[George Washington's Adopted Daughter Eleanor Parke "Nelly" Custis's Book]. Entertaining and Instructive Exercises, with the Rules of the French Syntax. The Fifth Edition. Eleanor Parke “Nelly” Custis, Jean Baptiste Perrin.
[George Washington's Adopted Daughter Eleanor Parke "Nelly" Custis's Book]. Entertaining and Instructive Exercises, with the Rules of the French Syntax. The Fifth Edition.
[George Washington's Adopted Daughter Eleanor Parke "Nelly" Custis's Book]. Entertaining and Instructive Exercises, with the Rules of the French Syntax. The Fifth Edition.
[George Washington's Adopted Daughter Eleanor Parke "Nelly" Custis's Book]. Entertaining and Instructive Exercises, with the Rules of the French Syntax. The Fifth Edition.
[George Washington's Adopted Daughter Eleanor Parke "Nelly" Custis's Book]. Entertaining and Instructive Exercises, with the Rules of the French Syntax. The Fifth Edition.

[George Washington's Adopted Daughter Eleanor Parke "Nelly" Custis's Book]. Entertaining and Instructive Exercises, with the Rules of the French Syntax. The Fifth Edition.

London: Printed for B. Law, 1787. 16mo (6.875” x 4.25”), full calf, raised bands, blind-stamped covers. iv, 230, [6] pp. of ads. Ownership inscriptions in ink on paste-down, presentation and ownership inscriptions in ink on title page, carved initials and sketches on covers, occasional annotations and sketches in ink in text.

A volume of French syntax from the library of George and Martha Washington’s granddaughter (and adopted daughter) Eleanore Parke “Nelly” Custis, with her signature, monograms, sketches, and a witty comment in the margin of one page.

Nelly’s signature with conjoined initials reading “EPCustis” is on the front pastedown along with her monogram “ECP,” which is also incised into the leather boards—once on the front and twice on the back. She also carved a few doodles into the front cover, one apparently representing a flower and another a bow-tie. A number of early annotations and small sketches apparently in Nelly’s hand appear in the text as well. One comment appears beside the following passage in English (for which certain French words and phrases are provided as well): “Aristides was an Athenian, and, for integrity, was distinguished by the name of the Just. When his countrymen would have banished him by ostracism, wherein it was the custom for every man to sign the name of the person he voted to exile in an oister-shell, a peasant, who could not write, came to Aristides to desire him to do it for him, who readily signed his own name.” An annotation beside this reads: “ce n’est pas possible,” a delightful comment quite in keeping with Nelly’s reputation for wit.

Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis (1779–1852), the youngest of Martha Washington’s grandchildren, was born in Abingdon, Virginia to Eleanor Calvert and John Parke Custis. Following the death of their father and their mother’s remarriage to family friend Dr. David Stuart, Nelly and her brother George Washington Parke Custis moved to Mount Vernon and were effectively adopted by the Washingtons, accompanying them to New York City and Philadelphia when Washington was elected President. Nelly was educated at Isabella Graham’s school in New York, learning French, among many other subjects. She continued with French during the family’s stay in Philadelphia for part of Washington’s second term, while they awaited the building of the capital city on the Potomac. Washington’s household notebook from that time (1793–94) includes an account for money paid to Nelly’s “French Master” for books he bought from Mathew Carey. The book offered here may very well have been among them. Nelly was thirteen or fourteen at the time.

“As a result of all this study, Nelly won praise from those who met her as a young woman. Polish nobleman Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz visited Mount Vernon in the summer of 1798 and found Nelly to be ‘one of those celestial figures that nature produces only rarely, that the inspiration of painters has sometimes divined and that one cannot see without ecstasy. Her sweetness is equal to her beauty, and this being, so perfect of form, possesses all the talents: she plays the harpsichord, sings, [and] draws better than any woman in America or even in Europe.’” (Thompson, Eleanor "Nelly" Parke Custis). A spirited young lady and apparently one of the few people who could make George Washington laugh out loud, Nelly was a great favorite of his.

In 1799, at the age of nineteen, Nelly married the President’s nephew, Lawrence Lewis. The book offered here is additionally inscribed at the top of the title page: “A. Thomson from Mrs. E. P. Lewis.” Edward Parke Custis Lewis was the grandson of Lawrence Lewis and Nelly Custis.

A rare and evocative volume from the library of Nelly Custis.

REFERENCES: Thompson, Mary V. Eleanor "Nelly" Parke Custis at mountvernon.org; Brady, Patricia, ed. George Washington's Beautiful Nelly: The Letters of Eleanor Parke Custis to Elizabeth Bordley Gibson, 1794-1851. (Columbia, SC, 1996.)

Item #6866

Price: $3,750.00