Thomas Jefferson Papers

Francis C. Gray’s Account of a Visit to Monticello, [4–7 February 1815]

Francis C. Gray’s Account of a Visit to Monticello

[4–7 Feb. 1815]

on Thursday the 2d of Feby Mr. T & myself at half after 3 o’clock1 with each a small bundle left Richmond in the Stage coach for Charlottesville2 in the county of Albemarle, in order to pay a visit to Mr. Jefferson to whom we both had letters from Mr. Adams. At 12 miles from town we passed Tuckahoe creek & soon after reached our breakfasting house, where for the first time in my life, I sat down to table with the Landlord & his wife, and we continued to do so during the whole ride to Charlotte. we were here told that all the people east of the mountains call those on the west cohees, and are called by them Tuckahoes. The first is Irish , from which nation the valley was first settled, & the latter the Indian name of a vegetable growing in the Southern & Eastern parts of Virginia eaten by the hogs & perhaps formerly by the inhabitants. (This vegetable I once supposed to be the truffle but find from mr. Jeff. that it certainly is not so.) On leaving our breakfasting house we rode for 16 miles through a fine country along the Northern bank of James River, Soon quitting the country of coal in the center of which is situated the inn at which we had breakfasted 14 miles from Rich. In several of the houses at which we stopped the whiskey drunk by the passengers did not form an item in the bill as they were private not public houses ie. they had no license. At 45 miles from Richmond according to the regular course of the stage we slept the first night. On the next day we passed through a miserable barren country covered with pines & found a ford at junk creek half frozen over & in quite as bad a State as the Matawomin. But our white3 driver with a spirit & industry far superior to that of the Maryland black, broke the ice before his horses & carried them through without difficulty (a dead horse was lying on the farther bank, who had been drowned in attempting to pass.) We overtook particularly on the first day many soldiers of the militia who had been in the service of the U.S 6 months at Norfolk without winter clothing, exposed to three epidemics which desolated their camp, The ague & fever, the Typhus, and the Throat distemper, & were now discharged without pay, many of them had not sufficient money to procure food & some as we were told, had eaten nothing for 30 hours—

The country constantly ascended as we proceeded west & on Friday soon after noon, we crossed the North River at the Ford near Milton & soon reached Monticello between which & another mountain belonging to Mr. Jefferson, passed our road to Charlottesville, at which town we dined there.4 It contains a few brick houses a court house very large & a stone goal, the basement story of which is occupied as shops by a couple of Sadlers. This town though the largest in this part of the country contains no meeting house, nor is there any within 7 miles, but divine service is performed here in the court house every other Sunday—On Saturday it rained & at 12. O’clock we went from our tavern in a hack to monticello three miles east of Charlottesville on the same road we had passed the day before Our road passed between monticello & the S.W mountain which is much higher & along whose side runs the narrow path which led us between these hills to the gate on the S.E side of monticello. The Sides of both these hills & the valley between them are covered with a noble forest of oaks in all stages of growth & of decay. Their trunks straight & tall put forth no branches till they reach a height almost equal to the Summits of our loftiest trees in New England. Those which were rooted in the valley, in the richest soil overtopped many which sprung from spots far above them on the side of the mountain. The forest had evidently been abandoned to nature, some of the trees were decaying from age, some were blasted, some uprooted by the wind & some appeared even to have been twisted from their trunks by the violence of a hurricane. They rendered the approach to the house even at this season of the year extremely grand & imposing. On reaching the house we found no bell nor knocker & entering through the hall the parlour saw a Gentleman (Col. Randolph) who took our letters to Mr. Jefferson.

Mr. Jefferson soon made his appearance he is quite tall, 6 feet one or two inches, face streaked & speckled with red, light grey eyes, white hair, dressed in shoes of very thin soft leather with pointed toes & heels ascending in a peak behind, with very short quarters grey worsted stockings, corderoy small clothes blue waistcoat & coat, of stiff, thick cloth made of the wool of his own merinos & badly manufactured, the buttons of his coat & small clothes of horn, & an under waistcoat flanel bound with red velvet—His figure bony, long5 with broad shoulders, a true Virginian. He begged he might put up our carriage, send for our baggage & keep us with him some time. We assented & he left the room to give the necessary directions, sending as we requested the carriage back to Charlottesville.6 On looking round the room in which we sat the first thing which attracted our attention was the state of the chairs. They had leather bottoms stuffed with hair, but the bottoms were completely worn through & the hair sticking out in all directions, on the mantle piece which was large & of marble were many books of all kinds Livy, Orosius, Edinburg review, 1 vol. of Edgeworths moral tales &c. &c. There were many miserable prints & some fine pictures hung round the room, among them two plans for7 the completion of the Capitol at washington one of them very elegant. A Harpsichord stood in one corner of the room. There were four double8 windows from the wall to the floor of fine large glass & a recess in one side of the apartment. This was the Breakfasting room. after half an hours conversation with Mr. Jeff. & Col. Randolph we were invited into the parlour where a fire was just kindled & a servant occupied in substituting a wooden pannel for a square of glass, which had been broken in one of the folding doors opening on the lawn. Mr. J. had procured the glass for his house in Bohemia, where the price is so much the square foot whatever be the size of the glass purchased, & these panes were so large that unable to replace the square in this part of the country, he had been obliged to send to Boston to have some glass made of sufficient size to replace that broken, & this had not yet been received. We passed the whole forenoon, which was rainy, in conversation with Mr. Jeff & Mr. Randolph & at 4 o’clock toddy was brought us, which neither of us took & which was never after handed again, & we were ushered back into the breakfast room to dinner, where we were introduced to Mrs. Randolph Miss Randolph, & Mr. T. J. Randolph. The rest of the family at table9 were mrs. Marks a sister of mr. Jefferson & 2 other daughters of Col. Randolph The drinking cups were of silver marked G.W. to T.J— the table liquors were beer & cider & after dinner wine. In the same room we took tea & at ten in the evening retired—Fires were lighted in our bed rooms & again in the morning before we rosethe beds were all in recesses—At 15 minutes after 8. we heard the first breakfast bell & at 9. the second, whose sound assembled us in the breakfast room—We sat an hour after breakfast chatting with the Ladies & then adjourned to the parlour, Mr. Jefferson gave us the catalogue of his books to examine & soon after conducted us to his library, & passed an hour there in pointing out to us its principal treasures. His collection of ancient classics was complete as to the authors but very careless in the editions. They10 were generally interleaved with the best English Translations. The Ancient English authors were also all here & some very rare editions of them. a black letter Chaucer & the first of milton’s Paradise Lost divided into ten books were the most remarkable. A considerable number of books valuable to the Biblical critic were here, & various ancient editions of all11 the genuine & apocryphal books Erasmus’ edition &c. Many of the most valuable works on the civil and maritime law & on diplomacy, together with a complete collection of the Laws of the different states, those of Virginia in manuscript, & all the old elementary writers & reporters of England formed the legal library. The ancient and most distinguished modern historians render this department nearly complete, & the histories & descriptions of the kingdoms of Asia were remarkably numerous Rapin was here in French though very rare in that language, mr. Jeff. said that after all it was still the best history of England, for Hume’s tory principles are to him insupportable. The best mode of counteracting their effect is, he thinks, to publish an Edition of Hume expunging all those reflections & reasonings, whose influence is so injurious, this has been attempted by12 Baxter, but he has injured the work by making other material abridgements. D’Avila was there in Italian in mr J’s opinion one of the most entertaining books he ever read—I was surprised to find here two little volumes on Chronology by Count Potocki of St. Petersburg. Mr. J has also a fine collection of Saxon & mœso Gothic books, among them Alfred’s translations of Orosius & Boethius—& shewed13 us some attempts he had made at facilitating the study of this language. He thought the singularity of the letters one of the greatest difficulties & proposed publishing the Saxon books in four columns the first to contain the Saxon, the second the same in Roman characters, the third a strictly verbal translation & the fourth a free one. Mr. J. said the French Dicty of Trevoux was better than that of the Academy, thought Charron de la Sagesse an excellent work & brought us a commentary & review on Montesquieu published by Duane the translator from the French M.S. which he called the best book on politics which had been published for a century, & agreed with its author in his opinion of Montesquieu—

Of all branches of learning however that relating to the14 History of North & South America is the most perfectly displayed in this library. The collection on this subject is without a question the most valuable15 in the world. Here are the works of all the Spanish travellers in America & the great work of De Brie in which he has collected latin translations of the smaller works published by the earliest visitors of America whose original publications are now lost. It is finely printed & adorned with many plates. Here also is a copy of the letters of Hernando16 Cortes in Spanish, one of a small edition, & the copy retained by the Editor the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo for himself, but given by him to the American Consul for mr. Jefferson. This work contains the official letters of Cortes to his court his maps of the country & plates representing the dresses, armour & other contents of the treasury of the Mexican Sovereigns—We saw here also some beautiful modern M.S.S. one of [a]17 work which had been suppressed in France, Most of the greek Romances—Mr. Jeff took us from his library into his bed chamber where on a table before the fire stood a polygraph with which he said he always wrote.18 Mr. Jefferson took his accustomed ride before dinner & on his return told us that the ice was crowded & thick on the banks of the Rivanna & had carried away 30 feet of his mill dam; this was all he said on the subject, & from his manner I supposed his loss was probably about one or two hundred dollars, but on our ride back to Richmond we heard it every where spoken of as a serious loss & the countrymen some of them even estimated it at 30000$. this to be sure must [have been]19 a most wonderful miscalculation, but no doubt the loss was serious.

MS (NcD: Gray Diary, 1811–15); with emendations in an unidentified hand, including notation at foot of text: “Dept Monticello, Tuesday, Feb. 7. 1815.”

Francis Calley Gray (1790–1856), attorney, public official, and man of letters, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1809. He spent four years in Russia as a secretary to United States minister plenipotentiary John Quincy Adams, 1809–13. Thereafter Gray lived in Boston and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1814, although he never practiced law. An author of some note, he published pieces on a host of historical, antiquarian, and legal topics, including penal reform. Gray served as a fellow at Harvard, 1826–36, as vice president and president of the Boston Athenæum, 1826–32 and 1833–36, respectively, and as a member of the state legislature, principally during the 1820s. He died in Boston. A lifelong bachelor, Gray left a fine collection of engravings to his alma mater along with a large portion of his estate to endow the collection and establish a museum of comparative zoology (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Marjorie B. Cohn, Francis Calley Gray and Art Collecting for America [1986]; Harvard Catalogue description begins Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1925, 1925 description ends , 71, 187; The Athenæum Centenary: The Influence and History of the Boston Athenæum from 1807 to 1907 [1907], 115, 116; Boston Columbian Centinel, 16 May 1821, 14 May 1823; Pittsfield Sun, 21 Apr. 1825; Boston Daily Advertiser, 30 Dec. 1856).

mr. t: George Ticknor. matawomin: Mattawoman Creek. north river: Rivanna River. another mountain owned by TJ was Montalto. goal: “jail.” miss randolph was the Randolphs’ eldest unmarried daughter, TJ’s granddaughter Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge). For TJ’s silver drinking cups, see TJ to John Le Tellier, 27 Mar. 1810. d’avila: Enrico Caterino Davila, Istoria delle guerre civili di Francia, 5 vols. (Venice, 1741; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 198; another ed., Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 4 [no. 73]).

alfred’s translations of orosius & boethius were The Anglo-Saxon Version, From the Historian Orosius. By Ælfred the Great. Together with an English Translation from the Anglo-Saxon (London, 1773; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4868), and Consolationis Philosophiæ Libri V. Anglo-Saxonice Redditi ab Alfredo, Inclyto Anglo-Saxonum Rege (Oxford, 1698; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4867; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 14 [no. 907]). TJ also proposed the publication of saxon books in four columns in an essay on the study of the Anglo-Saxon language that he prepared for the University of Virginia late in life (Stanley R. Hauer, “Thomas Jefferson and the Anglo-Saxon Language,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 98 [1983]: 879–98, esp. 889).

The dicty of trevoux was the Dictionnaire Universel François et Latin, vulgairement appelé Dictionnaire de Trévoux (Paris, 1771; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4824). For the great work of de brie (Theodor de Bry), see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends nos. 3973–83. For TJ’s acquisition of the letters of hernando cortes, which was edited by Archbishop Francisco Antonio Lorenzana y Butrón and published as the Historia de Nueva-España, escrita por su esclarecido conquistador Hernan Cortes, aumentada con otros documentos, y notas (Mexico, 1770; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4120), see PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 37 vols. description ends , 20:210–1, 28:381–3. Lorenzana had provided the american consul William Carmichael (actually chargé d’affaires and treaty commissioner) with a copy for transmittal to TJ.

1An unidentified person here interlined “a.m.”

2Manuscript: “Charlotteville.”

3Word interlined.

4Gray here canceled “friday.”

5Gray here canceled “& sharp.”

6Manuscript: “Charlotteville.”

7Reworked from “two projects of.”

8Word interlined.

9Preceding two words interlined.

10Reworked from “The greek classics.”

11Word interlined.

12Gray here canceled “Baker.”

13Manuscript: “shew.”

14Gray here canceled “Ancient.”

15Word interlined in place of “perfect.”

16Manuscript: “Fernando.”

17Omitted word editorially supplied.

18Gray here canceled “We dined.”

19Preceding two words interlined in an unidentified hand.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; introduces F. C. Gray search
  • Adams, John; introduces G. Ticknor search
  • alcohol; beer search
  • alcohol; cider search
  • alcohol; licenses for sale of search
  • alcohol; toddies search
  • Alfred (“the Great”), king of England; The Anglo-Saxon Version, From the Historian Orosius. By Ælfred the Great search
  • Americae Pars Quinta, part five of The Great or American Voyages, Parts I to XI, in Latin (T. de Bry) search
  • A New and Impartial History of England (J. Baxter) search
  • Anglo-Saxon language; TJ’s essay on search
  • Anglo-Saxon language; TJ’s study of search
  • Baxter, John; A New and Impartial History of England search
  • beds search
  • beer; served at Monticello search
  • Bible; works on search
  • Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus; Consolationis Philosophiæ Libri V. Anglo-Saxonice Redditi ab Alfredo search
  • books; dictionaries search
  • books; of correspondence search
  • books; of state papers and public documents search
  • books; on history search
  • books; on politics search
  • Boston, Mass.; glass from search
  • Bry, Theodor de; Americae Pars Quinta, part five of The Great or American Voyages, Parts I to XI, in Latin search
  • building materials; window glass search
  • Capitol, U.S.; drawings of search
  • Carmichael, William search
  • carriages; hired search
  • carriages; stagecoaches search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; churches in search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; courthouse in search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; description of search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; stagecoach to, from Richmond search
  • Charron, Pierre; De La Sagesse search
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey; The Workes of our Antient and Learned English Poet, Geffrey Chaucer, newly Printed search
  • cider; mentioned search
  • clothing; buttons search
  • clothing; coats search
  • clothing; corduroy search
  • clothing; flannel search
  • clothing; homespun search
  • clothing; knee breeches search
  • clothing; shoes search
  • clothing; smallclothes search
  • clothing; stockings search
  • clothing; velvet search
  • clothing; waistcoats search
  • clothing; wool search
  • coats; waistcoats search
  • Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws (Destutt de Tracy); TJ on search
  • Consolationis Philosophiæ Libri V. Anglo-Saxonice Redditi ab Alfredo (A. M. S. Boethius) search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); mentioned search
  • Cortés, Hernán; Historia de Nueva-España search
  • cups; Jefferson Cups search
  • cups; silver search
  • Davila, Enrico Caterino; Istoria delle guerre civili di Francia search
  • De La Sagesse (P. Charron) search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws search
  • Dictionnaire Universel François et Latin … de Trévoux search
  • diphtheria (throat distemper); in militia encampment search
  • Duane, William; and Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Edgeworth, Maria; Moral Tales for young people search
  • Edinburgh Review search
  • Erasmus, Desiderius; Novum Testamentum Græce et Latine search
  • food; tuckahoes search
  • French language; dictionaries search
  • furniture; alcove beds search
  • furniture; chairs search
  • glass, window; Bohemian search
  • glass, window; Boston search
  • glass, window; for Monticello search
  • Gray, Francis Calley; Account of a Visit to Monticello search
  • Gray, Francis Calley; identified search
  • Gray, Francis Calley; introduced to TJ search
  • Gray, Francis Calley; visits Monticello search
  • health; diphtheria (throat distemper) search
  • health; in Tidewater Va. search
  • health; malaria (ague and fever) search
  • health; typhus search
  • Histoire d’Angleterre (P. de Rapin Thoyras) search
  • Historia de Nueva-España (H. Cortés) search
  • horses; saddlery search
  • horses; TJ rides search
  • household articles; cups search
  • Hume, David; The History of England, from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688 search
  • Istoria delle guerre civili di Francia (E. C. Davila) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; catalogue of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; quality of library search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; TJ’s personal search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; appearance search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; by F. C. Gray search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; clothing search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; dining search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; historical works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; essay on Anglo-Saxon language search
  • Jefferson Cups search
  • law; books on search
  • leather; for shoes search
  • Livy; mentioned search
  • Lorenzana y Butrón, Francisco Antonio; edits Historia de Nueva-España (H. Cortés) search
  • machines; polygraph search
  • malaria (ague and fever); in militia encampment search
  • Marks, Anne Scott Jefferson (TJ’s sister; Hastings Marks’s wife); mentioned search
  • merino sheep; TJ raises search
  • merino sheep; wool of search
  • militia; of Va. search
  • mills; dam for search
  • Milton, John; Paradise Lost search
  • Milton, Va.; ford near search
  • Montalto (part of TJ’s Monticello estate) search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); approach to search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); bedrooms search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); beverages served at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); daily schedule of search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); dining at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); dining room (breakfast room) at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); east front search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); fireplace mantles search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); forest surrounding search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); furnishings at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); gate to search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); glass for search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); library at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); parlor (drawing room) search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); portraits and paintings at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); slaves at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); tea room at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); TJ’s bedroom search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Gray, Francis C. search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Ticknor, George search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); windows at search
  • Moral Tales for young people (M. Edgeworth) search
  • music; harpsichord search
  • Norfolk, Va.; and War of1812 search
  • Novum Testamentum Græce et Latine (D. Erasmus) search
  • Orosius, Paulus; The Anglo-Saxon Version, From the Historian Orosius. By Ælfred the Great search
  • Orosius, Paulus; works of search
  • paintings; at Monticello search
  • Paradise Lost (J. Milton) search
  • polygraph; at Monticello search
  • Potocki, Jean; Principes de Chronologie, pour les Temps Antérieurs aux Olympiades search
  • Principes de Chronologie, pour les Temps Antérieurs aux Olympiades (J. Potocki) search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); as hostess at Monticello search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); at family dinner search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); as host at Monticello search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); at family dinner search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); mentioned search
  • Rapin Thoyras, Paul de; Histoire d’Angleterre search
  • religion; works on search
  • Richmond, Va.; stagecoach from search
  • Rivanna River; dams on search
  • Rivanna River; ford at search
  • Rivanna River; ice on search
  • roads; in Va. search
  • Shadwell mills; dam at search
  • Shenandoah Valley; “Cohees” as nickname for residents of search
  • shoes; TJ’s search
  • silver; cups search
  • slaves; at Monticello search
  • tea; served at Monticello search
  • textiles; wool search
  • The Anglo-Saxon Version, From the Historian Orosius. By Ælfred the Great (P. Orosius) search
  • The History of England, from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688 (D. Hume) search
  • The Workes of our Antient and Learned English Poet, Geffrey Chaucer, newly Printed (G. Chaucer) search
  • Ticknor, George; introduced to TJ search
  • Ticknor, George; visits Monticello search
  • trees; at Monticello search
  • Trévoux, France; and Dictionnaire Universel François et Latin … de Trévoux search
  • typhus; in militia encampment search
  • Virginia; laws of search
  • Virginia; militia search
  • Virginia; regional nicknames search
  • Virginia; roads in search
  • Virginia; taverns in search
  • Virginia; TJ’s collection of laws of search
  • War of1812; condition of troops search
  • War of1812; in Norfolk search
  • weather; cold search
  • weather; ice search
  • wine; served at Monticello search
  • wool; merino search
  • wool; used for clothing search