Scandal at Bizzare: Rumor and Reputation in Jefferson's America

Overview

Scandal at Bizarre masterfully evokes the world of the Randolphs of Virginia, one of the South's most prominent colonial-era families. With a telling eye for detail, Cynthia Kierner unravels the details of a scandal that haunted this family for generations. In the early 1790s Richard Randolph was accused of fathering a child by his sister-in-law, Nancy, and murdering the baby shortly after its birth. Richard was acquitted of the crime in court but spent the rest of his life in the shadow of the scandal. The rest ...
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Overview

Scandal at Bizarre masterfully evokes the world of the Randolphs of Virginia, one of the South's most prominent colonial-era families. With a telling eye for detail, Cynthia Kierner unravels the details of a scandal that haunted this family for generations. In the early 1790s Richard Randolph was accused of fathering a child by his sister-in-law, Nancy, and murdering the baby shortly after its birth. Richard was acquitted of the crime in court but spent the rest of his life in the shadow of the scandal. The rest of the household suffered too, and only Nancy, who later married the prominent New York statesman Gouverneur Morris, would find any degree of happiness, while Richard's brother, the powerful politician John Randolph, did everything in his power to undermine her. A tale of family passion, betrayal, and deception, Scandal at Bizarre is a fascinating historical portrait of the social and political realities of a world long vanished.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Here's a scholarly book that artfully relates a riveting tale with lasting historical repercussions and significance. Readers will be drawn by the story of a strong woman who may have been wronged; the great Randolph family of Virginia torn asunder; the implication of members of Thomas Jefferson's circle; slaves' whispers fanning the flames of scandal; and eventual reconciliation of sorts. Although "bizarre" characterizes the story itself, it was in fact the name of the Virginia plantation of Richard and Judith Randolph. Upon their visit to a neighboring plantation in 1792, something went seriously wrong, something that remains a mystery to this day-was it a miscarriage resulting from premarital or extramarital sex? Or was it infanticide? Kierner, who teaches early American and women's history at UNC-Charlotte, reports with a colorist's deft touch and a fiction writer's delight while remaining faithful to scholarly conventions and trends. In trying to draw the last drop of meaning from her tale, Kierner sometimes strains, but she never lets her wide learning and skilled professionalism intrude on her tale's momentum. This account analyzes part of the reality of Jefferson's Virginia in the nation's early years. Kierner makes us look at the world of the founders in all its messy complexity and humanity. B&w illus., maps. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
What happened on the night of October 1, 1792, is the centerpiece of this social history of post-revolutionary Virginia planter society. Kierner (history, Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte) uses that night's event-an apparent case of infanticide-to open a window to the social, political, and cultural life of a society in transition. The rumor spread that Nancy Randolph of the prominent Randolph family of Virginia had a baby that night and that the father was her sister's husband and distant cousin, Richard Randolph. Although Nancy claimed that she had a miscarriage and that Richard's single brother Theo was the father, the rumors persisted. This story shows the crumbling of this society as even prominent families were openly criticized and challenged by working-class whites and slaves. She examines the important role played by slaves and how they used gossip as a form of social rebellion. Kierner follows the life of Nancy Randolph who ultimately led a full and successful life, marrying the prominent New Yorker Gouverneur Morris and raising their son. Well written and researched, this book is recommended for larger libraries and where there is interest in the post-revolutionary period.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ., PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403961150
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 12/10/2004
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia A. Kierner teaches early American and women's history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Among her other publications are Beyond the Household: Women's Place in the Early South, 1700-1835 and Traders and Gentlefolk: The Livingstons of New York, 1675-1790. She resides in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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Table of Contents

Prologue

Introduction

Scandal at Bizarre

Order and the Court

Spreading the Word

Decayed Gentry

Family Matters

Conclusion
Prologue

Introduction

Scandal at Bizarre

Order and the Court

Spreading the Word

Decayed Gentry

Family Matters

Conclusion

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