Thomas Jefferson Papers

Nathaniel Helme’s Account of a Visit to Monticello, [7 November 1820]

Nathaniel Helme’s Account of a Visit to Monticello

[7 Nov. 1820]

The next day we visited the venerable Sage of Monticello. We took a winding path, which conducted us to the summit of the mount, where we found Mr. Jefferson in the enjoyment of health. As you have been repeatedly apprised of the commanding and delightful view from the summit of Monticello, of the grandeur and magnificence which surround this illustrious character, of the great collection of curiosities in his possession, and of the elegance of his museum, a recapitulation of particulars on my part will be both superfluous and unnecessary. Mr. Jefferson’s stature is tall and very erect; his step remarkably quick and active; his manners easy, graceful and polite; his mental powers, instead of being impaired by age, retain their native strength and energy; in fine, in his whole deportment are discoverable the characteristic traits of the sage, the patriot, and the gentleman. Mr. Jefferson in his dress, which was a grey coat, grey pantaloons and red vest, adheres very much to the old-fashioned style. We accepted his polite invitation to dine with him; we arose from table about sunset; the servant then brought our horses, and having shaken hands with the venerable man, we descended the mount.

Printed in Providence [R.I.] Patriot, 2 Dec. 1820, and elsewhere; undated extract, consisting of penultimate paragraph; at head of text: “interesting sketches.Extract of a letter from a Rhode-Islander, now residing in Virginia, to a gentleman in this town, dated November 14, 1820”; with date of Helme’s visit to Monticello confirmed by SJL entry recording delivery of introductory letters “by mr Helm” at that place on 7 Nov. 1820 (David Howell to TJ, 1 Sept. 1819; James Fenner to TJ, 19 Oct. 1819). In the remainder of the newspaper extract, Helme describes his travels “of about three hundred and twenty miles” that included departing 31 Oct. and staying 1 Nov. in Lynchburg, passing Poplar Forest, and visiting Natural Bridge and its neighboring saltpeter cave; traveling to Charlottesville by way of Lexington, Fairfield, Greenville, Waynesboro, and Rockfish Gap; visiting the University of Virginia, “which is on a very extensive scale” and “consists of four rows of buildings, which, when completed, are designed to be 900 feet in length, or indeed, agreeably to the present plan, they can be elongated at pleasure; there is an interval of ground between each row of about 250 feet in breadth; the buildings, which are six pavilions in each row, connected together by dormitories, are 40 feet deep; the situation is healthy, and commands a fine view of the adjacent country and of Monticello”; and, after leaving Monticello and visiting James Madison at Montpellier, departing 10 Nov. 1820.

Landon C. Read accompanied Helme when they visited TJ (Archibald Robertson to TJ, 2 Nov. 1820).

Index Entries

  • clothing; coats search
  • clothing; pantaloons search
  • clothing; vests search
  • coats; Quaker-style search
  • Helme, Nathaniel; Account of a Visit to Monticello search
  • Helme, Nathaniel; travels of search
  • Helme, Nathaniel; visits Montpellier search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; appearance search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; by N. Helme search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; clothing search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); visitors to search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); approach to search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Helme, Nathaniel search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Read, Landon C. search
  • Montpellier (Montpelier; J. Madison’s Orange Co. estate); visitors to search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; saltpeter cave near search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; visitors to search
  • pantaloons search
  • Read, Landon Cabell; visits Monticello search
  • saltpeter search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; design of search