ONE PRICE FOR FAME Grace Fletcher Webster
Triumph piled on triumph for Webster in the 1820s. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1822 and moved up to the Senate in 1827. During the same period he made a fortune arguing maritime claims cases in Washington, appeared in almost fifty cases before the Supreme Court, and found time to draft, deliver, and revise several of his most celebrated orations. What made Webster's performance all the more remarkable was the seemingly effortless way in which he accomplished it. But this was a false perception. Fame and success always exact their price, and if the great man does not pay it himself, someone close to him usually does. In Webster's case the price was paid by his first wife. The more than seventy letters which Grace Webster wrote during the middle of the 1820s reveal the recurrent and at times the desperate depression of a young wife and mother trying to keep her family together without losing contact with a husband who belonged as much to the world as to his own family.
Coming from a simple New Hampshire village like Webster, Grace rejoiced in his success and grew along with him. In 1824 she moved her growing family into a mansion on Summer Street. One of the handsomest residential avenues in Boston, Summer Street would later be described as "a winding river of elm and horsechestnut trees and sunshine, bordered with beautiful houses, lawns and gardens -- the homes of merchant princes and of Daniel Webster." Their new three-story brick house, flanked by deep gardens and set off from the street by a heavy ornamental railing, gave Webster the solid residential base he had always wanted. The Webster house shared a