, and at this rate, if there should be twelve lodgers in the house, the value of the soap used by the whole would be 1 shilling 3 pence per week and about 3 guineas per annum!

14. Having made half a dinner at Queen's Square Place, drove off furiously to the White Horse, Piccadilly, to be in time for the Oxford stage. Having waited half an hour and the coach not come, the weather cool, went in to warm. Having warmed half an hour, and wondering at the delay, went out to see. The coach had been gone twenty minutes. My honest coachman, as well to be sheltered from the storm as for repose, had got inside and was sound asleep.

Oxford, December 22. Was called at 6, to be ready for the coach at 7. Gave my baggage to a porter, but, being stopped a minute to make change, he got out of my sight. I missed the way, and when I got to the Bolt Inn the coach had gone.

[Rachel: Of course it had.

What I want to know, since there don’t seem to be any pre-duel diaries, was whether this is just what Burr’s life was always like, or if Hamilton’s ghost was hanging out to make sure that nothing ever went right for him. I lean toward the former, possibly with some additional assistance from the latter: Burr seems more resigned than surprised by his endless catastrophes, and also this is the guy who eventually deals with the candle issue by trying to light it with gunpowder from a pistol he happened to have lying around. This is a man to whom catastrophes don’t merely happen, but are invited with open arms.]

My passage having been paid in the evening, there was no inducement to wait for me. Pursued and had the good fortune to overtake the coach. Found in it one man. Having preserved perfect silence for a few minutes by way of experiment, I remarked that the day was very mild, which he flatly denied, and in a tone and manner as if he would have bit me.

[Rachel: Burr does eventually manage to get a conversation going. He is then joined by a pretty young woman, who initially is friendly, but then…]

After various fruitless essays, and at first without suspecting the cause, finding it impossible to provoke anything beyond a cold monosyllable, I composed myself to sleep, and slept soundly about eight hours. (There must be something narcotic in the air of this island. I have slept more during my six months' residence in Great Britain than in any preceding three years of my life since the age of 14.)

[Rachel: Given the multiple entries to come that begin with “Hungover” or “hungover again” or “took hangover remedy immediately upon waking,” I would not be so quick to blame the air.]

12 o'clock. Still at Birmingham. Full of contrition and remorse. Lost my passage. Lost or spent 28 shillings and a pair of gloves. Every bed in the house engaged. No hope of getting on but by the mail at 7 tomorrow morning. The office shut, and no passage to betaken tonight. What business had I to go sauntering about the streets of a strange place, alone and unarmed, on a Christmas eve? Truly, I want a guardian more than at 15.

[Rachel: Yes. Yes, you are definitely in desperate need of a minder.]
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)

From: [personal profile] rymenhild

Should you have a tag "it could only happen to rachel and aaron burr"?
muccamukk: Spiral staircase decending multiple levels inside a tower.. (LotR: Grey Pilgrim)

From: [personal profile] muccamukk

I feel like this should be an audiobook, but someone bewildered sounding.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)

From: [personal profile] zeborah

also this is the guy who eventually deals with the candle issue by trying to light it with gunpowder from a pistol he happened to have lying around

Oh I just realised: he's James Nicoll!
starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

From: [personal profile] starlady

Suddenly the duel makes a lot more sense. Also the getting arrested in Alabama for treason thing, lol.
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)

From: [personal profile] recessional

came down to bring up your journal since Saturday, the 7th, lest such important incidents should not be recorded. I know you will rave like a little Juno if you are not told what I do, and where I go every day.

. . . I find this very endearing.

Also, since you note Theodosia Sr is deceased, I wonder if she WAS his minder prior to that. XD

From: [identity profile] coyotegoth.livejournal.com

This really is a wonderful counterpoint to my experiences with Burr and the soundtrack to Hamilton.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

It's so utterly different from his portrayal in either, isn't it?

What did you think of Burr and Hamilton?

From: [identity profile] coyotegoth.livejournal.com

I'm a bit hampered in discussing Burr, since I read it almost 30 years ago- I thought Burr himself was a fascinating figure, and the more-or-less revisionist approach Vidal took to the Founding Fathers was a fascinating one (and, perhaps, a pertinent one, given the political upheavals America was going through in the early 70s). Hamilton... I'm still taking in. Burr seems, perhaps, more focused than the journal extracts make him sound to be; the show itself is a breathtaking fusion of cultural approaches; I very much hope to see it onstage someday.

