When Jefferson Dined Alone

Mr. Gross is a professor at DePaul University and author of the forthccoming, Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks (Steerforth Press, May 2006).

During the month of December, 2002, I found myself in Roosevelt Cottage at Kenwood, a 78-acre estate on the slopes of Monticello, land once owned by Thomas Jefferson. At night, I was editing an 18th century novel by the Duchess of Devonshire, published three years before Jefferson wrote the “Declaration of Independence.” By day, I was supposed to be working in the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Library where I had keys as a scholar in residence. On the walls of the stone cottage were photographs of Franklin Roosevelt, who had apparently spent a weekend there on May 2nd and 3rd, 1941; the cottage had been built expressly for him by a senior aide and close friend, Major General Edwin M. Watson of Kenwood. The Life photographs portrayed Roosevelt as a good democrat, a man who enjoyed Coca-Cola, just like everyone else, and a refrigerator stocked with Schlitz.

I was at the Jefferson Memorial Library in Monticello to write a book about Thomas Jefferson’s interest in Romantic poetry, but I had little to go on. The library was daunting, filled with volumes on Jefferson and gardening, Jefferson and architecture, everything, it seemed, but Jefferson and poetry. By the third week of my stay, feeling more dejected than usual, I drove down to the bottom of the mountain. At the Visitor’s Center, I bought some Jefferson soaps, a Jefferson pencil, getting ready to make the long journey back to the Midwest. At the cash register, exchanging pleasantries, I glanced at a title in black cloth binding, published by Rowman and Littlefield: James Golden’s Thomas Jefferson and the Rhetoric of Virtue. Turning to the back of the volume, I noticed an appendix treating newspaper clippings book of poetry which had been discovered too late to include in the main text. The book had just come out. I jumped in my silver Honda civic and drove back up the little mountain for which Monticello is named, almost forgetting to pay for my Jeffersonian memorabilia. With Golden’s reference in hand, I unearthed two thick binders of newspaper clippings, evidently xeroxed from microfilm. I had photocopying privileges that month, and with all the idealism of a graduate student (with only seven days left for my month-long fellowship), I began copying portions of the manuscript. As the copier whirred and sent off light in all directions, I wondered if these books might not contain another side to Thomas Jefferson: an admirer of women writers, perhaps? A fan of abolitionist verse? A closet Anglophile?

Elegy to Hamilton, surprising in a scrapbook of Jefferson's. Anxiety soon followed exhilaration. What if Jefferson had nothing to do with these books? I pictured a small girl of 8 or 9, cutting out poems from the newspaper and gluing them on scrap paper.1 Her mother ambled to her side and helped her paste a poem in her scrapbook. Perhaps the little girl was Ellen Coolidge, Jefferson’s most literary granddaughter. Anne C. Bankhead, Cornelia Randolph, and Virginia J. Trist ( Randolph 347) apparently had collections of their own as well. Try as I would, however, I could not picture the author of “The Declaration of Independence” with scissors and paste, gluing poems about owls and parrots on the back of his own correspondence.

And yet this, it would seem, was precisely what he did. Scholars had previously assumed Jefferson’s grand-daughters collected the poems, but opinions on this, and other matters, were beginning to change. “Four Scrapbooks previously regarded as the work of Thomas Jefferson’s grandchildren were actually compiled by the nation’s third President,” Lee Smith wrote in the Washington Post on September 30, 1999. Robert McDonald, assistant professor of history at the United States Military Academy, and James Horn, Saunders director of the International Center for Jeffersonian Studies at Monticello vouched for their authenticity. A It conforms to everything we know about the aspects of his character,” Horn stated. Dan Jordan, president of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, called the scrapbooks “a major find because of the insight they offer into Jefferson’s personality and intellectual interests” (Golden 473).

