Margaret Bayard Smith’s Account of a Visit to Monticello
Montecello—August 1st [29 July–2 Aug.] 1809.
After a very delightful journey of three days, we reached Monticello on the morning of the fourth. When I crossed the Ravanna, a wild & romantic little river, which flows at the foot of the mountain, my heart beat, for I thought I had now entered as it were the threshhold of his dwelling, & I looked around every where expecting to meet with some trace of his superintending care.—In this I was disappointed, for no vestige of the labour of man appeared; nature seemed to hold an undisturbed dominion; We began to ascend this mountain, still as we rose I cast my eyes around, but could discern nothing but untamed woodland,—after a miles winding upwards, we saw a field of corn, but the road was still wild & uncultivated.—I every moment expected to reach the summit, & felt as if it was an endless road; my impatience lengthen’d it, for it [is]1 not two miles from the outer gate on the river to the house.—At last we reached the summit, & I shall never forget the emotion the first view of this sublime scenery excited.—Below me extended for above 60 miles round, a country cover’d with woods, plantations & houses; beyond arose the blue mountains, in all their grandeur! Montecello rising 500 feet above the river, of a conical form & standing by itself commands on all sides an unobstructed, & I suppose one of the most extensive views any spot of the globe affords.— The sides of the mountain covered with wood, with scarcely a speck of cultivation, presents a fine contrast to its summit, crowned with a noble pile of building, surrounded by an immence lawn, & shaded here & there with some fine trees.—Before we reached the house, we met Mr J. on horseback, he had just returned from his morning ride, & when on approaching, he recognized us, he recieved us with one of those benignant smiles, & cordial tones of voice that convey an undoubted welcome to the heart.—He dismounted & assisted me from the carriage, led us thro’ a noble portico2 to the hall; where he again bade us welcome—I was so struck with the appearance of this Hall, that I lingered to look around, but he led me forward, smiling as he said, “you shall look bye & bye, but you must rest now, ”3 leading me to a sopha in a drawing room as singular & beautiful as the Hall. He rung & sent word to Mrs Randolph that we were there, & then ordered some refreshments.—“We have quite a sick family” said he; “My daughter has been confined to the sick bed of her little son; my Grand-daughter has lost her’s &4 still keeps her room & several of the younger children are indisposed.—for a fortnight Mr & Mrs Randolph have sat up every night, untill they are almost worn out.” This information clouded my satisfaction & cast a gloom over our visit.—But Mrs R soon entered, & with a smiling face, most affectionately welcomed us; her kind & cheerful manners soon dispersed my gloom & after a little chat, I begged her not to let me detain her from her nursery, but to allow me to follow her to it; she assented & I sat with her untill dinner time.—Anne, (Mrs. Bankhead)5 also had been confined 3 weeks before & had lost her child looked delicate & interesting; Ellen my old favorite I found improved as well as grown6—At five oclock the bell summoned us to dinner—Mr Randolph, Mr Bankhead, & Jefferson R— were there, They are 12 in family, And as Mr J. sat in the midst of his children & grand children, I looked on him with emotions of tenderness & respect. The table was plainly, but genteely & plentifully spread & his immence & costly variety of french & Italian wines, gave place to Madeira & a sweet ladies wine.7—We sat till near sun down at the table, where the desert was succeeded by agreeable & instructive conversation, in which every one seemed to wish & expect Mr J. to take the chief part.8—As it is his custom after breakfast to withdraw to his own apartments & pursuits & not to join the family again untill dinner, he prolongs that meal, or rather the time after that meal & seems to relish his wine the better, for being accompanied with conversation.—& during the 4 days I spent there these were the most social hours.—When we rose from table, a walk was proposed & he accompanied us. He took us first to the garden he has commenced since his retirement—It is on the south side of the mountain & commands a most noble view.—Little is as yet done—A terrace of9 700 or 810 feet long & about 40 wide, is already made & in cultivation11—a broad grass walk leads along the outer edge, the inner part is laid off in beds for vegetables.—This terrace is to be extended12 in length & another to be made below it.13—The view it commands, is at present its greatest beauty. We afterwards walked round the first circuit.—There are 4 roads about 15 or 20 feet wide, cut round the mountain, from 100 to 200 feet apart.14—These circuits are connected by a great many roads & paths & when compleated will afford a beautiful shady ride or walk of seven miles.—The first circuit is not quite a mile round, as it is very near the top—It is in general shady, with openings through the trees for distant views. We passed the out houses for the slaves & work men; they are all much better, than I have seen on any other plantation, but to an eye unaccustomed to such sights, they appear poor &15 these cabins form a most unpleasant16 contrast with the palace that rises so near them.—Mr J. has carpenters, cabinet-makers, painters, blacksmiths & several other trades all within himself, & finds these slaves excellent work men.17
