« AnteriorContinuar »
INTERVIEW WITH A PARSON.
number of prose writers of the same languages-all, it is unnecessary to say, in the original. These, with the last three or four new books and reviews, brought from Monticello, were the delights which, with the society of his grand-daughters, and the occasional visits of neighbors who mixed the courtesy and simplicity of the old Virginia planter with the culture and selfrespect of gentlemen, filled up that round of quiet enjoyments which contrasted, a portion of the time, so pleasingly with the hotel-like bustle and want of privacy at Monticello.
It was at Ford's tavern, one of the stopping-places between Monticello and Poplar Forest, that the following incident occurred on one of Mr. Jefferson's trips from one to the other. He was alone, and on alighting was shown into the best room. where a very respectable looking stranger was sitting. The latter, who was a clergyman, soon opened a conversation without having the least idea to whom he was talking. He incidentally introduced the subject of certain mechanical operations which he had recently witnessed. Mr. Jefferson's inquiries and remarks, as he afterwards declared, soon satisfied him that he was conversing with some eminent engineer. Agriculture next came up, and then he made up his mind that Mr. Jefferson was a large farmer. Finally, the topic of religion was broached, and the clergyman became strongly suspicious that his companion was another clergyman, but he confessed that he could not discover to what particular persuasion he leaned! There was something in Mr. Jefferson's presence that did not invite the indulgence of personal curiosity, and no "leading questions," were put to him. At ten o'clock he retired to bed. The clergyman immediately sought the landlord and asked who had been his companion. "What, don't you know the Squire?-that was Mr. Jefferson," was the reply. "Not President Jefferson ?" "Yes, President Jefferson!" "Why," exclaimed the clergyman, "I tell you that was neither an atheist nor irreligious man—one of juster sentiments I never met with."
We have seen Mr. Jefferson in several personal phases, and it is now time to look in upon him in the interior of his family in purely domestic life, for, sooth to say, some periods of the year brought a comparative cessation of company.
1 We have this from one who had more than once heard it from the lips of the good "parson" himself.
MY DEAR MR. RANDALL
You seem possessed of so many facts and such minute details of Mr. Jeffer son's family life, that I know not how I can add to the amount. . . . . When he returned from Washington, in 1809, I was a child, and of that period I have childish recollections. He seemed to return to private life with great satisfaction. At last he was his own master and could, he hoped, dispose of his time as he pleased, and indulge his love of country life. You know how greatly he preferred it to town life. You recollect as far back as his 'Notes on Virginia,' he says: Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God.' With regard to the tastes and wishes which he carried with him into the country, his love of reading alone would have made leisure and retirement delightful to him. Books were at all times his chosen companions, and his acquaintance with many languages gave him great power of selection. He read Homer, Virgil, Dante, Corneille, Cervantes, as he read Shakspeare and Milton. In his youth he had loved poetry, but by the time I was old enough to observe, he had lost his taste for it, except for Homer and the great Athenian tragics, which he continued to the last to enjoy. He went over the works of Eschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, not very long before I left him.' Of history he was very fond, and this he studied in all languages, though always, I think, preferring the ancients. In fact, he derived more pleasure from his acquaintance with Greek and Latin than from any other resource of literature, and I have often heard him express his gratitude to his father for causing him to receive a classical education. I saw him more frequently with a volume of the classics in his hand than with any other book. Still he read new publications as they came out, never missed the new number of a review, especially of the Edinburgh, and kept himself acquainted with what was being done, said, or thought in the world from which he had retired.
He loved farming and gardening, the fields, the orchards, and his asparagus beds. Every day he rode through his plantation and walked in his garden. In the cultivation of the last he took great pleasure. Of flowers, too, he was very fond. One of my early recollections is of the attention which he paid to his flower-beds. He kept up a correspondence with persons in the large cities, particularly, I think, in Philadelphia, for the purpose of receiving supplies of roots and seeds both for his kitchen and flower garden. I remember well when he first returned to Monticello, how immediately he began to prepare new beds for his flowers. He had these beds laid off on the lawn, under the windows, and many a time I have run after him when he went out to direct the work, accompanied by one of his gardeners, generally Wormley, armed with spade and hoe, whilst he himself carried the measuring-line. I was too young to aid him, except in a small way, but my sister, Mrs. Bankhead, then a young and beautiful woman, . . . . was his active and useful assistant. I remember the planting of the first hyacinths and tulips, and their subsequent growth. The roots arrived, labelled each one with a fancy name. There was Marcus Aurelius, and the King of the Gold Mine, the Roman Empress, and the Queen of the Amazons, Psyche, the God of Love, etc., etc., etc. Eagerly, and with childish delight, I studied this brilliant nomenclature, and wondered what strange and surprisingly beautiful creations I should see rising from the ground when spring returned, and these precious roots were committed to the earth under my grandfather's own eye, with his beautiful grand-daughter Anne standing by his side, and a crowd of
The writer left Monticello the year before Mr. Jefferson's death.
