Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder

Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder

Language: English

Pages: 289

ISBN: 0805004823

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book, a National Book Award nominee in 1988, is the life of Thomas Jefferson as seen through the prism of his love affair with Monticello. For over half a century, it was his consuming passion, his most serious amusement. With a sure command of sources and skilled intuitive understanding of Jefferson, McLaughlin crafts and uncommon portrait of builder and building alike. En route he tells us much about life in Virginia; about Monticello’s craftsmen and how they worked their materials; about slavery, class, and family; and, above all, about the multiplicity of domestic concerns that preoccupied this complex man. It is and engaging and incisive look at the eighteenth-century mind: systematic, rational, and curious, but also playful, comfort-loving, and amusing. Ultimately, it provides readers with great insight into daily life in Colonial and Federal America.

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Thomas Mann Randolph to C. A. Rodney, Apr. 16, 1804, Historical Society of Missouri (John H. Gundlach collection). 382 controlled emotion typical of his generation: Jan Lewis, The Pursuit of Happiness, Family and Values in Jefferson’s Virginia (Cambridge University Press, 1983), 36, 70–71. 383 “took their ultimate form”: to James Madison, Apr. 21, 1804, DLC. 384 “slender thread of a single life”: to John Page, June 25, 1804, L & B, 11:31. 385 old list of various kinds of lumber: Bill

attempt to penetrate beyond them to the inner man is reduced to conjecture, for the eyes are reflections rather than portals. The nose is patrician, the mouth firmly set, the facial muscles in perfect tune beneath the skin. His hair has by now turned from red to a sandy grey and is worn collar length. It falls in loose curls around his ears and neck, softening the tight line of his jaw. Augustus Foster,5 secretary of the British legation in Washington at this time, described Jefferson in terms

my house, to which I can affirm there is nothing superior in the U.S.” 124 While the bricklayer’s craft has not changed appreciably in two hundred years, this is not so for the carpenter. An eighteenth-century carpenter or joiner was closer to what today would be a wood carver, a craftsman who worked exclusively with hand tools. Most of the work that Jefferson’s carpenters did at Monticello would now be manufactured in a factory and assembled at the building site. Window units, doors, stair

of the first Monticello house. Fig. 48 Plan of the garden and roundabout of the first Monticello. Fig. 57 Memorandum for Jefferson’s library on the second floor of the first Monticello house, with a sketch of a folding library ladder. The floor plan of this room, drawn on the right, is the only one that exists. Jefferson responded that he would sell Lucy “at a fair valuation by neighbors if she is willing to be sold, as I have little doubt she would be. 231 She would certainly

probably concentrated on completing the cellars and installing timber framing for the floor joists of the main building. The 50,000 bricks completed that year, if immediately laid that summer and fall, would be enough to raise the middle building only halfway up the first story. As work progressed, always at a slower pace than hoped for, Jefferson continued to modify and scale down his construction plans. Some of the more grandiose features of his earlier planning, such as carrying the

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