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A Way Of Life Gone By–Reaches Out To Be Known–Thanks To Geoffrey O’Brien

August 26, 2019

Real-life stories set in the Gilded Age are slices of Americana that reach out to us and ask for remembrance.

Some years back I read a review for The Fall Of The House Of Walworth which was so interesting I bought the book from Amazon.  This weekend I needed to venture into something different from the books now underway.  So I opened the work by Geoffrey O’Brien and was taken back to 1873 with a narrative that strips the near century and a half away and opens the doors to high society and strong passions.  The author is not just another person who set about to write a book.  Being the Editor to the Library of America, and a proven wordsmith makes his journey into the genealogical files of the Walworth family along with the telling of their painful ending seem almost as if readers are simply next door looking in on a scene being played out in either New York City or Saratoga Springs.

The book rings with the names of John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster but the reader will gravitate to the 19-year-old Frank Walworth who calmly shot his father, Mansfield Walworth, in a New York City hotel room.  Mansfield, the son of a prominent and powerful judge, had divorced his wife, Ellen, and abandoned Frank.  Furthermore, Frank believed Mansfield intended to physically harm Ellen, based on letters mailed to her. A jury convicted Frank, who served prison time but managed to walk out a free man after serving his sentence.

But that, of course, is not the whole story.

As my readers know when it comes to books that pull me into the pages, the one thing that wins me over is meticulous research done by the author.  That is absolutely the case here.   I am not a fan of true crime stories.  So it needs stating that while this book is largely just that,  the history and way of life during the Civil War and then into the Gilded Age allow for this book to be much enjoyed by those seeking insight into that slice of our past.  For me, that was the winning touch.

One of the side stories to the book is the role of Catholicism along with religious mania, which often leaves more stain than light on society.  The role and influence of religion is a part of the book which is illuminating for readers.

I would highly encourage the reading of this book for entertainment and learning something as the pages turn.  For instance, Walworth County in Wisconsin was named for the chancellor in 1836.


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