“Must have been a slow news day,” Jefferson Looney said, when I alluded to the article in 1999, “we’ve known about them for years.” “Then why was nothing done?” I felt tempted to ask. But the formidably erudite Looney was encouraging, or meant to be. He suggested an electronic edition, and I began to think about the years it might take to put the complete poems before the public. All the potential mistakes! The embarrassments! Glancing at the staff of 20 or more scholars, who were busy editing Jefferson’s retirement papers, I reminded myself that Jefferson’s forty-volume correspondence had only reached 1800. He wrote 16,000 letters in his lifetime (Burstein 203); there were still more than twenty years worth of letters to edit, including those written during his presidency. And this extraordinarily disciplined group of scholars had been working on Jefferson’s papers since 1957. Jefferson’s newspaper clippings could wait.

To get a better sense of the task at hand, I decided to consult the original scrapbooks, one of which was in the Visitor’s Center at Monticello, where I first came across Golden’s book. Tourists visited the center every day and viewed this newspaper scrapbook from behind plexiglass. The secret was in plain sight. When I tried to take photographs of the volume, however, I was discouraged, which only whetted my desire to get a letter of permission to consult the original. The other volume, in the rare book room at Alderman library on the campus of University of Virginia, was more readily accessible, but had also been ignored. And this had occurred at Jefferson’s own university, where a life-sized statue looks down on the students who assemble in the academical village he designed.

In December of 2003, I took a propeller plane on the final leg of my journey, from Chicago to Charlottesville by way of Washington, visiting Alderman library and the Visitor’s center, where the manuscripts were held. A year later, I drove the 14 hours to Charlottesville straight, until the Blue Ridge mountains seemed to burst through my windshield. I took digital photographs of every page of both books, screwing my body up into strange positions to make use of the natural sunlight that helped light up the yellow pages of the newspaper clippings. It gets dark early in December. Leaving my Econo-lodge hotel at 7:30 a.m. for the library, I emerged at 5:00 p.m. to what seemed like the utter darkness of rural Virginia. I made my way down the hill from the University of Virginia Campus to Cary’s Camera and Imaging, where I tried not to look at the bill for the photographs I had taken that day. The store manager gave me tips on light meters and aperture settings. Librarians at the University of Virginia and at the International Center for Jefferson Studies were extraordinarily patient, allowing me to photograph the manuscript myself, thereby enabling me to work on the collection at home in Chicago.

The more I read about Jefferson, especially his letters to his granddaughters, the more convinced I became that the Washington Post was right: Jefferson had assembled this book, and his granddaughters had books of their own. Theirs no longer survive, but his does (Betts 203). The primary proof is that the poems are annotated in his hand. They appear on the back of his own White House correspondence. I’ll never forget the day an oak leaf popped out of the book, pressed, as it was, against a page containing a sentimental poem entitled “To Clara.” The oak leaf had appeared even in the microfilm shot in 1957. It was still there! Jefferson’s spirit seemed to haunt this book, beckoning the researcher, as he had encouraged so many scholars, to study his life, his interests, and hobby-horses. It was an intensely personal book: a mature genius’s leisure-hours retrospective, not the work of a child. Like the manuscript Victor Frankenstein leaves to Robert Walton, or Kurtz leaves for Charlie Marlow—like Byron’s memoirs entrusted to Thomas Moore-- Jefferson’s newspaper clippings book was full of self-justifications and ironic reflections, an autobiography of the heart more revealing than Anas, Jefferson’s published reminiscences. Washington, Burr, Hamilton, and other friends and foes of his political career appear like ghosts from the past. Sentimental poetry dominates the collection, as do poems about poppies, grasshoppers, and the seasons.

As I studied Jefferson’s scrapbooks, I was surprised to find evidence of his own penciled emendations. After Barbauld’s “Hymn to Content,” he decided to change the pagination and place that poem in a different section of the collection. When Burger’s “Lenora” didn’t fit, he folded the poem so it would. Next to a passage from Mirror for Magistrates, he wrote, “as good now as when it was written.” When a bit of newspaper print was smudged, Jefferson provided the missing word. Not one was missing.

Like Monticello itself, which was always under construction during Jefferson’s life, these volumes were subject to the caprice and ever-changing interests of the man who compiled them. He changed the order of the collection, toying with thematic and chronological arrangements, providing at least two sets of numbering systems. His handwriting on the poems themselves, their subject matter, and their relationship to themes in his correspondence, point directly to his organizing intelligence.2 Even the physical appearance of this volume, bound in dark brown boards, matches what we know of Jefferson’s work on the New Testament. For two days in early February, 1804 (Church 18), Jefferson assembled a version of the New Testament that included only Jesus’ sayings—and did so in four different languages (Greek, French, English, and Latin). This enlightenment project bears interesting similarities to the newspaper clippings book, which was also assembled while Jefferson was President.3 The methodology used in both is the same: comparison and contrast, juxtaposition, careful arrangement of received material. In both cases, Jefferson sent the book he assembled to be bound at a bookseller (Church, 18).

Even as he kept his own scrapbook, then, Jefferson sent poems to help his grand-daughters to read, memorize, and foster a love of poetry. Perhaps he also kept his own book to compare with theirs. Though I have tried to edit this sprawling inter-disciplinary collection in a scholarly manner, I hope I have followed the spirit of Jefferson’s project in editing this work for the general reader, even the youthful reader with whom portions of it were first shared, rather than the academic specialist.

One clear value of this collection is that it provides evidence for Jefferson’s continuing interest in literature after the construction of his literary commonplace book in 1767. This has not been the predominant view. Some have argued that Jefferson knew little to nothing about poetry, citing Jefferson’s own remarks on the subject. When John Daly Burke asked Jefferson to comment on Joel Barlow’s The Vision of Columbus, Jefferson confessed that he would be an inadequate judge.

To my own mortification, [* * *] of all men living, I am the last who should undertake to decide as to the merits of poetry. In earlier life I was fond of it, and easily pleased. But as age and cares advanced, the powers of fancy have declined. Every year seems to have plucked a feather from her wings, till she can no longer waft one to those sublime heights to which it is necessary to accompany the poet. So much has my relish for poetry deserted me that, at present, I cannot read even Virgil with pleasure. I am consequently [utterly] incapable to decide on the merits of poetry. The very feelings to which it is addressed are among those I have lost. So that the blind man might as well undertake to [faded in MS.] a painting, or the deaf a musical composition (1801 Ford ed., 8:65). 4

Yet this letter has been taken out of context. Jefferson had written a “substantial” essay on English prosody in 1786 (Wilson 8), in which he debated with the Marquis de Chastellux whether English prosody’s principal characteristic was quantity, as Samuel Johnson maintained, or accent; after arguing the wrong side of the question, Jefferson came to the conclusion that accent is “the basis of English verse” (Golden 127). His technical knowledge included a detailed comparison of accentual and syllabic scansion, and an account of the “charms of music” which any “well-organized ear” can hear. “What proves the excellence of blank verse is that the taste lasts longer than that for rhyme,” he wrote in his Essay on Prosody. “The fondness for the jingle leaves us with that for the rattles and baubles of childhood” (Burstein, Secrets, 129).

A better explanation for Jefferson’s self-effacing remarks concerning his knowledge of poetry might be the rhetorical occasion. Jefferson prudently refrained from judging a friendly correspondent’s verse (enclosed in the letter) or commenting on the merit of Barlow’s. After all, Barlow was a propagandist for the Republican cause, too useful to risk alienating. If Jefferson was truly mortified by a growing insusceptibility to the beauty of poetry, he did not remain so for long. This letter may well have been the catalyst for Jefferson to assemble two volumes of newspaper verse. He did so that same year, judging from the dates of the earliest entries;5 interestingly, Barlow’s poem appears in volume one of Jefferson’s scrapbook.