As we walked, he explained his future designs.18 “My long absence from this place, has left a wilderness around me;”“but you have returned” said I, “& the wildness shall blossom like the rose & you I hope will long sit beneath your own vine & your own fig-tree”—It was near dark when we reached the house, he led us into a little tea room which opened on the terrace19 & as Mrs R— was still in her nursery he sat with us & conversed till tea time—We never drank tea untill near nine, afterwards there was fruit, which he seldom staid to partake of, as he allways retired immediately after tea.—I never sat above an hour afterwards, as I supposed Mrs R— must wish to be in her nursery.20—I rose the morning after my arrival very early & went out on the terrace, to contemplate scenery, which to me was so novel.—The space between Montecello and the Allegany, from sixty to eighty miles, was covered with a thick fog, which had the appearance of the ocean & was unbroken except where wood cover’d hills rose above the plain & looked like islands.—As the sun rose, the fog was broken & exhibited the most various & fantastic forms, lakes, rivers, bays, & as it ascended, it hung in white fleecy clouds on the sides of the mountains; An hour afterwards you would scarcely believe it was the same scene you looked on.—In spite of the cold air from the mountains, I staid here untill the first breakfast bell rung. Our breakfast table was as large as our dinner table; instead of a cloth, a folded napkin lay under each plate; we had tea, coffee, excellent muffins, hot wheat and corn bread, cold ham & butter.—It was not exactly the virginian breakfast I expected.—here21 indeed was the mode of living in general that of a virginia planter—At breakfast the family all assembled, all Mrs R’s children eat at the family table, but are in such excellent order, that you would not know if you did not see them that a child was present.22 After breakfast, I soon learned that it was the habit of the family each seperately to pursue their occupations. Mr J. went to his apartments, the door of which is never opened but by himself & his retirement seems so sacred that I told him it was his sanctum sanctorum.23 Mr Randolph rides over to his farm & seldom returns untill night; Mr Bankhead who is reading law to his study; a small building at the end of the east terrace, opposite to Mr Randolphs which terminates the west terrace; these buildings are called pavilions. Jefferson R— went to survey a tract of woodland afterwards make his report to his grandfather.24 Mrs Randolph withdrew to her nursery & excepting the hours house-keeping requires she devotes the rest to her children whom she instructs.—As for them, they seem never to leave her for an instant, but are always beside her or on her lap.—25
Visitors generaly retire to their own rooms, or walk about the place; those who are fond of reading can never be at a loss, those who are not, will sometimes feel wearied in the long interval between breakfast & dinner.26 The dinner bell rings twice, the first collects the family, in time to enter the room27 by the time the second announces dinner to be on table, which while I was there was between 4 &28 5 oclock. In summer the interval between rising from table & tea (9 oclock) may be agreeably passed in walking.—but to return to my journal—After breakfast on sunday morning, I asked Ellen to go with me on the top of the house;29 Mr J. heard me &30 went along with us & pointed out those spots in the landscape most remarkable—The morning was show’ry, the clouds had a fine effect, throwing large masses of shade on the mountain sides, which finely contrasted with the sunshine of other spots.31—He afterwards took us to the drawing room, in the dome 26 or 7 feet diameter32—It is a noble & beautiful apartment—perfectly round with 8 circular windows & a sky-light—It was not furnished, & being in the attic story, is not used.—which I thought a great pity, as it might be made the most beautiful room in the house.33—The attic chambers are comfortable & neatly finished but no elegances34 When we descended to the Hall, he asked us to pass into the library, or as I called it his sanctum sanctorrum, where any other foot than his own seldom intrudes. This suite35 of apartments opens from the Hall to the south. It consists of36 3 rooms for the library, one for his cabinet one for his chamber, & a green house, divided from the other by glass compartments & doors; so that the view of the plants it contains, is unobstructed.—He has not yet made his collection, having but just finished the room, which opens on one of the terraces. He shewed us every thing he thought would please or interest us—His most valuable & curious books—those which contained fine prints &ca—Among these I thought the most curious were the original letters of Cortez to the king of Spain, a vol, of fine views of Antient villa’s round Rome, with maps of the grounds, & minute descriptions of the buildings & grounds. An old poem written by Pierce Plowman & printed 250 years ago; he read near a page, which was almost as unintelligible as if it was hebrew; & some Greek romances. He took pains to find one that was translated into french, as most of them were translated in latin & italian.—More than two hours passed most charmingly away.—The library consists of books in all languages, & contains about twenty thousand vols.—But so disposed that they do not give the idea of a great library.—I own I was much disappointed in its appearance, & I do not think with its numerous divisions & arches it is as impressive as one large room would have been. His cabinet & chamber contained every convenience & comfort, but were plain. His bed is built in the wall which divides his chamber & cabinet.37 He opened a little closset which contains all his garden seeds. they are all in phials, labe[led] & hung on little hooks.—Seeds such as peas, beans, &ca were in tin cannisters—but every thing labeled and in the neatest order.38 He bade us take whatever books we wished, which we did & then retired to our own room.—Here we amused ourselves untill dinner time excepting an hour I sat with Mrs R. by her sick baby.—but as she was reading I did not sit long.—After dinner Ellen & Mr Bankhead accompanied us in a long ramble in the mountain walks.—At dark when we returned, the tea room was still vacant; I called Virginia & Mary (the age of my Julia & Susan) amused myself with them untill their Grand papa entered, with whom I had a long & interesting conversation; in which he described with enthusiasm his retirement from public life & the pleasures he found in domestic.—39
