Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes for Epitaph and Grave of Dabney Carr, [after 16 May 1773]

Notes for Epitaph and Grave of Dabney Carr

[after 16 May 1773]

Inscription on my friend D. Carr’s tomb-stone.

Lamented shade! [whom ev’ry]1 gift of heav’n

Profusely blest: a2 temper winning mild;

Nor pity softer, nor was truth more bright.

Constant in doing well, he neither sought

Nor shunn’d applause. No bashful merit sigh’d

Near him neglected: sympathizing he

Wip’d off the tear from Sorrow’s clouded eye

With kindly hand and taught her heart to smile.

Mallet’s Excursion.

send for a plate of copper to be nailed on the tree at the foot of his grave with this inscription

Still shall thy grave with rising flow’rs be dress’d

And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast:

There shall the morn her earliest tears bestow,

There the first roses of the year shall blow:

While angels with their silver wings o’ershade

The ground now sacred by thy reliques made.

On the upper part of the stone inscribe as follows

Here lie the remains
of Dabney Carr

Son of John & Jane Carr of Louisa county who was born 1744.

intermarried with Martha Jefferson

daur. of Peter and Jane Jefferson


and died at Charlottesville May. 16. 1773.

leaving six small children.

To his Virtue, Good sense, learning and Friendship

this stone is dedicated by Thomas Jefferson

who of all men living loved him most.

[Lengthwise in margin at foot of recto:]

This stone shall rise with all it’s moss and speak to other years ‘here lie &c’3 see 2. Ossian pa. 53. a fine inscription. see post

[on verso:]

1773. May. 22. two hands grubbed the grave yard 80. f. sq. = 1/7 of an acre in 3½ hours, so that one would have done it in 7. hours, and would grub an acre in 49. hours = 4. days.

weight of Ry. Rand’s chain

3f–½Inch weighed 23 oz–8 dwt

2. Ossian. 53. Temora. b.2. This stone shall rise with all it’s moss and speak to other years ‘here lies4 gentle Carr5 within the dark and narrow house where no morning comes with her half opening eyes.’ when thou,

O stone, shall fail { and the mountain stream roll quite away!
moulder down and lose thee in the moss of years6

then shall the traveller come, and bend here perhaps in rest. when the darkened moon is rolled over his head, the shadowy form7 may come, and, mixing with his dreams, remind him who is here.

Hon. V.
Joanni Page
Opusculum hoc
Dat, Donatque
T. Jefferson.


MS (Dabney J. Carr, III, on deposit ViU); written entirely in TJ’s hand at different times on both sides of a single sheet; with recto undated and verso beginning with entry of 22 May 1773; apparently unrelated dedication to John Page subjoined; faded; printed literally.

Dabney Carr, TJ’s brother-in-law and closest friend, had died of a bilious fever on 16 May 1773. According to family tradition, in TJ’s absence Carr was buried at Shadwell, but upon his return TJ had a graveyard prepared at Monticello and reinterred Carr there at a spot the two had previously chosen, which served thereafter as the Jefferson family cemetery and TJ’s own burial spot (Randall, Life, description begins Henry S. Randall, The Life of Thomas Jefferson, New York, 1858, 3 vols. description ends i, 83; Malone, Jefferson, description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and his Time, Boston, 1948–81, 6 vols. description ends i, 160–1, 431). TJ was the sole executor of Carr’s estate, with Thomas Mann Randolph, Sr., and David Coupland joining him as sureties in a bond for £4,000, dated 19 July 1773, pledging that he would accurately compile and present an inventory of the estate to the Goochland County Court, account for its administration, and pay the legacies stipulated in the will as far as the estate extended (MS in Vi: Goochland County Court Records; in a clerk’s hand, signed by TJ, Randolph, and Coupland).

TJ had previously extracted the quotation from David Mallet’s poem, “The Excursion,” in his Literary Commonplace Book; he abridged but did not otherwise alter it for the inscription. The quotation intended for engraving on a plate of copper was copied almost verbatim from a Literary Commonplace Book extract taken from Alexander Pope, “Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady” (LCB, description begins Douglas L. Wilson, ed., Jefferson’s Literary Commonplace Book, Princeton, 1989, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends ed. Wilson, 131n, 132–3, 138–9).

TJ copied into his Garden Book variant versions of his notes on the labor needed to grub an acre and on the weight of Ryland Randolph’s fencing chain (Betts, Garden Book, description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824, Philadelphia, 1944 description ends 40). He combined and revised for his own use two widely separated passages for the quotation from James Macpherson’s epic poem “Temora,” ostensibly written by the Gaelic poet Ossian (Macpherson, The Works of Ossian, the Son of Fingal, 2 vols. [London, 1765], ii, 52, 100). moulder … years: possibly a construct by TJ from portions of the shorter version of “Temora” (same, i, 247, 266n).

Hon. v.... t. jefferson: “To the Honorable John Page, this small work of friendship, a token, T. Jefferson gives and offers.”

1MS faded; words supplied from LCB, ed. Wilson, 132.

2Word interlined in place of “his.”

3Closing quotation mark supplied.

4TJ here canceled what appears to be “the remains of the.”

5Remainder of sentence interlined.

6Alternate sentence ending interlined by TJ.

7Phrase reworked from “our shadowy forms.”

Index Entries