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Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England

on December 17, 2011 – 3:15 am

Thomas Jefferson promised his five-year-old granddaughter Ellen that one day “you will become a learned lady and publish books yourself.” Coolidge’s first book, a diary she kept as an adult woman, has been published by scholars at Monticello’s Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England: The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838-1839, edited by Ann Lucas-Birle and Lisa A. Francavilla, is co-published by the Massachusetts Historical Society and Thomas Jefferson Foundation and distributed by the University of Virginia Press.

Ellen was the fourth child of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter Martha and Thomas Mann Randolph. Ellen, her mother and siblings, came to live at Monticello with Jefferson after he retired from the presidency in 1809. In her diary entries, Ellen vividly describes her nine-month stay in London in 1838-1839, at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. Coolidge records the details of London’s public buildings, museums, parks and of her conversations with writers such as Thomas Carlyle, Anna Jameson and activists including Charles Sumner and Harriet Martineau. She gives firsthand accounts as she watches the young Queen Victoria open Parliament and battle the first scandal of her reign, chronicles artwork held in both public and private collections, and acknowledges a new appreciation for the modern art of J. M. W. Turner. As she encounters her mother’s school-girl friends and recalls the songs sung by her grandfather while working in his study, Coolidge’s thoughts return to Monticello and the lessons she learned there. Learn more about .