One good book leads to another, as well as to varied, interesting trivia.

The good book I first checked out at the Reisterstown Library was "When Britain Burned the White House" by Peter Snow.


Apropos of current hoopla concerning the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the book brought me up to date on wartime facts, particularly the Francis Scott Key Star-Spangled Banner saga at Fort McHenry.

Hurrying as usual, I had planned a quick in-and-out to return the book to the library.

I stopped hurrying, however, when I faced another good book.

Its shiny, star-studded jacket proclaimed the title, "What So Proudly We Hailed, Francis Scott Key, a Life."

Here was a new Key biography bringing added information to the Fort McHenry bit, which is all most of us know about Key.

Flipping the pages while waiting to check out the book, I learned from author Marc Leepson that this is the first Key biography written since the 1930s.

The pages rolled out interesting facts:

• A Marylander, to the manor born, dark-eyed, curly headed Frankie, as youngster FSK was called, enjoyed an idyllic childhood at "Terra Rubra," the Keys' prosperous Frederick County plantation.


• A graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis, Key followed his forebears, reading law with a distinguished Annapolis jurist who had been a delegate to the Continental Congress.

• Key was married to Mary Tayloe Lloyd, whose family's sumptuous estate, Wye Plantation, included thousands of Talbot County acres. Key and his family later lived in Frederick, Georgetown and Terra Rubra.

• Among the Key's eleven children, the name Francis Scott Key, Jr. rings a bell with me. For some 20 years, he owned "The Elms," a house built in Reisterstown in 1760. Two centuries later, it was removed, virtually brick by brick, then re-assembled as the family home for my husband, our children and me.

• According to author Leepson, Key spoke about his poem only once in public. Deferentially, Key assigned credit for the piece to the defenders of Baltimore, not to the lawyer-poet who set down the words.

• Key became ill while on a business trip to Baltimore. He died at his daughter, Elizabeth Key Howard's home on Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore.

Fast forward to the 20th century.


Among Key's notable descendants was the once-Baltimore resident and acclaimed novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald — Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.

Scott Fitzgerald often is described as the epitome of the Jazz Age.

Leepson uses opposite phrases to describe FSK: "God and country; quiet, modest, intellectual, a spell-binding orator."

All this started with one good book.

Eleanor Taylor is a Glyndon native and can be reached by mail at P.O. Box 43, Glyndon, MD 21070.