A couple of years ago Carol and I took a trip west for about a month and saw plenty of the U.S. We were going to do the same thing this year, but some health issues interfered. We are now on a foreshortened trip to the Southeast and mooching off our friends. Our first stop was Charlottesville and Monticello. I have been a Jefferson freak for as long as I can remember. I majored in history and taught history for 7 years (as well as English).
I had never been to Jefferson’s home. Carol really wanted to go there on our way south. We stopped there this morning and spent about three hours touring and looking at some of the museum things. There is now a visitor’s center and some nice things in the museum shop. Even more interesting was the actual description of his home by the tour guide.
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that she was an actress. Her descriptions of the home and the people who lived there could not have been more entertaining. Yes, I had read about Jefferson (most every biography ever written). Took a course on Jefferson, taught by Saul K. Padover who had written the definitive bio of him up to 1963. However, just seeing his home, his architectural skills, his interest in botany, his clever way of telling what day it was and his clock, were amazing to actually look at.
He was affected by his 5 year stay in France as ambassador. He spoke 8 languages and was fluent in writing and translating in all of them.
His skills as an architect created his Monticello home, which he remodeled a number of times. He read voraciously and put some of what he read into practice in such wide ranging subjects as botany, engineering and government. He was truly a person of the enlightenment and most certainly was the last of the general geniuses in the 18th and 19th centuries. He died fifty years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was finalized. It was the same day that his friend (after their presidencies) John Adams passed away.
They don’t make people like him anymore.