Yet Jefferson’s 1801 letter to Burke is unconvincing in other respects as well. A year and a half earlier, for example, he was reading Homer, enjoying him “in his own language infinitely beyond Pope’s translation of him” (Joseph Priestley; January 27, 1800; Peden, 507), so he had not given up on Greek or Roman poetry entirely. If Jefferson believed that one’s taste for verse evolved from rhyme to blank verse, he did not foresee that his role as a grandfather would return him to the very compositions he thought he had outgrown. Jefferson’s modesty belies his erudition. In fact, it is hard to think of recent American presidents, with the exception of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, who cultivated such a catholic love of literature before, during, and after their term in the oval office. As a college student at William and Mary, Jefferson enjoyed James Macpherson’s poetry and copied down whole passages from Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer. Shortly after his term as governor of Virginia ended, he shared his love of James Macpherson with the Marquis de Chastellux in the spring of 1782, having previously written to the poet’s brother, Charles, to obtain copies of the Gaelic originals in 1773 (Wilson, 172). As President, he watched the rise of romantic poetry with more than ordinary interest. The loving attention he paid to the rhymed verse of Thomas Moore, Walter Scott, Robert Southey, Amelia Opie, Anna Barbauld, and Charlotte Dacre—clipping and pasting these poems, despite or because of their “jingle”-- is surprisingly fashionable. Almost every writer he admired, though mostly ignored for the past fifty years, has re-emerged from obscurity. Jefferson appears to have been as prescient in his literary tastes as he was in his political judgment. An undergraduate who reads only a third of this volume will have a wider education in Romantic poetry (British and American) than most college English majors.


What is the value of Jefferson’s scrapbooks? We read the poems, in large part, less for their literary quality than for the insight they give us into Jefferson’s mind. They form a portrait of his age and offer, by contrast, a portrait of our own. If a verse seems sentimental and cloying, trivial or charming, it illustrates how our attitudes towards nation, family, and poetry itself have changed: the poems read us.

Jefferson lived, emotionally, through the poetry and fiction he shared with his family. Shortly before his wife died, they read and transcribed portions of Tristram Shandy together, sharing ideas and thoughts that lay too deep for tears. “Read good books,” he instructed Peter Carr on August 10, 1787, “because they will encourage as well as direct your feelings. The writings of Sterne, particularly, form the best course of morality that ever was written” (Peden, 398). When he was weakened by his own approaching death, and could not fully communicate, he directed his daughter to a poem he had composed that would express the emotions he felt for her.

To read Jefferson’s letters to his family, then, is to grasp how important poetry was to Jefferson as a means of communicating with those he loved. On April 3, 1808, —only months before he would step down as President-- Jefferson sent a four line poem to his grand-daughter Cornelia Jefferson Randolph. “I have owed you a letter two months, but have had nothing to write about, till last night I found in a newspaper the four lines which I now inclose you: and as you are learning to write, they will be a good lesson to convince you of the importance of minding your stops in writing.” This letter shows that clipping poetry was Jefferson’s way of keeping up with the mental life of his grand children, as if he were running a correspondence school from the White House. “I allow you a day to find out yourself how to read these lines so as to make them true,” he continued. “If you cannot do it in that time you may call in assistance.” Martha’s encouraged her father to play this role in her children’s lives, for fear they would turn out “blockheads” (April 16, 1802; Betts, 223). For Jefferson, the scrapbooks, like the letters he wrote to his grandson, prepared him for his retirement years, when he would draw up plans for the University of Virginia. They also encouraged him to think about the place of poetry in his own life, when he was a younger man.

I’ve seen the sea all in a blaze of fire.
I’ve seen a house high as the moon and higher
I’ve seen the sun at twelve o’clock at night
I’ve seen the man who saw this wonderous sight.”

(“To Cornelia Jefferson Randolph”; April, 3, 1808; Betts 339)

The last line of Jefferson’s poem remains with me. “I’ve seen the man who saw this wonderous sight.” Reading Jefferson’s scrapbooks gave me the eerie feeling that I had finally “seen the [private] man” described most recently as an American sphinx.

