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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

What I Didn’t Know About Jefferson and Why I Want To Know As Much As I Can

I’ve often wondered why I admired Jefferson from the get-go.

Was it that he was a true Renaissance man—meaning that he was full of curiosity?

Was it that I was lucky enough to visit Monticello and so feel connected to him through the art there, the gardens, his books, his scientific instruments?

Was it that he was known as a writer? And even so that he was not so prideful that he couldn’t borrow from others with great ideas?

Was it his writing style? I mean, the clarity that parallelism affords a writer!

It might have been that he was able to be friends—and learn from others quite unlike himself. Even with the likes of cantankerous John Adams; Difficult as Adams could be, there was always a discussion to be had, something new to learn.

As I watched his history change over the years, new things were revealed. Some thought them scandalous. Some of the things others thought scandalous, I didn’t. Other things that were barely mentioned disappointed me.

And now I hear that this man rewrote the New Testament of the Bible and that the Smithsonian is conserving the volume. It is being called Jefferson’s “Secret Bible.” The title is “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. ” It focuses “on the ethical teaching of Jesus.” I understand from academics that I know that it does not include the mythical, magical (what Jefferson called the supernatural) parts of Christianity that so many favor.

I am not surprised. Jefferson was a thinking man, one who would pick and choose what he included in his belief system as least as carefully as he chose the architectural details of the home he built in Virginia.

Yes, I’ll be ordering it. Whether I agree with any stance he might take—indeed even with the idea he wrote it—is not important. What is important is that we as human beings keep our minds open and use our exquisite ability to think and to read and to write as best we might.

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

A Tip for Writers: :


I believe that writers do themselves and their books a disservice when they aren’t full partners in the promotion of them. The Internet has brought them a way to reach more people faster than ever before. I even wrote a book on the subject. But I also believe that one book on marketing is never enough—not for authors at least. Internet beginners will learn much from Penny Sansevieri’s new book on Internet Marketing.

A Tip for Readers' Tip:

Magdalena Ball and I coauthored a book of poetry to celebrate earth and the universe for Earth Day and every day of the Year. Sublime Planet is the first full book of poetry in our Celebration Series that includes chapbooks for holidays including Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, Valentine's, and Women's Day. Find Sublime Planet at Amazon.

2013 Past Columns

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