Extract from Margaret Bayard Smith’s Recollection of a Visit to Monticello

We sat at table, until near sun down, where we enjoyed agreeable and instructive conversation, in which every one seemed to expect and wish Mr. J– should take the chief part. This is the part of the day, in which he gives most time to his guests, and seems himself most to enjoy society; and I found during the few days we passed at Monticello, these were the most social hours. The dessert is not removed; the wine freely, but not rapidly circulated round the table, and the ladies do not withdraw, until the hospitable master leads the way. Every one who has known, has acknowledged the colloquial powers of this excellent man. He is frank and communicative in his manner, various and delightful in his conversation. With a mind stored by much reading, long experience, accurate observation, deep research, an intimate acquaintance with the great and good men of Europe and America; with the events, and scenes and customs of both countries; he possesses a store of intellectual wealth, which falls to the lot of few; and of those, how many, possess the treasure, have not the faculty of imparting it to others. But, Mr. J– has not only the sterling gold, but has the lesser coins, which afford an easy currency to thought, and are so important in social intercourse. No subject could be started, which he did not illustrate by luminous observations, or enliven by sprightly anecdotes. One quality he has, which I never knew equalled in any other man; a quick and intuitive perception of the character, taste and feelings of his guests, and with a benevolence, equalling in warmth, the greatness of his perception; he always turned the conversation, so as to draw forth the powers and talents of each guest, bestowing on all, the same gracious attention: he, above all men, has the art of pleasing, by making each pleased with himself. Why can I not recollect every word which fell from his lips, during these charming conversations, for every word deserved to be remembered!

Published as “Recollections of a Visit to Monticello,” Richmond Enquirer, 18 Jan. 1823. Publishd in PTJRS, 1:386–401.
Margaret Bayard Smith
Date Range
July 29, 1809 to August 2, 1809
Quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson
Richmond Enquirer, 18 Jan. 1823