Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Maria Cosway, [30 October 1786]

From Maria Cosway

[London, 30 Oct. 1786]

[How I wish I?] could answer the Dialogue! But I hon[estly think my hear?]t is invisable, and Mute, at this moment more than usual[l it is?] full or ready to burst with all the variety of Sentiments, wh[ich] a very feeling one is Capable of; sensible of My loss a[t] separating from the friends I left at Paris, I have hardly time to indulge a shamisly1 tribute; but My thoughts Must be contrasted by the joy of Meeting my friends in London. It is an excess which Must tear to peices a human Mind, when felt. You seem to be Such a Master on this subject, that whatever I may say will appear trifelling, not well express’d, faintly represented * * * but felt. Your letter could employ me for some time, an hour to Consider every word, to every sentence I could write a volume, but I could wish that my selfishness was not reproching to Me, for with difficulty do I find a line but after having admired it, I recolect some part concerns Me. Why do you say so Many kind things? Why present so many opportunities for my feeling undeserving of them, why not leave me a free consolation in admiring a friend, without the temptation [. . . .] to my Vanity? I wish your heart [. . . .] for it is too good. It expands to the Objects he [. . . .] too Much of his own, and blinds the reality of its demerit.2 Ma cosa fo! Che scrivo tanto Inglese, Mentre posso scrivere nella Mia lingua, e rendermi un poco Meno imbrogliata, non sapevo cosa facevo, la vorrei riscrivere. Ma non gli voglio Mandare il primo foglio, le prime righe scritte al mio arrivo a Londra, siano le consequenze qual si voglia, Oh Sir se la Mia Corrispondenza valesse la sua quanto sarebbe perfetta! Non posso che esprimere la mia riconoscenza nella sua Amicizia. Mi perdoni se i suoi Comandi non furono ubbiditi, riguardo il tempo limitatomi per leggere la sua lettera Fu uno dei Miei primi piaceri il trovarla e non potei resistere all desiderio di leggerla subito, anche a costo di comettere un Atto di disabidienza. Mi perdoni, il delitto lo Merita. Il nostro viaggio è stato felice, la Mia salute perfettamente ristabilita, il tempo buono eccettuato quei giorni precedenti alla nostra partenza da Parigi, la Compagnia di Mr. Trumbull [simpatica?] e piacevole. Ma Londra, l’ing[rata città? …] tra la nebbia e il fummo, la tristezza par […]gra in ogni cuore, se si deve giudicare dalle fisonomie che s’incontrano; bisogna che ritorni il piu presto possibile alle mie Occupazioni per non sentire il rigore della Malinconia che inspira questo ingrato Clima, il ni Compagnia di amici che piacciono, esercitando un poco le belle arti, si può spesso evitar la tristezza, se qualcosa Manca alla perfetta felicità. Tutto è tranquillo, quieto, e tristo, non ci son Campane che suonano per annunziarci qualche festa, uffizzio, o gala, anche quando richiamano un Deprofundis s’accompagna con la speranza che quel anima passata a Miglior Vita gode quelle quiete beata, che il Mondo non accorda Mai a pieno: qui si sente la notte una voce ad ogni Ora che c’annunzia che è passata, ci soviene che non torna piu, e ci lascia spesso con la Mortificazione che l’abbiamo persa. Non ci son Monasteri ore son rinchiusi religiosi i quali a tutte le ore pregano per noi, e per chi non prega, quanti son persi, o nelle strade, o all gioco, nel vizzio, e l’Ozzio. [. . . .] come a Cominciato, a scriv[ere; le sue lettere] non saranno Mai abbastanza lunghe, quando […] nelle sere lunghe del’inverno che li rimane qualche Momento non Occupato, lo Sacrifichi a Me, a Mandarmi Sue Nuove. Mi par Mill’Anni di ricevere una lettera dalla Man dritta, gli deve esser Molto scomodo scrivere con la Manca. Questo Sacrifizio Sarà ricevuto con tanta gratitudine, che dando fede alle promesse fatteci per le buone azzioni, invocherò per la sua ricompensa.

