Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Louis H. Girardin to Thomas Jefferson, 1 April 1821

From Louis H. Girardin

Baltimore, Apl 1rst 21.

Dear and Respected Sir,

I have postponed returning my thanks to You for your friendly recommendation in my favour to the Trustees of the Balte College, until I saw what aspect the Institution would assume under my management.—Surely, it was prostrate in every point of view, when I arrived here. The genius of mischief was hovering in triumph above its ruins, owing to a previous want of energy, system, harmony, and liberality in the Parties concerned. Much prejudice existed even against the revival of the Institution which, I am told, a Judge, one of our Trustees, had denounced from the bench as a public nuisance, meaning the reckless, licentious acts of insubordination committed by its students, and, in some degree, too, influenced by party-spirit, I am assured.—I confess that so deplorable a state of things greatly discouraged me at first. The Trustees, however, manifested towards me great politeness and respect—So soon as the uncommon Severity of the winter would permit, they repaired the building—Where I have now Spacious and neat appartments, commanding, on all Sides, a most delightful prospect, and, which is still better, situated in the most salubrious part of the City. The College was re-opened Janry 15th, and we have nearly 40 students (not including about as many, who attend, at the College1 Dr Watkins Lects on modern Literature.) We expect 6 or 8 more to-morrow, as it is the commencement of a quarter. In short, seeing all previous disadvantages, I think we are doing very well. Further, professorships of a higher character are in progress, while our modest academical basis is daily enlarged. I trust that, within one year or two, the Balte College will have just claims to a respectable station among the eminent institutions of the Country. I can, as far as I am concerned, solemnly assert that all the machinations heretofore employed to put to flight activity, zeal, modest knowledge, and unassuming usefulness, shall meet with sufficient energy and steadiness, to frustrate and deride their effect.

We contemplate a library. Were I not afraid of giving You too much trouble, I would request the notice of the Editiones optimæ now in your possession, which You were so good as to mention, when I was last at Monticello.—Chance offers here now and then an opportunity of procuring italian books &c—for almost nothing. I lately bought for 25cts a very good editn of the Decamerone di Boccaccio, which, after being bound, is truly2 valuable. Mr Guegan is going to Richmond. He is uncommonly dear.—There are many private Libraries, in the City, extremely well chosen, if not considerable. Their owners, so far as my acquaintance yet extends, are liberal and disposed to accomodate me. This circumstance, and the abundant means of female education which I have found here for my daughters, render my situation far more eligible than it was in Augusta, and I hope to make here a permanent residence.

I believe that all the papers relative to the University of Virginia, I mean those of a public nature, have been collected together into a small octavo. If this my impression is correct, allow me to request one copy. I am often questioned on those subjects, and really find myself at a loss on several points.

The subject of the Court of Death by Peale, is drawn from the Poem on death of Bishop Porteus. I have not yet discovered in any roman historian &c—a mention of the daughters of Brutus. Erit ut poësis pictura, may be conversely said. Painters, as well as poets, may indulge in fanciful creations, for the sake of effect. Not having yet met with an edition of Cicero accompanied with an index vocabulorum et nominum3—my wading through the orations in search of those daughters of Brutus, has proved fruitless.—I have, indeed, seen in one No of the Portfolio an engraving from the painting by David, which has furnished those two heads, but the concomitant notice says nothing of the Young Ladies.—Nay, I have, through Dr Watkins, proposed the question “who were the Daughters of Brutus, represented in David’s famous picture?”4 to the Delphian club, and the oracle has not yet been able to give a response.—Mrs Randolph and Miss Helen Randolph have, probably, ere this time, been more sucessful in ascertaining the point under doubt.

Hoping, Dear and respected Sir, that You continue in the full enjoyment of that good health which You possessed, when I had the pleasure to See you last, I salute you with sentiments of deepest esteem and warmest attachment and gratitude.—

L. H. Girardin

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 6 Apr. 1821 and so recorded in SJL; with notes on verso of final page in TJ’s hand related to his 8 Apr. 1821 response:
“Annals of Tacitus. III.76.
   Lipsius’s note in the Varior edn
Cicero de Oratore II.55
Carol. Steph. Dict. hist. voce Brutus

Cato.    Servilia M. Junius Brutus
Porcia M. Jun. Brut. Junia.
Lepidi uxor Cassii ux

of the daurs of Brutus you must first understand that they were not daurs of him who killed Caesar, but of his father M. J. Brut. who married Servilia sister of Cato while his son of the same name married Porcia the daur of Cato.” RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Patrick Gibson, 5 Sept. 1822, on verso; addressed: “Ths Jefferson Esqre Monticello near Charlottesville Virga”; stamped; postmarked Baltimore, 1 Apr.

