14th Annual Literary Festival
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4 THE COURIER, OCTOBER 4, 1991

 
Alf J. Mapp Jr., Louis I. Jaffe Professor of English, will read from his second volume on the Thomas Jefferson next week during ODU'S Literary Festival. The book will be published in November.
'Thomas Jefferson: Passionate Pilgrim'

 

Alf Mapp's second volume on Jefferson brings to light the emotional side of America's third president-from his two terms in office to his quest to establish the University of Virginia

BY ELIZABETH OWNLEY
A s a 16-year-old freshman at the College of William and Mary, AIf J. Mapp Jr. learned that his English class was held in the same building where Thomas Jefferson had had classes in the mid-1700s and that a road out of Williamsburg he and his friends used to walk along was the same route followed by Jefferson and his friends.

pilgrimage from certain points to other points," Mapp added. "His view was less and less parochial as he went along. At the same time he was always devoted to his own state and to his own country but he reached a point finally where he carried the fate of the whole world in his head."

The discovery of those commonalities was the beginning of a lifelong interest in Jefferson, leading Mapp, Old Dominion's Louis I. Jaffe Professor of English, on a search of other facets in the life of the man who authored the Declaration of Independence, became the third president of the United States and founded the University of Virginia. The renowned historian's investigations have resulted in two volumes about Jefferson's life and achievements, the second of which will be published next month.

"Thomas Jefferson: Passionate Pilgrim" is a continuation of Mapp's 1067 bestseller, "Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity." While the first volume detailed Jefferson's early years through his inauguration as president, the second hook explores his presidency, his quest to establish the University of Virginia and his death on July 4, 1826, one week after supervising the placement of the last column on the university's famous Rotunda.

The book focuses on the triumphs of Jefferson's presidency, including the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Louisiana Purchase and his role in augmenting the country's national defense, as well as his ideas regarding education.

"There's a whole lot of that that is very pertinent to our own time," Mapp noted. "He dealt with what is adequate preparation in the grade schools, to what extent there should be a concentration on learning facts and to what extent there should be a stimulus to research."

Mapp added that Jefferson, as the founder and first rector of U.Va., outlined the curriculum for each of the seven areas of study at the university.

"The learning process was a very exciting thing for him. He had a great hunger for knowledge, and he was a product of a society in Virginia that emphasized a good education and broad reading as a basis for public leadership. He undoubtedly was the most learned man ever to be president of the United States."

The book also continues the first volume's treatment of Jefferson as one of the most misunderstood of American leaders, albeit one of the most familiar figures of colonial America.

Mapp believes it is significant that Jefferson is the most quoted American in the world today. His writings have been used in speeches by both Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, by leaders in every Eastern state that has moved out from behind the Iron Curtain and by students seeking democracy in China.

"In some ways he is an enigma," Mapp acknowledged. "One of the things I try to bring out in this book is that we may have made him a little bit more of an enigma than he needs to be, I'm cautious about that. He's not more enigmatic than Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt."

Henry Adams, an American historian and descendant of President John Adams, first portrayed Jefferson as an enigma, setting the tone for future biographers, Mapp noted.
"Henry Adams appears to have a blind spot where Thomas Jefferson is concerned," he explained. "Maybe it's partly because whenever Jefferson had a dispute with the Adams family, Henry Adams had difficulty seeing both sides.

" Mapp also details Jefferson's views regarding religion. Jefferson had declared that he would never publicly discuss religion despite political

enemies' attempts to brand him an atheist.

"He was not a strictly orthodox man, but he was quite religious," Mapp noted. "He created an edition of the Bible in several different languages, allowing him to do his Bible reading and keep fresh with the languages at the same time."

Mapp added that Jefferson encouraged different denominations to establish seminaries just outside the university grounds. "He was trying to separate church and state, but wanted religious instruction to be available to those who wanted it."

Although Mapp conducted much of his research while preparing his first book on Jefferson, he spent three years organizing the material for the second volume. During that time he also co-wrote two other books and taught full time.

Many of the materials used in the book came from the Library of Congress, which provided a private office for Mapp to use while doing his research. He noted that the library's microfilms of Jefferson's letters were especially useful in deciphering his personality.

"There can be great significance in what you see in his writing," Mapp said. "Sometimes you see where he wrote one word and crossed it out and then wrote another one. Sometimes he put a more tactful word in place of the first one.

" Having spent years studying Jefferson's life and accomplishments, Mapp is nonetheless hesitant to single out a crowning achievement.

"I really think leaving inspiring words in behalf of freedom and the record of his own life lived
in behalf of freedom were perhaps the most important influences," he said. "he was exceptional even for his own day. In Jefferson's day in America, the very best minds went into politics. Today, our best minds not only go into politics but ink a great variety of professions."

As was the first volume, the book will be a featured selection by the Book of the Month Club. The History Book Club also will publish an edition in early 1992. Indicative of the interest in Mapp's book, the Book of the Month Club will publish 23,000 copies, instead of the typical 10,000 copies, on the first day.

Mapp will discuss the book and read several passages during the ODU Literary Festival at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, in the auditorium of the Mills Godwin Jr. Building.

Although he is not planning another volume on Jefferson, Mapp has not completely dosed the book on America's third president. He recently
finished the third chapter of his next book, which he describes as more historical than biographical and Jefferson will be one of many historical figures highlighted in the volume.
"It's much more interesting going to the end of his life than to that of many people because Thomas Jefferson was active up until the last. The very last piece of writing by him came out in a Washington newspaper the day of his death." Alf J. Mapp Jr.
"It's much more interesting going to the end of his life than to that of many people because Thomas Jefferson was active up until the last," Mapp said. "The very last piece of writing by him came out in a Washington newspaper the day of his death.

" Jefferson's devotion to his work and to his country is reflected in the book's title.

"One thing I stress in this is that Jefferson was a very passionate man-passionate in his individual relationships with people, passionate in his devotion to liberty and passionate in his pursuit of knowledge," Mapp explained, "He is so often pictured as being just a model of reason that I thought we needed to counteract that. Of course he was a person of great reasoning power . . . but emotion was a stimulus for many of his actions, and I wanted to make that quite evident.

"Pilgrim carries with it some idea of a measure of sobriety and also conveys his life as a