Mio Marito gli fa Mille Complimenti, la prego presentar i Nostri a Mr. Short, a Monr. D’ancherville quando lo vede. Non Mi scorderò Mai della sua attenzione per nai. Qualche volta Mentoveremo il Meditato giro l’anno venturo, se a Parigi, se in Italia. Molte cose ponno impedirne l’esecuzione, Ma anche Maggior impossibilità Son State esercitate. Accetti i Miei auguri per la sua salute e felicità e Mi creda la Sua Molto obligata ed affma. Amica.

Maria Cosway

[On verso of address cover:] pray half of me with Madme D[e Corny …] always when you are with her. I […] very Much, and shall be happy to be […] remembered to her by you.

RC (MHi); MS mutilated, the top edges of the pages having been eaten away evidently by rodents; a few words or parts of words have been supplied conjecturally at the beginnings or ends of lines where at most three or four words have been lost from the text; the missing date has been supplied from internal evidence and from an entry in SJL of the receipt of a letter of this date on 8 Nov. 1786; at foot of text: “Mrs. Cosway Pall Mall London—questo indirizzo basta” (this address is sufficient).

Translation of that part of the text in Italian: But what am I doing, that I write so much English when I can write in my own language, and become a little less involved. I did not know what I was doing, I should like to write it over again. But do I not wish to send you the first sheet, the first lines written upon my arrival in London, let the consequences be what they may? Oh, Sir, if my correspondence equalled yours how perfect it would be! I can only express my gratitude in your friendship. Forgive me if your orders were not obeyed regarding the time allotted me to read your letter. It was one of my first pleasures to find it and I could not resist the desire to read it at once, even at the cost of committing an act of disobedience. Forgive me, the crime merits it. Our voyage was a happy one, my health perfectly restored, the weather good except for those days preceding our departure from Paris, the Company of Mr. Trumbull [congenial] and pleasant. But London, the [unpleasant city …] amid the fog and smoke, sadness seems [to reign] in every heart, if one is to judge from the physiognomies one meets; I must return as soon as possible to my occupations in order not to feel the rigor of the Melancholy which is inspired by this unpleasant climate. In the company of agreeable friends, practising the fine arts a little, one can often avoid sadness, even if something is lacking for perfect happiness. Everything is tranquil, quiet and gloomy, there are no Bells ringing to announce to us some festival, service or celebration; even when they call for a Deprofundis it is accompanied by the hope that that soul passed to a Better Life, is enjoying that blessed quiet which the World never grants in full: here at night you hear a voice at every hour which announces to us the fact that it has passed, which reminds us that it will never more return and often leaves us with the Mortifying sense that we have lost it. There are no Monasteries which contain men of God who at all hours pray for us and for all those who do not pray, all who are lost, either in the streets or gambling, in vice and Idleness. […] you have begun to [write … your letters] will never be long enough, when […] in the long winter evenings there is left some idle moment, sacrifice it to me, to sending me news of yourself. I can hardly wait to receive a letter from your right Hand, it must be very inconvenient for you to write with your Left. This sacrifice will be received with so much gratitude as, putting faith in the promises made us for good actions, I shall invoke for your reward.

My Husband sends you a thousand Compliments, I beg you to present ours to Mr. Short, to Monr. D’ancherville when you see him. I shall never forget your attentions to us. Some times we shall mention our contemplated tour next year, either to Paris or to Italy. Many things can prevent its execution, but even greater impossibilities have been carried out. Accept my best wishes for your health and happiness and believe me your much obliged and affectionate Friend.

1This word is as doubtful to the Editors as the spelling evidently was to Mrs. Cosway, part of the word being deleted and another version of that part interlined. She may have intended it to read “shameless.”

2This word doubtful, but the meaning is evident.

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