President Bedford, members and guests of the Kentucky
Library Association, my friends:
Each one of you here tonight knows more about libraries than I do, and it is likely that you also know more about books in general than I do. Consequently, I was pleased and flattered to be invited as an expert to discuss one book with you. Fortunately it is a book with which I am quite familiar (since I wrote it), and it is a book whose preparation led me into pleasant and frequent contact with so many librarians in Kentucky and other states. I owe you many thanks and I am here in gratitude for the able help you gave me.
President Bedford suggested that you might be interested in the book Jefferson's Nephews, why I decided to write it, how it was put together, and finally was published.
Jefferson's Nephews was the first prose I had had published. It was printed in 1976 by Princeton University Press shordy after the University Press of Kentucky published a small volume of my poems entided A Bestiary. Except for A Bestiary, Jefferson's Nephews was my first book and the events of its writing and publication probably seem far more memorable and unexpected to me than they would to a recognized scholar or a prolific, established author.
At this point, for those of you who do not know the story on which the book is based, I should like to outline the tragedy briefly.
This story begins in Albemarle County, Virginia, where in the early 1740s two families opened nearby plantations in what was then frontier wilderness. One family was that of Col. Charles Lewis, and the other was the family of Peter Jefferson (father of Thomas Jefferson). For three successive generations there were one or more first cousin marriages between the Lewis and Jefferson families of Albemarle County. One of these marriages was between Col. Charles L. Lewis and Lucy, a younger sister of Thomas Jefferson. As the eighteenth century drew to a close, both these families had acquired considerable wealth, most of it in the form of land and slaves, but bad times were ahead, especially for the Lewises, who suffered from a succession of agricultural failures, and probably poor management as well. By the year 1807 Col. Charles L. Lewis had been forced to sell all his