An exceptionally rich account of Jefferson's life and work. Voyeurs will skip the parts about Jefferson's political life and...

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THOMAS JEFFERSON: An Intimate History

An exceptionally rich account of Jefferson's life and work. Voyeurs will skip the parts about Jefferson's political life and his relations with Adams, Hamilton and Burr. Professional custodians of Jefferson's remains, on the other hand, may wince at Brodie's elaborate reconstructions of his love affairs after his wife's death, and Brodie's tabulation of how the facts have been skirted. As a diplomat Jefferson had an intense fling with the bohemian artist Maria Cosway, which produced his remarkable memoir ""The Heart and the Head."" Soon afterwards his wife's adolescent ""quadroon"" half-sister, Sally Hemings, became his mistress for 38 years, secluded at Monticello, the object of defamation, a woman whose happiness or discontent it is hard to infer. The book examines Jefferson's writings on blacks and slavery, the increasing repression of blacks in the first decade of the 1800's, and the practical reasons why Sally was not immediately emancipated after Jefferson died. Professor Brodie's style is undistinguished, and sometimes her psychological readings of Jefferson's texts and political moves seem simplistic, but she is generally far more acute than most biographers, who, for example, fail to ask why Jefferson on the one hand lived with his mother until he was 27, and yet wrote little and coldly about her. The effect of Jefferson's liaisons on his eldest daughter Patsy in particular is convincingly examined; when Brodie notes that Jefferson had ""taken great pains with the education of his daughters"" she seems to forget about his black daughters, though Sally's children were relatively well provided for. Altogether an enjoyable study and a commendable one.

Pub Date: April 8, 1974

ISBN: 0393338339

Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1974