Extract from the “Autobiography of Judith Walker Rives

Our return to Oak Ridge, and thence to Castle Hill, brought us again among our new and old friends. Among these we were honored by a visit from Mr Jefferson ... It was the first time I had ever seen the sage of Monticello, though I had heard of him often through friends and foes, through good report and evil report. The evil I banished, the good alone remained, for he was always particularly kind to Mr Rives, of whom he spoke as his friend and élève, having supervised his law studies for several years.

Mr Jefferson was far advanced in life at this period, but his manners were pleasing, his voice and general conversation very attractive, his eye bright , and his tall figure had lost none of its uprightness. With his back turned, and especially on horseback, no one would have suspected that nearly eighty years had passed over such a form. He seemed to take pleasure in his recollections of visits to Castle Hill in his youthful days, when my grandfather had been his guardian, and he always ascribed many things recorded in his “Notes on Virginia” to the accurate knowledge and observation of is ancient friend and mentor.

We accepted, with grateful pleasure his invitation to pass some days at Monticello ... to describe this picturesque spot as it was that day would be to recall the dead to life, so completely has it been since desecrated. I will not say how, or by whom, the retrospect is too painful.

I can well believe the report of the fabulous sums expended in erecting and furnishing a building so costly for those days, when the difficulties attending the transportation of materials to such an elevation, and the greater difficulty of finding architects to execute such complicated plans, must have been nearly insurmountable. The passion for architecture which distinguished its owner, unhappily made him realize the French saying “cela ruine.”

The beautiful panoramic view it commands, I had often seen before in climbing the highest mountain of the south-western range, in the immediate vicinity of Castle Hill, and which Mr. Madison playfully designated as “the Chimborazo of our Andes.”

At that time, Mr Jefferson’s lovely daughter, Mrs. Randolph, presided there. An education in the elegant by cloistered recesses of the Sacré Coeur, during her father’s residence in Paris, combined with an early marriage and complete seclusion in the bosom of her family afterwards, gave her an air of youthful reserve and almost timidity that was only dissipated on intimate acquaintance. When this light frost work melted away, the grace and charm of her manner and conversation were unrivalled, and precious was deemed the priviledge of finding the road to such a heart and mind.

Tr (ViU: Rives Family Papers, Mss 2313).
Judith Walker Rives
Date Range
September 17, 1819 to November 27, 1819
Quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson