"Memoirs of a Monticello Slave, as
Dictated to Charles Campbell by Isaac" (1847)
Old Master was never seen to come out before breakfast--about 8
o'clock. If it was warm weather he wouldn't ride out till evening:
studied upstairs till bell ring for dinner. When writing he had a
copyin' machine. While he was a-writin' he wouldn't suffer nobody to
come in his room. Had a dumb-waiter; when he wanted anything he had
nothin' to do but turn a crank and the dumb-waiter would bring him
water or fruit on a plate or anything he wanted. Old Master had
abundance of books; sometimes would have twenty of 'em down on the
floor at once--read fust one, then tother. Isaac has often wondered
how Old Master came to have such a mighty head; read so many of them
books; and when they go to him to ax him anything, he go right
straight to the book and tell you all about it. He talked French and
Italian. Madzay talked with him; his place was called Colle. General
Redhazel (Riedesel) stayed there. He (Mazzei) lived at Monticello with
Old Master some time. Didiot, a Frenchman, married his daughter Peggy,
a heavy chunky looking woman--mighty handsome. She had a daughter
Frances and a son Francis; called the daughter Franky. Mazzei brought
to Monticello Antonine, Jovanini, Francis, Modena, and Belligrini, all
gardeners. My Old Master's garden was monstrous large: two rows of
palings, all 'round ten feet high.
Mr. Jefferson had a clock in his kitchen at Monticello; never went
into the kitchen except to wind up the clock. He never would have less
than eight covers at dinner if nobody at table but himself. Had from
eight to thirty-two covers for dinner. Plenty of wine, best old
Antigua rum and cider; very fond of wine and water. Isaac never heard
of his being disguised in drink. He kept three fiddles; played in the
arternoons and sometimes arter supper. This was in his early time.
When he begin to git so old, he didn't play. Kept a spinnet made
mostly in shape of a harpsichord; his daughter played on it. Mr.
Fauble, a Frenchman that lived at Mr. Walker's, a music man, used to
come to Monticello and tune it. There was a fortepiano and a
guitar there. Never seed anybody play on them but the French people.
Isaac never could git acquainted with them; could hardly larn their
names. Mr. Jefferson always singing when ridin' or walkin'; hardly see
him anywhar outdoors but what he was a-singin'. Had a fine clear
voice, sung minnits (minuets) and sich; fiddled in the parlor. Old
Master very kind to servants.
The fust year Mr. Jefferson was elected President, he took Isaac on
to Philadelphia. He was then about fifteen years old; traveled on
horseback in company with a Frenchman named Joseph Rattiff and Jim
Hemings, a body servant. Fust day's journey they went from Monticello
to old Nat Gordon's, on the Fredericksburg road, next day to
Fredericksburg, then to Georgetown, crossed the Potomac there, and so
to Philadelphia--eight days a-goin'. Had two ponies and Mr.
Jefferson's tother riding horse Odin. Mr. Jefferson went in the
phaeton. Bob Hemings drove; changed horses on the road. When they got
to Philadelphia, Isaac stayed three days at Mr. Jefferson's house.
Then he was bound prentice to one Bringhouse, a tinner; he lived in
the direction of the Waterworks. Isaac remembers seeing the image of a
woman thar holding a goose in her hand--the water spouting out of the
goose's mouth. This was the head of Market Street. Bringhouse was a
short, mighty small, neat-made; treated Isaac very well. Went thar to
larn the tinner's trade. Fust week larnt to cut out and sodder; make
little pepper boxes and graters and sich, out of scraps of tin, so as
not to waste any till he had larnt. Then to making cups. Every Sunday
Isaac would go to the President's house--large brick house, many
windows; same house Ginral Washington lived in before when he was
President. Old Master used to talk to me mighty free and ax me,
"How you come on Isaac, larning de tin business?" As soon as
he could make cups pretty well, he carred three or four to show him.
Isaac made four dozen pint cups a day and larnt to tin copper and
sheets (sheet iron)--make 'em tin. He lived four years with Old
Bringhouse. One time Mr. Jefferson sent to Bringhouse to tin his
copper kittles and pans for kitchen use; Bringhouse sent Isaac and
another prentice thar--a white boy named Charles; can't think of his
other name. Isaac was the only black boy in Bringhouse's shop. When
Isaac carred the cups to his Old Master to show him, he was mightily
pleased. Said, "Isaac you are larnin mighty fast; I bleeve I must
send you back to Vaginny to car on the tin business. You is growin too
big; no use for you to stay here no longer."