By Andrew Burstein
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Additional resources for Jefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello
13 Watkins married into the family of a different Jackson, in east Tennessee, but left the state in 1817 and became Jefferson’s personal physician in the autumn of 1819. He lived close by at Glenmore, an estate that had been in the Randolph family, where he sought prominence as a member of the Albemarle County Agricultural Society. Farmer Watkins claimed that he had always wished to make agriculture his “exclusive pursuit,” directly stating that his medical practice only got in the way of—“in perpetual confliction” with—his desire to experiment in planting.
Nothing had altered the Virginian’s belief that the world was framed on a principle of benevolence. Jefferson was still reaping happiness from the constant company of his family; from a university long conceived and, finally, about to commence operation; from a library constantly being refreshed with books of science, philosophy, and the Greek and Roman classics. But even these gifts did not erase the effects of physical debility on the old man’s psyche. He had long since exceeded the average life span of an American male, and he was thoroughly convinced that incapacity would very soon outweigh mental acuity, which he still possessed in full.
35 In 1818, when his rheumatism returned, Jefferson finally sought relief by traveling to Virginia’s fashionable Warm Springs to bathe in the curative waters. He ended up with painful boils over his body. “A large swelling on my seat,” he wrote to his daughter, “increasing for several days past in size and hardness disables me from sitting but on the corner of a chair. Another swelling begins to manifest it self to-day on the other seat. . ” Back at Monticello, his hapless doctor at the time exacerbated the problem by applying mercury and sulfur, so that Jefferson languished for weeks more, unable to leave his house.
Jefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello by Andrew Burstein