Monday morning—I again rose early, in order to observe the scenes around me, & was again repaid for the loss of sleep, by the various appearances the landscape assumed, as the fog was rising.—But the blue & misty mountains, now light up with sun shine, now thrown into deep shadow, presented objects on which I gaze each morning with new pleasure.40 After breakfast, Mr J. sent E. to ask me if I would take a ride with him round the mountain; I willingly assented & in a little while I was summoned; the carriage was a kind of chair, which his own workmen had made under his direction, & it was with difficulty that he, Ellen & I found room in it, & might well be called the sociable.—The first circuit, the road was good, & I enjoyed the views it afforded & the familiar & easy conversation, which our sociable gave rise to; but when we descended to the second & third circuit, fear took from me the power of listening to him, or observing the scene; nor could I forbear expressing my alarm, as we went along a rough road which had only been laid out, & on driving41 over fallen trees & great rocks, which threaten’d an over set to our sociable & a roll down the mountain to us—
“My dear madam,” said Mr J— “you are not to be affraid, or if you are you are not to show it; trust yourself implicitly to me, I will answer for your safety; I came every foot of this road yesterday, on purpose to see if a carriage could come safely, I know every step I take, so banish all fear.”—This I tried to do but in vain, till coming to a rock over which one wheel must pass I jumped out, while the servant who attended on horseback rode forward &42 held up the carriage as Mr J— passed.43—Poor Ellen did not dare to get out.—Notwithstanding the terror I suffered I would not have lost this ride; as Mr J— explained to me all his plans for improvement, where the roads, the walks, the seats, the little temples were to be placed—There are two springs gushing from the mountain side, he took me to one, which might be made very picturesque. As we passed the grave yard, which is about half way down the mountain, in a sequestered spot, he told me he there meant to place a small gothic building.—higher up, where a beautiful little mound was covered with a grove of trees, he meant to place a monument to his friend Wythe.44 We returned home by a road which did not wind round the mountain but carried us to the summit by a gentle ascent. It was a good road, & my terror vanished and I enjoyed conversation.
I found Mrs R. deeply engaged in the Wild Irish boy, sitting by the side of her little patient;45 I did not stay long to interrupt her, but finding46 Mrs Bankhead likewise engaged with a book, I withdrew to my own room to read my Grecian romance. At dinner, Mrs Randolph sent an apology, she hurt her eye so badly, that it produced excessive inflamation & pain, which obliged her to go to bed.—After dinner I went up to sit by her, Mr J. came up soon after & I was delighted by his tender attentions to this dear daughter.— As he sat by her & held her hand, for above an hour, we had a long & social conversation in which Mrs R. joined occasionaly.47—After he had gone, finding her disposed to sleep, I went down—It was now quite dark & too late to walk, so I took my seat in the tea-room with my little girls & told them stories till the tea bell, again collected the family.—
Tuesday—After breakfast, I went up & sat all the morning by Mrs Randolph; she was too unwell to rise; part of the time I read, but when we were alone conversed.—Our conversation turned chiefly on her father, & on her mentioning their correspondence, I begged her to shew me some of his letters—This she willingly assented to, & it was a rich repast to mind & heart.—Some of them were written when he was minister in France & she in a convent; these are filled with the best advice in the best language; his letters come down to the last days of his political life; in every one he expresses his longings after retirement.—She was so good as to give me one of these precious letters.48 When I went down stairs I found Mr J— in the hall & Mr S— & we had a long conversation on a variety of topics.—He took us [on]49 a charming walk round the edge of the lawn & showed us the spots from which the house appeared to most advantage.
I looked upon him, as he walked, the top of this mountain, as a being elevated above the50 mass of mankind, as much in51 character as he was in local situation.—I reflected on the long career52 of public duties & stations through which he had passed, & that after forty years spent on the tempestuous sea of political [life,]53 he had now reached the secure54 haven of domestic life. Here while the storm roar’d at distance, he could hear its roaring & be at peace. He had been a faithful labourer in the harvest field55 of life, his labours were crowned with success, & he had reaped a rich harvest of fame & wealth56 & honor. Oh that in this, his winter of life he may enjoy the harvest he has reaped.—
In him; I percieve no decay of mind or debility of frame,57 and to all the wisdom & experience of age, he adds the enthusiasm & ardour of youth.—I looked on him with wonder as I heard him describe the improvements he designed in his grounds58—they seemed to require a whole life to carry into effect, & a young man might doubt of ever completing or enjoying them.—But he seems to have transposed his hopes & anticipations into the existence of his children, it is in them he lives, & I believe he finds as much delight in the idea that they will enjoy the fruit of his present labours; as much as if he hoped it for himself.—If full occupation of mind, heart & hands, is happiness, surely he is happy! The sun never sees him in bed, & his mind de signs, more than59 the day can fulfil, even his long day.—The conversation of the morning, the letters I had read, & the idea that this was the last day I was to spend in his society, the last time I was ever to see him, filled my heart with sadness—I could scarcely look at or speak to him without tears.—After dinner he went to the carpenters shop, to give directions for a walking seat, he had order’d made for us, & I did not see him again until after sun-set—I spent the interval in walking with Mr Smith round the lawn & grove, & had just parted from him to join the children to whom I had promised another story, when as I passed the terrace, Mr J: came out & joined us—The children ran to him60 & immediately proposed a race—we seated ourselves on the steps of the Portico, & he after placing the children according to their size one before the other, gave the word for starting & away they flew; the course round this back lawn was a qr of a mile, the little girls were well tired by the time they returnd to the spot from which they started & came panting & out of breath to throw themselves into their grandfather’s arms, which were opened to recieve them; he pressed them to his bosom & rewarded them with a kiss—he was sitting on the grass and they sat down by him, untill were rested; then they again wished to set off; he thought it too long a course for little Mary & proposed running on the terrace—Thither we went, & seating ourselves at one end, they ran from us to the pavillion & back again;61 “what an amusement,” said I, “do these little creatures afford us;” “yes” replied he, “it is only with them that a grave man can play the fool.” They now called on him to run with them,62 he did not long resist,63 & seemed delighted in delighting them.