Jefferson’s Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello by Andrew Burstein (review)

Jefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello by Andrew Burstein (Basic Books, 2006)

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Jefferson’s Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello by Andrew Burstein (review)

by Ray Kristofer
Southern Cultures, Vol. 12, No. 2: The Tobacco Issue

Basic Books, 2006

There is certainly no shortage of books on Thomas Jefferson, but Andrew Burstein’s latest effort attempts to view the man from an angle few others have tried. Rereading both familiar and less well-known sources, Burstein argues that our knowledge of Jefferson is incomplete without an extended study of his retirement years. He is particularly keen for the reader to grasp the conditions that shaped Jefferson’s thinking, or, as Burstein puts it, to understand the unfamiliar that was familiar to Jefferson. This emphasis results in thought-provoking ruminations on death, sexuality, history, religion, and politics.