Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Sloan, 15 June 1818

To James Sloan

Monticello June 15. 18.

I have deferred, Sir, my thanks for the compliment of your volume on Italy, until I could read it, and return them avec connoissance de cause. I have now read it with great pleasure, and not without edification: for altho, as the preface observes, that country has been the theme of so many pens that novelty on it’s subject is difficult, yet these wrote on Italy as it was before the Corsican Volcano directed the destroying course of it’s lava over her fair fields. we were yet to learn her present state, and the dispositions with which she had passed from one tyranny to another. this you have supplied. and altho’ much has been said of her edifices, her statues and paintings, yet it has not been better said than in this volume, which is truly a model of classical style in these beautiful arts, as Whateley’s book is on that of landscape gardening. the Reviewers may attack your neologisms, but I thank you for them. I know no other way by which a language can be improved, or kept up with the advance of the age, but by coining new words for new ideas, and better words for old ones: and if they are contented to become stationary, let us go on without them. I have experienced but one disappointment in reading your book, that of not finding the Pantheon among your enchanting descriptions. this building, I consider as the perfection of Spherical, as the Maison carrée is of Cubic architecture. the former I know only from models and drawings; but, to feast on the latter, I went twice to Nismes, staid 10. days each time, & each day stood an hour, morning, noon & night, fixed as a statue to a single spot, and entransed in the beauties of it’s form and symmetries.   I believe I should have felt, as you have described, the immortal beauties of Rome, had the leisure been my lot of visiting those monuments of the sublimest works of man. you are young, and have still your race to run. that you may reach it’s last mete with the splendor promised by that with which you leave it’s first is the prayer with which I close my acknolegements for your attentions, and tender my salutations of esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover to TJ; at foot of text: “James Sloan junr esq.”

avec connoissance de cause: “with full knowledge of the case.” The corsican volcano was Napoleon. whateley’s book: Thomas Whately, Observations on Modern Gardening (2d ed., London, 1770; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4227; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 12 [no. 727]).

TJ visited Nîmes (nismes) in March and May 1787. Even before seeing the Maison Carrée in person there, TJ had settled on it in 1785 as his model for the Virginia state capitol in Richmond (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 41 vols. description ends , 8:534–5, 11:424, 443, 13:274).

Index Entries

  • architecture; TJ’s opinion of ancient search
  • books; on gardening search
  • France; Maison Carrée search
  • gardening; books on search
  • Italy; Rambles in Italy; in the Years 1816.…17. By an American (J. Sloan) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; architecture search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; neology search
  • language; neology search
  • Maison Carrée (Nîmes); TJ’s admiration of search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • Observations on Modern Gardening (T. Whately) search
  • Pantheon (Rome); TJ admires search
  • Rambles in Italy; in the Years 1816.…17. By an American (J. Sloan) search
  • Rome, ancient; Pantheon search
  • Sloan, James (ca.1786–1819); letters to search
  • Sloan, James (ca.1786–1819); Rambles in Italy; in the Years 1816.…17. By an American search
  • Whately, Thomas; Observations on Modern Gardening search