The Belles of the Day: Jefferson’s Monticello

The Belles of the Day

In a letter penned to granddaughter Anne Cary Bankhead in 1811, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “the flowers come forth like the belles of the day, have their short reign of beauty and splendour, and retire, like them, to the more interesting office of reproducing their like.” As an avid gardener, the statesman often used horticultural parameters to impart wisdom, and in this passage, he schools Anne on the fleeting nature of beauty, as well as life’s inevitable transitions—lessons he himself learned well as he observed the ebb and flow of the seasons from his hilltop perch.

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