Thomas Jefferson Papers

IV. Thomas Jefferson to Mary Jefferson, 30 May 1791

IV. Thomas Jefferson to Mary Jefferson

Lake George May 30. 91.

My dear Maria

I did not expect to write to you again till my return to Philada., but as I think always of you, so I avail myself of every moment to tell you so which a life of business will permit. Such a moment is now offered while passing this lake1 and it’s border, on which we have just landed, has furnished the means which the want of paper would otherwise have denied me. I write to you on the bark of the Paper birch, supposed to be the same used by the antients to write on before the art of making paper was invented, and which being called the Papyrus, gave the name of paper to the new invented substitute. I write to you merely to tell you that I am well, and to repeat what I have so often before repeated that I love you dearly, am always thinking of you and place much of the happiness of my life in seeing you improved in knowlege, learned in all the domestic arts, useful to your friends and good to all. To see you in short place your felicity in acquiring the love of those among whom you live, and without which no body can ever be happy. Go on then my dear Maria in your reading, in attention to your music, in learning to manage the kitchen, the dairy, the garden, and other appendages of the houshold, in suffering nothing to ruffle your temper or interrupt that good humor which it is so easy and so important to render habitual, and be assured that your progress in these things are objects of constant prayer with your’s affectionately.

Dft (MHi); written on paper, with numerous interlineations and deletions. The RC, written on birch bark, has not been found.

TJ’s remark that he would have been denied the opportunity to write Mary if birch bark had not been available needs qualification. That paper was scarce and that he carried little with him is proved by the scraps on which he recorded his travel notes, his comments on the Hessian fly, and his vocabulary of the Unquachogs. But while all three of his letters to Mary, Martha, and his son-in-law were written on bark, drafts of each of these were first written on paper, as were the letters to Washington and Remsen. He did not usually prepare drafts of his letters to his children, but in this case he evidently wished to have the texts in final form before copying them on bark.

1At this point TJ wrote the following and then deleted it: “which I desire you to take your map and look for.” The deletion was obviously made because TJ remembered he had already made the suggestion (see TJ to Mary Jefferson, 8 May 1791).

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