TJ provided his friendly recommendation of Girardin in his 28 Sept. 1820 letter to Tobias Watkins. The judge serving as a trustee of Baltimore College was Nicholas Brice, chief judge of the Baltimore City Court (Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser, 25 Apr. 1820; C. Keenan, The Baltimore Directory, for 1822 & ’23 [Baltimore, 1822], 35). Rembrandt Peale’s painting, the court of death, based on a poem by Beilby Porteus, is described in Charles Willson Peale to TJ, 3 July 1820, and note.

erit ut poësis pictura (“a picture will be like a poem”) derives from a passage in Horace, Ars Poetica, lines 361–2: “Ut pictura poesis: erit quae, si propius stes, te capiat magis, et quaedam, si longius abstes” (“A poem is like a picture: one strikes your fancy more, the nearer you stand; another, the farther away” (Fairclough, Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica description begins Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, Loeb Classical Library, 1926, repr. 2005 description ends , 480–1). index vocabulorum et nominum: “index of terms and names.”

The portfolio 1 (1813): 388–9, printed a description and engraving of Jacques Louis David’s 1789 painting of Lucius Junius Brutus now in the Louvre, Les Licteurs Rapportent à Brutus les Corps de Ses Fils (The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons). The delphian club was a Baltimore literary club formed in 1816 (Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines [1930–38; repr. 1970], 1:293–6). helen randolph: Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge).

1Preceding three words interlined.

2Word interlined.

3Preceding two words interlined.

4Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Annals (Tacitus) search
  • Ars Poetica (Horace) search
  • Baltimore, Md.; Delphian Club search
  • Baltimore College search
  • Boccaccio, Giovanni; Decameron search
  • books; classical search
  • books; TJ recommends to L. H. Girardin search
  • Brice, Nicholas; as trustee of Baltimore College search
  • Brutus, Lucius Junius; family of search
  • Brutus, Lucius Junius; Les Licteurs Rapportent à Brutus les Corps de Ses Fils search
  • Brutus, Marcus Junius (the Elder); family of search
  • Brutus, Marcus Junius (the Younger); family of search
  • Caesar, Julius; death of search
  • Cassius, Junia (Gaius Cassius Longinus’s wife) search
  • Cato the Younger (Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis); mentioned search
  • Cicero; orations of search
  • Cicero; works of search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); mentioned search
  • David, Jacques Louis; Les Licteurs Rapportent à Brutus les Corps de Ses Fils search
  • Death: A Poetical Essay (B. Porteus) search
  • Decameron (G. Boccaccio) search
  • Delphian Club (Baltimore) search
  • Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum Poeticum (C. Estienne) search
  • education; female search
  • Estienne, Charles; Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum Poeticum search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; and Baltimore College search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; and University of Virginia search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; family of search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; letters from search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; TJ recommends books to search
  • Guegan, Henry (Louis Henri Guégan); as bookseller search
  • Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus); Ars Poetica search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Proceedings and Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia search
  • Lepidus, Junia (Marcus Aemilius Lepidus’s wife) search
  • Les Licteurs Rapportent à Brutus les Corps de Ses Fils (J. L. David) search
  • Lips, Joest; works of search
  • Peale, Rembrandt; The Court of Death search
  • Porcia (wife of Marcus Junius Brutus [the Younger]) search
  • Porteus, Beilby; Death: A Poetical Essay search
  • Port Folio; publishes engraving search
  • Proceedings and Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); copies of requested search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); mentioned search
  • schools and colleges; Baltimore College search
  • Servilia (wife of Marcus Junius Brutus [the Elder]) search
  • Tacitus, Cornelius; Annals search
  • The Court of Death (R. Peale) search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opinions on search
  • Watkins, Tobias; and Baltimore College search
  • Watkins, Tobias; and Delphian Club search
  • women; education of search