Staying in Roosevelt Cottage, however, also led me to consider Jefferson’s public persona, to imagine Jefferson through Franklin D. Roosevelt’s eyes. What drew Roosevelt to Monticello, while World War II was raging? What did America’s 43rd president see in Thomas Jefferson; why did he retreat to the cottage I had first inhabited when I “discovered” these books?6 For privacy, fellowship, a romantic tryst? Some of these questions cannot be answered, but the consequences of Roosevelt’s pilgrimage are clear. For Roosevelt, Jefferson became the “Apostle of Freedom.” So important was he that Roosevelt ordered a Rotunda built on the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. , dedicating it on April 13, 1943, with Jefferson’s words inscribed on the inside of the dome:"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." For Jefferson, tyranny took the form of clerical opponents in Connecticut who accused him of atheism; he was firmly “sworn” to defend the separation of Church and State, hopeful that no intimidating clerics, nor national church, would threaten free thought in the United States. For Franklin Roosevelt, tyranny appeared as the spectre of Hitler and Mussolini. Roosevelt used Jefferson as a symbol to fight European fascism. Like Jefferson in 1808, Roosevelt pursued isolationist policies until military action (in 1812 and 1942) became inevitable. He wrote the famous “Four Freedoms” speech and quoted Jefferson in his “We the people” radio broadcast of 1941. Several days before the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, Roosevelt returned to rural Virginia to await the results, this time eschewing the privacy of Roosevelt cottage to stay with “Pa” Watson in the main house at Kenwood.

The photograph in Roosevelt Cottage, where he first stayed in 1941, shows a smiling African-American woman, Arlene Wardlaw, serving the President’s breakfast to him in Monticello. What was she thinking, I wondered, as the photographer from Life, took the photo? “It was just a mock-up” a scholar said to me derisively, when I alluded to these photographs. But I insisted on the historicity of this moment; not only had Roosevelt stayed where I had spent the last month, but this woman had served him his breakfast: two 4-minute eggs, two strips of crisp bacon, toast, marmalade, coffee, a copy of the Washington Star, three cigarettes and a rose freshly plucked from the garden (Life, 32). Perhaps she was happy to be noticed in a national magazine; perhaps she had voted for Roosevelt, or not voted at all. I was reminded of Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B.” “Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me./Nor do I often want to be a part of you./But we are, that’s true!” What was certain was that the owner of Kenwood, Major General Edwin M. (“Pa”) Watson (Roosevelt’s senior aide), had the cottage built for Roosevelt three weeks before the President arrived on May 2 and 3, 1941.7 A few years later, Roosevelt designed “Top Cottage” in Dutchess County, New York, which has a simple layout not unlike where he stayed in 1941.

Sitting in a replica of Jefferson’s Campeachy chair, which had been constructed by James Hemings, the talented brother of Sally, I wondered if the link between Roosevelt and Jefferson was not now complete, at least in my own mind. Two aristocratic men, one a New Yorker, the other a Virginian, helped foster principles of liberal democracy. They were moral exempla, fighting the tyranny of George III and of fascism in their own lifetimes. But these men --like Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the author of the novel I was editing at Roosevelt Cottage,-- led complex private lives. For a month, I enjoyed the remoteness of Roosevelt cottage, perhaps one of the last private places on earth. Up the hill was the most public building imaginable. Monticello, ostensibly a private home. Dignitaries and tourists came in droves, even in Jefferson’s lifetime, and he hung Venetian blinds (louvered shutters) between the pillars to escape their peering gaze (McLaughlin 327). When that failed, he built a Bedford County retreat he named Poplar Forest just to get away.

Certainly, Jefferson’s secrets have drawn the attention of America’s newest generation of historians.8 But Jefferson would not have been surprised. “In speaking of the calumnies which his enemies had uttered against his public and private character with such unmitigated and untiring bitterness,” Sarah Randolph wrote, “he said that he had not considered them as abusing him; they had never known him. They had created an imaginary being clothed with odious attributes, to whom they had given his name” ( Randolph 369). In an era of sexual McCarthyism, as Alan Dershowitz has perceptively called it, political leaders are too often held to the standards of a Procrustean Puritanism;9 such standards are applied, without historical perspective, to figures such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, as Andrew Burstein rightly argues (Secrets, 110). Journalistic practice is not so different in the 21st century than it was at the beginning of the 19 th, as William Safire’s recent dramatized history, Scandalmonger, suggests.

