Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Waldo to Thomas Jefferson, 27 March 1813

From John Waldo

Georgetown (S.C.) March 27th 1813


Having, with much care and under peculiar difficulties, written a grammar of the English languag[e], my object is now to make the public acquainted with its real merits. But the present rage for publishing works of this kind, has rendered them so numerous as to destroy all curiosity to examine them; and the high repute in which Lindly Murray’s is held, has also removed all expectation of material improvement in them. Whatever merit therefore a new work of this kind may possess it must, without the aid of the few who are free from prejudices, remain in obscurity[.] I have, therefore knowing your laudable zeal for the promotion of literature and your ability to judge of the merits of literary productions, and convinced also of the great influence your name would give its circulation taken the liberty of presenting you with a copy of my grammar and of requesting the favor of you to give it a thorough examination, if your other numerous and more important avocations, should not put it out of your power. I would not make this intrusion on your time, were I not convinced that the work possesses merit worthy the patronage of the public. In this opinion I am supported by some of the first literary characters in this state who have favoured me with their recommendations, with permission to publish them in the next edition. They all unite in its being highly philosophical,1 while it possesses a simplicity that is well adapted to the capacity of children. I have also found from experience, that upon the plan I have there adapted that very young children acquire the first principles of grammar with remarkable facility.

If such are its merits it is a duty I owe not only to myself, but the rising generation and posterity, to use every proper exertion to make the public acquainted with it. The present edition consisting of only 500 copies, and being very incorrect,2 I shall, as early as possible, have a new and correct one. I will therefore, should you find the work worthy of your patronage, one to which you would feel willing to lend the influence of your name, thank you to send me your opinion as early as you can make it convenient.

Your obdt Servt

John Waldo

RC (DLC); edge trimmed; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Apr. 1813 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Waldo, Rudiments of English Grammar; Designed for the Instruction of Youth of Different Ages or Capacities (Georgetown, S.C., 1811; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4848).

John Waldo (1762–1826), educator, was a native of South Dover, Dutchess County, New York, who moved about 1793 to Georgetown, South Carolina. In the latter place he failed as a merchant and officiated briefly at the local Baptist church before establishing himself as the proprietor of an academy. Waldo wrote a number of English and Latin grammar textbooks (Waldo Lincoln, Genealogy of the Waldo Family [1902], 1:317; Leah Townsend, South Carolina Baptists 1670–1805 [1974], 59, 60, 113, 120, 285–6; Minutes of the Charleston Baptist Association … November 4, 1826 [1826], 1, 2–3; Camden [S.C.] Journal, 7 Oct. 1826).

The first American edition of Lindley murray’s English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners (York, Eng., 1795) appeared in Boston in 1800. Waldo had a new and correct edition of his own grammar printed in Philadelphia and published in 1818 in Georgetown, South Carolina.

1Manuscript: “philosophiical.”

2Prefix interlined.

Index Entries

  • books; on grammar search
  • English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners (Murray) search
  • English language; books on grammar of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Murray, Lindley; English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Rudiments of English Grammar (J. Waldo) search
  • Waldo, John; identified search
  • Waldo, John; letters from search
  • Waldo, John; Rudiments of English Grammar search