A Visit to Monticello

from A Tour Through Part of Virginia In the Summer of 1808 by John Edwards Caldwell

Monticello is a conical hill; -- its summit, on which stands the house, is 500 feet above the adjoining country. The view from hence is extensive, variegated and charming; to the west the blue mountains, at a distance of about fifteen miles bound the prospect, while to the north and east, the eye wanders in rapture over an expanse of, I think, 45 miles; and can distinguish particular objects at that distance. It is near a mile from the public road which leads betwen Charlottesville and Milton. In a few years, when some improvements, now begun, are complete, the approach will be worth the taste of the proprietor.

The house is an irregular octagon, with porticoes on the east and west sides, and piazzas on the north and south ends. Its extent, including the porticoes aand piazzas, is about one hundred and ten by ninety feet; the external is finished in the Doric order complete, with a ballustrade on the top of it. In the centre of the S. W. side, over the parlour, is an attic story, terminated with a dome, which has a fine effect, and forms a beautiful room inside. The internal of the house contains specimens of all the different orders, except the composite, which is not introduced; the hall is in the Ionic, the dining room in the Doric; the parlour is in the Corinthian, and dome in the Attic; in the other rooms are introduced several different forms of these orders all in the truest proportions, acording to Palladio. On the ground floor are eleven rooms; on the second, six; and on the attic, four; there are cellars under the whole. Through the antes of the house, from N. to S. on the cellar floor, is a passage of 300 feet long, leading to two wings or ranges of building of one story, that stand equi-distant from each end of the house, and extend 120 feet eastwardly from the passages, terminated by a pavillion of two stories at the end of each. The roofs of the passages, and range of buildings, form an agreeable walk, being flat and floored, and are to have a Chinese railing round them; they rise but a little height above the lawn, that they may not obstruct the view. On the south side are the kitchen, smoke-house, dairy, waste house and servants' rooms; on the north are the ice house, coach house, &c. &c. The library is extensive, and contains, as might indeed be expected, a vast collection of rare and valuable works, on all subjects, and in all languages.

Mr. Jefferson has also a large collection of mathematical, philosophical, and optical instruments, and Indian curiosities. Among the latter are busts of a male and female, sitting in the Indian position; they are supposed to be of great antiquity, and to have been formed by the Indians: they were ploughed up in the state of Tennessee, are of very hard stone, but considerably defaced; there is also in the hall a representation of a battle between the Panis and Osage; also, a map of the Missouri and its tributary streams, both executed by Indians, on dressed buffaloe [sic] hides; bows, arrows, and quivers, poisoned lances, pipes of peace, wampum belts, mockasins [sic], &c. &c. several dresses, and cooking utensils of the Mandan and other nations of the Missouri. The staturary in the all consists of a collosal bust of Mr. Jefferson, by Carrachi, it is on a truncated column, on the pedestal of which are represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve signs of the Zodiac. A full length figure of Cleopatra, in a reclining position, after she had applied the asp, and busts of Voltaire and Thurgot, in plaister [sic]; there is likewise a model of one of the pyramids of Egypt. In the parlour are busts of the emperors Alexander of Russia, and Napoleon of France, sitting on columns, and a sleeping Venus. In the bow of the dining room are busts of General Washington, Doctor Franklin, Marquis de La Fayette, and Paul Jones, in plaister [sic]. The collection of paintings is considered by connoisseurs to be of the first rate. -- Among them is the Ascension, by Poussin; the Holy Family;, by Raphael; scourging of Christ, by Reubens; Crucifixion, by Guido; and a great many other scripture and historic pieces, by the first masters; portraits, prints, medallions, medals, &c. of celebrated characters and events. The collection of natural curiosities is tolerably extensive, and consists of mammoth and other bones, horns of different kinds, a head of the moutain ram, petrifactions, chrystalizations, minerals, shells, &c. In short it is supposed there is no private gentleman in the world in possession of so perfect and complete a scientific, useful and ornamental collection.

This article was published in John Edwards Caldwell, A Tour Through Part of Virginia in the Summer of 1808. Also, Some Account of the Islands In The Atlantic Ocian, Known by the Name of the Azores, Visited For Some Weeks By the Author , on His Way from the United States to Europe, In April and May, 1809., Smyth and Lyons, Belfast, Ireland, 1810, reprinted with editing by William M. E. Rachal, The Dietz Press, Richmond, VA, 1951.

Copyright © 2002 Sarah E. Mitchell