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

Online Event; Conversation; Racial Injustice Series

Confronting Racial Injustice: Boston School Desegregation through the Rearview Mirror

15Apr 6:00PM 2021
This is an online program

In 1972, a group of African American parents sued city and state officials over segregation within the Boston Public Schools. After a trial, a federal court determined ...

Seminar; History of Women, Gender and Sexuality Seminar; Online Event

Contesting Domesticity – a Panel Discussion

20Apr 5:15PM 2021
This is an online event.

The domestic realm has long captivated feminist scholars who have sought to understand the lives of women and the workings of gender. How have women experienced, ...

Online Event; Conversation

Clean Water, Green Space, and Social Equity

22Apr 5:30PM 2021
This is an online program

The chain of green spaces and waterways that comprise the Emerald Necklace park system is an invaluable urban oasis. Described as “the lungs of the city” this ...

From our Blog

This Week @MHS

Join us for a program this week! Here is a look at what is going on: - Tuesday, 29 January, 5:15 PM: Better Teaching through Technology, 1945-1969, with Victoria Cain, Northeastern ...

Founder to Founder

Like so many good stories here at the Historical Society, it began with a reference question. Jeremy Belknap, hunting through his sources, asked Vice President John Adams for some help. Belknap, the ...

Read more from our blog

Have you seen?