Despite attacks, Jefferson lives on, in part, because of his own optimism. If he was perhaps too philosophical about his own limitations, he captured the meaning of hope in a poem he wrote which I stumbled upon in the Library of Congress archives. Interestingly, Jefferson’s “To Ellen,” embodies the three categories of nation (“heroes fight in hopes of fame”), family (“when true love a visit pays”), and romanticism (“to poetic lays”) that mark his newspaper clippings.

'Tis hope supports each noble flame,
'Tis hope inspires poetic lays,
Our heroes fight in hopes of fame,
And poets write in hopes of praise

She sings sweet songs of future years,
And dries the tears of present sorrow
Bids doubt in mortals cease their fears,
And tells them of a bright tomorrow.

And when true love a visit pays,
The minstrel hope is always there,
To soothe young Cupid with her lays,
And keep the lover from despair.10

Perhaps Jefferson’s sense of hope, as portrayed in this poem, led William Jefferson Clinton, another Southern governor, to make a pilgrimage to Monticello before beginning his duties as President. Both were called demagogues, but both incarnated a sense of optimism and faith in democracy that Clinton memorably described, in his own campaign book, as “putting people first.” Clinton’s second campaign book, Between Hope and History, was no less Jeffersonian.

Jefferson ’s newspaper clippings did much to nourish his heart, an attribute that is sometimes difficult to measure when assessing the accomplishments of statesmen. But not only the personal note is struck in this newspaper clippings book or in the poems he wrote himself. In the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s second term—when American values are being redefined in the name of illusory versions of the founding fathers’ original intent-- Jefferson’s clippings may well help readers grasp how Jefferson hoped Americans would see their country and its values at its inception. Such a vantage point might make readers more sympathetic with Jefferson in spite of his perceived moral shortcomings; more admiring of the scope and accomplishments of the man who was, after all, a single parent and a widow. To read the poetry Jefferson admired—some of it abolitionist verse-- is to become indoctrinated in the values of the early Republic. It may have been easier for him to profess those values than to practice them, but are we any better on that score?

At a gathering of 49 Nobel Prize recipients at the White House on April 29, 1962, John F. Kennedy noted that never before had such talent been assembled in one room, except, perhaps, when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.11 This collection of some of Jefferson’s favorite poems is offered to the common reader in a spirit of admiration and celebration, then; for Jefferson assumed the common reader’s wisdom as part of his democratic faith. Jefferson was not only America’s third president, but America’s first romantic president. He turned the country away from Federalism, for better or worse. Jefferson’s scrapbooks, no less than his inaugural address, shows him returning the country to what he came to think of as the spirit of ‘76 (Ellis 220).

1 In the late 18 th century there were no “envelopes.” Letters were written on paper that would then be closed with sealing wax. In England, parliamentary figures could mail letters for free (“franking” was the term used). Every poem in the two volume collection appeared on the back of a scrap of Jefferson’s correspondence. Some appeared on documents from the War department.

2 Writers who have treated Jefferson’s literary interests have studiously avoided this collection. John Wayland was the first scholar to take the collection seriously, yet his important article in the Sewanee Review (1911) has been ignored. Julian Boyd goes so far as to say that he “does not find Jefferson’s literary tastes to be important” (Golden, 134). James and Alan Golden’s Jefferson and the Rhetoric of Virtue treat the collection in an appendix.

3 Jefferson began editing the volume for two nights in February 1804; he returned to the task fifteen years later, finishing it in 1820 (Church, 18; Burstein, Secrets, 252).

4 This letter has been cited as the final word on his mature interests in literature: “Imaginative literature became something of a lapsed interest in his later years,” Wilson notes (LCB, 5). The rhetorical context for his letter to Burke, however,--presumably the source for this judgment--has too often been ignored.