—Oh ye whose envenomed calumny has painted him as the slave of the vilest passions, come here, & contemplate this scene! The simplicity, the gaiety, the modesty & gentleness64 of a child, united to all that is great & venerable in the human character.—His life is the best refutation of the calumnies that have been heaped upon him & it seems to me impossible, for any one personaly to know him & remain his enemy—It was dark by the time we entered the tea-room I was glad to close the windows & shut out the keen air from the mountains.—The mornings & evenings are here always cool & indeed Mrs Randolph says it is never hot.—As it was the last evening we were to pass here, Mr J— sat longer than usual after tea. All the family except Mrs Randolph65 were66 at tea, I gazed upon Mr J. in the midst of this interesting circle & thought of the following lines, which I copied from one of his letters.
“When I look to the ineffable pleasures of my family society, I become more & more disgusted with the jealousies, the hatred, the rancourous & malignant passions of this scene, & lament my having ever again been drawn into public view.—Tranquility is now my object; I have seen enough of political honors, to know they are but splendid torments; & however one might be disposed to render services on which many of their fellow citizens might set a value, yet when as many would deprecate them as a public calamity, one may well entertain a modest doubt of their real importance & feel the impulse of duty to be very weak. 1797.”
And again, in another of a later date, he says,
“Worn down here with pursuits in which I take no delight, surrounded by enemies & spies, catching & perverting every word which falls from my lips, or flows from my pen, & inventing, where facts fail them, I pant for that society, where all is peace & harmony, where we love & are beloved by every object we see—And to have that intercourse of soft affections, hushed & suppressed by the eternal presence of strangers, goes very hard indeed, & the harder when we see that the candle of life is burning out & the pleasures we lose are lost forever!—I long to see the time approach when I can be returning to you, tho’ it be for a short time only—these are the only times existence is of any value to me, continue then to love me my ever dear daughter, & to be assured, that to yourself, your sister & those dear to you every thing in my life is devoted, ambition has no hold upon me but through you—my personal affections would fix me forever with you.—Kiss the dear little objects of our mutual love,” &a &a
By these dear objects, I saw him now surrounded.—I saw him in the scenes for which his heart had panted, at the time when others looked upon his elevated station with envy, & did not know that these honors which his country lavished on him & which they envied, were splendid torments, to his unambitious spirit & affectionate heart.—But why then it will be asked did he not with draw from public life, a satisfactory answer is often found in his letters; in one he says (it was while secretary) that he had made up his mind to retire, that he had arranged his affairs for it, but contrary to all his wishes he was persuaded by his friends67 of the necessity of remaining, that a retreat at that time would be attributed to timidity or fear of the attacks made by the papers &68 might ruin the party of which he was the head,—In one of his letters he says—“The real difficulty is that being once delivered69 into the hands of others, whose feelings are friendly to the individual & warm to the public cause, how to withdraw from them, without leaving a dissatisfaction in their minds & impressions of pusylanimity with the public:”—From many other passages of his letters, it is evident that his own wishes were sacrificed to the remonstrances of his friends & to the wish of supporting the republican cause,—On which he sincerely & honestly believed the happiness of his country to depend.—70
After tea, fruit as usual was brought, of which he staid to partake; the figs were very fine, & I eat them with greater pleasure from their having been planted rear’d & attended by him with peculiar care.—Which this year was rewarded with an abundant crop, & of which we every day enjoyed the produce.71
Wednesday Morning. Mrs Randolph was not able to come down to breakfast, & I felt too sad to join in the conversation.—I looked on every object around me, all was examined with that attention a last look inspires; the breakfast ended, our carriage was at the door, & I rose to bid farewell to this interesting family.—Mrs. R— came down to spend the last minutes with us, As I stood for a moment in the Hall, Mr J. approached & in the most cordial manner urged me to make another visit the ensuing summer, I told him, with a voice almost choked with tears, “That I had no hope of such a pleasure—this,” said I, raising my eyes to him, “is the last time I fear, in this world at least, that I shall ever again see you—But there is another world.”—I felt so affected by the idea of this last sight of this good & great man, that I turned away & hastily repeating my farewell to the family,72 gave him my hand, he pressed it affectionately as he put me in the carriage saying,73 “God bless you dear Madam, God bless you.”—“And God bless you,” said I from the very bottom of my heart.—
Mr. Smith got in, the door shut & we drove from this habitation of Philosophy & virtue.—How rapidly did we seem to descend that mountain which had seemed so tedious in its ascent—And the quick pulsations I then felt were now changed to a heavy oppression.
Yes—he is truely a Philosopher, & truely a good man.—And eminently a great one.—
There is a tranquility about him, which an inward peace could alone bestow,—Like a ship long tossed by the storms of the ocean, casts anchor & lies at rest in a peaceful harbour, He is retired from an active & restless scene to this tranquil spot.—Voluntarily & gladly has he resigned honors which he never sought, & unwittingly74 accepted.—His actions, not his words, preach the emptiness75 & dissatisfaction attendant on a great office.—His tall & slender figure is not impaired by age, tho’ bent by care—& labour.—His white locks, announce an age his activity, strength, health, enthusiasm,76 ardour & gaiety contradict.—His face owes all its charm, to its expression & intelligence; His features are not good & his complexion bad, but his countenance is so full of soul & beams with such benignity, that when the eye rests on his face, it is too busy in perusing its77 expressions, to think of its features or complexion.—His low & mild voice, harmonizes with his countenance rather than his figure.—But his manners,—How gentle, how humble, how kind.—His meanest slave must feel; as if it were a father instead of a master who addressed him, when he speaks.78—To a disposition ardent, affectionate & communicative, he joins manners timid, even to bashfulness79 & reserved even to coldness.—If his life had not proved to the contrary I should have pronounced him rather a man of imagination & taste, than a man of judgment, a literary rather than scientific man, & least of all a Politician A character for which nature never seemed to have intended him, & for which the natural turn of mind, & his disposition, taste, & feeling equaly unfited him.—I should have been sure that this was the case, even had he not told me so.—In an interesting conversation I had one evening—Speaking of his past public & present domestic life—“ The whole of my life” said he, “has been a war with my Natural taste, feelings & wishes.—Domestic life & literary pursuits, were my first & my latest inclination, Circumstances, & not my desires lead me to the path I have trod.—And like a bow tho long bent, when unstrung flies back to its natural state,80 I, resume with delight the character & pursuits for which nature designed me.”—“The circumstances of our country” continued he, “at my entrance into life, were such that every honest man felt himself compelled to take a part,81 & to act up to the best of his abilities;”—
MS (DLC: Margaret Bayard Smith Papers: Diary 1809–28); entirely in Smith’s hand; minor tears at corners; excerpted from an entry dated 1 Aug. 1809 but redated based on internal evidence. Printed from this text in Smith, Forty Years description begins Gaillard Hunt, ed., The First Forty Years of Washington Society, Portrayed by the Family Letters of Mrs. Samuel Harrison Smith  description ends , 65–81, and expanded and revised in Smith’s “Recollections of a Visit to Monticello,” Richmond Enquirer, 18 Jan. 1823, with only the most important variations noted below.
TJ’s granddaughter Ann C. Randolph married Charles L. Bankhead in September 1808. The child she lost was not named. Elizabeth Trist, who left Monticello on 9 July, reported that “Mrs Bankhead some days ago was deliverd of a Son it was not expected till next month tis a very small child for a day or two after its birth they had little hope of its living but it begins to thrive and she is quite hearty” (Trist to Catharine Wistar Bache, 10 July 1809 [PPAmP: Catharine Wistar Bache Papers]). The Bankheads subsequently had four children who reached adulthood.
After years of effort, late in 1795 TJ acquired a new edition of the letters of cortez (Hernán Cortés, Historia de Nueva-España, ed. Francisco Antonio Lorenzena y Butron [Mexico City, 1790; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4120]). His book with fine views of antient villa’s near Rome might have been Robert Castell, The Villas of the Ancients Illustrated (London, 1728; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4191). William Langland’s allegorical poem, The Vision of Pierce Plowman (London, 1550; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4502), was written in Middle English during the fourteenth century and might well have sounded unintelligible to TJ’s visitors.
The little closset was the seed press probably built by John Hemmings, an illustration of which is reproduced elsewhere in this volume. TJ’s granddaughters virginia & mary Randolph were then seven and five years old, similar in age to Smith’s daughters Julia and Susan. An open four-wheeled carriage, a sociable had two seats facing each other and a box-seat for the driver (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). Martha Jefferson Randolph was deeply engaged by Charles Robert Maturin’s gothic novel, The Wild Irish Boy (New York, 1808).
Smith quoted several letters from TJ to Martha Jefferson Randolph beginning with two passages from 8 June 1797 (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 29:424–5). another of a later date as quoted by Smith has not been found, and the letter written while secretary was probably that of 26 Jan. 1793 (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 25:97–8).
