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12 Excellent Lyrical Annotations from Hamilton: The Revolution

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After months of waiting, Hamilton: The Revolution—or, as fans call it, the #Hamiltome—finally hit stories today. The book, co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, traces the creation of the groundbreaking Broadway musical chronologically, from its inception on vacation to its opening night, and features annotations to the libretto written by Miranda himself. Through the informative and often delightful annotations, Miranda not only fact checks his work and explores how he felt writing the songs, but demonstrates how Hamilton changed over time. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. “ALEXANDER HAMILTON”

Burr
There would have been nothing left to do
For someone less astute
He woulda been dead or destitute
Without a cent or restitution …

It famously took Miranda a year to write Hamilton’s opening number, which compresses the protagonist’s first 19 years into a single song. Midway through, “We double the tempo … because Hamilton’s found his way out: He’s going to double down on his education, and make himself undeniable,” Miranda writes. “The image in my head is of Harry Potter finding out he’s a wizard. Everything suddenly makes sense.”

2. “AARON BURR, SIR”

Hamilton
… I may have punched him. It’s a blur, sir.
He handles the financials?

Burr
You punched the bursar.

Hamilton
Yes!

Miranda writes that Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow “blanched a bit at this historical leap—Hamilton wasn’t needlessly violent—but the rhyme was too good to pass up.” (The lyrical annotations for this song also contain the second reference to Harry Potter in Hamilton: The Revolution: “This whole section is basically Harry Potter meeting Draco Malfoy before meeting his real friends,” Miranda writes. “Just Hamilton’s luck to meet his temperamental opposite.”)

3. “THE STORY OF TONIGHT”

In the annotations for “The Story of Tonight,” Miranda reveals that he wrote the melody for the song when he was just 16. “I had a doo-wop group with four other friends, and I’d written this song called ‘I’ve Got a Bridge to Sell You,’” he writes. (“I’ve got a bridge to sell you” became Laurens singing “No matter what they tell you…”) “When it came time to write this number for the show, that melody did everything I wanted this scene to do: It conveyed a yearning and innocence I felt in finding a group of friends to sing with me.”

4. “YOU’LL BE BACK”

Inspiration can strike at unexpected moments—like, say, when you’re having a drink with Hugh Laurie. “I told him I wanted to write a breakup letter from King George to the colonies,” Miranda writes. “Without blinking, he improv’d at me, ‘Awwww, you’ll be back,’ wagging his finger. I laughed and filed it away. Thanks, Hugh Laurie.” Miranda wrote George III’s song while on honeymoon with his wife, sans piano.

5. “THE STORY OF TONIGHT (REPRISE)”

Hamilton
It’s alright, Burr. I wish you’d brought this special girl with you tonight, Burr.

Burr
You’re very kind, but I’m afraid it’s unlawful, sir.

Hamilton
What do you mean?

Burr
She’s married.

Hamilton
I see.

Burr
She’s married to a British officer.

Learning this key fact about Burr was a turning point for Miranda. “[I]t wasn’t til I read this detail online—that Theodosia was married to a British officer when Aaron Burr met her, and he waited until she was available—that the character of Burr came free in my imagination,” Miranda writes. “Imagine Hamilton waiting—for anything. That’s when I realized our task was not to dramatize not two ideological opposites, but a fundamental difference in temperament. No easy task. But that was the task.”

6. “THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH”

Eliza
We don’t need a legacy.
We don’t need money.
If I could grant you peace of mind…

“My first draft of this song ended here, but I revisited the tune after writing ‘Burn’ in Act Two,” Miranda writes. “Tommy [Kail] and I discussed making Eliza even more active here—not just expressing this sentiment, but asking to be let into Hamilton’s internal life. If she’s ‘erasing herself from the narrative’ in Act Two, she needs to be part of it in Act One. I love this way this last section soars—I can’t imagine the song without it now.”

