JEFFERSON PUTS HIS HEAD
AND HIS HEART INTO MONTICELLO
In 1768, Jefferson began to design the dream mansion he would build in the neoclassical style. He chose a remote site outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, and called it Monticello (which is Italian for “little mountain”). It would become the home for himself and his new bride, Martha, during the American Revolution. But Martha died in 1781 with the house still unfinished.
Maria’s husband, Richard, insisted that he and Maria leave France and return home. Jefferson was heart-broken. Historians believe that Jefferson was somewhat emotionally vulnerable at that time. His wife had died a few years earlier, and he had just learned of the death of his youngest daughter. Not long after, Jefferson returned to Monticello but not before writing to Maria, “I am going to America and you are going to Italy. One of us is going the wrong way, for the way will ever be wrong that leads us further apart.”
The next time you pull a nickel out of your pocket, look at the image of Monticello on it and remember the story of Jefferson’s Head and Heart.
(historical note: the liaison between Jefferson and Maria Cosway took place after the death of his wife, Martha, and prior to his later relationship with Sally Hemings)