Boldly penned ALS signed “Go: Washington,” one page, 6.25 x 7.5, September 25, 1773. Letter to Samuel Athawes of London. In full: “Your letter of the 30th of March to Col. Fairfax, never came to my hands (as his Attorney in Fact) till the middle of this month—so much thereof as relates to the mismanagement of his tob[acc]o. I shall communicate to his steward—the other parts respecting his affairs in England you, doubtless, long before this have had an opportunity of communicating yourself, as he with his Lady embarked for London about the 10th of last month. According to his desire, I take the liberty of addressing the enclosed letter to your care and am sir, your most obedient servant.” Washington has docketed the reverse, “Copy Letter to Samuel Athaws, Esqr. 25th Sep. 1773.” Letter is archivally sleeved in acid-free Mylar. A central vertical fold, overall toning, a couple trivial edge chips, small tape repair to reverse, and light show-through from Washington’s docketing on reverse, otherwise fine condition. Accompanied by a two-page letter from the associate editor of The Papers of George Washington at the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia, providing interesting biographical background on the Fairfax and Athawe families, and their relations with Washington.
This letter concerns Washington’s relationship—business and personal—with Colonel George William Fairfax, a fellow member of Virginia’s elite. After inheriting the Belvoir estate down river from Mount Vernon he became one of Washington’s closest friends, and records show that he and his wife, Sally Fairfax, were Washington’s most frequent visitors. When business forced Fairfax to England in 1773, he granted Washington power of attorney and designated him to look after his interests at Belvoir. Samuel Athawes acted as a British agent for a number of prominent Virginia planters who exported tobacco to England and counted Fairfax among his clients. Perhaps most interesting about this letter is Washington’s reference to “he with his Lady”—that is, George William and Sally Fairfax—as Washington is known for his infatuation with Sally; his letters famously suggest that he fell deeply in love with her prior to his own marriage. Despite plans otherwise, the Fairfaxes did not return to America and Washington never saw Sally again. Thus, with her embarkation for London around August 10, 1773, Sally Fairfax put an end to one of the most famous love affairs in American history. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.