I'm reading The Hemingses of Monticello, by Annette Gordon-Reed, and I came across a quote on page 93 that reads:

"...As a teenage boy, [Jefferson] reproduced excerpts from poems and other literature that can be interpreted as hostile to women..."

Later, Gordon-Reed refers to Jefferson's views as misogynistic. What poems/literature is she referring to and where did he "reproduce" them? I've searched on Google but haven't found anything.

*Obviously, it was the 17-1800's, so he wouldn't be championing modern feminism, but there is room between modern feminism and misogynism.

  • It might help to have a fully context of the quote. – Gort the Robot Mar 31 '17 at 22:05

I'd guess she's probably referring to his Literary Commonplace Book, which it looks like he compiled while he was 15-29.

Commonplace books were much like modern school journals and notebooks, which students of the era were expected to keep as part of their studies. Jefferson also had a Legal Commonplace Book, for his legal studies, but that likely didn't contain poetry clippings.

Thumbing through it, roughly half of it is in Latin (which I am really bad at) and Greek (which I know not at all). I did see bits credited to Euripides, Virgil, Homer (Iliad and Odyssey both), Ovid, Alexander Pope, Milton, Shakespeare, and a smattering of lesser-known English poets and playwrights that were popular at the time.

Some bits of Milton's Paradise Lost could be viewed as reaffirming that era's gender roles. For instance, he reproduced this passage (and not the text around it):

Thus it shall befall Him, who, to worth in women overtrusting, Lets her will rule: restraint she will not brook; And, left to herself, if evil thence ensue, She first his weak indulgence will accuse.

There are also several passages from Otway's play The Orphan reproduced, some of which are not very complimentary to women, some not very complimentary to men. It was apparently a quite popular play at the time.

So I can't speak to more than the half or so in English, but from that I think its fair to say that he seemed to not be logging particularly unusual feelings toward women at the time (which is still quite bad enough, given the time in question).

Perhaps some of the Latin poetry is juicier. Sadly, no Catullus though.


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