Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Louis H. Girardin, 20 January 1815

To Louis H. Girardin

Monticello Jan. 20. 15.

Th: Jefferson to mr Girardin

I return your cahier, with1 about half a dozen unimportant alterations only. three or four of these are foreignisms (if I may coin a word where the language gives none) indeed I have wondered that you could have so perfectly possessed yourself of the idiom and spirit of the English language, as not to write it correctly merely, but so often elegantly. permit me to suggest a single doubt on the matter of this Cahier. in giving an account of some of the legislative acts, do you not descend more into detail than will be acceptable to common readers? the general substance of a law divested of the technical terms & tautologies of the profession, & omitting it’s minute provisions, seems to satisfy best the functions of history. and of this you have given perfect models in your account of some of the laws. this suggestion however is made merely to bring the matter under your own reflection, which I know will suffice to produce the most correct result. I salute you with great esteem and respect.

RC (PPAmP: Thomas Jefferson Papers). Enclosure: manuscript, not found, of a portion of Burk, Jones, and Girardin, History of Virginia, vol. 4.

TJ’s is, indeed, the earliest documented use of the word foreignisms (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

According to SJL, Girardin sent TJ a letter dated 21 Jan. 1815, not found, which is inconsistently recorded as received 20 Jan. 1815 from Glenmore.

1Reworked from “without.”

Index Entries

  • books; on history search
  • Burk, John Daly; The History of Virginia search
  • English language; new words in search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; and J. D. Burk’s History of Virginia search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; letters from accounted for search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; letters to search
  • history; TJ on search
  • Jones, Skelton; and J. D. Burk’s History of Virginia search
  • The History of Virginia (J. D. Burk, S. Jones, and L. H. Girardin); TJ’s role in the preparation of search
  • Virginia; historiography of search