Everything you have said about GWCL is true, especially the mysterious part. I have found that every time I decide that I know him as well as the information available allows, something creeps up and knocks my opinions right in the head. For instance, his lack of inheritance did not stop him from proposing to Sallie Magee Warwick, who was not only an eligible young belle but THE eligible young belle, as far removed from the type of girl one would picture him with as it would be possible to get.
There are lots of little twists and turns in his life that make defining him almost impossible. But the trying is the fun part.
As far as the Lee family is concerned, all accounts do not picture the parents marriage as happy nor the family as normal. When I first began to study the family, my opinion was the same as yours, but after reading six or seven Lee biographies, I began to see little chinks in the warm and fuzzy discription of the family. I suppose every biographer reads different things into a singular event, but some of the opinions are so diversified that the only way to form an honest opinion is to research each event and form an opinion of your own.
I read The Lady of Arlington and formed an instant dislike of Mary Lee, and that author was favorably disposed toward her. I read Gray Cavalier and thought Rooney was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I thought Freeman was especially kind to Marse Robert but Emory Thomas was not. Some authors play down his constant flirting with women other than his wife as playful, others point out that it was rather a strange quality in a man who spent so much time talking about God and Duty and Responsibility. Some point out his constant voicing of a desire to leave the army and remain at home with Mary and the children, yet he spent 30 years in the army with very little in the way of promotion or recognition. Some describe his warm and loving regard for his children, his letters, especially to Custis when he was young are more about duty and honor and doing what was right. I think these had a big impact on the man Custis was to become. I also think that the fact that what we today call clinical depression had an impact on several members of the family, Custis among them, and that what some describe as silent and withdrawn others called arrogant. I keep going around in circles with the man. Why don 't you E-mail me and give me your opinion.