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Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle: The Prince, the Widow, and the Cure That Shocked Washington City
Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle: The Prince, the Widow, and the Cure That Shocked Washington City
Nancy Lusignan Schultz
Yale University Press, 2011
288 pp., 65.00

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C. Christopher Smith

"A Capital Miracle"

Faith healing and nativism in 19th-century America.

In early March 1824, Ann Mattingly, sister of Washington, D.C., mayor Thomas Carbery, lay at death's door, her body racked with cancer that had started as a lump in her left breast seven years earlier and spread slowly through her vital organs, leaving her partially paralyzed. Her doctors had described her condition as "beyond the reach of medicine." That month, friends and fellow parishioners of Mrs. Mattingly, a widow and a devout Roman Catholic, were asking God for a miracle. They had joined together and were praying a novena—a nine-day cycle of prayer—prescribed by an eccentric German priest and healer, Prince Alexander Hohenlohe. At 4 AM on the final day of the novena, March 10, 1824, Mattingly's parish priest, Rev. Stephen Dubuisson, arrived at her house to offer Mass for her, which she in her frailty could barely swallow. Once she swallowed the Host, however, the veil of her illness suddenly lifted and to the delight of her household, she sat up, praised God, then stood up and walked about the room. The cancer and all its ill effects upon her body had vanished in an instant.

This dramatic account of a healing lies at the heart of Nancy Lusignan Schultz's latest book, Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle: The Prince, The Widow, and the Cure That Shocked Washington City, a delightful and vibrant telling of a mysterious historical event that she delicately excavates from the sands of time. Schultz is chair of the English department at Salem State University and a scholar of 19th-century American Catholicism, having written two previous books in this area. Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle shows that Schultz is both a captivating storyteller and a meticulous historical researcher (who devotes a surprisingly lively several pages of her introduction describing her research methods and historiography). Although the book focuses on the cure of Ann Mattingly's cancer, and her second cure—of an infected leg swollen from foot to hip—seven years later, Schultz interweaves ...

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