Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 13 February 1819

From John Adams

Quincy Feby 13th 1819.

Dear Sir

As you was so well acquainted with the philosophers of France I presume the name and character of Mademoiselle De Lespinasse is not unknown to you.

I have almost put out my eyes by reading two volumes of her letters which as they were printed in 1809 I presume you have read long ago. I confess I have never read any thing with more ennui, disgust and loathing. The eternal repitition of mon dieu and mon ami—je vous aime; je vous aime eperdument; je vous aime a la follie; je suis au desespoir; je espere la mort; je suis morte; je prenne1 l’opium &c &c &c

She was constantly in love with other women’s husbands, constantly violating her fidelity to her own keepers with other women’s husbands constantly tormented with remords & regrets constantly wishing for death and constantly threatning to put herself to death &c &c &c.

Yet this great lady was the confidential friend of Mr Turgot the Duke De la Rochefaucault the Duchess D’anville, Mr Condorcet; the only lady who was admitted to the dinners which Madame Geoffrim made for the litterati of France & the world and the intimate friend of Madame Boufflers and the open acknowledged mistress of the great D’allembert and much admired by Marmontel.

If these letters & the fifteen volumes of De Grimm are to give me an idea of the amelioration of society & government and manners in France I should think the age of reason has produced nothing much better than the Mahometans the Mamalukes or the Hindoos or the North American Indians have produced in different parts of the world.

Festine lente, my friend, in all your projects of reformation abolish polytheism however in every shape if you can, and unfrock every priest who teaches it, if you can. To compensate in some measure for this crazy letter I enclose to you Mr Pickering’s essay on the pronounciation of the Greek language which very probably you have received from various quarters before now and with it I pray you to accept assurances of the unabated friendship of

your humble servant

John Adams

RC (DLC); in an unidentified hand, signed by Adams; on verso of final page in unidentified hand: “President Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Mar. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers). Enclosure: John Pickering, An Essay on the Pronunciation of the Greek Language, as published in the Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Cambridge, Mass., 1818).

mon dieu and mon ami … je prenne l’opium: “My god and my friend—I love you; I love you passionately; I love you madly; I am in despair; I want to die; I am dead; I take opium.” remords: “remorse.” The duchess d’anville was Marie Louise Elizabeth Nicole de La Rochefoucauld, duchesse d’Enville.

1RC and FC: “premme.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on J. de Lespinasse search
  • Adams, John; on religion search
  • Adams, John; sends works to TJ search
  • Alembert, Jean Le Rond d’; and J. de Lespinasse search
  • An Essay on the Pronunciation of the Greek Language (J. Pickering) search
  • books; of correspondence search
  • Boufflers, Marie Françoise Catherine de Beauvau-Craon, marquise de search
  • Condorcet, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de; friendship with J. de Lespinasse search
  • Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique (F. M. Grimm) search
  • Enville, Louise Elisabeth de La Rochefoucauld, duchesse d’ search
  • Geoffrin, Marie Thérèse Rodet search
  • Greek language; pronunciation of search
  • Grimm, Friedrich Melchior, baron von; Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique search
  • Grimm, Friedrich Melchior, baron von; J. Adams on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books and Library; works sent to search
  • La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, François Alexandre Frédéric, duc de; friendship with J. de Lespinasse search
  • Lespinasse, Jeanne Julie Éléonore de; J. Adams on search
  • Lespinasse, Jeanne Julie Éléonore de; Lettres de Mademoiselle de Lespinasse search
  • Lettres de Mademoiselle de Lespinasse (J. de Lespinasse) search
  • Marmontel, Jean François; and J. de Lespinasse search
  • medicine; opium search
  • opium; medicinal search
  • Pickering, John; An Essay on the Pronunciation of the Greek Language search
  • religion; J. Adams on search
  • suicide; and J. de Lespinasse search
  • Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques; friendship with J. de Lespinasse search