By Mary Hassal
Written by A Lady At Cape Francois
to Colonel Burr
Books For Libraries Press, Freeport, NY, 1971
ISBN #: 0-8369-8832-9
Originally published in 1808, this purported series of letters to Aaron Burr is an account of the period when Henri Christophe burned Cap Francois (1802) until the time of Dessaline's massacre of the whites in 1805.
The book is gossipy, giving salacious accounts of various affairs going on among the wealthy whites and mulattos of Cap Francois. It also details the fashions of the day and what the idle rich did for amusement while the colony was crumbling around them.
There are interesting insights into the Haitian Revolution itself, particularly the accounts of the characters and methods of operating of Generals Leclerc and Rochambeau, both of whom Mary Hassal disliked intensely.
At the outset I called these the "purported" letters of Mary Hassal. Perhaps they were really letters. But I get the distinct impression that they were written during one concentrated writing time, and not as letters over a long period. The letters have too much continuity. Each picks up exactly where the last one has ended, and the lead-ins to new stories is too perfect. Added to this are the last series of letters which are not only Mary Hassal's letters to her sister in Cuba, but her sister's letters back to her. It works too much like a novel. Perhaps they were just heavily edited letters.
Regardless whether the letters are fact or fiction, they are fast reading and provide some nice emotive tone to the period of the Haitian Revolution. However, aside from a few tidbits here and there, one doesn't learn much about the Revolution itself. However, she does maintain that life under the Leclerc occupation was generally regarded as worse than rule had been under Toussaint.
A fun but light-weight volume.
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