Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Delaplaine, 9 February 1816

To Joseph Delaplaine

Monticello Feb. 9. 16.


Before the receipt of your letter of Jan. 27. I had received those of Dec. 20. & Jan. 14. which remained unacknoleged. this I am certain you will pardon when I assure you that I pass from four to six hours of every day of my life at the writing table, answering letters in nine tenths of which neither my interests nor inclinations are engaged. this mass of labor obliges me to marshal it’s calls, and to answer first what presses most. your two preceding letters related to a portrait on which I had, in one or more former ones,1 given you all the information I possessed, and having nothing new to add, I thought you would excuse my not repeating the old.

I have to thank you for the print of mr Fulton. it is a good likeness and elegantly executed. you request me, in your last letter, to give you the2 facts of my life, birth, parentage, profession, time of going to Europe, returning, offices Etc.’ I really have not time to do it, and still less inclination. to become my own biographer is the last thing in the world I would undertake. No. if there has been any thing in my course worth the public attention, they are better judges of it than I can be myself, and to them it is my duty to leave it. there was a work published in England under the title of ‘Public characters’ in which they honored me with a place. I never knew, nor could suspect, who wrote what related to myself; but it must have been some one who had been in a situation to obtain tolerably exact and minute information. I do not now possess the book, and therefore cannot say whether there were inaccuracies in it. with my excuse for thinking I ought not to meddle with this subject, accept the tender of my respects.

Th: Jefferson

RC (PHi: Dreer Collection); at foot of text: “Mr Delaplaine.” PoC (DLC).

public characters was an annual publication. TJ’s biography appeared in the volume covering 1800–01 and issued the latter year in London. Although TJ owned two volumes of that work (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 402) and they were listed in Catalogue of U.S. Library description begins Catalogue of the Library of the United States. To which is annexed, A Copious Index, alphabetically arranged, Washington, 1815 description ends , they were not among the books TJ sent to Washington in 1815. Subsequently canceled in the library’s own copy of its catalogue, they were omitted from later versions.

1Reworked from “in a former one.”

2Omitted opening quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Delaplaine, Joseph; Delaplaine’s Repository search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; letters to search
  • Fulton, Robert; engraving of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; fatiguing to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; writing his autobiography search
  • Leney, William Satchwell; engraver search
  • Public Characters; TJ’s biography in search
  • Repository of the Lives and Portraits of Distinguished Americans (J. Delaplaine) search