Book Reviews -- on the Sources of Patriarchal Rage: The Commonplace Books of William Byrd and Thomas Jefferson and the Gendering of Power in the Eighteenth Century (the History of Emotions Series) by Kenneth A. Lockridge

By Snyder, Terri L. | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, April 1994 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- on the Sources of Patriarchal Rage: The Commonplace Books of William Byrd and Thomas Jefferson and the Gendering of Power in the Eighteenth Century (the History of Emotions Series) by Kenneth A. Lockridge


Snyder, Terri L., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


This fascinating study by Kenneth A. Lockridge is his most provocative work to date. His search for the sources of the misogynistic expressions found in the commonplace books of William Byrd II and Thomas Jefferson yields stunning insights into the relationship between gender and the struggle for power in eighteenth-century Virginia. Beginning with a close textual analysis, Lockridge locates strident and occasionally violent antifemale expressions that Byrd and Jefferson primarily culled from other sources, often decontextualized, and finally reassembled amid other entries in their respective commonplace books. These outbursts of patriarchal rage typically targeted female sexuality.

In effect, Lockridge uses the misogynistic entries as the basis for problematizing the nature of patriarchal authority in eighteenth-century Virginia. He shows the remarkable extent to which Byrd and Jefferson struggled with the patriarchal ideal and its realization. Antifemale outbursts are coupled with specific experiences. Byrd's rage was linked to his loss of leadership at home during his first marriage to Lucy Parke Byrd and, subsequent to her death, his unsuccessful courtship of "Charmante," whose refusal to marry him denied him access to property and status. Jefferson's outburst was spawned by the control gained by his widowed mother over his resources. Misogyny coincided with moments of female agency--courtship and widowhood--when women exercised control over the resources and futures of both men.

Lockridge's painstaking reconstruction of events that shaped the commonplace entries illustrates his deep familiarity with the history of the eighteenth-century Virginia gentry. The chronology he constructs for Jefferson is the more successful of the two, for Jefferson's tirades immediately followed the onset of his mother's widowhood. Byrd's outbursts, by contrast, dated from three to fifteen years after the events that Lockridge asserts shaped them, beginning shortly after Byrd married the "meek" Maria Taylor and had a child by her. Because Lockridge's previous study of Byrd described Maria Taylor Byrd as "the foundation" of Byrd's stability, it seems odd that the misogyny began immediately after the marriage (see Kenneth A. …

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Book Reviews -- on the Sources of Patriarchal Rage: The Commonplace Books of William Byrd and Thomas Jefferson and the Gendering of Power in the Eighteenth Century (the History of Emotions Series) by Kenneth A. Lockridge
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