From: [identity profile] egelantier.livejournal.com

this is just so... adorable. like, sad, but adorable. OH BURR. yes you need a guardian!

(he does sound like a solidly decent dad, though).

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I know! I was really surprised by how much I feel for him, sadly wandering around trying to amuse his daughter with his tales of missing coaches and getting locked out of inns, given the reason he's on the run.

Though reading the diary has given me a thought on the duel that never occurred to me before. If this is just how things always go for Burr and everyone knows it, Burr included, the last thing anyone would expect when dueling with him is for anyone to actually get killed. "Most disputes die and no one shoots." He did shoot, obviously, but I am now wondering if he (and everyone) just assumed he'd miss because he never does anything right.

From: [identity profile] helen-keeble.livejournal.com

I'm wondering if Hamilton was just expecting Burr to get to the duel two hours late as usual, by which time everyone would have given up and gone home...

(I wonder if he was on time to the duel?)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

That is a very good question. I have no idea.

Seriously, pre-actual duel, I would have felt quite safe accepting a challenge from Burr. Obviously he'd oversleep and miss the duel, miss the boat to the duel, forget to load his gun, accidentally shoot one of the seconds, etc.

I wonder how good a shot he was really? Apparently the Hamilton line about being a terrible shot was incorrect. (Vidal also has Burr claim that he was a terrible shot, but got lucky once and has been coasting on it ever since.) Maybe he meant to miss but make it look good, and was skilled enough that could have, only he was hungover/unlucky/Aaron Burr.

From: [identity profile] helen-keeble.livejournal.com

Wikipedia says Burr got there half an hour before Hamilton (but gives no citation for this statement). Of course this was the one time in his life he'd manage to be early.

(Hamilton certainly made a career of duels! And the actual Phillip duel is interestingly different to LMM's portrayal)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Yeah, Hamilton was in TEN duels where no shots were fired.

I wonder what Philip was thinking? The rules on deloping are a little confusing and it seems like there wasn't a way to make it clear to the other duelist whether you were moving your gun hand to delope or to take deadly aim.
sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)

From: [personal profile] sovay

Yeah, Hamilton was in TEN duels where no shots were fired.

Then of course it was the one with Burr where somebody's gun finally went off; it was the most ill-fated thing that could have happened.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I know! Reading Burr's journal has completely changed my previous idea on what was up with the duel.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

Dueling in this period (probably in every period) was weird and I wonder if anyone has written a good book on the subject.

I definitely find Burr more sympathetic than the winner of the second-most famous American duel of the period (Barron, who killed Commodore Stephen Decatur).

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com

I haven't read it myself (though it's on my list of books to get around to eventually), but I've seen this one highly recommended: Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling, by Barbara Holland.

From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com

This feels exactly like various entries I have seen people make in various online places, but it needs more varied typography: Told Ann to wake me at 7 BUT FOR WHAT????!!!!!?? Except then the authors of those turn out to be in high school, or college, or inexperienced travelers.

Also, do we ever find out why the pretty young woman stopped being friendly?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

It does, doesn't it? The other thing it reminds me of, not in its content or style but in its startling similarity to extremely modern modes of communication, is The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. "The Top Five Prettiest Sights." "The Ten Most Annoying Things Boyfriends Do." You could practically do a quiz: "Cracked.com or Sei Shonagon?"

He never explains the woman's sudden tun against him. It reads sort of like he thought he'd explained it, but forgot that he didn't actually write that part down. (Or there was so time period issue that I failed to understand.)

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

The bit about "Lost my passage. Lost or spent 28 shillings and a pair of gloves." at first made me think she robbed him, but that wouldn't explain why he's full of "contrition and remorse."

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com

I had the same question about whether Hamilton's ghost was following him around.

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com

Also, I would totally subscribe to his blog. I love human trainwrecks.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Well, you'll more-or-less subscribe to it for a while via me. There's more to come. I haven't even gotten to the infamous how to light a candle (and yourself) with gunpowder incident.
ext_9800: (Default)

From: [identity profile] issen4.livejournal.com

Priceless. I do sympathise with his (and your) travel mishaps!

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com

I am loving these updates! Thanks so much for continuing to post them!

or if Hamilton’s ghost was hanging out to make sure that nothing ever went right for him
Have you read the Hamilton fanfic about that very scenario? It's pretty great: We all defend the role we play

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Oh, yes, that was excellent! There are several very good stories on that theme.

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags