The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson.

Author:WALKER, WILLIAM T.
Position:Review
 
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WILLIAM HOWARD ADAMS, The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 354 pp., index, $30.00 cloth (ISBN 0-300-06903-0).

Jefferson's experiences in Paris during the 1780s have attracted the attention of scholars and others during recent years. James Ivory's not very successful 1995 film, Jefferson in Paris, and the scholarly work of George Green Shackleford, Thomas Jefferson's Travels in Europe, 1784-1789,(1) have been joined by a marvelous volume by William Howard Adams. The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson is an intriguing and exceptionally well-written book and constitutes the finest study available of Jefferson's life during his five years as the American minister in Paris. Adams, previously a curator at the National Gallery of Art, is a fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies. He is the author of seven earlier books, including Jefferson's Monticello, and the editor of three volumes: The Eye of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson and the Arts: An Extended View, and Denatured Visions. The book is divided into eight chapters that consider Jefferson's life in Paris; his intellectual origins, proclivity, and interests; his role as a diplomat; and his relationships with women. Although Jefferson's rapid mastery of diplomacy, his trip to southern France, and his sojourn with John and Abigail Adams to see English gardens are absorbing, perhaps the most significant image of Adams's Jefferson is as "The Patriot Aesthete." It is in this chapter that we gain an appreciation of the depth and complexity of Jefferson's mind. Here is Jefferson, ever the private person, exhibiting his enthusiasm and sensitivity for the arts, his relationship with John Trumball, and the excitement of his travels through Burgundy and Aix-en-Provence to Turin, Milan, and Genoa.

Adams opens and concludes his account with a dinner party at Jefferson's home in the rue de Berri on September 17, 1789, where, in the midst of the developing French Revolution, Jefferson bids farewell to his friends, the Marquis de Condorcet, Gouverneur Morris, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the Duke de la Rochefoucauld. All shared in their faith in the primacy...

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