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Thursday, March 25th, 2010
I'm nearing the end of The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson. This is my favorite biography ever. I don't know how much of my outgoing e-mail has involved sharing anecdotes from the book.
As I may have mentioned, this book is great at making the reader aware of all sorts of books and authors that are not commonly to be found. I had never heard of the poet Ossian, for example, who was Jefferson's favorite. Ossian was a warrior poet, of the kind we heard mention of in the movie Braveheart. Such really did exist.
Another kind of literature I had never given thought to was American History for the period before the Revolution, written in languages other than English. Jefferson collected such books. Many were in Spanish. Some in French. This is an era that I have grown progressively interested in. Early on, I just had an interest in Puritanism sparked by a class I took in seminary. Sebastian Junger made broader history interesting in A Perfect Storm, where he described the history of fishing in the Atlantic. You would get a strong sense of how different one generation was from another with regard to technology as they mastered things like keeping fish on ice. Then in Albion's Seed, David Hackett Fisher described how British immigration from four distinct areas of Britain to four distinct regions of the United States affected regional cultures. Finally, teaching a course in American Christianity at Colorado Christian University let me do some reading in several areas related to this period. It is a substantial period of time worthy of interest not only as a precursor to the Revolution. Jefferson clearly saw this, collecting many of his volumes on the subject before the Revolution was a live idea for many.
While in France, Jefferson had his younger daughter Maria study her Spanish grammar regularly. He thought it important that the younger generation be able to read Spanish in part because the "[ancient] part of American history is written chiefly in Spanish."
11:36 am Pacific Standard Time