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To Thomas Jefferson from Carlo Bellini, 1 April 1799

From Carlo Bellini

Williamsburg April 1st. 1799

Dear Sir,

I have been waiting for some time with more than Christian patience to write you a letter; but the stiffness of my hands which has hitherto prevented me encreasing continually in obstinacy and my days drawing happily to a close I have been forced at length to make use of a younger and more obedient hand which has fortunately fallen in my way—The object of this letter is to make a request of you; it is this, that you would do me the honor to accept of the picture of my poor wife and your sincerely affectionate friend who was last year kindly delivered from a miserable existence. I wish that it should be in your possession, not so much as a testimony of the grateful affection I still bear you (for that needed no such testimony) as for the value of the workmanship which I know no one in this country, except yourself, that can justly appretiate. If you will be so kind as to confer so great a favor, you shall receive it by the first safe opportunity.

Our poor village affords nothing worthy the ear of a philosopher. William & Mary the most important object here has long been in a declining state, but I am happy to inform you (and I know that it will give you pleasure to hear.) that it is at present rising very rapidly. Several students who have lately quitted college, two brothers particularly, by the name of Lomax will reflect the highest lustre on their alma mater. But above all there is one here at present who is certainly an ornament to human nature. He landed here a few months ago from on board a ship. His name is Monford. Divest him but of one failing (selfsufficiency) and he would certainly be one of the most perfect creatures that ever came from the hands of the Creator. This failing has drawn on him a multitude of admiring enemies. Unhappily for the young man Mr. Madison is of the number—Before I take leave of you I must enquire of you if you have heard any tidings concerning the soul or body of Mezzei. Some years ago you informed me from Paris, that he had the four quarters of the Globe for eblowroom; I suspect very stronly that at this time he is confined to two. I could wish to say a good deal more, but as my secretary is not as long winded as yours at Philadelphia, nor as well disposed to teaze you with nonsense I must here conclude with assurances of sincere affection

Your most obedient and humble servant

Charles Bellini.

RC (DLC); in an unidentified hand; at foot of all pages: “Thomas Jefferson esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 11 Apr. and so recorded in SJL.

Stiffness of my hands: without giving details, TJ in 1795 described both Bellini and his wife, who had suffered a stroke in the 1780s, as “paralytic.” Nominally still the professor of modern languages at the College of William and Mary, Bellini had few students, struggled with failing eyesight, and after his wife’s death was reputed to subsist solely on “wine and biscuit; his only amusement—snufftaking” (Frank B. Evans, description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of all Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from …1639 …to …1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59,14 vols. description ends “Carlo Bellini and his Russian Friend Fedor Karzhavin,” VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893– description ends , 88 [1980], 348–, 352–3; TJ to Philip Mazzei on 30 May 1795). According to SJL the last previous correspondence between Bellini and TJ was TJ’s letter of 16 Dec. 1792.

In accordance with the suggestion TJ made in his reply to this letter on 24 Apr., Bellini did not send the picture of his wife, Gaspara Farolfi Bellini, but kept it until his own death in 1804. TJ then sought a home for it in Italy (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; TJ to Mazzei, 10 Mch. 1805).

The two brothers recently at the college were likely John Tayloe Lomax and Thomas Lunsford Lomax, sons of Thomas Lomax of Port Tobago. John Tayloe Lomax also studied at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and later became professor of law at the University of Virginia. Thomas Lunsford Lomax died in 1805 at the age of twenty-six (A Catalogue of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, from its Foundation to the Present Time [Williamsburg, 1859], 48, 50; [Edward L. Lomax], Genealogy of the Virginia Family of Lomax [Chicago, 1913], 28–30, 43; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends , 11:369; WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892– description ends , 1st ser., 4 [1896], 203).

Mr. Madison: Bishop James Madison.

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