Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Francis Hopkinson, 1 December 1788

From Francis Hopkinson

Philada. Decr. 1st. 1788

Dear Sir

I wrote to you three or four weeks ago, and I now take the opportunity by Mr. Govr. Morris of sending you a small Package of News Papers, Pamphlets &c. amongst which is a work of my own just published. I beg Miss Jefferson’s Acceptance of a Copy, and wish it may be to her Taste. It is a Book of Songs, which I composed, occasionally, for my Daughters, who play and sing them very well. The last Song, if play’d very slow, and sung with Expression, is forcibly pathetic, at least in my Family. Both Words and Music were the Work of an hour in the Height of a Storm. But the Imagination of an Author who composes from his Heart, rather than his Head, is always more heated than he can expect his readers to be.

We have nothing here but Electioneering and the New Constitution. I cannot enter into the Detail. I refer you to the News Papers. By the Bye, you have been often dish’d up to me as a strong Antifederalist, which is almost equivalent to what a Tory was in the Days of the War, for what Reason I know not, but I don’t believe it and have utterly denied the Insinuation.

I had set my heart upon the Vinegar you order’d for me, and am not a little sower’d by the Disappointment, for I have given up all Expectation of it now.

Nothing new here in the philosophical way. Dr. Franklin very well, all things consider’d. Mr. Rittenhouse as usual, neither in absolute health, nor absolutely sick.

With best Regards to Miss Jefferson I am Your ever faithful & affectionate Friend,

Fras. Hopkinson

RC (DLC); endorsed. Recorded in SJL as received 4 Feb. 1789. The newspapers and pamphlets sent with this letter have not been identified.

Book of songs: Seven Songs for the Harpsichord or Forte Piano. The Words and Music Composed by Francis Hopkinson, Philadelphia, [1788]—actually a collection of eight songs, with a note at the end explaining that the eighth was added after the title page was engraved—was advertized in the Federal Gazette, 29 Nov. 1788, as follows: “This day is Published, and to be sold by Thomas Dobson … a set of eight songs … intended for young Practioners on the Harpsichord or Forte Piano, and is the first Work of this kind atempted in the United States. Price 7s 6.” (O.G. Sonneck, Francis Hopkinson the First American Poetcomposer, Washington, 1905, p. 112–15; see also Hopkinson to TJ, 23 Oct. 1788; Hastings, Hopkinson, 436–45). The poems for the eight songs are printed in Hopkinson, Miscellaneous Essays, Philadelphia, 1792, III, 185–92. The last song, which moved Mary Jefferson to tears (TJ to Hopkinson, 13 Mch. 1789), reads:

“The traveller benighted and lost,

O’er the mountains pursues his lone way;

The stream is all candy’d with frost

And the icicle hangs on the spray,

He wanders in hope some kind shelter to find

‘whilst thro’ the sharp hawthorn keen blows the cold wind.’

The tempest howls dreary around

And rends the tall oak in its flight;

Fast falls the cold snow on the ground,

And dark is the gloom of the night.

Lone wanders the trav’ler a shelter to find,

‘Whilst thro’ the sharp hawthorn still blows the cold wind.’

No comfort the wild woods afford,

No shelter the trav’ler can see—

Far off are his bed and his board

And his home, where he wishes to be.

His hearth’s cheerful blaze still engages his mind

‘Whilst thro’ the sharp hawthorn still blows the cold wind.’”

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