7. “GUNS AND SHIPS”

Lafayette
Sir, he knows what to do in a trench
Ingenuitive and fluent in French, I mean—

Of the word ingenuitive, Manuel writes, “I thought everyone knew this word, yet I don’t know where I’ve heard it. … It’s apparently a super-archaic word. I really don’t know where I met it, but it was there for me when I needed it.”

8. “YORKTOWN (THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN)”

“The World Turned Upside Down” was an actual song, which was actually sung by British soldiers after their defeat at the Battle of Yorktown. But that song is not the one you hear in Hamilton. “I sought out the actual song and it’s … well, it’s a drinking song,” Miranda writes. “It’s sprightly and lively and fun to sing with a pint in your hand, but it didn’t serve me musically. So I wrote my own melody for it.”

9. “TAKE A BREAK”

Hamilton
My dearest Angelica,
“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day”
I trust you’ll understand the reference to
Another Scottish tragedy without my having to name the play…

“This used to be a really obscure Macbeth quote: ‘They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly, but, bear-like, I must fight the course,’” Miranda writes. “Then Oskar Eustis said, ‘Lin, I run the Shakespeare Festival and even I don’t get the reference.’ … So I went with one of the greatest hits.”

10. “CABINET BATTLE #2”

Hamilton
We signed a treaty with a King whose head is now in a basket
Would you like to take it out and ask it?
“Should we honor our treaty, King Louis’ head?”
“Uh… do whatever you want, I’m super dead.”

In “Cabinet Battle #2,” Hamilton and Jefferson verbally spar over whether or not the United States should provide aid to France during its revolution. Jefferson, former Ministers to France, argues in favor; Hamilton argues against—and wins. “Originally, Hamilton’s argument was as long as Jefferson’s, but I realized I wasn’t gonna top this punchline,” Miranda writes. “Also, Washington cutting him off and agreeing with him nicely leads us into the next song: Hamilton is winning without trying, because he and Washington are in lockstep on this issue.”

11. “THE REYNOLDS PAMPHLET”

Angelica
I know my sister like I know my own mind
You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind
I love my sister more than anything in this life
I will choose her happiness over mine every time
Put what we had aside
I’m standing at her side
You could never be satisfied
God, I hope you’re satisfied

Hamilton was involved in one of the first sex scandals in our nation’s history. After he began an affair with Maria Reynolds in the early 1790s, the woman’s husband, James, began blackmailing him. Several years later, this led to Hamilton being accused of speculation; he published a pamphlet to clear his name that revealed all the tawdry details of his affair: The so-called Reynolds Pamphlet. Angelica’s mic-drop moment wasn’t originally in the song at all. “This was originally part of a longer tune titled ‘Congratulations,’” Miranda writes. “It came between ‘The Reynolds Pamphlet’ and ‘Burn.’” When it became clear that the audience wanted to see Eliza’s reaction to Hamilton’s betrayal, Miranda incorporated parts of “Congratulations” into “The Reynolds Pamplet.” “I love how different it is from everything else in this section,” he writes. “It contributes to the feeling that the world is crashing, pathos within celebration within schadenfreude.”

12. “YOUR OBEDIENT SERVANT”

In “Your Obedient Servant,” Burr and Hamilton trade increasingly angry letters—Burr accusing Hamilton of slandering his good name, Hamilton asking for specifics and refusing to back down—that eventually lead to their fateful duel. (You can read the actual correspondence here.) “Originally, my lyrics for these letters were super historically accurate, but I could feel us losing the audience,” Miranda writes. “I figured, if they can’t speak plainly here, then when?”

You can order Hamilton: The Revolution here.

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12 Smart Book Ideas for Everyone in Your Life
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Books make the perfect gift: they're durable, transportable, and they promise some (hopefully) quality alone time. But what do you get the aunt who loves mystery novels if you're not familiar with the genre? Or the nephew who devours travelogues and goes backpacking around the world? Look no further—we've got them covered, plus 10 other very specific categories.

1. FOR THE VINTAGE COOKBOOK LOVER: LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES: THE LIFE, ART, AND COOKBOOK OF CIPE PINELES, EDITED BY SARAH RICH,‎ WENDY MACNAUGHTON, DEBBIE MILLMAN, AND MARIA POPOVA; $27

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Author Sarah Rich and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton fell in love with the work of Cipe Pineles, the first female art director at Condé Nast, after discovering her recipes at a San Francisco antiquarian book fair. Filled with vibrantly colored illustrations, Leave Me Alone With the Recipes shows the joyful spirit and homespun flair that made Pineles’s work so influential. Alongside the recipes, the book includes contributions from luminaries in the worlds of food and illustration, including artist Maira Kalman and Maria Popova of Brain Pickings renown.

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2. FOR ANYONE HAVING SURGERY THIS YEAR: THE BUTCHERING ART: JOSEPH LISTER’S QUEST TO TRANSFORM THE GRISLY WORLD OF VICTORIAN MEDICINE BY LINDSEY FITZHARRIS; $27

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Back in the bad old days of medicine, a consistently blood-soaked apron was a sign of pride. Surgeons rarely washed them—or their hands, or their operating tools. Joseph Lister, the somewhat reluctant hero of Lindsey Fitzharris's new book The Butchering Art, was the genius who convinced the medical world that germs were not only real but a major cause of mortality in their hospitals. With an eye for vivid details and the colorful characters of 19th century medicine, Fitzharris has crafted a book that will make you thank Lister for his foresight—and make you glad you weren't alive back then.

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What constitutes a "family"? In his latest book, A.J. Jacobs (famed for lifestyle experiments like trying to live an entire year in accordance with the Bible) delves into the world of genetics and genealogy to try and orchestrate the world's largest family reunion. With his trademark humor and insight, he ends up exploring the interconnectedness of all of humankind.

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4. FOR THE SOCIALLY AWARE YOUNG ADULT: THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS; $18

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Already caught between the conflicting worlds of the poor neighborhood where she lives and her fancy prep school, 16-year-old Starr Carter finds herself in the middle of a tragedy when her childhood best friend is shot and killed by a police officer. As his death becomes a national flashpoint, it becomes clear that she may be the only person alive who can explain what really happened that night. Angie Thomas's writing has earned praise for being gut-wrenching, searing, and deftly crafted; Publishers Weekly called the book "heartbreakingly topical."

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You might think you know the Roosevelts, but historian William J. Mann looks beyond the well-worn stories to expose the bitter rivalries that drove its most famous members' quest for power. Along the way, he examines the Roosevelts who were kept away from the limelight, and the secrets they hold—all told in dramatic style.

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An amusement park in a salt mine? Check. A tree so big it has its own pub? Check. A giant hole that's been spouting flames for 40 years? Check. This guidebook is a compendium of the world's strangest and most wonderful places, and it's guaranteed to inspire some serious wanderlust, especially in more adventurous travelers. For the complete experience, you can also get an awesome wall calendar featuring destinations from the book designed as vintage travel posters; there's a page-a-day desk calendar and explorers' journal too.

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7. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES WEIRD HISTORY: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW SELECTED ESSAYS; $20

The Public Domain Review is one of the premier online destination for fans of curious history. If you know someone who enjoys stories about weird medieval medicine treaties, ancient automata, deranged 18th century scientists, and other odd subjects well off the beaten historical path, look no further than this book of essays (the site's fourth).

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At the heart of every good mystery is a (usually dastardly) perpetrator, whether it's a Count Dracula or a Jimmy Valentine. With this anthology, Edgar Award winner Otto Penzler has combed through 150 years of literary history to find 72 stories featuring the most famous and entertaining antiheroes authors have ever been able to dream up.

