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The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of…

The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson (2008)

by Kevin J. Hayes

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This is a fabulous book. I can't beat JBD's review of this book, but I just had to write to express my appreciation for the author's work. Any fan of Jefferson, of learning, or of reading should read this book.
  speaker43 | Jan 7, 2011 |
Kevin Hayes, one of America's preeminent writers on literary culture and books, has done himself proud with The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson (Oxford University Press, 2008). Modeled on John Livingston Lowes' classic examination of Coleridge, The Road to Xanadu, Hayes' study focuses on a close examination of what "Thomas Jefferson read and what he wrote to show how the written word shaped his life."

This is the most comprehensive account by far of Thomas Jefferson's literary life, encompassing his habits as a reader, a collector, an acquirer, a disseminator, a promoter and a writer of books and other printed materials throughout his long and productive life. It goes light-years beyond William Peden's 1942 dissertation "Thomas Jefferson as Book Collector" (a very fine treatment in its own right), to place Jefferson's involvement with print culture into the context of his political, social and family life.

In his typical way, Hayes has combined copious research with an approachable and readable prose style which makes this book both eminently accessible and highly enjoyable. The chapters are short (~15 pages apiece), well paced and distinct, and the endnotes thorough and well-documented (don't ask how many articles I've added to my "get" list). Hayes' close analysis of Jefferson's written productions (his travel writings, his letters, his religious musings and common-place books, among others) are careful and uncolored by judgment, and his discussions of Jefferson's books and the important role they played in his life are second to none.

An unparalleled study, one which will stand the tests of time and then some. On a scale of one to ten, this is a twelve.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2008/08/book-review-road-to-monticello.html ( )
4 vote JBD1 | Aug 6, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195307585, Hardcover)

Thomas Jefferson was an avid book-collector, a voracious reader, and a gifted writer--a man who prided himself on his knowledge of classical and modern languages and whose marginal annotations include quotations from Euripides, Herodotus, and Milton. And yet there has never been a literary life of our most literary president.

In The Road to Monticello, Kevin J. Hayes fills this important gap by offering a lively account of Jefferson's spiritual and intellectual development, focusing on the books and ideas that exerted the most profound influence on him. Moving chronologically through Jefferson's life, Hayes reveals the full range and depth of Jefferson's literary passions, from the popular "small books" sold by traveling chapmen, such as The History of Tom Thumb, which enthralled him as a child; to his lifelong love of Aesop's Fables and Robinson Crusoe; his engagement with Horace, Ovid, Virgil and other writers of classical antiquity; and his deep affinity with the melancholy verse of Ossian, the legendary third-century Gaelic warrior-poet. Drawing on Jefferson's letters, journals, and commonplace books, Hayes offers a wealth of new scholarship on the print culture of colonial America, reveals an intimate portrait of Jefferson's activities beyond the political chamber, and reconstructs the president's investigations in such different fields of knowledge as law, history, philosophy and natural science. Most importantly, Hayes uncovers the ideas and exchanges which informed the thinking of America's first great intellectual and shows how his lifelong pursuit of knowledge culminated in the formation of a public offering, the "academic village" which became UVA, and his more private retreat at Monticello.

Gracefully written and painstakingly researched, The Road to Monticello provides an invaluable look at Jefferson's intellectual and literary life, uncovering the roots of some of the most important--and influential--ideas that have informed American history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:37 -0400)

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