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Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks: Poems of Nation, Family and Romantic Love Collected by America's Third President Hardcover – April 25, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1586421076 ISBN-10: 1586421077 Edition: First Edition
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
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"Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks is an elegantly produced and judiciously edited anthology that is sure to interest both academics and well as general readers interested in Jefferson and the history and culture of the early American republic. Jonathan Gross has done a stunning job making sense of a vast trove of texts that illuminate much about Jefferson's sensibility, his sense of taste and politics, and indeed his personal life. Each section is introduced informatively, and the appendices will enlighten all sorts of readers. This book provides the materials with which to think about Jefferson in light of popular culture, Romantic thought, and the larger relations between American and British cultures.
— Philip Gould, Professor of English, Brown University

"Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott and Burns are among Jefferson's major companions in a previous unrecorded ten-year conversation that will permanently change Jefferson studies. Deeply sensitive to the tensions between the exteriority of neoclassicism and the interiority of romanticism, Jonathan Gross is a masterful editor."
— Jay Fliegelman, author of Declaring Independence

"Thanks to Jonathan Gross's comprehensive annotations and introduction, the Scrapbooks offer even non-specialist readers a variety of fascinating insights into the complexity of Jefferson's inner life."
— Karl Kroeber, Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University

"A dramatic glimpse into the mind of Jefferson. In these pages, he emerges as both a casual reader and a political partisan. What did he clip from the newspaper? What poetry stirred him? The cerebral president had a sense of humor and a strikingly sentimental side that can be easily gleaned from this fascinating volume."
— Andrew Burstein, author of Jefferson's Secrets

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth; First Edition edition (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586421077
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586421076
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,144,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The general idea put forward by the literary mavens is that early American poetry was akin to a child lisping Shakespeare. It may be so. And in my collection I have such greats as Akhmatova, Czeslaw Milosz, Byron, and the Bard himself. Still, old-fashioned sentimental poems deserve a place on my shelf--and are more likely to get read! This is a book of poems that Thomas Jefferson clipped from the newspapers of his day. Here are some representative bits:

Wide o'er the wilderness of waves,
Untrack'd by human peril,
Our fathers roam'd for peaceful graves,
To deserts dark and sterile:
No parting pang--No long adieu
Delay'd their gallant daring;
With them, their Gods, and Country too,
Their pilgrim keels were bearing.
All hearts unite the patriot band,
Be Liberty our natal land.

~a stanza from 1805

In the downhill of life, when I find I'm declining,
May my life no less fortunate be;
Than a snug elbow chair can afford for reclining,
and a cot that o'er looks the wide sea,
With an ambling pad poney to pace o'er the lawn,
While I carrol away idle sorrow;
And blithe as the lark that each day hails the dawn,
Look forward with hope for to-morrow.

~An example of a stanza from the 'family' section.

Here is one for the Constitution:

Let all be 'sham'd and troubled sore, that en'mies are to thee:
Let them turn back and suddenly ashamed let them be.
Behold! they in iniquity do travail, as in birth,
And mischief they conceived have, and falsehoods do bring forth.

Who can say what the newspapers would use for poetry today, given half a chance. Jefferson's selections are quite enjoyable, even if modern English professors would flunk students writing anything similar! Well, perhaps the hearts of future poets are fed with the tears of such teachers.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ray F Van Neste on October 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. At first I thought the book was a copilation of poetry written by Jefferson. However, it includes poems Jefferson collected in his scrapbooks whiel president. As such it provides glimpses into the thought of the era and Jefferson's thoughts. There are many really interesting poems, soem by prominent authors and many from relatively unknown or anonymous authors.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Scott Kenemore on May 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of Jefferson, but I tend to like the interesting, visceral, exciting aspects of his life. I'm not sure if the-- usually very mediocre-- poems he collected (which are compiled in this book) explore these aspects.

The introduction by Gross is informative. . . and boring.

There are a few gems here, but also a lot of shale. My favorite poems are the ones making fun of wives being mean, and a patriotic ode by Thomas Paine. (Note that this Paine poem is an exception. There are virtually NO other poems by Founding Fathers.)

I think this book would be really useful for someone writing a master's thesis about Jefferson, but most of these poems are not things I would read for pleasure, and, certainly, I had no "A ha" moment when one of these mediocre lines gave me some sort of insight into Jefferson's personality.

"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." is a far finer line than anything you will find collected in this scrapbook. Please know that going in.
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