5 Karl Lehmann emphasizes the classical reading of Jefferson. Though he acknowledges that Jefferson kept a clippings book, he concludes that poetry was not the vehicle by which Jefferson sought to understand history; Jefferson was “not at all influenced by poetical references to historical personalities” (91). Lehmann argues that John Wayland seriously misunderstood the significance of the book he had unearthed (94;232). Frank Shuffleton also raises questions in his Thomas Jefferson: A Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography of Writings about Him, 1826-1997 (2001), #3401, which dismisses Wayland’s Sewanee Review findings: “Discusses a scrapbook of newspaper verse supposedly collected by TJ; highly unlikely.” My own correspondence with Douglas Wilson (September, 2004) elicited Wilson’s own skepticism regarding the collection. I concur with Dan Jordan, James Horn, and Robert McDonald who view the work as Jefferson’s, noting Jefferson’s penciled emendations in the collection. No major biography of Thomas Jefferson treats this important archival discovery.


6 The books were attributed to Jefferson by Robert McDonald. Articles in the local press covered the story in 1999 (http://www.virginia.edu/insideunva/1999/33/scrapbook.html, Inside UVA Online, 1999; www.familytreemagazine.com, 2000; ).

7 “It’s Over the Hills and Far Away: PA Watson’s Little White Guest House Lodges a Distinguished Weekend Visitor,” Life Magazine 10:26 ( May 19, 1941), p. 32-3. My thanks to Eleanor Sparagana for sending me a copy of the Life magazine article. New York architect William Adams Delano built Kenwood between 1939 and 1941 for Major General and Mrs. Edwin M. Watson; Watson’s wife, Frances Nash Watson, was a noted concert pianist ( www.monticello.org/jefferson/dayinlife/sanctum/moern.html; July 2, 2005).

8 Andrew Burstein, Jefferson’s Secrets ( New York: Basic Books, 2005).


9 Alan Dershowitz, Sexual McCarthyism: Clinton , Starr, and the Emerging Constitutional Crisis (New York, Basic Books, 1998).

10 “To Ellen”. Digital Archives, Miscellaneous. The poem appears next to a few clipped pages from the Oliver Goldsmith, Vicar of Wakefield . I have consulted the original in 2001 at the Library of Congress, but a digitized version can be seen at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/P?mtj:1:/temp/~ammem_ZdJx:, image 318 of 357.


11 "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House -- with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." John F. Kennedy’s April 29, 1962 dinner honoring 49 Nobel Laureates (Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations, 1988, from Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 347).

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Jonathan David Gross - 2/21/2006

Dear Mr. Hughes,
You are quite right that I cannot (and should not) have Mr. Jefferson to myself, and I think your point about his interactions with Hamilton, Adams, and Washington is well taken--as is your perspective on my own liberalism. Growing up in New York, I think I take it for granted too much. Excellent points about Coolidge and the Hoovers. I appreciate your supportive comment. You've given me new avenues to explore! Intelligence, as you rightly suggest, does not belong exclusively to the left.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 2/19/2006

Your zeal for this study shines through all your comments, and I would be the first to accept your guesses and judgments about every aspect of it. You have obviously gone into those scrapbooks in microscopic detail, and deserve sincere praise. You cannot, however, have Jefferson for yourself, and some of us will always feel his interaction with Hamilton, Adams, and Washington was of more lasting moment than his interaction with his graddaughter... Similiarly, some of us will always have contempt for Clinton, Kennedy and Roosevelt, but that need not be vented on you. I do think you will find, however, that Coolidge and Hoover were both more intellectual than Kennedy or Roosevelt--I'm not too sure about Clinton. Coolidge, I think, was valedictorian of his class at Amherst, and the Hoovers moved in very fast company at Stanford. Mrs. Hoover translated dead languages, or something like that. I couldn't stop reading, anyway, despite your breath-taking affinity for modern liberals. You get A + .

Vernon Clayson - 2/13/2006

This was a great, even enlightening, article, until it mentioned Bill Clinton. Clinton should not be mentioned in the same breath as Thomas Jefferson in any article on intellectual pursuits. Clinton's interest in poetry probably began and ended with, "There was a young man from Boston who had a little Austin."

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