Tag Archives: Monticello

On Friendship

Friendship was not just a social convention to Jefferson… but he considered it essential to the human condition- a bedrock of civil society.  Acquaintances come and go, but true friends grow, mature, and age with you.  Jefferson realized that later in life, friendships would be therapeutic.

Oh really.....do tell.

Oh really…..do tell.

 

“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.”

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Jefferson in Love….Sort of…

Jefferson struggled with his love for Maria Cosway…. going as far as to illustrate his emotional agony to her in a letter- the letter detailed the tug-of-war between Jefferson’s head and his aching heart.  Jefferson was perfectly content to remain within his head, buried in his books and letters.  But, as seen in the previous post, Jefferson was a man who cared and loved deeply.  Maria Cosway was a special woman, he knew he would never find another like her:

Dear Friend

Head: In fine, my friend, you must mend your manners. This is not a world to live at random in as you do. To avoid these eternal distresses, to which you are for ever exposing us, you must learn to look forward before you take a step which may interest our peace. Everything in this world is matter of calculation. Advance then with caution, the balance in your hand. Put into one scale the pleasures which any object may offer; but put fairly into the other the pains which are to follow, and see which preponderates…The most effectual means of being secure against pain is to retire within ourselves, and to suffice for our own happiness. Those, which depend on ourselves, are the only pleasures a wise man will count on: for nothing is ours which another may deprive us of. Hence the inestimable value of intellectual pleasures. 

Heart: This world abounds indeed with misery: to lighten it’s burthen we must divide it with one another. But let us now try the virtues of your mathematical balance, and as you have put into one scale the burthens of friendship, let me put it’s comforts into the other….In a life where we are perpetually exposed to want and accident, yours is a wonderful proposition, to insulate ourselves, to retire from all aid, and to wrap ourselves in the mantle of self-sufficiency! For assuredly nobody will care for him who cares for nobody.

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A True Love Affair

Thomas Jefferson began his courtship… of young widow, Martha Wayles Skelton in 1770.  Music helped strengthen the bond between the young couple,  Jefferson played the violin and Martha the harpsichord.  The courtship took place at The Forest, Martha’s father’s plantation, where Jefferson was a frequent guest during the summer of 1770.  The warm afternoons were filled with romantic duets so passionately rendered, other suitors left without further inquiry.  The couple was married New Years Day, 1772.

“the horrible dreariness of such a house”

Thomas Jefferson led Martha to his mountain… through one of the worst snowstorms in Virginia history.  The newlyweds were forced to abandon their carriage and trudge the last several miles on horseback.  Martha was dismayed at the sight of the tiny south pavilion, Jefferson had yet to construct the house most associated with his mountaintop.  Jefferson rummaged through some books and found a bottle of wine, and so the couple began their married life.  Nine months later, Patsy was born.

Jefferson’s career dragged him from Monticello… months at a time, but he considered the ten years of his marriage the happiest of his life.  Martha gave him six children, but only three survived infancy.  Historians believe that Martha suffered from diabetes;  Each of their children were larger at birth, the last child Lucy Elizabeth, may have been 16 pounds.  She never recovered from Lucy’s birth in May of 1782.    Jefferson was at her side during that long summer, tending to her every need.  Near the end, when Martha could no longer speak, the couple penned lines from their favorite novel, Tristram Shandy:

Martha began-  Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity life follows my pen. The days and hours of it are flying over our heads like clouds of windy day never to return– more. Every thing presses on–  Too weak to finish, Jefferson completed the passage-and every time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, every absence which follows it, are preludes to that eternal separation which we are shortly to make! 

“for what good end could the sensations of grief be intended?”

Martha made Jefferson promise to never remarry… she couldn’t bear the thought of the children being raised by a stepmother as she was.  After she closed her eyes on September 6th, Jefferson had to be carried from the room.  He was inconsolable for weeks, only his daughter Patsy was able to help him through the ordeal.  Jefferson kept the slip of paper, in his wife’s hand, at his bedside the rest of his life.  It was discovered decades later, fragile after being folded and unfolded hundreds of times.  Inside were locks of hair from Martha and their deceased children.

This is a love story excluded from current… Jefferson scholarship, and for good reason.  It does not fit the salacious narrative that dominates popular opinion about our third President.  A man who felt deeply and loved deeply is contrary to the image of the wicked slave owner.  Pseudo-scholarship promoting this revisionist view of Jefferson is pervasive in our society, even earning some of the highest literary honors.  Decades of scholarship cannot be ignored for the sake of political correctness.

“And were we to love none but with imperfection, this world would be a desert for our love”

 

 

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On Loss

The grieving optimist- Jefferson lost nearly everyone dear to him…. so he could relate grief to his dear friend, John Adams upon hearing of the death of Abigail.  Relating grief is not the same as understanding it, however…..

 

“Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medi­cine….although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again.”

 

” I have often wondered for what good end the sensations of Grief could be intended.”

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It’s Jefferson Week Again

Jefferson would detest this yearly remembrance of his birthday… but the readers of this blog support the Jefferson content.   More Jefferson posts are on the way…..

 

To stop desecrating my memory

 

Maybe there’s hope

 

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On Grief

Even the eternal optimist within… Thomas Jefferson was dragged down to earth by loss.  Behind the iconic image was a man who loved deeply and lost nearly everyone dear to him.  Despite the pain, Jefferson remained optimistic, immersing himself in books and his correspondence.  He told his friend John Adams;

“You ask if I would agree to live my 70. or rather 73. years over again?  To which I say Yea.  I think with you that it is a good world on the whole, that it has been framed on a principle of benevolence, and more pleasure than pain dealt out to us.”

Tugging at his enlightened nature… was the depression that followed the loss of his loved ones.  Jefferson pondered the concept of grief to Adams;

“I have often wondered for what good end the sensations of Grief could be intended.  All our other passions, within proper bounds, have a useful object.”

Jefferson outlived his wife and all but one… of their children.  The thought of living out his days alone terrified him;

“This morning between 8 & 9. a clock my dear daughter Maria Eppes died…. My evening prospects now hang on the slender thread of a single life. Perhaps I may be destined to see even this last chord of parental affection broken!”

Sadness and reflections....

Sadness and reflections….

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On Love

Jefferson loved two women in his life… both brought him periods of blissful happiness and profound sadness.  Through all the sadness, Jefferson’s optimism could always be felt-  He told his second love, Maria Cosway in 1786:

Head vs. Heart

Heaven has submitted our being to some unkind laws.  When those charming moments were present which I passed with you, they were clouded with the prospect that I was soon to lose you… I am determined when you come next not to admit the idea that we are ever to part again… May your days be many and filled with sunshine, may your heart glow with warm affections… Write to me often- write affectionately and freely as I do to you.  Say many kind things and say them without reserve.  They will be food for my soul…

Dear Friend

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