Sunday, August 03, 2008

Pg. 99: Kevin J. Hayes' "The Road to Monticello"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson by Kevin J. Hayes.

About the book, from the publisher:
Thomas Jefferson was an avid book-collector, a voracious reader, and a gifted writer--a man who prided himself on his knowledge of classical and modern languages and whose marginal annotations include quotations from Euripides, Herodotus, and Milton. And yet there has never been a literary life of our most literary president.

In The Road to Monticello, Kevin J. Hayes fills this important gap by offering a lively account of Jefferson's spiritual and intellectual development, focusing on the books and ideas that exerted the most profound influence on him. Moving chronologically through Jefferson's life, Hayes reveals the full range and depth of Jefferson's literary passions, from the popular "small books" sold by traveling chapmen, such as The History of Tom Thumb, which enthralled him as a child; to his lifelong love of Aesop's Fables and Robinson Crusoe; his engagement with Horace, Ovid, Virgil and other writers of classical antiquity; and his deep affinity with the melancholy verse of Ossian, the legendary third-century Gaelic warrior-poet. Drawing on Jefferson's letters, journals, and commonplace books, Hayes offers a wealth of new scholarship on the print culture of colonial America, reveals an intimate portrait of Jefferson's activities beyond the political chamber, and reconstructs the president's investigations in such different fields of knowledge as law, history, philosophy and natural science. Most importantly, Hayes uncovers the ideas and exchanges which informed the thinking of America's first great intellectual and shows how his lifelong pursuit of knowledge culminated in the formation of a public offering, the "academic village" which became UVA, and his more private retreat at Monticello.

Gracefully written and painstakingly researched, The Road to Monticello provides an invaluable look at Jefferson's intellectual and literary life, uncovering the roots of some of the most important--and influential--ideas that have informed American history.
Among the early acclaim for The Road to Monticello:
"The book's freshness and immediacy lie in the author's emphasis on the libraries Jefferson accumulated and the marginal notes he left in the books he read. Hayes takes us through Jefferson's hugely wide and eclectic reading with an ease and lightness often missing.... The Road to Monticello will enlighten and delight all those drawn to Jefferson and the early years of so many classic American ideas."
--Publishers Weekly

"Kevin J. Hayes adroitly accomplishes the formidable task of providing an intellectual biography of Jefferson without ever sounding dry or bookish and without losing sight of his day-to-day life. Grounded in extensive original research, The Road to Monticello is a lively, engaging life of the mind of America's most important founding father."
--David S. Reynolds, author of Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson

"In what will surely be the definitive work on the subject, Hayes presents a scrupulously researched examination of the reading habits and thinking of our third President, effectively a biography of Thomas Jefferson's intellect over the course of his life. Although Jefferson's public career has always been granted close examination, Hayes demonstrates that Jefferson's life of the mind also merits the close study provided here."
--Thomas J. Schaeper, Library Journal

"Kevin Hayes's Road to Monticello is a stunning contribution to Jefferson studies. Focusing on Jefferson's reading and writing, Hayes illuminates his subject's life and times. Taking Jefferson on his own terms and resisting the modern temptation to psychologize and moralize, Hayes nonetheless gives us a Jefferson of surprising depth and complexity. This is the kind of "life" Jefferson himself would have wanted to memorialize. The Road to Monticello is a magnificent achievement."
--Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor, University of Virginia

Learn more about The Road to Monticello at the Oxford University Press website.

Kevin J. Hayes is Professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma and the author of A Colonial Woman's Bookshelf, An American Cycling Odyssey, Melville's Folk Roots, and Poe and the Printed Word.

The Page 99 Test: The Road to Monticello.

--Marshal Zeringue