Wednesday, July 10, 2002

It has been said young men are full of themselves, and Jefferson proved no exception. The shock of a rejection turned him more inward than ever. He began to keep a Literary Bible, as he called it, filling it with excerpts from his voluminous reading. Naturally he favored derogatory comments about women. From Euripides he culled a lamentation that described their sex as “a curse deceiving men” and the suggestion that “Mortals should beget children from some other source and there should be no womankind; thus there would be no ill for men.” A couplet copied from Pope’s Iliad - “To labour is the lot of man below / And when Jove gave us life, he gave us woe” – verified the fact life was a depressing affair. Evil, too, abounded, and Jefferson noted Cicero’s comment that “as soon as we are born and received into the world we are instantly familiarized with all kinds of depravity and perversity of opinions; so that we may be said almost to suck in error with our nurse’s milk.”

David Freeman Hawke, A Transaction of Free Men: The Birth and Course of the Declaration of Independence (38)

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