the Randolphs


In Virginia, legends offered themselves up for our affiliation. We were allowed to imagine ourselves against their tableaux. My aunt arranged private tours of Tuckahoe Plantation, Jefferson’s childhood home. We learned about the scandal at a plantation called Bizarre, in which one sad Randolph woman, in a tragic turn, was accused of murdering a child who had been conceived out of wedlock. Only later would I learn that the rumor of the time had been that the child had been conceived with one of the enslaved members of the household. Her family valiantly tried to protect her (and themselves) from shame. Patrick Henry successfully defended her in a proceeding that had been the days’ equivalent of the O. J. Simpson trial, and about which books are still occasionally published by small Virginia presses. As for Jefferson: How could I help but like him? A portrait of Monticello hung on the guest-​bedroom wall. Jefferson’s signature pin glinted above the fireplace. How beautiful his books were, full of gardens, science, democracy. My first visit to Monticello was a private tour. We strolled past Jefferson’s bed nook, his cluttered desk. I remember his micrometer, clock, telescopes.

more from Tess Taylor at VQR here.