When researching my biographical novel about Aaron Burr's last wife Eliza Jumel, I came across a quote about Aaron: "He was catnip to women" attributed to historian Ray Swick. I wanted to include that in my book, and figured he'd been one of Aaron's buddies who lived in the 19th century or even earlier, during Aaron's salad days as a ladies' man AND catnip (he was very good looking! Take a gander, below)
I asked one of my Aaron Burr Association friends, Marty Kakuk, who told me that Ray Swick is very much alive and living in West Virginia! She put me in touch with him, and I asked his permission to use his quote. He graciously obliged.
The book went on sale, with Ray's quote, and he sent me this message just last week:
Do you believe that confession is good for the soul? I trust you will, because mine is about to descend upon you. For many years, since I coined the phrase about Aaron Burr being "catnip to women", I labored under the illusion that it was an original thought that had descended on me one day courtesy of Clio, the muse of history. But lo and behold, not long after I dispatched written permission to you to use the expression in your book, while sorting through some of my books while downsizing my library, I happened across some old copies of the American Heritage magazine. I was scanning through the stack to see if I should save any of them, when my eye lit upon an article in the August 1965 issue. About Rudolph Valentino, it is entitled, "The Overloved One". In an early paragraph there appears a line that almost made me drop my upper plate: "H. L. Mencken...described the Sheik as 'catnip to women'. So you see, quite unwittingly, I am a FAKE! I can only suppose that, decades ago, I read the article and the phrase lodged in my subconscious.
I am going into such detail in case some voracious reader will come across the American Heritage piece and then accuse you of misquoting the catnip phrase. So all I can say is, Forgive! Please Forgive!!!
Ray, you are forgiven, and I hope my readers will forgive him, too!
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