AMID scenery of almost unsurpassed beauty in the central part of Virginia, rises the modest height of Monticello. There are few points in the surrounding country from which its graceful profile cannot be seen, and the " little mountain" is pointed out as the object of greatest interest in every landscape in which it appears in that lovely region. To its summit many a tourist wends his way, and, in spite of the ruin, the desecration, which mark its present condition, still finds ...
AMID scenery of almost unsurpassed beauty in the central part of Virginia, rises the modest height of Monticello. There are few points in the surrounding country from which its graceful profile cannot be seen, and the " little mountain" is pointed out as the object of greatest interest in every landscape in which it appears in that lovely region. To its summit many a tourist wends his way, and, in spite of the ruin, the desecration, which mark its present condition, still finds traces there of the statesman, the philosopher, and the man of taste.
But it is not as the home of the great man in either of these characters that our attention shall be directed to this classic spot in these pages, but rather as the birthplace and loved and lost home of his daughter,—she who as a child was his only comforter in the great sorrow of his life, who in maturer years was his intimate friend and companion, and whose presence lent to his home its greatest charm, as her love and her sympathy were his greatest solace in the troubles which so clouded the evening of his eventful life.
MARTHA JEFFERSON RANDOLPH, daughter of Thomas and Martha Jefferson, was born at Monticello, September 27, 1772. Her mother, Martha Wayles, was first married to Bathurst Skelton, who dying two years after this marriage, she married, four years later, January i, 1772, Thomas Jefferson. His biographers have given an account of the gay wedding-journey of over a hundred miles, from the bride's home below Richmond, to Monticello, which began in a carriage and under propitious skies, but the last eight miles of which was performed on horseback and through a deep snow after sunset.
Mrs. Jefferson is said to have been a singularly beautiful woman, and a person of great intelligence and strength of character; and certainly, if the attractions of a woman can be measured by the love borne her by her husband, hers must have been great indeed, for never was a wife loved with more passionate devotion than she was by Jefferson. There was no sacrifice too great for him to make for her; and when her health first gave signs of giving way, an appointment abroad, or, indeed, any office which could take him from her side, was positively refused. Her health was extremely delicate during several years; and nearly a year before her death, Jefferson speaks in one of his letters of his " perpetual solicitude" about her.
His anxiety was but too well founded, and after the birth of her sixth child, in the spring of the year 1782, she sank so rapidly that before the summer was gone her friends realized that she could be spared to them but a few weeks longer. The devotion, the clinging tenderness with which her husband nursed her are well known. The little Martha was too young to realize the calamity which was overhanging her. Mrs. Jefferson had been too ill to see the child for some time, when one day the latter was called in to see her mother dressed and sitting up in a chair, as something that would please her. Then for the first time the truth flashed on her as she saw death stamped on the invalid's pale face; and so overcome was she by the shock that she was obliged to leave the room.
It was during those last days of her life, when the pang of separation was so keenly felt by both husband and wife, that she spoke with emotion to her sisters of his devotion to her, of the depth of her love for him, and of the period of their married life as one of unalloyed happiness, which no cloud between them had ever risen to dim. The closing scene came at last, and on the 6th of September, as the gentle invalid breathed her last, her husband was borne fainting from the bedside. The part that the little Martha took in these painful scenes she years afterwards described:
" The scene that followed I did not witness, but the violence of his emotion, when, almost by stealth, I entered his room by night, to this day I dare not describe to myself. He kept his room for three weeks, and I was never a moment from his side. He walked incessantly almost night and day, only lying down occasionally, when nature was completely exhausted, on a pallet that had been brought in during his long fainting-fit. My aunts remained constantly with him for some weeks, I do not remember how many. When at last he left his room, he rode out, and from that time he was incessantly on horseback, rambling about the mountain in the least frequented roads, and just as often through the woods. In those melancholy rambles I was his constant companion; a solitary witness to many a burst of grief, the remembrance of which has consecrated particular scenes of that lost home beyond the power of time to obliterate."