“Jefferson & His Time: Jefferson the Virginian” is the first of six volumes in Dumas Malone’s epic biography of Thomas Jefferson, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. Malone wrote the biography between 1948 and 1981 and by the time it was completed, was nearly blind. He was the oldest man ever awarded a Pulitzer when he received it in 1975 at age 83 (before the landmark work had even seen its last volume), and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.
“Jefferson the Virginian” covers the first four decades of Thomas Jefferson’s life, up to the point when in 1784 he was sailing across the Atlantic to become an American diplomat in Europe. During the period covered in this volume, Jefferson was a student, lawyer, legislator, author of the Declaration of Independence, governor of Virginia and was married and too-soon widowed.
Although we begin to scratch the surface on his innumerable talents and interests (were Ben Franklin never alive, Jefferson might have been viewed as our nation’s earliest Renaissance Man), unfortunately we never penetrate the hard shell of his exterior in order to really know him. It is unfortunate for history that Jefferson was a much more private man than, say, John Adams who committed nearly all his thoughts to paper. As a result, we learn very little – almost nothing, in fact – of Jefferson’s wife or children, or anything of his family life…
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