Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Étienne Lemaire, 6 August 1803

From Étienne Lemaire

De Washington Sity du 6 aout 1803


Je prend la liberté de vous adresser la presente pour avoir Lhonneur de vous Saluer, je soite de tou mon cœur que monsieur Jouisse une parfaite Sentez de même que vôttre repectable famille mes Sivilités Sil vous plai, monsieur je vous prie Engrâce de vouloir Bien Macorder une petit apsence de trois Semainnes, pour me reffaire la Sentez. Je vien encorre de faire une maladit qu’il m’aprise le landemain que monsieur est party, Sai une fievre interne, [et], n’a pas Eté aûsi Serieuse que l’anné passée Cependant je asé Souffaire E dant Se moment Ci je ne Sui pas Encorre Retabli. je vous Supli, monsieur Si Cela est possible vous mobligeré infinement. Sependent Si liavoit la moindre obgeption, je resterest; je vous prie m’onsieur êttre tranqu’il Sur les Soin de Vottre m’aison, de même que vos interest, Sa Sera la même chôsse que Si ji Étoit, d’alieur Je remettré les Clé les plus Esenciel, a monsieur Barnes. D’augherty vôttre Cochez a Eté aûsi indispossez, presentement il va Beaucoup Mieux toute la famille Ce porte Bien, ainsi que Vôttre oiseau, qui est toujour Charmant—

Monsieur Je fini avecque le plus Sincere atachement possible. Je Sui Vôttre humble Etres obeisant Serviteur,

E. Lemaire

honnoré moy monsieur de votre reponse Sil vous plai

Editors’ Translation

From Washington City, 6 Aug. 1803


I take the liberty of sending you this letter so that I may have the honor of greeting you. I hope with all my heart that you are in perfect health. My best regards to your distinguished family. I ask you, Sir, to grant me a short absence of three weeks to recover my health. I was taken ill with an internal fever the day after you left. It was not as serious as last year, but I suffered a great deal and am still not fully recovered. I beg you, Sir, if this is possible, I would be infinitely obliged. If you have the slightest objection, however, I will stay. I beg you, Sir, not to worry about the care of your house and your interests. Everything would be just as if I were here, since I would entrust the most essential keys to Mr. Barnes.

Your coachman Dougherty has also been ill but he is much better now. All the family here is well, as is your bird which continues to be charming.

I conclude, Sir, with the sincerest possible attachment. I am your humble and very obedient servant.

E. Lemaire

Please honor me, Sir, with a reply.

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 10 Aug. and so recorded in SJL.

vôttre oiseau: on 31 May, TJ had given Joseph Dougherty an order on John Barnes for $10 to purchase the president a mockingbird and cage. Mockingbirds and other songbirds were sold in cities in markets, privately by individuals, and in a few cases in shops. In France, TJ had extolled the singing of the mockingbird—a native bird of Virginia—as superior to the music of the European nightingale. “Learn all the children to venerate it as a superior being in the form of a bird,” he wrote to his daughter Martha about mockingbirds in 1793, “or as a being which will haunt them if any harm is done to itself or it’s eggs.” His financial records note the purchase of another mockingbird for $15 in November 1803. Margaret Bayard Smith recalled that TJ would open the cage to let his favorite mockingbird fly and hop around freely as he worked. The bird would perch on the president’s shoulder and take food from his lips (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1101, 1112; Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 23 July 1801; New York Morning Chronicle, 14 July 1803; New York Daily Advertiser, 21 Aug. 1805; Boston Columbian Centinel, 23 July 1808; Margaret Bayard Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society, ed. Gaillard Hunt [New York, 1906], 385; Katherine C. Grier, Pets in America: A History [Orlando, 2006], 27, 59-64, 362; Notes, ed. Peden description begins Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden, Chapel Hill, 1955 description ends , 68; Vol. 8:241; Vol. 11:372; Vol. 26:88, 250).

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