Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Waters Hickman to Thomas Jefferson, 7 May 1822

From William Waters Hickman

Monticelli 7th May 1822.

Hond Sir,

The few days since I have been priviledged to remain in your hospitable Mansion, I am sensible that in my manners I have not manifested those external marks of respect & reverence in which I should blush to be thought wanting, which no real Virginian, no enlightened American Can be deficient in. My mind & spirits as you no doubt observe, have been depressed & my hopes in life discouraged from long conflict with adverse circumstances, which the firmest nerves is sometimes happily brought to view as a Conciliatory Chastening; and from that Consoling reflection to acquiesce with patient resignation, ’though the influence of the pressure continues to be felt. I will proceed to mention the motive that has induced me to obtrude a few lines on your attention. As I observed in a former note, I am very desirous to prosecute a course of Theological Study if I can obtain the patronage of a Seminary recently instituted for that purpose in N. York. I should prefer remaining1 in my native State if the same facilities to study were afforded. But unfortunately so lamentable an indifference to this subject has prevailed in Virginia that I believe there exists at this time no adequate fund. My reading for some years past has given my mind a strong propensity to this object, which I must prosecute or exist on the Theater of life to no other purpose than that of devoting my physical energies to procure their needful Subsistence. And although my education was neglected in early youth, I am still2 sanguine that I shall be able to redeem the time in some measure, by close application—even though I do not obtain a dispensation of the languages. As to talents—I believe I possess imagination enough when it shall have become cultivated, & expanded by the influence of disciplined habits; and brought into vigorous exercise by that undefinable something which the French term Une show—by which I presume they mean that energised flexibility of feeling which the orthodox Creed of an Englishman teaches him in plain Scripture language to call the Vital Spirit of Truth; that reigns almost3 Supernaturally in the Heart, fire’s the whole inward Man, & prompts the Tongue with an eloquence that no art Can reach, no mental efforts alone however refined, can imitate. This principle of action, this grand moving spring which alone gives efficiency to each subordinate One, is happily within the reach of all who become duly sensible of its value. As free as the breeze I inhale on your Mont: My own limited experience of the truth of the fact, is in Complete accordance with the declarations of4 revelation. And from this reflection I derive encouragement; as well as from a maxim I have found on Your Shelf, that every Man of Common organization has the power of becoming a Man of genius, if to this he add a passionate devotion to his profession. Be this as it may I for my part feel prompted by inclination, Duty, & every other consideration that can influence the Mind of Man, to aim at a Literary course of life in Connexion with the Ministerial office in the Ch: of which I am a member—if, I can get aided in my attempts. And with this view, I have taken the liberty most respectfully to request your friendly aid. I have not the least doubt but a request from yourself would have a decisive influence with the Bishop, to have me sent on as a Canditate. I am informed the design of the Institution at N.Y. is to encourage, & patronize indigent young Men &, twenty Dolrs would take me round from this place.

Pardon the liberty I have taken in this communication

Most respectfully, I am Hond Sir, Yr Obt. huml Servt

W. W. Hickman

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 8 May 1822 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with FC of TJ to Daniel K. Minor, 5 Sept. 1824, on verso; addressed: “T. Jefferson Esqr Present.”

une show: the French language has no such word as “show.” Hickman presumably intended “une chose,” an idiomatic expression for a feeling, quality, or character trait that is difficult to define or describe. The English man of letters Isaac D’Israeli coined the maxim that “Every man of common organisation has the power of becoming a man of genius, if to this be added a solitary devotion to art, and a vehement passion for glory” (D’Israeli, Miscellanies; or, Literary Recreations [London, 1796], 254; quoted without attribution in the Port Folio, 2d ser., 4 [1807]: 42). Richard Channing Moore was the Episcopal bishop of Virginia, 1814–41.

1Manuscript: “rmaining.”

2Word interlined in pencil.

3Word interlined in pencil.

4Preceding three words interlined in pencil.

Index Entries

  • charity; requests to TJ for search
  • D’Israeli, Isaac; maxims of search
  • Episcopalians; and education search
  • General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church (New York City) search
  • Hickman, William Waters; letters from search
  • Hickman, William Waters; seeks TJ’s assistance search
  • Hickman, William Waters; visits Monticello search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Hickman, William Waters search
  • Moore, Richard Channing; as Episcopal bishop of Va. search
  • New York (city); General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • schools and colleges; General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church (New York City) search