The Return to Politics
It seemed rather that his mind, accustomed to the unalloyed pleasure of the society of a lovable wife, was impervious since her loss to the feeble attractions of common society, and that his soul, fed on noble thoughts, was revolted by idle chatter.
van Hogendorp on Jefferson, April 1784 1
The death of his wife altered the whole rhythm and direction of Jefferson's life. There was no more pendulumlike swinging between domestic life and politics, with all its attendant conflicts. Eight weeks after Martha's dying he was back in public service, and except for a critical lapse from 1794 to 1797 he was committed to it until the end of his second term as president, altogether twenty-six years. Though his nostalgia for Monticello remained powerful, permeating his letters to his daughters and intimate friends, it was no longer the dominating magnet of his life. The enchantment was gone; so too was the enchainment.
That the whole constellation of wife-plantation-children-illness-happiness-sorrow had served as a chain is evidenced by the alacrity with which he embraced public life as soon as the period of intensive mourning was behind him. More important, he never married again. Most men would have remarried quickly, to provide a mother for the small daughters and to assuage personal needs and loneliness. Jefferson set up defenses against the obviously flirtatious, and sought female companionship, if at all, only with married women who befriended Patsy, such as Elizabeth House Trist, with whose mother he and Patsy boarded for a time in Philadelphia in January 1783. He avoided parties,