Immortal Wife, by Irving Stone. 8vo., 456 pages and list of sources; no illustrations. New York : Doubleday Doran & Co., 1944. Price $3.00
This is the biography of Jessie Benton Fremont, daughter of Thomas Hart Benton, first Senator from Missouri, and wife of the early explorer of the West, John C. Frémont.
From a strictly mountain climbing point of view, the interest in this popular biography would be limited to the single page (p. 77) in which Fremont describes to his wife the difficulties and beauties of his famous scene in the Wind River Range—“The highest point in the Central Rockies” to quote from Frémont’s words. Jessie Frémont’s comment to her husband’s enthusiastic report, “That is a lovely story,” strikes a chord of sympathy with every mountaineering reader. This ascent is the first genuine mountaineering exploit within the limits of Continental United States, Popocatepetl having been climbed over 300 years before, as the first mountaineering ascent in the Western hemisphere, by the Spanish.
To those of us interested in the broader background of mountaineering in the west, this biography is, however, most interesting —as a historical record of the blazing of the trails by which the west was opened to settlers, California added to the Union, the gold of the Sierras developed, and the first trans-continental railways laid out—without all of which the Rockies would still be inaccessible to climbers.
The whole book is very readable and, to the best of my knowledge, historically correct in every detail. From a great uncle of mine who was a member of the 27th Congress (1841-1843) I happen to have a notebook carrying the autographs of all the members of both houses at that time, many of whom are mentioned in Immortal Wife, and I propose to have those pages of about 250 autographs re-bound into a copy of the subject of this review, for the shelves of the A. A. C. library.