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9. FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THE BORSCHT BELT IS: JEWISH COMEDY: A SERIOUS HISTORY BY JEREMY DAUBER; $28.95

Jews and humor go together like challah and Manischewitz (after all, as my bubbie says, if you don't laugh, you'll cry). In this "serious history," Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber considers the origins of Jewish humor in Biblical times through its life on Twitter today; how it's reflected—and even influenced—Jewish history; the production of major archetypes like the Jewish mother; and the prominence of Jewish comedians like Sarah Silverman and Larry David. You don't have to be Jewish to love it, but it may help you understand the in-jokes.

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10. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES DARK SHORT STORIES: HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES, BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO; $16

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A story told in the form of Law & Order episode summaries. A strange plague that makes girls go invisible, as narrated by a mall worker. A recollection of romantic encounters with the last of humanity’s survivors. In this collection, Carmen Maria Machado fuses urban legends, dystopian tropes, and heavy helpings of sexuality to create a new kind of magical realism strangely appropriate to our era. The images will haunt you long after you put the book down, if you let them.

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11. FOR THE PERSON WHO LOVES BIG-DEAL LITERARY NOVELS AND ALSO ABRAHAM LINCOLN: LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, BY GEORGE SAUNDERS; $18

A meditation on sorrow and the Civil War populated by a rag-tag group of ghosts, Lincoln in the Bardo starts with the real-life death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, Abraham's son. In the book, Willie has entered the Bardo—a Tibetan Buddhist term for a transitional limbo—where there's a fierce struggle underway for his soul.

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Can’t decide what to get, but feeling generous? Give your friend who loves to read a new hardcover book of their choice every month. Literary fans who are short on time will love having someone else do the legwork to find the best new novels; plus, there’s early access to new releases. Prices vary depending on the length of the subscription, and there’s a deal right now where you can get a month free when you give a subscription as a gift.

Find It: Book of the Month

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10 Little Facts About Louisa May Alcott
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Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Born on this day in 1832, Louisa May Alcott led a fascinating life. Besides enchanting millions of readers with her novel Little Women, she worked as a Civil War nurse, fought against slavery, and registered women to vote. In honor of her birthday, here are 10 facts about Alcott.

1. SHE HAD MANY FAMOUS FRIENDS.

Louisa's parents, Bronson and Abigail Alcott, raised their four daughters in a politically active household in Massachusetts. As a child, Alcott briefly lived with her family in a failed Transcendentalist commune, helped her parents hide slaves who had escaped via the Underground Railroad, and had discussions about women’s rights with Margaret Fuller. Throughout her life, she socialized with her father’s friends, including Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Although her family was always poor, Alcott had access to valuable learning experiences. She read books in Emerson’s library and learned about botany at Walden Pond with Thoreau, later writing a poem called "Thoreau’s Flute" for her friend. She also socialized with abolitionist Frederick Douglass and women’s suffrage activist Julia Ward Howe.

2. HER FIRST NOM DE PLUME WAS FLORA FAIRFIELD.

As a teenager, Alcott worked a variety of teaching and servant jobs to earn money for her family. She first became a published writer at 19 years old, when a women’s magazine printed one of her poems. For reasons that are unclear, Alcott used a pen name—Flora Fairfield—rather than her real name, perhaps because she felt that she was still developing as a writer. But in 1854 at age 22, Alcott used her own name for the first time. She published Flower Fables, a collection of fairy tales she had written six years earlier for Emerson’s daughter, Ellen.

3. SHE SECRETLY WROTE PULP FICTION.

Before writing Little Women, Alcott wrote Gothic pulp fiction under the nom de plume A.M. Barnard. Continuing her amusing penchant for alliteration, she wrote books and plays called Perilous Play and Pauline’s Passion and Punishment to make easy money. Alcott wrote about cross-dressers, spies, revenge, and hashish. These sensational, melodramatic works are strikingly different than the more wholesome, righteous vibe she captured in Little Women, and she didn’t advertise her former writing as her own after Little Women became popular.

