Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Mary Jefferson, 1 April 1784

From Mary Jefferson

Eppington. April. 1. 1784.

My Dear Papa

I want to know what day you are going to come and see me, and if you will bring Sister Patsy, and my baby with you. I was mighty glad of my sash’s, and gave Cousin Booling one. I can almost read. Your affectionate daughter,

Polly Jefferson

RC (MHi); in the hand of Elizabeth Wayles Eppes; addressed: “Mr. Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ: “Jefferson Polly.” Noted in SJL as received 16 Apr. in a letter from Mrs. Eppes.

When TJ’s third daughter was born 1 Aug. 1778 he entered her name in Peter Jefferson’s Prayer Book (ViU) as “Mary Jefferson.” As a small child, however, she was always called “Polly.” After her return from France she used the name “Maria” and was so called throughout the rest of her life. Sarah N. Randolph, in her Domestic Life gives the following explanation: “When little Mary Jefferson first went to Paris, instead of ‘Polly,’ she was called by the French Mademoiselle Polie. In a short time, however, she was called Marie, and on her return to America, the Virginian pronunciation of that French name soon ran into Maria, by which name, strange to say, she was ever after called, even by her father and sister; and Maria, instead of Mary, is the name now inscribed on the marble slab which rests upon her grave” (p. 128). However, since letters written after her return from France were signed “Mary” though usually endorsed “Maria” by TJ, it would appear that she herself preferred the name given her at birth. Hence that form has been used here and elsewhere in this edition. TJ had sent Mary two Sash’s in Dec.; see TJ to Mrs. Eppes, 27 Dec. 1783.

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