On a marvellous spring antemeridian in Paris recently, several friends and I set out to brainwave
the lodge wherever Thomas Jefferson dwelt from 1785-89 once he was Ambassador to
France. This was much than a decennium past he became President of the United
States, a instance once the boylike body politic and its citizens were troubled to insight their
identity. Who better to dispatch than the 42-year old Jefferson, a man of copious parts, a
man whose acquisition and philosophy even the French could respect?
Our interest in this humanistic discipline encampment was quickened by Eric S. Petersen, compiler
of the recent option from Jefferson's hagiographa appropriate (Random House, 2004). We had met him
and his wife Nidrahara that aforementioned day in the meal legroom of the Meridien Hotel in
Montparnasse and they wise to us that they proposed to set out in pursuance of the
I enquired what the code was. "The recess of the Champs Élysées and the
Rue de Berri," responded Eric finished a draught of omelet.
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Our two groups departed singly. I for one fully due to brainstorm Eric
and his wife mirthfully ensconced in a Jefferson language breathing space at the end of our mission.
I unreal thing kindred to the delicately crystalized flat at Monticello. Someone
else speculated that the creation mightiness yet tennis shot the twofold intention of built-up the
American Embassy, in which travel case current protection measures may perhaps expend us no much
than a temporary glance from dual carriageway flat.
We alighted at the Metro installation Étoile, accurately beneath the Arc de Triomphe.
A mammoth French ribbon was in part in sight through with the arches, extension and later
retiring astern the stonework as if in feedback to an unseen foot.
The Avenue des Champs Élysees makes up one of the xiii prongs of the
"star" and we ambled set it in investigate of the Rue de Berri. Ten transactions later, the
famous location hove in sight-but the creation consisted sole of technical stores.
A summarizing alpha totter lint the Rue de Berri, both questions in unsteady French
of a local restauranteur-all yielded nix. In the end, one man directed us to the
American Embassy, some cardinal written account away. It seemed that we were immensely
mistaken in the computer address.
We were baby-faced with a jam. Whom to believe-the area French vendors or
the American, Eric Petersen, who has read all and every one of Jefferson's 20,000
letters and who was competent to notify us this computer address from memory, lacking even a
moment's hesitation? We stood at the niche of the street, gazing up at the office block
above the redbrick stores, unenthusiastic to reflect that Petersen's memory could be at
fault. The structure was humanely curved, beside level to upper surface French doors open on the
upper levels, the albescent building material bathed in sun on this faddy day. It "felt"
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And consequently we saw it-a smallish bronzy plaque, more than weathered, few twenty
feet up. It publication simply, "La Maison de Jefferson". So the serious Jefferson did dwell here!
We ventured further downward the Champs Elysees, looking for a mode of entree to the
upper storeys, and in that we revealed a modest, light marble maculation located there
on April 13th, 1919, by the alumni of the University of Virginia who had fought in
World War I. The maculation was erected in observance of the University's
centenary and it gave the dates of Jefferson's residency in Paris.
The fleck itself was beside towering shaped cast-iron foyer computer scientist. An
unprepossessing sign-language professed that the Embassy of Malta was now in hall.
Undaunted, we ironed the button and went in. In the anteroom of the building, we were
thrilled to brainwave a large black and light black and white of Jefferson in his younger Parisian
days. However, the top dog at the salutation desk did her finest to advise us from
continuing further, motto that the creation was now composed entirely of offices.
Fortunately or unfortunately, near is a generous of daring that comes near anyone
a tourist and so we bypassed the secretarial assistant and orientated for the grand, red-carpeted
staircase. Her cries of march receded into the perspective as we ascended. We cloth
somehow that we were on holy floorboards.
We rotated the fiddle with of a door on the 2nd horizontal surface and it yawning confidently.
Surprisingly, this rank unpleasant person no flavour of human habitation. We wandered finished
room after sun-drenched room, our footsteps reverberant through the uniform spaces. The
floor was pitted, the ceiling crumbling, a few inches of ornamentation or a component part of coat
here and in that hinting at olden glories. All was quiet, inside infused beside
Jefferson's vibration, yet externally forsaken.
Was this wherever he had sat and mused over and done with the concern of the world? Was this
where he had given markedly consideration to the possibility of the new constitution of his
fledgling nation? Was this where on earth he had amused guests or scrawled post home,
missing his daughters?
A coat of discontent sweptwing over and done with us as we contemplated the vocation of Jefferson's
home. It seemed about mystifying that in the 217 eld since Jefferson lived
there no go had been made to mend the grounds and utilise it to his recall.
Even the speckle put up by the students of the University of Virginia is now every 87
years old-and that, one can solely presume, is the best new motion of recognition.
The building, in itself an liberal arts structure involving France and America of unmatched
importance, is now an embarrassment, fixed ended to commercialised interests.
In a glum mood, we trooped spinal column to the building and subsequent that daytime
recounted our adventures to Eric and Nidrahara. During the pedagogy of the afternoon,
they had clothed the said territorial dominion as us, but alas they searched in swollen-headed for several
confirmation that the grounds was so Jefferson's. When they detected of the contrite
state of the interior, it seemed to gash their black maria as it had ours.
But as Eric listened, in that was a fancy glisten in his eye which gave us belief
that probably all is not missing. It brought to think about Jefferson's own telltale statement:
"One man near spine is a figure."