A year after the newspaper version appeared, Smith included some of the same information in a fictionalized account which described entrance to “the hall through wide folding doors, which we never saw closed”; detailed its contents as including “a perfect model of the great pyramid of Egypt; the upper and lower jaw-bones and tusks of the mammoth, whose magnitude is advantageously exhibited by contrast with those of an elephant alongside of them; several maps, particularly one of the Missouri country, painted on buffalo hides by the American Indians; rough hewn stone images, or statues, likewise of their workmanship, which are supposed to be the idols they worshipped, and many other of the curiosities of our country”; and reported that TJ’s suite of rooms included “a carpenter’s work-bench, with a vast assortment of tools of every kind and description. This, as being characteristic, is worthy of notice; the fabrication with his own hands of curious implements and models, being a favourite amusement” (Smith, Winter in Washington: or, Memoirs of the Seymour Family, 3 vols. [New York, 1824], 3:218– 30).
1. Word supplied from Smith, Forty Years.
2. Preceding four words interlined.
3. Here and elsewhere a number of omitted opening and closing quotation marks have been editorially supplied.
4. Enquirer: “my grand-daughter, who has been confined.”
5. Preceding two words interlined.
6. Sentence omitted in Enquirer.
7. Enquirer: “plentifully spread. It was the respectable board of a private gentleman, from which was discarded the French cookery and foreign luxuries, which used to distinguish his table when President; the rich and costly variety of wines, for which he used to be remarkable, were now discarded for Claret and Madeira; thus, in his public and private situation, discovering equal taste and propriety.”
8. Enquirer here adds “This is the part of the day, in which he gives most time to his guests, and seems himself most to enjoy society; and I found during the few days we passed at Monticello, these were the most social hours. The dessert is not removed; the wine freely, but not rapidly circulated round the table, and the ladies do not withdraw, until the hospitable master leads the way. Every one who has known, has acknowledged the colloquial powers of this excellent man. He is frank and communicative in his manner, various and delightful in his conversation. With a mind stored by much reading, long experience, accurate observation, deep research, an intimate acquaintance with the great and good men of Europe and America; with the events, and scenes and customs of both countries; he possesses a store of intellectual wealth, which falls to the lot of few; and of those, how many, who possess the treasure, have not the faculty of imparting it to others. But, Mr. J—, has not only the sterling gold, but has the lesser coins, which afford an easy currency to thought, and are so important in social intercourse. No subject could be started, which he did not illustrate by luminous observations, or enliven by sprightly anecdotes. One quality he has, which I never knew equalled in any other man: a quick and intuitive perception of the character, taste and feelings of his guests, and with a benevolence, equalling in warmth, the greatness of his perception; he always turned the conversation, so as to draw forth the powers and talents of each guest, bestowing on all, the same gracious attention: he, above all men, has the art of pleasing, by making each pleased with himself. Why can I not recollect every word which fell from his lips, during these charming conversations, for every word deserved to be remembered! But, so many recollections are crowded in these short and interesting days, that I should fill a volume, should I record them all.”
9. Smith here canceled “250.”
10. Preceding two words interlined in manuscript and lacking in Enquirer.
11. Enquirer here adds “Against the wall which supports it, are raised fine figs.”
12. Enquirer: “doubled.”
13. Enquirer here adds “It is still in a rough unfinished state, and I rather think Mr. Jefferson will find, in chusing a southern aspect, and in laying out his garden so as to expose it to the greatest degree of heat, that in our climate, he will have not only more than sufficient, but a degree, which will prove destructive to vegetation. He has, all his life, been so exclusively engaged in public affairs, that he has little practical knowledge of rural or domestic management. With the same inattention to the effects of the climate, he has levelled the top of his mountain, and formed on its surface, a lawn of at least ten acres, shaded only by a few trees of foreign growth; foreign I mean to the mountain soil, such as willows, Italian poplars, &c. &c. Lawns may be beautiful in the northern states, or in a humid atmosphere like England, but they do not answer in the southern states, where in the heats of mid summer, when the eye must require the reviving sight of verdure, the grass is so withered and dry, that it often crumbles to dust under the feet. And I much fear, the same fate will attend his summer vegetables, exposed as they are to the full blaze of the southern sun. The same want of practical utility, convenience and comfort, is obvious in the site of his mansion, and the arrangement of its offices. Placed on the very pinnacle of the mountain, it is exposed to all the ardours of summer, and all the bleak storms of winter. Had it been placed on the declivity of the mountain, it might have been sheltered from both, nor would he have been obliged, as he now is, to have all the water used in the family brought from the foot of the mountain. The kitchen is at a hundred, perhaps, near two hundred feet from the dining room, to which it is joined by a long cold vaulted passage. But his plans, are those of a man of taste, a statesman, a philosopher; that is, an intellectual being, wholly unacquainted with the every day wants and comforts of common life. He is a great agriculturist and horticulturist in theory, but practically, I imagine, he knows little of any cultivation, but that of flowers, of which he is extremely fond.—Here again, I have wandered from my party and the new garden, and if I can find the way, must return to where I left him explaining his plans, and gathering his figs, which were really fine. Leaving the garden, he led us through, or rather by the side of an almost impervious grove of aspins, whose straight and aspiring branches, and ever quivering leaves, formed a fine contrast with the majestic and wide spreading ashes, and other forest trees, which shade this part of the grounds.”
