Wednesday, April 9, 2014

the last book I ever read (Gore Vidal's Burr, excerpt seventeen)

from Burr: A Novel by Gore Vidal:

As I entered the drawing-room, I was astonished to see that John Marshall was a member of the company. If he was startled to see me, he made no sign. Later Wickham told me that Marshall quite properly questioned the wisdom of a judge dining with a man who must soon appear before him on a grave charge; nevertheless, he had decided to attend the dinner.

We bowed to one another across the room, and I promptly sought the company of my various lawyers (I would have preferred the company of ladies but none ever attended Mr. Wickham’s legal dinners). That season, by the way, was a splendid one for the ladies; or perhaps I should say for their admirers. The so-called Empire fashion had swept America and even the most respectable of maidens (and, alas, the most mature of matrons) wore high bodices two-thirds bare. It is a moot point which issue most concerned the republic in the summer of 1807: my alleged treason or the brazen and ubiquitous baring of breasts that called forth from every pulpit warnings of the wrath of Jehovah. The lascivious press was in an ecstasy: teats and treason—could any other combination be more popular?

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