Posts tagged ‘University of Virginia’

Doing Some Hardcore Research at UVa.

Last Thursday, I was flipping through a few of my sources looking for more tasty tidbits to include in my time line when I stumbled across a footnote in H.S. Randall’s biography of TJ that pointed to a memoir written by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. This had instantaneously sparked my curiosity, as TJ Randolph was to some extent raised by ol’ grandpa TJ back in the day.

So I had set off to Google books to find a copy  of this work, but to no avail. I then tried various other means to see if it might be in print somewhere, but again no such luck. Was it just me? Was there something that I was missing? I referred back to the endnote, and sure enough it was not a published book but a manuscript deep within the Special Collections library at the University of Virginia. Awesome. Since I had made this discovery fairly late in the day on Thursday, my research had to be put on hold until Monday.

Monday began with a surge of excitement, as I absolutely LOVE going to the special collections section of libraries. I love everything about it – I love the strict procedures for viewing materials, the musty, finely aged smell of the old documents, and that feeling of scholarly officialness when I’m doing my research in these places. It just feels awesome.

As soon as I had checked in, made my requests, and sat down in the chair closest to the bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Awesome! 🙂 ), the friendly librarian brought me my first box of documents to have a look at. As I was leafing through, I couldn’t help but read what TJR had written as a fragmented book of hilariously awesome and sometimes random anecdotes. One story that had caught my eye in particular was the one about the Bishop James Madison (president of William and Mary College, and cousin to the US President, I think) not being able to receive Thomas Jefferson in Staunton at some point, so Bishop Madison’s father received him instead and apparently there were a few others at the place engaged in a heated round of cards in one of the rooms. While those people were playing, the Bishop’s father walked around the room while very discretely leaving a trail of black powder behind him. No sooner than when TJ  and the father left the room that someone inside had said something about sinning and hell, and the father lit the trail on fire with all of the now very alarmed card players  surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke and fire. I found that both hilarious but also very dangerous at the same time, as building fires were a huge problem back in those days.

After I had finished up at UVa,  I unfortunately had to leave immediately due to parking in the Central garage and not having enough cash on hand to stay for another hour to explore the grounds. So I don’t have any good photos of campus to post here just yet, but perhaps I will return before I leave for Massachusetts next week to see the Rotunda and the academic village. However, I am happy to say that I had a good time at UVa and gathered many tasty tidbits to include in my essay, which was pretty awesome since my last visit to a Special Collections yielded nothing that wasn’t available to me via databases already. スゴイ!

Picture of the Day:

Ah! A cute lil cicada outside my window this morning.

Ah! A cute lil' cicada outside my window this morning.

July 28, 2009 at 11:00 am 1 comment


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