Thomas Jefferson Papers

Maria Cosway to Thomas Jefferson, 7 April 1819

From Maria Cosway

London 7th of April 1819

Dear Sir

You must allow that all those who have had the happiness of your Acquaintance, will ever remember1 its value. Those, Still farther favourd by a Correspondence have a constant Satisfaction of reading over your Sentiments, your heart, all in Short that can imprint everlasting acknowledgements of esteem, Admiration, freindship & gratitude. What share I must possess of all these, I leave you to judge, & hope that neither time Nor distance will ever bring me to your recolection as importune.2 Tho farr from deserving any degree of those qualifications ascribed to you above, you will I hope admit the Second part belonging to me.—A favorable oportunity offers itself to me of writting to you, can I resist it?—To the lenght of Silence I draw a Curtain. Remembrance must be ever Green. Circumstances have been too evident, to want Any justification for the interuption of corresponding. Sufice it to Say that the mind has not3 had a moment’s part in it—

Was there not So great a distance between us, I should end My letter here, but to break off while there might be a probability of Some interrogation, Such as, “What have you been about all this while? Where have you been”? &c—If I may presume Some freindly wish of this kind probable, I must proceed, & plead indulgence for your reading me longer. Often have I read your name in the papers, therefore have been Acquainted of your proceedings in that honorable way which was expected from you.—My humble Situation Could never bring to you Any public informations of me, &4 I little trust on private ones being built on Truth.—My different journies on the Continent were either forced by bad health, or other particular private Maloncholy Motives: but On Any Sudden information of Mr C’s bad health, I hastend home; to See him.—In my stay on the Continent I was call’d to form Establishments of Education, one at Lyons which met with the most flattering Success. And lastly one in Italy, equaly Answering every hoped for Consolation. Oh! how often have I thought of America! wished to have exerted myself there. Who would have imagined, I should have taken up this line? it has afforded me Satisfactions Unfelt before; After having been deprived of my own child.—what Confortable feelings, Seeing children grow up accomplishd, modest, & virtuos Women! They hardly are gone home from the Establishment at fifteen, but Are married & become paterns to their Sexe.—But Am I not breaking the rules of Modesty myself, & boast too Much? in what better manner can I relate this? However, tho Seeminly Settled at Lodi, my duties were ever ready to return home when call’d.—At last, at the first Opening of a Comunication at the cessation of the cruel hostilities which kept us all assunder, alarm’d at the indiferent occounts of Mr C’s state of health, I hastend home. He is much broke, & has had two paralitik stroeks, the last of which has deprived him of the use of his wright hand & arm.—Forgotten by the Arts, Suspended the direction of education (tho it is going on vastly well in my Absence) I am now excercising the occupations of a Nurse. Happy in Self gratification of doing my duty, with no other consolation. In Your Dialogue your head would tell me, “that is enough,” your heart perhaps will understand, I might wish for more. God’s will be done.

What a loss to me not having the beloved Mrs Church! And how greved I was when told she was no more Among the living.—I used to See Madame de Corny at Paris, she Still lives but in bad health. that is the only one of our Common friends we knew. Strange changes over & over again all Over Europe.—You only are proceeding on well.—

Now, my dear Sir, forgive this long letter, may I flatter myself to hear from you? give me Some occount of yourself as you used to do, instead of Challiou & Paris taulk to me of Monticello. &.—Accept of the best wishes from One, who, ever retains with the deepest Sense of gratitude your kindness to her & wishes most Ardently to find a place in your remembrance as one who ever will be

Yours most Sincerly & affly

Maria Cosway

P.S. I wrote a letter not long ago to Mr Trumble, I hope he will Send me An Answer, I have Never heard from my brother.

RC (MHi); dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ as received 4 July 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (ViU: TJP); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Thomas Gimbrede, 29 Dec. 1820, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqre Monticello Virginia”; franked and postmarked.

Maria Louisa Catherine Cecelia Hadfield Cosway (1760–1838), artist and educator, was born to expatriate English parents in Florence, Italy. Having displayed considerable artistic talent from an early age, she was elected to the city’s Accademia del Disegno in 1778. A year later Cosway and her widowed mother relocated to London. During the years spent in that city following her 1781 marriage to the celebrated English painter Richard Cosway, she composed and performed music and exhibited a large number of artworks, many of which drew on biblical, literary, or mythological themes. Although Cosway’s husband forbade the sale of her work, engravings of them helped earn her a reputation as one of the finest female artists of the day. She met TJ while on a visit to Paris in 1786, and their close friendship and sometimes flirtatious correspondence has sparked rumors of a romantic attachment. Shortly after giving birth in 1790 to her only child, Louisa, Cosway left both husband and infant and spent the next four years in Italy. Her life after the death of her daughter in 1796 was marked by an increased religiosity and a dedication to female education. Cosway operated schools for girls in Lyon, France, 1803–09, and, with the exception of time spent in England nursing her ailing husband (who died in 1821), at Lodi in northern Italy from 1812 until her death. The school in Lodi survived until 1978 and achieved such renown that the Austrian emperor made Cosway a baroness in 1834 (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; Cosway Papers [Fondazione Maria Cosway, Lodi]; Jane Turner, ed., Dictionary of Art [1996], 8:20–1; Carol Burnell, Divided Affections: The Extraordinary Life of Maria Cosway [2007]; Jon Kukla, Mr. Jefferson’s Women [2007], 86–114; Stephen Lloyd, Richard & Maria Cosway: Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion [1995]; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 42 vols. description ends ; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 1:637n; gravestone inscription in La Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Lodi).

lenght of silence: the most recent letter to or from Cosway was hers to TJ of 10 Oct. 1805 (DLC). TJ’s posthumously famous dialogue was the so-called “Head and Heart” letter to Cosway of 12 Oct. 1786 (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 42 vols. description ends , 10:443–55).

During the 1780s TJ lived in Paris next to one of the city gates, La Grille de Chaillot (challiou) (Howard C. Rice Jr., Thomas Jefferson’s Paris [1976], 51). Cosway’s brother George Hadfield was a prominent architect and longtime resident of Washington, D.C. (Washington Daily National Journal, 7 Feb. 1826).

1Cosway here canceled “you.”

2Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

3Word interlined.

4Manuscript: “& And.”

Index Entries

  • Church, Angelica Schuyler (John Barker Church’s wife) search
  • Corny, Marguérite Victoire de Palerne de; health of search
  • Cosway, Louisa Paolina Angelica (Maria Cosway’s daughter) search
  • Cosway, Maria Louisa Catherine Cecilia Hadfield (Richard Cosway’s wife); as educator search
  • Cosway, Maria Louisa Catherine Cecilia Hadfield (Richard Cosway’s wife); family of search
  • Cosway, Maria Louisa Catherine Cecilia Hadfield (Richard Cosway’s wife); friendship with TJ search
  • Cosway, Maria Louisa Catherine Cecilia Hadfield (Richard Cosway’s wife); health of search
  • Cosway, Maria Louisa Catherine Cecilia Hadfield (Richard Cosway’s wife); identified search
  • Cosway, Maria Louisa Catherine Cecilia Hadfield (Richard Cosway’s wife); letter from search
  • Cosway, Richard (Maria Cosway’s husband); health of search
  • education; female search
  • education; in France search
  • education; in Italy search
  • France; education in search
  • Hadfield, George (Maria Cosway’s brother) search
  • health; paralysis search
  • health; stroke search
  • Italy; education in search
  • Paris; La Grille de Chaillot search
  • schools and colleges; for women search
  • Trumbull, John (artist); mentioned search
  • women; education of search
  • women; letters from; M. Cosway search