Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks: Poems of Nation, Family & Romantic Love Collected by America's Third President

Thomas Jefferson, Author, Jonathan Gross, Editor . Steerforth $35 (570p) ISBN 978-1-58642-107-6

Scrapbooking may be trendy today, but it's not new: in the early 19th century, Thomas Jefferson clipped poems from newspapers and pasted them into books that he gave to his granddaughters. In a handsome and hefty tome, Gross, an expert on the British Romantics who has studied Jefferson's interest in their poetry, has reproduced Jefferson's favorite verses, many of them dealing with nationhood and a vision of republican leadership. Other poems deal with family, celebrating both a father's patriarchal authority over his children and his tender love for them. Jefferson's ambivalence toward women is captured: verse that seems misogynistic ("a wife should be... not like CLOCKS—harangue so clear,/That All the town her voice might hear") vies with remarkably forward-thinking poems by and about women. Gross's fascinating introduction explains why scholars, who once believed Jefferson's granddaughters made these scrapbooks, now attribute them to the Sage of Monticello. The editor also suggests that these poems reveal much about Jefferson's values and view of the world—but Gross could have gone further in spelling out just what we learn about our third president by reading the poems he loved. (May 1)

Reviewed on: 03/06/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
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