4. SHE WROTE ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE AS A CIVIL WAR NURSE.


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In 1861, at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War, Alcott sewed Union uniforms in Concord and, the next year, enlisted as an army nurse. In a Washington, D.C. hotel-turned-hospital, she comforted dying soldiers and helped doctors perform amputations. During this time, she wrote about her experiences in her journal and in letters to her family. In 1863, she published Hospital Sketches, a fictionalized account, based on her letters, of her stressful yet meaningful experiences as a wartime nurse. The book became massively popular and was reprinted in 1869 with more material.

5. SHE SUFFERED FROM MERCURY POISONING.

After a month and a half of nursing in D.C., Alcott caught typhoid fever and pneumonia. She received the standard treatment at the time—a toxic mercury compound called calomel. (Calomel was used in medicines through the 19th century.) Because of this exposure to mercury, Alcott suffered from symptoms of mercury poisoning for the rest of her life. She had a weakened immune system, vertigo, and had episodes of hallucinations. To combat the pain caused by the mercury poisoning (as well as a possible autoimmune disorder, such as lupus, that could have been triggered by it), she took opium. Alcott died of a stroke in 1888, at 55 years old.

6. SHE WROTE LITTLE WOMEN TO HELP HER FATHER.

In 1867, Thomas Niles, an editor at a publishing house, asked Alcott if she wanted to write a novel for girls. Although she tried to get excited about the project, she thought she wouldn’t have much to write about girls because she was a tomboy. The next year, Alcott’s father was trying to convince Niles to publish his manuscript about philosophy. He told Niles that his daughter could write a book of fairy stories, but Niles still wanted a novel about girls. Niles told Alcott’s father that if he could get his daughter to write a (non-fairy) novel for girls, he would publish his philosophy manuscript. So to make her father happy and help his writing career, Alcott wrote about her adolescence growing up with her three sisters. Published in September 1868, the first part of Little Women was a huge success. The second part was published in 1869, and Alcott went on to write sequels such as Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).

7. SHE WAS AN EARLY SUFFRAGETTE.

In the 1870s, Alcott wrote for a women’s rights periodical and went door-to-door in Massachusetts to encourage women to vote. In 1879, the state passed a law that would allow women to vote in local elections on anything involving education and children—Alcott registered immediately, becoming the first woman registered in Concord to vote. Although met with resistance, she, along with 19 other women, cast ballots in a 1880 town meeting. The Nineteenth Amendment was finally ratified in 1920, decades after Alcott died.

8. SHE PRETENDED TO BE HER OWN SERVANT TO TRICK HER FANS.


Orchard House, the Alcott family home. Phillip Capper from Wellington, New Zealand (Flickr) // CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

After the success of Little Women, fans who connected with the book traveled to Concord to see where Alcott grew up. One month, Alcott had a hundred strangers knock on the door of Orchard House, her family’s home, hoping to see her. Because she didn’t like the attention, she sometimes pretended to be a servant when she answered the front door, hoping to trick fans into leaving.

9. ALCOTT NEVER HAD CHILDREN, BUT SHE CARED FOR HER NIECE.

Although Alcott never married or had biological children, she took care of her orphaned niece. In 1879, Alcott’s youngest sister May died a month after giving birth to her daughter. As she was dying, May told her husband to send the baby, whom she named Louisa in honor of Alcott, to her older sister. Nicknamed Lulu, the girl spent her childhood with Alcott, who wrote her stories and seemed a good fit for her high-spiritedness. Lulu was just 8 when Alcott died, at which point she went to live with her father in Switzerland.

10. FANS CAN VISIT ALCOTT'S FAMILY HOME IN CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS.

At 399 Lexington Road in Concord, Massachusetts, tourists can visit Orchard House, the Alcott family home from 1858 to 1877. Orchard House is a designated National Historic Landmark, and visitors can take a guided tour to see where Alcott wrote and set Little Women. Visitors can also get a look at Alcott’s writing desk and the family’s original furniture and paintings.

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