WHEN HE PROJECTED his luminous six-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson, Dumas Malone was teaching at the University of Virginia, the site of Jefferson's great house at Monticello. There, the docents still speak in their Virginian way of "Mr. Jefferson" and of his calling "cyards" and his "gyardens." "In that community," Malone later observed, "they still talked of Mr. Jefferson as if he were in the next room."
By comparison with the sage of Monticello, most other great figures of the American past seem remote. His figure is familiar, especially in his Virginia haunts. Descriptions of the physical Jefferson, who was tall (for his era) at almost six foot three inches, lanky, sandy-haired, and freckled, suggest a mildness and softness of deportment and speech. He aimed for the homely touch. I judge this informality to have been a persona deliberately assumed. He was apparently as amiable as the frayed carpet slippers he wore even at White House soirees and, like them, gave the impression of being a bit down at the heels. Unlike the other affluent gentlemen of his