Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge

Thomas Jefferson's Granddaughter in Queen Victoria's England:
The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838-1839

Cover of Thomas Jefferson's Granddaughter in Queen Victoria's EnglandEdited by Ann Lucas Birle and Lisa A. Francavilla
Hardcover: 464 pages, 22 color and 13 b&w illustrations and 2 maps, notes, index (2011)
Distributed by the University of Virginia Press
$45 cloth    ISBN 978-1-936520-02-2
$29.95 paper    ISBN 978-1-936520-04-6

Ellen Wayles Coolidge arrived in London in June 1838 at the advent of Queen Victoria's reign—the citizens were still celebrating the coronation. During her nine-month stay, Coolidge kept a diary that reveals the uncommon education of her youth, when she lived and studied at Monticello with her grandfather, Thomas Jefferson. This volume brings the full text of her diary to publication for the first time, opening up her text for today's readers with carefully researched annotations that provide the historical context.

London's docks, theaters, parks, public buildings, and museums all come under Coolidge's astute gaze as she and her husband, Joseph Coolidge, Jr., travel the city and gradually gain entry into some of the most coveted drawing rooms of the time. Coolidge records the details of her conversations with writers such as Samuel Rogers, Thomas Carlyle, and Anna Jameson and activists including Charles Sumner and Harriet Martineau. She gives firsthand accounts of the fashioning of the young queen's image by the artists Charles Robert Leslie and Sir Francis Chantrey and takes notes as she watches the queen open Parliament and battle the first scandal of her reign. Her love of painting reawakened, Coolidge chronicles her opportunities to view over 400 works of art held in both public and private collections, acknowledging a new appreciation for the modern art of J. M. W. Turner and a fondness for the Dutch masters.

As rich as her experience in England proves to be, Coolidge often reflects on her family in Boston and Virginia and her youth at Monticello. As she encounters her mother's schoolgirl friends and recalls the songs her grandfather sang while working in his study, Coolidge's thoughts return to Monticello and the lessons she learned there. Across the spectrum of her observations, Coolidge's diary is always strikingly vivid and insightful—and frequently quite funny.

Ann Lucas Birle is a scholar at the International Center for Jefferson Studies.

Lisa A. Francavilla is Managing Editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series.

Upcoming Events

Brown Bag

Are We Descended from Puritans or Pagans?: New England’s Critique of Manifest Destiny

23May 12:00PM 2018

This talk examines the religious critique of manifest destiny put forth by New Englanders from 1848-1871. Although manifest destiny is often portrayed as an ideology ...

Brown Bag

Conjuring Emancipation: Making Freedom in the U.S. Civil War’s Refugee Camps

30May 12:00PM 2018

Black Americans did not just pray for emancipation, they conjured it. This project examines the political work of revival in wartime refugee camps and envisions ...

Author Talk

Apostles of Revolution: Jefferson, Paine, Monroe, & the Struggle against the Old Order in America & ...

30May 6:00PM 2018
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30

As Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and James Monroe risked their lives and their liberty for  American independence, and as reformers, each ...

From our Blog

This Week @ MHS

It is a fairly quiet week at the Society as we head toward a long holiday weekend. Here is what is happening in the coming days: - Monday, 21 May, 6:00PM : We start things off with an author talk ...

A Wedding at Windsor

On May 19th, HRH Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle will wed at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. The couple has decided to update several royal wedding rituals, but their choice of venue ...

Read more from our blog

Have you seen?