14. Enquirer: “There are three of these roads encompassing the mountain, at equal distances, about two hundred feet apart.”
15. Smith here canceled “uncomfortable.”
16. Enquirer: “unaccustomed to the abodes of slavery, seem poor and uncomfortable, and to northern feelings form an unpleasant.”
17. Enquirer: “Mr. J. has carpenters, cabinet-makers, blacksmiths, weavers, tailors, shoemakers, and other tradesmen in his establishment, and finds his slaves ingenious and good workmen.”
18. Enquirer here adds “of cultivation and improvement.”
19. Enquirer here adds “Its form was a half circle, divided from the dining room by a glass, or sashed partition. There was a feeling of social comfort in this small apartment, which was lost in the largeness and loftiness of the other rooms.”
20. Enquirer: “after tea: even while President, he always retired early at night; and rose early in the morning. We generally sat an hour, and sometimes longer, with Mr. and Mrs. R. and their lovely children.”
21. Manuscript: “her.”
22. Enquirer: “The long table was again surrounded by the numerous family, for this affectionate parent gathered round him at his meals, even his youngest grandchildren, who at their age are generally confined to nurseries. Instead of the assistance and attendance of slaves, which is the usual custom in the southern states, these sweet little creatures were attended to by their elder brothers and sisters, between whom they were placed. There was an affectionate and patriarchal simplicity in this, with which I was delighted—and this mutual aid and dependance methought, drew closer the bands of affinity. Our breakfast was not the substantial and Virginia breakfast I expected, nor indeed was the general mode of living at monticello, that of a Virginian planter, but accorded rather with my ideas of European elegance.”
23. Manuscript: “santorum.” Enquirer: “apartments, which occupy the south wing, where not even his children enter without permission, and so sacred seemed his retirement, that when speaking of it to him, I always called it his sanctum sanctorum.”
24. Preceding two sentences omitted from Enquirer.
25. Enquirer: “Mrs. R. withdrew to the apartment of her children, whom she instructs, and to whom she devotes the greater portion of her time. As for them, they seem to be the inseparable companions of this fond and indulgent mother, this intelligent and highly informed woman—With what delight could I dilate on her excellencies; but since I have consented to the publication of this journal, I have expunged from my manuscript, all that relates to her wise management, her private virtues, her peculiar opinions, which I sought after with eager avidity, knowing that to her modest and retiring excellence, even praise would be painful—otherwise the picture I could draw of this lovely and interesting woman, would charm every heart, and kindle a noble emulation in the bosom of every mother!—Happy mother, of the best of children—worthy daughter of the best of fathers!”
26. Enquirer here adds “as no amusements are provided, and the descent and ascent of the mountain is so rough and difficult, that the fatigue of riding into the adjacent country, would not be compensated by any pleasure such a ride could afford.”
27. Enquirer: “drawing-room.”
28. Preceding three words interlined.
29. Enquirer: “after breakfast, instead of withdrawing, Mr. Jefferson proposed our taking a view from the balcony on the roof of the house.”
30. Preceding three words added.
31. Enquirer: “The morning was favorable to the study of landscape: The dark and heavy clouds which announced the coming storm, threw large masses of shade athwart the mountain side, which finely contrasted with the bright sun shine which gleamed on other spots. It was a prospect so rich and so varied, so vast and so sublime, that I could have gazed whole hours and days, without weariness. The view was too wide and grand for a painter’s pencil, but it was calculated to rouse and fill a poet’s soul. On the top of the house was a ghan [gong], instead of a bell—why he preferred the Chinese invention, to our mode of calling people together, I cannot tell, except it is on account of its newness and originality. Another was placed in a tree on the lawn, to summon the workmen to their meals.”
32. Preceding five words interlined.
33. Enquirer: “It was designed for a lady’s drawing-room when built, but soon found, on account of its situation in the dome, to be too inconvenient for that use, and was abandoned to miscellaneous purposes.”
34. Preceding three words interlined.
35. Manuscript: “suit.”
36. Smith here canceled “two.”
37. Enquirer: “three rooms, formerly filled by his valuable and extensive library, which I cannot but regret he ever parted with: Another opening from these for his cabinet, which is furnished with every convenience for a man of letters—communicating with his chamber in which he sleeps. The bed is built into the wall, in a sort of alcove, which in winter must be very comfortable, as it excludes every draught of air—but in summer, must for the same reason be very uncomfortable. I observed the same arrangement in all the chambers I saw. On the wall, at the foot of the bed was hung his pistols and sword, which I imagine has not been moved for many a year: against the wall, at the head of his bed, was a lamp, which enabled him, when he wished to read, to do it with great safety and convenience.”
