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'The Virginians', a sequel to William M. Thackeray's 'Henry Esmond', is a fictional history of Henry Esmond's daughter, Madam Esmond of Castlewood estate in Virginia, and her twin sons, George and Henry Warrington. George, born a half hour before his brother Harry could not have been more different from his brother. George loved books and had a more earnest, serious and introspective disposition than the younger Harry, who loved sports, gambling (especially card playing) and had an out-going and fun loving nature. George was also a playwright, if not an altogether successful one. For a long while Harry is believed to be the soul surviving brother and heir to Castlewood, and is treated by everyone as such. For all their differences, no two brothers ever loved or were as devoted to one another more. This long and sometimes meandering, but often energetically narrated novel, set both in England and in Virginia, recounts the brothers' relationships with their class-conscious British cousins, particularly Harry's with his cousins Maria, with whom he has dutifully promised to marry, and Will, as irrascible and unpleasant a man as one is likely to meet in a novel. The saintly Lambert family, who nurse Harry back to health after he falls from a horse become thereafter a very important part of Harry's life. The French and Indian Wars in North America and the American Revolution form a critical backdrop in the novel and provide some of its most stirring scenes. George and Harry fight on opposite sides during the Revolution, with George taking the side of the Royalists loyal to King George III and Harry eventually becoming a general, serving alongside George Washington. Washington is presented up close and in person as never before seen in a novel, first as a young man and potential suitor to the brothers' widowed mother, and later as the mature commander-in-chief of the Continental Army of the new American Republic. While Madam Esmond is generally an unsympathetic and meddlesome woman, especially regarding potential marriages of her sons to women she finds unsuitable, she is undoubtedly courageous in her protection of Castlewood during the years of the Revolution, even as she maintains a staunch allegiance to the wrong side.
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