Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Mary Walker Lewis, 23 January 1791

From Mary Walker Lewis

January 23 1791

Permit me to congratulate you my Dr. Sir on Mrs. Randolphs safe delivery of a very fine Daughter and I with candor assure you she is uncommonly well with the sweet little Girl.—Mr. Randolph is not at home but every attention shall be payd to my Dr. friend Mrs. Randolph that is in my power and you will hear from us frequently.—I am with every Sentiment of Esteem and Affection your sincear Friend

M Lewis

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 7 Feb. 1791. This letter enclosed one from Martha herself, also dated 23 Jan. 1791, and one from Mary dated 22 Jan. 1791, both of which were recorded as received on 7 Feb. 1791.

Neither of these letters has been found, but the text of that from Mary, written at Monticello, is given in Randolph, Domestic Life description begins Sarah N. Randolph, The Domestic Life of Thomas Jefferson, Compiled from Family Letters and Reminiscences by His Great-Granddaughter, Cambridge, Mass., 1939 description ends , p. 193, as follows: “Dear Papa—I received your letter of December the 7th about a fortnight ago, and would have answered it directly, but my sister had to answer hers last week and I this. We are all well at present. Jenny Randolph and myself keep house—she one week, and I the other. I owe sister thirty-five pages in Don Quixote, and am now paying them as fast as I can. Last Christmas I gave sister the ‘Tales of the Castle,’ and she made me a present of the ‘Observer,’ a little ivory box, and one of her drawings; and to Jenny she gave ‘Paradise Lost,’ and some other things. Adieu, dear Papa. I am your affectionate daughter, Maria Jefferson.”

Mary’s allusion to gifts “is one of the few references to an exchange of Christmas presents among members of the Monticello family” (Bear, Family Letters, p. 70 n.). Her gift to Martha was Thomas Holcroft’s Tales of the castle: or, stories of instruction and delight, translated from Madame de Genlis’ Les veillées du chateau (London, 1785, 5 vols.). Martha’s gift to her was Richard Cumberland’s The Observer: being a collection of moral, literary and familiar essays (first published in 1785 in one volume, but Martha may have given Mary the third edition, London, 1790, 5 vols.).

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