Some Saturday fun
Thomas Jefferson had the remarkable idea of starting a wine industry in the US. So in 1787, while he was the top envoy of the US to France, he wandered from Paris to spend some time in Burgundy and see how great wine was made. In Beaune, he met Etienne Parent, a local negotiant who showed him around and then over the years sold him quite a bit of wine. This article form NYT will tell you more and provide some logistical information should you decide to follow in Mr. Jefferson’s footsteps.
Except for Jefferson’s fame, this is not really such a remarkable story. And yet, there is something engaging about it. Jefferson seems to us to be charmingly eccentric in his relentless search to realize his vision of a good life. He taught himself to be architect, farmer, furniture designer, and on and on. But Sir Kenneth Clark tells us that Jefferson was not unique in that period, In Britain, there was a whole group of “great amateurs” doing similar things, even if they did not take the life style to the extreme level that Jefferson did. It was a part of the charm of the “smile of reason” that the enlightenment brought to Europe. For a change, some gentlemen who had the resources did not waste their time and exhaust themselves with excessive and repetitive debauchery. They enjoyed the pursuit of learning and realizing their vision of the good life much more. Clark is persuasive that this elevated the level of civilization that we enjoy today.
But reading the above article about Jefferson on a somewhat blustery Saturday morning, the idea of wandering away from one’s duties for a time, of a secret passion for wine making, and just “taking the time” to learn stuck in my mind. It is not easy to do those things in any great amount these days. Nor (I would argue) do we enjoy the intellectual freedom that Jefferson felt should be normal. But the example is there for us to follow if we choose to.
Tags: good life