38. For preceding nine words Enquirer substitutes “When in his garden this stand could be carried about and placed near him, and if I remember, there must have been near a hundred kinds. It is well worthy the adoption of all gentlemen and lady gardeners. Mr. J. appears extremely fond of this delightful occupation, and has for the purpose the nicest and most convenient utensils. His cabinet, where most of his hours were passed, was to me the most interesting spot in the house. I noticed every chair and table, and desk, and cabinet—examined many of the books, which were chiefly the old classical authors, generally in the original, and all the best English, Italian and French poets. A coarse looking volume attracted my notice: on opening, I found it to consist of pieces cut out of newspapers, and pasted on the blank-leaves of the book. The vol. was entitled Libels, and contained all that has so lavishly, during the war of political parties, been written against him. This indeed, will one day afford curious materials for the examination of the moralist and philosopher. When all the petty jealousies of contending parties, when their violence and their rancour, when all the misrepresentations and calumnies shall be cleared away by the bright rays of truth, then shall the character of the great and good man, rise in all the beauty and majesty of virtue, like his own native mountain, when the rays of the sun has dispersed the fogs and mists which conceal its beauties in the early morning. Even now, many of the prejudices, much of the violence, and I believe all of the bitterness of party spirit, have yielded to the influence of his proved wisdom as a statesman, and his virtue as a man, and when that wisdom and that virtue, are hallowed by the lapse of ages, should this volume survive, what a fable would it seem!”
39. Enquirer: “at twilight on entering the tea-room, found no one but Mr. J. with whom we had a long and interesting conversation, in which he described with enthusiasm, the tranquillity he had enjoyed since his retirement from public life, and dilated on the heart-felt pleasures domestic scenes afforded him.”
40. Enquirer here adds “As I walked this mountain top, and inhaled these mountain breezes, I felt as if I breathed a purer atmosphere, and as if my soul with more elastic wing, could rise from ‘nature, up to nature’s God.’ There was too in the sighings of the breeze among the trees—’round me, & in the louder roar of distant winds sweeping through distant forests, a soothing power, which seemed to lift me through the little cares, and little pleasures of the world below! I was awakened from the sweet trance, into which these sights and sounds had lulled me, by the distant sound of the breakfast bell, and hastened back to enjoy in the society that encircled the hospitable board, the contemplation of moral beauty and moral grandeur.”
41. Manuscript: “drving.”
42. Preceding seven words added.
43. Enquirer here adds “otherwise, I really think, we must have all been rolled down the mountain” and omits following sentence.
44. Enquirer here adds “These, and a variety of other similar plans, he had designed, if executed, will greatly add to the interest and beauty, of scenery which though grand and picturesque, is now too wild and uncultivated.”
45. Enquirer: “Indisposition and anxiety confined Mrs. R— to the nursery of her little invalid.”
46. Manuscript: “find.”
47. Enquirer here adds “our conversation was characterized by that tone of intimacy, which no circumstances less affecting, could have imparted. There was something indescribably interesting in the contemplation of this illustrious citizen, this enlightened philosopher, this successful statesman, whose name was familiar to the world—to see him who had guided the helm of empire, thus cheering the sick-room of his children, and fondly supporting the head of his daughter, had in it something so touching, that it was impossible for me to repress the tears which would rise from my swelling breast.”
48. Preceding description of early Tuesday activities omitted from Enquirer.
49. Omitted word editorially added.
50. Smith here canceled “common.”
51. Smith here canceled “nature &.”
52. Manuscript: “carrier.” Enquirer: “career.”
53. Omitted word supplied from Enquirer.
54. Word interlined.
55. Manuscript: “flied.” Enquirer: “field.”
56. Enquirer: “fame & happiness.”
57. Smith here canceled: “time has ripen’d the early premium &.”
58. Enquirer here adds “both here, and at a fine estate he has in Bedford.”
59. Enquirer: “active mind designs more than many hands can execute, or.”
60. Enquirer here adds “pulling him down on the steps, climbing on his knees, and loading him with caresses.”
61. Enquirer: “and gave the promised kiss, as the reward to the victor. He was setting on the steps of the portico; the last rays of the setting sun, gleamed on his mild countenance; his white locks, waved in the evening breeze, and his arms encircled his lively little ones, glowing with health and beauty. What a picture! O! how I wished for a painter’s skill, to have preserved it for the view of others—for myself, it would have been unnecessary; it is imprinted too deeply on my heart, for time or distance to efface.”
62. Enquirer here adds “to catch them if he could.”
63. Smith here canceled “but with the grater”
64. Word interlined in place of an illegible word.
65. Manuscript: “Randolp.”
66. Smith here canceled “expected.”
67. Preceding two words interlined in place of “general washington.”
68. Preceding eleven words interlined in place of “pusylanimity.”
69. Manuscript: “delieverd.”
70. Enquirer drastically condenses preceding three paragraphs and omits quotes from TJ’s letters.
71. Paragraph omitted from Enquirer.
72. Preceding three words interlined.
73. Manuscript: “say.”
74. Thus in manuscript. Smith probably intended “unwillingly.”
75. Smith here canceled “& vanity.”
76. Smith here canceled “animation.”
77. Smith here canceled “ever easy.”
78. Enquirer substitutes “In his mild accents, his meanest slave must recognize a friend. What then must be the feelings of a friend?” for remainder of this sentence and omits following sentence.
79. Preceding three words interlined in place of “reserved.”
80. Word interlined in place of “form.”
81. Enquirer article concludes: “and when once engaged, new circumstances were continually arising; new duties devolved, which has never since allowed me to leave the course, into which I had been impelled by the force of events.”
- alcohol; claret search
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