Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Francis W. Gilmer to Thomas Jefferson, 18 March 1818

From Francis W. Gilmer

Richmond 18th March. 1818.

I inclose this letter to Mr. Jefferson both because it is an injustice to Ticknor to deliver even a message from him in any other words than his own, and because I am sure it will give him pleasure to hear young Terril thus spoken of by such a man. In the ‘darkness visible’ of Richmond, it is a happiness, a privilege, to be illuminated by the radiance of such a mind. If the enemies of learning in our state could feel for a moment the rapture which T. must have experienced in descending the plains of the Po—or in contemplating the everlasting monuments of Roman genius, they would lose some of their hostility to the Central College.

One object I had in view in selecting this place for my residence was, the hope of co-operating with you hereafter in the great scheme you have planned. There are many things to discourage us, but for the very reason that others are terrified at the prospect—some Curtius should determine to fill up the Gulf. I have already done some service in the nomination of those who are to chuse the site for the College.

It has been distantly, & secretly intimated to me, that in case Smith should be appointed to succeed Dr Wistar (which would be well for Virginia, & ill I imagine for the University of Pensylvania) I might become his successor at W & M, if I wished it. If I had any hope of being able from the ruins of this decayed corporation to revive the nearly1 extinguished ardor of Virginia I should be strongly tempted to make the sacrifice which it would cost me. But I fear the old college is too far gone to be resuscitated. under Smiths empiricism &c. it must soon die.

with sentiments of great esteem yours sincerely.

Francis W. Gilmer.

RC (MoSHi: Gilmer Papers); mistakenly endorsed by TJ as received 18 Mar. 1818. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to James Le Ray de Chaumont, 29 May 1818, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson esquire. Monticello. Albemarle”; franked; postmarked Richmond, 19 Mar. Recorded in SJL as received 24 Mar. 1818. Enclosure not found.

terril: Dabney C. Terrell. The quote darkness visible is from John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1.63. t.: George Ticknor. In accordance with an oracle and in order to save his country, the mythical curtius leaped fully armed and on horseback into a gulf that had abruptly opened up in the Forum at Rome (OCD description begins Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, eds., The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2003 description ends , 415).

1Reworked from “extin.”

Index Entries

  • Central College; opposition to search
  • Curtius (mythological character) search
  • Gilmer, Francis Walker; and College of William and Mary search
  • Gilmer, Francis Walker; and University of Virginia search
  • Gilmer, Francis Walker; forwards letter to TJ search
  • Gilmer, Francis Walker; friendship with G. Ticknor search
  • Gilmer, Francis Walker; letters from search
  • Milton, John; Paradise Lost search
  • Milton, John; quoted search
  • Paradise Lost (J. Milton) search
  • Pennsylvania, University of search
  • schools and colleges; University of Pennsylvania search
  • Smith, John Augustine; as president of College of William and Mary search
  • Terrell, Dabney Carr (TJ’s sister Martha Jefferson Carr’s grandson); and G. Ticknor search
  • Ticknor, George; and D. C. Terrell search
  • Ticknor, George; friendship with F. W. Gilmer search
  • Ticknor, George; travels of search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; site of search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; commissioners search
  • William and Mary, College of; F. W. Gilmer on search
  • William and Mary, College of; president of search
  • Wistar, Caspar; death of search