CHAP. VIII.] HIS CONDUCT AND MANNERS IN HIS FAMILY.
happy, young faces, of younger grandchildren, clustering round to see the progress, and inquire anxiously the name of each separate deposit. Then, when spring returned, how eagerly we watched the first appearance of the shoots above ground. Each root was marked with its own name written on a bit of stick by its side, and what joy it was for one of us to discover the tender green breaking through the mould, and run to grandpapa to announce, that we really believed Marcus Aurelius was coming up, or the Queen of the Amazons was above ground! With how much pleasure compounded of our pleasure and his own, on the new birth, he would immediately go out to verify the fact, and praise us for our diligent watchfulness. Then, when the flowers were in bloom, and we were in ecstasies over the rich purple and crimson, or pure white, or delicate lilac, or pale yellow of the blossoms, how he would sympathize in our admiration, or discuss with my mother and elder sister new groupings and combinations and contrasts. Oh, these were happy moments for us and for him!
It was in the morning, immediately after our early breakfast, that he used to visit his flower-beds and his garden. As the day, in summer, grew warmer, he retired to his own apartments, which consisted of a bed-chamber and library opening into each other. Here he remained until about one o'clock, occupied in reading, writing, looking over papers, etc. My mother would sometimes send me with a message to him. A gentle knock, a call of "come in," and I would enter, with a mixed feeling of love and reverence, and some pride in being the bearer of a communication to one whom I approached with all the affection of a child, and something of the loyalty of a subject. Our mother educated all her children to look up to her father, as she looked up to him herself-literally looked up, as to one standing on an eminence of greatness and goodness. And it is no small proof of his real elevation, that as we grew older and better able to judge for ourselves, we were more and more confirmed in the opinions we had formed of it.
About one o'clock my grandfather rode out, and was absent perhaps two hours; when he returned to prepare for his dinner, which was about half-past three o'clock. He sat some time at table, and after dinner, returned for a while to his room, from which he emerged before sunset to walk on the terrace or the lawn, to see his grandchildren run races, or to converse with his family and friends. The evenings, after candle-light, he passed with us, till about ten o'clock. He had his own chair and his own candle a little apart from the rest, where he sat reading, if there were no guests to require his attention, but often laying his book on his little round table or his knee, whilst he talked with my mother, the elder members of the family, or any child old enough to make one of the family-party. I always did, for I was the most active, and the most lively of the young folks, and most wont to thrust myself forward into notice.
MY DEAR MR. RANDALL:
With regard to Mr. Jefferson's conduct and manners in his family, after I was old enough to form any judgment of it-I can only repeat what I have said before -and I say it calmly and advisedly, with no spirit of false enthusiasm or exaggera tion-I have never known anywhere, under any circumstances, so good a domestic character as my grandfather Jefferson's. I have the testimony of his sisters and of his daughter, that he was in all the relations of private life, at all times, just what
he was when I knew him. My mother was ten years old when her mother died. Her impression was, that her father's conduct as a husband had been admirable in its ensemble, charming in its details. She distinctly recalled her mother's passionate attachment to him, and her exalted opinion of him. On one occasion she heard her blaming him for some generous acts which had met with an ungrateful return -"but," she exclaimed, "it is always so with him-he is so good himself that he cannot understand how bad other people may be." . . . On one occasion my mother had been punished for some fault, not harshly nor unjustly, but in a way to make an impression. Some little time after, her mother being displeased with her for some trifle, reminded her in a slightly taunting way of this painful past. She was deeply mortified, her heart swelled, her eyes filled with tears, she turned away, but she heard her father say in a kind tone to her mother, "My dear, a fault in so young a child once punished should be forgotten." My mother told me she could never forget the warm gush of gratitude that filled her childish heart at these words, probably not intended for her ear. These are trifling details, but they show cha
My grandfather's manners to us, his grandchildren, were delightful. I can characterize them by no other word. He talked with us freely, affectionately, never lost an opportunity of giving a pleasure or a good lesson. He reproved without wounding us, and commended without making us vain. He took pains to correct our errors and false ideas, checked the bold, encouraged the timid, and tried to teach us to reason soundly and feel rightly. Our smaller follies he treated with good-humored raillery, our graver ones with kind and serious admonition. He was watchful over our manners, and called our attention to every violation of propriety. He did not interfere with our education, technically so called, except by advis ing us what studies to pursue, what books to read, and by questioning us on the books which we did read. I was thrown most into companionship with him. I loved him very devotedly, and sought every opportunity of being with him. As a child I used to follow him about, and draw as near to him as I could. I remember when I was small enough to sit on his knee and play with his watch chain. As a girl I would join him in his walks on the terrace, sit with him over the fire during the winter twilight, or by the open windows in summer. As child, girl and woman, I loved and honored him above all earthly beings. And well I might. From him seemed to flow all the pleasures of my life. To him I owed all the small blessings and joyful surprises of my childish and girlish years. His nature was so eminently sympathetic, that with those he loved, he could enter into their feelings, anticipate their wishes, gratify their tastes, and surround them with an atmosphere of affection. I was fond of riding, and was rising above that childish simplicity when, provided I was mounted on a horse, I cared nothing for my equipments, and when an old saddle or broken bridle were matters of no moment. I was beginning to be fastidious, but I had never told my wishes. I was standing one bright day in the portico, when a man rode up to the door with a beautiful lady's saddle and bridle before him. My heart bounded. These coveted articles were deposited at my feet. My grandfather came out of his room to tell me they were mine.
When about fifteen years old, I began to think of a watch, but knew the state of my father's finances promised no such indulgence. One afternoon the letter-bag was brought in. Among the letters was a small packet addressed to my grandfather. It had the Philadelphia mark upon it. I looked at it with indifferent, incurious eye. Three hours after, an elegant lady's watch with chain and seals was in
FAMILY RECOLLECTIONS OF HIM.
my hand, which trembled for very joy. My Bible came from him, my Shakspeare, my first writing-table, my first handsome writing-desk, my first Leghorn hat, my first silk dress. What, in short, of all my small treasures did not come from him? My sisters, according to their wants and tastes, were equally thought of, equally provided for. Our grandfather seemed to read our hearts, to see our invisible wishes, to be our good genius, to wave the fairy wand, to brighten our young lives by his goodness and his gifts. But I have written enough for this time-and indeed what can I say hereafter, but to repeat the same tale of love and kindness. . . I remain, my dear Mr. Randall,
Very truly yours,
A younger grand-daughter of Mr. Jefferson wrote to her husband:
Faithful to my promise, dearest
ST. SERVAN, May 26th, 1839.
in writing all my childish recollections of my dear grandfather, which are sufficiently distinct to relate to you. My memory seems crowded with them, and they have the vividness of realities; but all are trifles in themselves, such as I might talk to you by the hour, but when I have taken up my pen, they seem almost too childish to write down. But these remembrances are precious to me, because they are of him, and because they restore him to me as he then was, when his cheerfulness and affection were the warm sun in which his family all basked and were invigorated. Cheerfulness, love, benevolence, wisdom, seemed to animate his whole form. His face beamed with them. You remember how active was his step, how lively and even playful were his manners.
I cannot describe the feelings of veneration, admiration and love that existed in my heart towards him. I looked on him as a being too great and good for my comprehension; and yet I felt no fear to approach him, and be taught by him some of the childish sports that I delighted in. When he walked in the garden and would call the children to go with him, we raced after and before him, and we were made perfectly happy by this permission to accompany him. Not one of us in our wildest moods ever placed a foot on one of the garden beds, for that would violate one of his rules, and yet I never heard him utter a harsh word to one of us, or speak in a raised tone of voice, or use a threat. He simply said, "do," or "do not." He would gather fruit for us, seek out the ripest figs, or bring down the cherries from on high above our heads with a long stick, at the end of which there was a hook and a little net bag. . . One of our earliest amusements was in running races on the terrace, or around the lawn. He placed us according to our ages, giving the youngest and smallest the start of all the others by some yards, and so on, and then he raised his arm high with his white handkerchief in his hand, on which our eager eyes were fixed, and slowly counted three, at which number he dropt the handkerchief and we started off to finish the race by returning to the starting-place and receiving our reward of dried fruit-three figs, prunes or dates to the victor, two to the second, and one to the lagger who came in last. These were our summer sports with him.
I was born the year he was elected President, and except one winter that we spent with him in Washington, I never was with him during that season until after