Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Smith, 5 May 1802

To John Smith

Washington May 5. 1802


I have to acknolege the reciept of your Latin grammar, by post for which I pray you to accept my thanks. my occupations will probably not permit me immediately to have the satisfaction which I have no doubt I shall derive from the perusal of it: but I am pleased with every effort to facilitate the acquisition of the Greek & Latin languages. I do not give into the modern doctrine that the time spent on those languages is time lost. they usually occupy a portion of life when the mind is not strong enough but for matters of memory. they have furnished us with the only models of rational, correct, and chaste composition: no other antient nation having left, nor any modern one (not conversant with these models) having produced, any works of that character. the luxury too of reading them in their original language is one for which I feel more thankful to those to whom I owe it than for any of the things which the world usually calls luxuries. under these impressions I see with pleasure the taste for these languages cultivated, and ascribe to you the merit you may justly claim in this work. permit me to join here my thanks for the other volume also, and to tender you my best wishes and respects.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr. John Smith. Dartmouth.”

John Smith (1752–1809) was a tutor and professor of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew at Dartmouth College from 1778 until 1809. He was also librarian for 30 years, trustee, and minister of College Church in Hanover, New Hampshire. The first edition of his Newhampshire Latin Grammar: Comprehending All the Necessary Rules in Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody; with Explanatory and Critical Notes, and an Appendix, was published in Boston in 1802 (Dartmouth Gazette, 30 Jan. 1802; Baxter Perry Smith, The History of Dartmouth College [Boston, 1878], 211–17, 452–3; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 4788).

THE OTHER VOLUME: Smith may have sent TJ a copy of one of his earlier published sermons, The Duty, Advantages, and Pleasure of Public Worship, Illustrated in a Sermon Preached at the Dedication of the Meeting-House, in the Vicinity of Dartmouth College, December 13, 1795 (Hanover, N.H., 1795; Evans, description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from … 1639 … to … 1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59, 14 vols. description ends No. 29528) or A Sermon Preached in Randolph, June 3, 1801, at the Ordination of the Rev. Mr. Tilton Eastman (Randolph, Vt., 1801; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819, New York, 1958–63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 1333).

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