Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to William Wirt, 29 September 1816

To William Wirt

Poplar Forest Sep. 29. 16.

Dear Sir

I found, on my arrival here the 2d parcel of your sheets, which I have read with the same avidity and pleasure as the former. this proves they will experience no delay in my hands, and that I consider them as worthy every thing I can do for them. they need indeed but little, or rather I should say nothing. I have however hazarded some suggestions on a paper inclosed. when I read the former sheets, I did not consider the article of style as within my jurisdiction. however since you ask observations on that, and suggest doubts entertained by yourself on a particular quality of it, I will candidly say that I think some passages of the former sheets too flowery for the sober taste of history. it will please young readers in it’s present form, but to the older it would give more pleasure and confidence to have some exuberances lightly pruned. I say lightly; because your style is naturally rich and captivating, and would suffer if submitted to the rasp of a rude hand. a few excrescences may be rubbed off1 by a delicate touch; but better too little than too much correction. in the 2d parcel of sheets, altho’ read with an eye to your request, I have found nothing of this kind. I thus comply with your desire; but on the condition originally prescribed, that you shall consider my observations as mere suggestions, meant to recall the subject to a revision by yourself, and that no change be made in consequence of them but on the confirmed dictates of your own judgment. I have no amour-propre which will suffer by having hazarded a false criticism. on the contrary I should regret were the genuine character of your composition to be adulterated by any foreign ingredient. I return to Albemarle within a week, shall stay there 10. days, come back and pass here October and part of November. I salute you affectionately.

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViU: TJP); at foot of text: “Mr Wirt.” PoC (DLC); edge trimmed. Enclosure: manuscript, not found, of a portion of Wirt, Patrick Henry description begins William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, Philadelphia, 1817; Poor, Jefferson’s Library, 4 (no. 131) description ends . Other enclosure printed below.

TJ’s daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph accompanied her father to Poplar Forest and subsequently received a communication of 27–30 Sept. [1816] written by her daughter Ellen at Monticello, which detailed numerous family occurrences; complained of the large number of visitors there, including, among others, Maximilian Godefroy and his family, a party of “impudent and ungenteel” North Carolinians, and some “dashing but not genteel Carolinians,” who “made a great noise asked many silly questions and at last went away leaving papa and myself weary & disgusted”; expressed her happiness that thanks to TJ’s absence he had escaped their “gigling impertinence”; remarked that her father had assisted her “in doing the honors of the house”; sent her love to TJ, her mother, and her sisters Virginia and Mary; asked that TJ be informed that she had “not forgotten to wind up his clocks, and will take good care of his wines, when they arrive”; and passed along news of various members of the enslaved community (RC in ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence; unsigned; partially dated; addressed: “Mrs Randolph Poplar Forest”).

1Manuscript: “of.”

Index Entries

  • books; biographical search
  • clocks; at Monticello search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); and TJ’s clocks search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); and TJ’s wine search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); as hostess at Monticello search
  • Godefroy, Eliza Crawford Anderson; visits Monticello search
  • Godefroy, Maximilian; visits Monticello search
  • Henry, Patrick (1736–99); W. Wirt’s book on search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); clocks at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Godefroy, Maximilian and Eliza C. A. search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; North Carolinians search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); wine cellar at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); M. J. Randolph visits search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ plans visit to search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ returns from search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ’s grandchildren visit search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); correspondence of search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Randolph, Mary Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); as host at Monticello search
  • Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (W. Wirt); draft chapters of sent to TJ search
  • Trist, Virginia Jefferson Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest search
  • wine; storage of at Monticello search
  • Wirt, William; letters to search
  • Wirt, William; Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry search