Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Delaplaine, 25 December 1816 (second letter)

To Joseph Delaplaine

Monticello Dec. 25. 16.

Dear Sir

On my return from Bedford, after an absence of 7. weeks, I found here your favors of Oct. 28. Nov. 13. 20. & 23.1 with a copy of the 1st No of your Repository. but I found also an immense accumulation of letters recieved during my absence, some of which claimed my first attentions. you know my aversion to the drudgery of the writing table. the great affliction of my present life is a too oppressive correspondence. it is wearing me down in body and mind; and leaves me scarcely a moment to attend to my affairs or to indulge in the luxury of reading and reflection, which would soothe as a balm the decaying powers of life. yet I take up my pen with chearfulness to express the satisfaction with which I have read & examined this first number of your work. I think it well executed both in manner and matter. a judicious selection of facts, related2 in an elevated style, and enlivened by a rich fancy carries the reader on with the ardor of his author, while the fine traces of the graver embody in his mind the figure with the facts of the relation. I have understood that the scale of the narrative has been censured, by some as too short, by others as too long. I think myself it is well proportioned to the object of the work. were I to indulge a criticism, it would be on the omission to quote authorities for the lives & portraits of Columbus & Vespucius. their age was so remote from ours in time and place that whatever can be learnt of them now must be from public sources with which the reader might wish to be acquainted. in recent histories authorities are not required, because their publication is itself an appeal, to living witnesses of their truth. with my wishes that you may recieve a just remuneration for the labors and expences of this interesting publication accept the assurance of my esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (LNT: George H. and Katherine M. Davis Collection); at foot of text: “Mr Delaplaine.” PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ. Printed in New-York Evening Post, 22 Jan. 1817, and elsewhere.

TJ’s plea for respite from a too oppressive correspondence was paraphrased as follows in Delaplaine’s Repository description begins Joseph Delaplaine, Delaplaine’s Repository of the Lives and Portraits of Distinguished Americans, Philadelphia, 1816–18, 2 vols.; Poor, Jefferson’s Library, 4 (no. 139) description ends , 1:151–2: “Since his last retirement, in addition to the necessary attention to his agricultural and domestic affairs, at Monticello, where he chiefly resides, and occasional visits to his other estates, his great reputation has been productive of frequent calls upon portions of his time which ought to have been yielded only to ease and relaxation. The scientific and literary, throughout the union, have looked upon him as their adviser and patron; and have, indeed, seldom failed to gain considerable advantage by their applications. But the increase of his correspondence has, at length, become so enormously great, that although a strict economist of time, he has found it utterly impossible to allow himself a sufficient portion of rest, being obliged to devote five or six hours of every day of his life, merely to the business of answering letters, many of which are, of course, of the most uninteresting character. This kind of labour was justly complained of by general Washington, in a communication to a military friend, soon after the revolutionary war, as compelling him to neglect his private affairs, almost to the ruin of his fortune, and as depriving him of exercise, comfort, and health. Mr. Jefferson, therefore, at a much more advanced age, will be justified in the expression of his desire on this subject, contained in his letter recently published.” The letter from George Washington voicing similar complaints was addressed from Mount Vernon, 7 Feb. 1785, to David Humphreys (Washington, Papers, Confederation Ser., 3:487–9).

1New-York Evening Post: “your favour of the 23d of November.”

2Word interlined in place of “clothed.”

Index Entries

  • books; biographical search
  • Columbus, Christopher; and portrait for J. Delaplaine’sRepository search
  • Columbus, Christopher; biography of in J. Delaplaine’sRepository search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; Delaplaine’s Repository search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; TJ on reading of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; fatiguing to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; historical evidence search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; reading search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation from TJ search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ returns from search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Repository of the Lives and Portraits of Distinguished Americans (J. Delaplaine) search
  • Vespucci, Amerigo (Americus Vespucius); and J. Delaplaine’sRepository search
  • Washington, George; complains of oppressive correspondence search