Landon Carter was one of the wealthiest planter patriarchs in Virginia, a man of letters and Enlightenment science and a member of the House of Burgesses from 1752 until 1768. Carter claimed he was the first person in America to sound the alarm over the coming Stamp Act. In 1774, he became the chair of his county's boycott committee and was a militant patriot until his death in 1778.

In addition to the public record, we know more about him through his remarkable diary. Historian Rhys Isaac, who received the Pulitzer Prize for The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790, became a literary editor of sorts to guide us authoritatively through Landon Carter's Uneasy Kingdom: Revolution and Rebellion on a Virginia Plantation. The result is a rich source for anyone interested in biography or in the revolutionary era.

One aspect of the diary, influenced by Virgil's Eclogues, is a 22-year record that contains "the most elaborated and revealing English-language farm journalÉfrom the 18th-century age of agricultural improvement." Another is what Isaac calls "gentrylore," the mix of new and old narrative cycles to craft true stories about wayward slaves. There are also stories of family tensions. Throughout all of this we are given Carter's self-justifying reasoning, his concern with doing his duty to God.

This unique book takes us into a world quite unlike our own and yet as Isaac reminds us, "the struggles he recorded are really timeless . . . and, above all, every one is Landon himself."

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