Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Maria Cosway, 27 December 1820

To Maria Cosway

Monticello. Dec. 27. 20.

‘Over the length of silence I draw a curtain,’ is an expression, my dear friend, of your cherished letter of Apr. 7. 19. of which, it might seem, I have need to avail myself; but not so really. to 77. heavy years add two of prostrate health during which all correspondence has been suspended of necessity, and you have the true cause of not having heard from me. my wrist too, dislocated in Paris while I had the pleasure of being there with you, is, by the effect of years, now so stiffened, that writing is become a most slow and painful operation, and scarcely ever undertaken but under the goad of imperious business. but I have never lost sight of your letter, and give it now the first place among those of my transatlantic friends which have been laying unacknoleged during the same period of ill health.

I rejoice in the first place that you are well; for your silence on that subject encorages me to presume it. and next that you have been so usefully and pleasingly occupied in preparing the minds of others to enjoy the blessings you have yourself derived from the same source, a cultivated mind. of mr Cosway I fear to say any thing, such is the disheartening account of the state of his health given in your letter. but here or wherever, I am sure he has all the happiness which an honest life ensures. nor will I say any thing of the troubles of those among whom you live. I see they are grea[t] and wish them happily out of them, and especially that you may be safe and happy, whatever be their issue. I will talk about Monticello then, and my own country, as is the wish expressed in your letter. my daughter Randolph whom you knew in Paris a young girl, is now the mother of 11. living children, the grandmother of about half a dozen others, enjoys health and good spirits and sees the worth of her husband attested by his being at present Governor of the state in which we live. among these I live, like a patriarch of old. our friend Trumbull is well, & profitably & honorably employed by his country in commemorating with his pencil some of it’s revolutionary honors. of mrs Cruger I hear nothing, nor, for a long time, of Made de Corny. such is the present state of our former coterie, dead, diseased & dispersed. but ‘tout ce qui est differé n’est pas perdu,’ says the French proverb, and the religion you so sincerely profess, tells us we shall meet again, and we have all so lived as to be assured it will be in happiness. mine is the next turn, and I shall meet it with good will. for after one’s friends are all gone before them, and our faculties leaving us too, one by one, why wish to linger in mere vegetation? as a solitary trunk in a desolate field, from which all it’s former companions have disappeared. you have many good years remaining yet to be happy yourself and to make those around you happy. may these, my dear friend, be as many as yourself may wish, and all of them filled with health and happiness will be among the last & warmest wishes of an unchangeable friend.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); on reused address cover of Samuel J. Harrison to TJ, 25 Aug. 1819; edge trimmed; at head of text: “thro’ depmt of state”; at foot of first page: “Mrs Maria Cosway”; endorsed by TJ. Recorded in SJL with the additional notation: “inclosed to mr D. Brent of the depmt of state.” Enclosed in TJ to Richard Rush, 27 Dec. 1820, and TJ to Daniel Brent, [ca. 27 Dec. 1820], not found (see note to Brent to TJ, 26 Feb. 1821).

tout ce qui est differé n’est pas perdu: “not all that is postponed is lost.”

Index Entries

  • aging; TJ on his own search
  • Brent, Daniel; forwards letters to and from TJ search
  • Corny, Marguérite Victoire de Palerne de; mentioned 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); letter to search
  • Cosway, Richard (Maria Cosway’s husband); health of search
  • Cruger, Catherine “Kitty” Church search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; European search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; aging search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; illness of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; wrist injury search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; aging search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; death of old friends search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; religion search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); children of search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); hosts guests at Monticello search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); as governor of Va. search
  • religion; TJ on search
  • Trumbull, John (artist); friendship with TJ search
  • women; letters to; M. Cosway search