Jefferson's Secrets Death and Desire at Monticello By Andrew Burstein Basic Books, 2005 351 pp. Cloth $25.00 Reviewed by Kristofer Ray, assistant editor of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, and lecturer at the University of Virginia. Ray is completing a book that examines political evolution in the TransAppalachian South, ca. 17751820. There is certainly no shortage of books on Thomas Jefferson, but Andrew Burstein's latest effort attempts to view the man from an angle few others have tried. Rereading both familiar and less well-known sources, Burstein argues that our knowledge of Jefferson is incomplete without an extended study of his retirement years. He is particularly keen for the reader to grasp the conditions that shaped Jefferson's thinking, or, as Burstein puts it, to understand the unfamiliar that was familiar to Jefferson. This emphasis results in thought-provoking ruminations on death, sexuality, history, religion, and politics. The key to comprehending Jefferson, Burstein argues, is the medical philosophy, literature, and terminology he so often read and invoked. True, only a minority of his library specifically dealt with medicine (less than 5 percent, in fact), but Burstein would tell us that this is not the point. Rather, a majority of
Southern Cultures – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Oct 5, 2006
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