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Database: Mason Locke Weems

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Mason Locke Weems (later known as Parson Weems) was a one-time parish rector who became a travelling bookseller, writer and editor. He's mostly famous for his biography of the life of George Washington, first published in 1800. He was briefly the rector of Mount Vernon parish, meaning he counted George Washington as one of his parishioners.

Weems was a colourful character, and a bit of a rogue - always with some story to tell, most of them completely untrue or vastly exaggerated. It's from Weems' biography that we get the well-known story of Young George bravely confessing that he chopped down his father's prized cherry tree. Weems writes that the story is "too true to be doubted", but who knows whether the phrase "too true to be doubted" is too true to be doubted.

Weems also went on to write biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Francis Marion, and William Penn - again, prizing being entertaining over actual fact. They sold well, however - paving the way for tabloid newspapers everywhere.

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