Pursuit of Happiness by Jan Lewis
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Pursuit of Happiness
By Jan Lewis

The Pursuit of Happiness

Family and Values in Jefferson's Virginia

By (author) See other recent books by Jan Lewis
Format: Paperback

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Pursuit of Happiness by Jan Lewis

Book Description

This is an unusual and challenging study of the 'inner world' of the Virginia gentry during Jefferson's lifetime. It argues that, in the years after the Revolution, the gentry turned away from public life into the privacy of their homes and families. A new, sentimental religion agreed that the world was filled with woe and advised detachment from it in preparation for a better one to come. Notions of success, likewise, offered little cheer, as men and women reluctantly accepted the individualistic proposition that their destinies were in their own hands. Neither religion nor success assured earthly happiness; instead, Virginians sought their salvation in love. There, in the family and in feeling, men and women broke through the eighteenth-century's emotional restraint to pursue, but not always to find, the happiness they believed awaited them.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780521315081
ISBN-10: 0521315085
Format: Paperback
(216mm x 138mm x 18mm)
Pages: 312
Imprint: Cambridge University Press
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publish Date: 22-Feb-1985
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions...

Books By Author Jan Lewis

Favourite Nursery Rhyme Collection by Jan Lewis Favourite Nursery Rhyme Collection, Hardback (November 2016)

Each of these sturdy little boardbooks contains a well-loved rhyme illustrated with lively pictures.

Pirate Ship by Jan Lewis Pirate Ship, Hardback (October 2016)

Yo ho ho - step aboard the pirate vessel Black Spot and meet Captain Blackbeard and his motley crew. There's lots of fun to be had with the ocean rogues, with holes to peek through, flaps to lift and some sparkly surprises in store!

Ask Me About Animals by Jan Lewis Ask Me About Animals, Hardback (October 2016)

A first words and recognition book for children to enjoy, either by themselves or with grown-ups. Babies and toddlers are endlessly fascinated by pets and wild animals, and they will find plenty of them here, from a dog to a frog and from a cat to a kangaroo.

Ask Me About Colours by Jan Lewis Ask Me About Colours, Hardback (October 2016)

Bright colours are endlessly fascinating to babies and toddlers as they gradually learn what each shade is called and discover which ones they like best. To add to the fun, there are six flaps to lift - find out what colour the sea is, and the shade of Santa's suit.

» View all books by Jan Lewis


US Kirkus Review » What did the pursuit of happiness mean to the Jeffersons and other pre- and postRevolutionary Virginia gentry? On that original note, Prof. Lewis (History, Rutgers) subtly traces the transformation of such concepts as religion, death, love, and success - weaving material from various diaries and letters into the story of Thomas Jefferson's family line. The pre-Revolutionary generation of Jefferson's grandfather created the family fortunes, she writes, and enjoyed the relative independence their large estates afforded. A "peaceable scheme" was their goal: "Life and relationships were made. . . contractual, explicit, and external. . . . Having wrested a society out of the wilderness, Virginians had no desire to explore the recesses of the human heart." That, they left to their descendants - the generation of Jefferson's grandsons. For them, religion no longer provided a social web; instead, it became an individual matter - "more," says Lewis, "as it embraced less." Death similarly became sentimentalized; heaven was pictured as a family reunion. Success came hard: the ancestors had bequeathed their settlements, but they could not pass on their values - post-Revolution, commerce was degrading; worse, it was Northern. "If Virginians, in eschewing business and gain, sought to avoid the Scylla of luxury. . . they foundered upon the Charybdis of indolence." Their ineffectual safety not was love. While 18th-century parents and spouses hoped for relationships that were "affectionate yet formal," their 19th-century counterparts lived in a maelstrom of feelings. "The home was an emotional orchestra where feeling cued feeling until the whole house reverberated, sometimes with clashing sounds." Instead of a balance of public and private lives, happiness was to be found in the private realm alone. So Thomas Jefferson Randolph wrote his wife, while trying to save Monticello from creditors: "For godsake keep up your spirits. . . without you all events will be like a blank to me." Concludes Lewis wistfully: "There is more than a little irony in the fact that the first generation of Americans to commit themselves to the pursuit of happiness would find so much sadness instead." Yes indeed. Elegant historiography, affecting generational portraits. (Kirkus Reviews)

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