Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder
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This book, a National Book Award nominee in 1988, is the life of Thomas Jefferson as seen through the prism of his love affair with Monticello. For over half a century, it was his consuming passion, his most serious amusement. With a sure command of sources and skilled intuitive understanding of Jefferson, McLaughlin crafts and uncommon portrait of builder and building alike. En route he tells us much about life in Virginia; about Monticello‚Äôs craftsmen and how they worked their materials; about slavery, class, and family; and, above all, about the multiplicity of domestic concerns that preoccupied this complex man. It is and engaging and incisive look at the eighteenth-century mind: systematic, rational, and curious, but also playful, comfort-loving, and amusing. Ultimately, it provides readers with great insight into daily life in Colonial and Federal America.
institution, the screened porch: a place in which he could read or write in comfortable shade on mornings when the eastern sun was flooding his suite. Aside from this small, private veranda, there was no location where he could sit outside in solitude, although he was later to build a small garden pavilion for this purpose. There are those who will view Jefferson’s porticles as yet another strand in the web of circumstantial evidence linking him to Sally Hemings: the porticles were constructed
sleeping nymph. “Build up the sides and arch with stiff clay,”755 he wrote. “Cover this with moss, spangle it with translucent pebbles from Hanovertown, and beautiful shells from the shores of Burwell’s ferry. Pave the floor with pebbles.” The spring water would be allowed to fall into a basin in the grotto, and the statue of the nymph would be placed on a “couch of moss.” Pope’s translation of the nympha loci 756 verses would then be more appropriate, he thought. Pope, in his rhymed couplets,
choice specimens, however, for his Monticello museum—trophies of a sort in commemoration of a private victory in the battle of New World versus Old. Along with the Indian artifacts and the fossil collection was an assortment of “petrifications, chrystalizations, minerals, shells etc,”794 together with mounted heads of an elk, deer, buffalo, and mountain ram. This miscellany must have created an impression of dense clutter in the entry hall, especially since the remaining available wall space was
during his Paris years and even at that time were not intended to be the focus of his collection. Just as he had haunted the booksellers of Paris to add to his library anything having to do with America, he had also decided to decorate the walls of Monticello with geographical and historical scenes of America, and with portraits of its luminaries. He acquired likenesses of such explorers of the Americas as Columbus, Cortez, Magellan, and Vespucci, and of the colonizer of Virginia, Sir Walter
gambling”447 because if the crop is too heavy, prices are poor, and if it is light, not enough wine is produced to make a profit. “The middling crop alone is the saving point, and that the seasons seldom hit.” He observed too that laborers in the vineyards of France made less than ten sous a day, only pennies by American standards. He favored raising wine grapes for personal consumption, however, particularly during the embargo, when wine imports were halted. He had experimented with raising