Thomas Jefferson’s legacy has passed through revisionist history quite a bit lately, and a new book by Virginian Derek Baxter, “In Pursuit of Jefferson: Traveling through Europe with the Most Perplexing Founding Father” (Sourcebooks, 416 pages, 27 $.99) just adds to the compilation.
Baxter took a unique approach to the “American Sphinx,” as biographer Joseph J. Ellis called it, combining a travelogue type with a non-fiction historical look at an important period in Jefferson’s life.
Throughout his youth, Baxter had “admired Thomas Jefferson and marveled at his many talents.” However, by the time he had completed the research for this book, Baxter’s Jefferson, whom he had placed on a pedestal, had one foot on and one foot on.
Jefferson’s actions or inactions regarding slavery and the fact that Jefferson fathered children by his slave Sally Hemmings had altered Baxter’s view of the Founding Father.
As an example, Baxter notes, “Slavery is an insistent, discordant note in this otherwise harmonious symphony of Jeffersonian architecture at the University of Virginia, which he founded. The pavilions [on the lawn] might symbolize the inherent value of different building styles, but the slave quarters behind them are clearly separate and not equal.
However, Baxter’s book focuses primarily on Jefferson’s own travels in the mid-1780s through Europe and subsequently on a commentary he wrote, “Hints to Americans Traveling in Europe”, designed for two young sons of his acquaintances.
In 2010, Baxter and his wife decided to follow Jefferson’s European saga, visiting six countries and using his suggested advice. The resulting book is further illumination from Jefferson and insightful revelations for the 21st century author.
Along the way, Baxter sought to understand various topics such as what a “Jeffersonian approach to natural history might look like today.” He discovered that “Hints” inspired travelers to observe natural history and climate. A number of natural questions arose at Jefferson, such as how did the seashells end up in the mountains?
Jefferson wrote, “Better to completely withhold judgment than to come to a conclusion unsupported by evidence. Ignorance is preferable to error, and he who believes nothing is less far from the truth than he who believes what is false.
Traversing the centuries was a remarkable and unique treat for this first-time author, a lawyer in Fairfax, Virginia. The precisely written and historically accurate book is a must-watch for any Jefferson fan.
For the past 60 or 70 years, Virginians, especially those in Richmond and the east, have loved calling North Carolina’s Outer Banks their own vacation land. Thousands of people travel every summer to soak up the sun and enjoy the sand of a quieter, more relaxing coastal playground.
In fact, for several decades, the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper circulation truck made a special daily run to towns on the shores, bringing the newspaper to twenty or more outlets – in grocery stores and pharmacies and even on the quays.
No summer adventure in the Outer Banks was complete without an evening at Manteo at the Waterside Theater to watch Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green’s spectacular outdoor drama “The Lost Colony,” which begins its 85th season later this this month.
And “The Colony,” as locals called it, through advertising or word of mouth, would be remembered for its outstanding alumnus, TV star Andy Griffith.
In the summer of 1947, Griffith found himself on stage at the Roanoke Island theater and for the next six summers he returned to drama. This is where author John Railey begins his saga, “Andy Griffith’s Manteo: His Real Mayberry” (The History Press, 160 pages, $21.99).
“The Lost Colony” was the birth of Griffith’s acting career that led to two separate award-winning TV shows, as Mayberry’s lovable Sheriff Andy Taylor and the crusty, savvy southern lawyer, Matlock of Atlanta.
Over the years, there have been tales of Griffith’s occasional return to “The Colony,” but that wasn’t the whole story. Railey says outdoor drama played a big part in Griffith’s entire adult life. He was so grateful for his early days there and the atmosphere he found around Manteo that he bought land nearby and made it his lifelong home.
His visits to “The Colony” were almost annual. He wanted to meet the annual cast members, talk with them, and share all the acting treats they were looking for. He was also a city dweller, and they liked him, whether he was in a grocery store, hardware store, or drugstore, or just walking down the street. He developed a group of friends, who helped ensure the confidentiality offered by Manteo.
In conclusion, Railey wrote that Andy Griffith “was a good man in all his complexities. He cared for his neighbors, repaying the stain of sand that had welcomed him and made him. He was a good islander. Manteo was the real Mayberry.
Tell me, what is a jackalope?
This question has been answered by Michael P. Branch in his new book, “On the Trail of the Jackalope: How a Legend Captured the World’s Imagination and Helped Us Cure Cancer” (Pegasus Books, 304 pages, 27, $95).
Last October, Jenny Rossberg, public relations specialist for Pegasus Books, assisted me in my efforts to obtain a copy of “A Fire in the Wilderness: The First Battle between Ulysses.” S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. Later, in our ongoing email exchanges, she told me about an upcoming book that I might find interesting.
The book about a jackalope was not the type of book to be covered in this column, but since the author was a former student of William & Mary College, I told him to send it.
Branch’s saga noted that the jackalope was created as a joke by two brothers during the Great Depression and was meant to be both a hare and an antelope. Over the years, the jackalope has found its way to postcards, keychains, coffee mugs, and a variety of folk stores. “The animal” has found its way into art, music and film, he explained.
In fact, there is a “horned bunny”, caused by diseased growths that appear on rabbits that look like horns. In the mid-1980s, oncologists discovered that the virus responsible for the horns could be used in genetic information used in the development of antiviral therapies for cancer, explained Branch, university professor of literature and environment at the ‘University of Nevada.
So, believe it or not, jackalopes are as real as you want them to be!
Do you have a comment or suggestion for Kale? Contact him at [email protected]