By Kevin J. Hayes. ISBN 978-0-19-530758-0. Copyright 2008. Hardcover with 738 pages including notes, index, and 25 black and white illustrations.
Finalist for the 2009 George Washington Book Prize.
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, the full range and depth of Jefferson’s literary passions are revealed from the “small books” sold by traveling chapmen, such as “The History of Tom Thumb”, which enthralled him as a child, to his enduring 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, the author brings in a wealth of new scholarship on the print culture of Colonial America. This volume contains an intimate portrait of Jefferson’s activities beyond the political chamber and reconstructs the president’s investigations in such different fields as law, history, philosophy and natural science. Hayes uncovers the ideas and exchanges that 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” that became the University of Virginia – and his more private retreat at Monticello.