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Judith Lomax’s Poem: “Monticello,” [ca. August 1813]

Judith Lomax’s Poem: “Monticello”

[ca. Aug. 1813]

“Monticello”.—Composed1 while viewing the Clouds gathering and rolling about the Mountain.—

A cloud rests on the Mountain’s brow,
And through it “dim seen forms” appear,
Floating in air, or station’d now,
In gloomy grandeur near.

These forms fantastic bring along,
To Fancy’s mental eye;
Those times when Ossian, “Son of song,”
Awaked the tender sigh.

And still the vision’d scene untrue,
My Mind with rapture2 fills;
For still methinks I seem to view,
The “Spirit of the hills.”

And Fancy too, in Selma’s hall,
Awakes the Hero’s name;
Methinks I hear the Bard recall,
The deeds of Fingal’s fame.

But why should thus my entranced3 Soul,
In “other times” delight;
When o’er the present age there4 roll,
Beams of more vivid light?

Yes, Monticello sheds a ray,
O’er each dark gath’ring cloud;
And proudly owns a blaze of day,
Which malice ne’er can shroud.

Here Virtue, Taste, and Science dwell,
This is their fav’rite Seat;
They mark the spot they love so well,
And guard5 their sweet retreat6.—

Malvina, alias, Judith Lomax.—

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, ser. 6); entirely in Lomax’s hand. Printed in Lomax, The Notes of an American Lyre (Richmond, 1813; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4452), 49.

Judith Lomax (1774–1828), author, was the unmarried eldest daughter of Thomas Lomax and Ann Lomax, of Port Tobago in Caroline County. She was a fervent evangelical Episcopalian and supporter of the American Colonization Society. TJ reported to John Adams on 22 Aug. 1813 that she was then at Monticello, while James Hunter recorded in loose sheets for a diary on 30 Aug. 1813 that he “visited, by invitation of C Bankhead monticello.—I was very much pleased with the place.—mr Jefferson not at home.—mrs Randolph there.—a very polite agreeable woman. met with miss Judith Lomax <there>” (MS in ViHi: Hunter Family Papers; in Hunter’s hand). Lomax continued to reside in Caroline County after the sale in 1816 of her family’s plantation but relocated to Fredericksburg in the winter of 1826–27. She was impoverished and living with her mother at the time of her death, when her personal estate was valued at $161.35 (Edward L. Lomax, Genealogy of the Virginia Family of Lomax [1913], 19, 24; Laura Hobgood-Oster, ed., The Sabbath Journal of Judith Lomax, 1774–1828 [1999; based on MS at ViHi]; Alexandria Gazette, Commercial and Political, 9 Jan. 1816; DNA: RG 29, CS, Caroline Co., 1820; Fredericksburg Virginia Herald, 23 Jan. 1828; Fredericksburg Hustings Court Will Book, B:362–3, C:121).

Later in 1813 Lomax dedicated The Notes of an American Lyre, her slim volume of poetry and prose, to TJ. In addition to the poem printed above, the book contained a second celebrating TJ’s election as president, “A Prophecy, on the 11th of February, 1801”; a third “To Miss R******h” thanking one of TJ’s grandchildren for giving her a copy of William Godwin’s St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century; and a fourth “Written immediately on my return home from the South West Mountains,” in which Lomax recalls her visit and invites Ellen Wayles Randolph (Coolidge) to reciprocate by calling on her (pp. 12–3, 50–1).

James Macpherson’s poetry written in the guise of the alleged ancient Gaelic author ossian (the bard) contains the hero Fingal, his palace named Selma, and the songstress malvina.

1Text to this point in American Lyre reads “Written at Monticello, Albemarle county, and composed.

2American Lyre: “transport.”

3American Lyre: “raptur’d.”

4American Lyre substitutes “æra” for preceding two words.

5MS: “gaurd.” American Lyre: “guard.”

6Text in American Lyre ends here.

Index Entries

  • books; novels search
  • books; poetry search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); and J. Lomax search
  • Godwin, William; St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century search
  • Lomax, Judith; identified search
  • Lomax, Judith; poetry of search
  • Lomax, Judith; The Notes of an American Lyre search
  • Lomax, Judith; “Monticello” search
  • Macpherson, James; works alluded to by J. Lomax search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); poem about search
  • Notes of an American Lyre (J. Lomax) search
  • poetry; dedicated to TJ search
  • poetry; written at Monticello search
  • St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century (Godwin) search
  • “Monticello” (Lomax) search