Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mount Vernon in Winter, Where George Washington Read Many Books

Succombed by a polar vortex. College classes looming. What to do? Read a book? Or learn about one who read many books when a formal education was denied to him? With only a few days left in the exhibit, we finally got to see Take Note!, an exhibit at Mount Vernon about George Washington's books. Sadly, I could not take any pictures, as they are not allowed. However, imagine 18th century bound leather bound books, inset with marbelized paper, some stamped with George Washington's personal bookplate or signature. These were laid inside clear cases on stands, opened to a page he once pondered. The edges were a bit worn, but the books were in grand condition, obviously well treasured by one who did not take education for granted. Destined for a classical education in England, Washington's father died while he was young. His grammar school education in Virginia abruptly ended, while he taught himself surveying, since he needed a trade to live by. Meanwhile, he set aside some of his earnings to buy classics to read. Washington may not have been able to discuss the great ideas or debate arguments of time with peers in the classroom, hammering out thoughts and details, yet he read the same books they did. His knowledge base was as strong, although his rhetoric may not have been as developed. A lifetime of reading lay before he developed into a soldier, statesman, commander-in-chief, and president who knew full well what happened in history, to guide him as he made history. 

As we entered the exhibit, the doorway was framed by giant leatherbound books. The displays were sequenced by chapter numbers on the walls. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Pinterest board at the end, owned by none other than George Washington. He had many likes and pins from men such as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette! This 21st century form of networking symbolized the 18th century form of networking with which Washington engaged with men such as Jefferson and Lafayette, as they discoursed through letters about farming practices, politics, and such.

The exhibit is now past, but the exhibit book is for sale at Mount Vernon. (The exhibit book and some photos are at the link, above.)

After touring the exhibit, we explored the grounds in their winter attire. It was quite cold outside, nevertheless the sheep kept quite warm.


General Washington's view of home, after many years at war. I love to stand here and ponder his feelings and emotions at this moment. The soldier/statesman, like Cincinnatus, was home.


We dodged a few piles of snow as we ventured to the back of the house. What does the Potomac River look like in winter?  Did it have any ice from these days of polar vortex deep freeze? Having only moved to Virginia from Texas a few years ago, we were quite curious. 


I paused in the freezing cold to capture a great architectural angle that is rare to achieve in the busy summer season, since this curved portico is the passageway for the many guests on the house tour.


We walked to Washington's tomb nearest the river, the first one, the one that Lafayette visited on his grand tour so long ago. Grief ripped through him as he recalled the man he called his "adopted father..."


We ventured closer to the Potomac and found ripples of water running between the ice sheets, floating down the river...



Washington took daily rides on his property and I'm sure that on the wintery days such as this, a good book near the fire near his family was a delight to look forward to.

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