Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from the Abbés Arnoux and Chalut, 17 April [1785]

From the Abbés Arnoux and Chalut

17. Apr. [1785]. Accept dinner invitation for Tuesday, 19 Apr.

RC (MHi); 2 p.; in French; addressed: “A Monsieur Monsieur Jefferson ministre plenipotentiaire des Etats-unis d’Amerique Dans son Hotel.”

The two Abbés’ names are often misspelled, particularly that of Abbé Arnoux, whose name is also frequently confused with that of the Abbé François Arnaud (1721–1784). They lived on the heights of Passy not far from Franklin, and also had a house in the city. “Whether they were spies of the court, or not, I know not,” wrote John Adams, “but I should have no objection to such spies, for they were always my friends, always instructive and agreeable in conversation. They were upon so good terms, however, with the courtiers, that if they had seen anything in my conduct, or heard anything in my conversation that was dangerous or very exceptional, I doubt not they would have thought it their duty to give information of it. They were totally destitute of the English language; but by one means or another they found a way of making me understand them, and sometimes by calling an interpreter, and sometimes by gibbering something like French, I made them understand me” (quoted by Marie Kimball, Jefferson: the Scene of Europe, p. 98). Abigail Adams described the Abbé Chalut as being seventy-five years of age, and “Arnoux about fifty, a fine sprightly man, who takes great pleasure in obliging his friends” (C. F. Adams, ed., Letters of Mrs. Adams, Boston, 1841, i, 47). Young Abigail thought Arnoux older but no less agreeable: “The Abbé Arno, though 60 years old, is a man of much vivacity and wit, with always a great deal of pleasantry. The Abbé de Mably, who is always of our parties there, and dines with us with the other two, although he does not live with them; he is eighty years old, a man of great learning” (Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, p. 37–8). See TJ to Abigail Adams, 7 July 1785.

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