My editor’s notes for revisions to the 464-page manuscript of my next nonfiction release, INGLORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES: A Demillennium of Unholy Mismatrimony (NAL/November 2014), just arrived in my inbox yesterday, so this will be a brief post, as I need to buckle down ASAP.
I think this is my first History Hoydens Post since moving down to our nation’s capital. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t taken advantage of the myriad opportunities to explore the cool things about the city, steeped as it is in history; but last Sunday my husband decided that I needed to get out a bit more.
So we went on a two-hour walking tour of "Georgetown during the War of 1812." The irony is that the war didn’t really touch Georgetown proper—except that we DID begin the tour at the federal-era Dumbarton House, now the HQ of the Colonial Dames of America, known as the place where Dolley Madison (my favorite First Lady) stopped for tea on August 24, 1814, the day she fled the White House with, among other things, Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington, just hours before the British torched the place.
Who knew there would be snacks! What a great way to start the tour. The lovely people at Dumbarton House had baked up Dolley’s favorite dessert, a slightly sweet, dense cake with a hard caramel drizzle nicknamed “Dolley cakes,” in personal cupcake/muffin-sizes. Thanks to Martha Stewart, we can all reproduce the recipe. http://www.marthastewart.com/330232/dolley-madison-layer-cake
We also associate Dolley with her passion for ice cream. Evidently her favorite flavor was, even then, an acquired taste, and as such, the Colonial Dames decided not to offer their guests a taste. Dolley Madison was a big fan of oyster ice cream. And nowadays we think savory ice creams are innovative!
I was rather tickled because the owner of Dumbarton House, which was then called Belle Vue -- the man who offered his hospitality and sanctuary to the fleeing FLOTUS was a man named Charles Carroll! [Full disclosure: no relation--but it was fun to pretend.]
Writing of the parlous event to her sister Lucy Payne Washington Todd, Dolley told her:
"Our kind friend, Mr. Carroll, has come to hasten my departure, and is in a very bad humour with me because I insist on waiting until the large picture of General Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvas taken out. It is done! and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen from New York, for safekeeping. And now, dear sister, I must leave this house, or the retreating army will make me a prisoner in it by filling up the road I am directed to take. When I shall again write to you, or where I shall be tomorrow, I cannot tell!"
It was rather marvelous to hear about a story that has entered the lexicon of American myths and legends and to learn how much of it was really true. A historical novelist's dream come true!
Are you a Dolley Madison fan?