James Madison Papers

James Madison to Richard D. Cutts, 4 January 1829

Montpellier. Jany. 4. 1829

Your letter, my dear Richard, gave me much pleasure, as it shews that you love your studies, which you would not do if you did not profit by them. Go on, my good boy, as you have begun; and you will find that you have chosen the best road to a happy life, because a useful one; the more happy because it will add to the happiness of your parents, and of all who love you and are anxious to see you deserving to be loved.

When I was at an age which will soon be yours, a book fell into my hands which I read, as I believe, with particular advantage. I have always thought it the best that had been written, for cherishing in young minds a desire of improvement, a taste for Learning, and a lively sense of the duties, the virtues, and the proprieties of life. The work I speak of is the "Spectator", well known by that title. It had several Authors, at the head of them, Mr Addison, whose papers are marked at the bottom of each, by one of the letters in the name of the Muse, C.L.I.O. They will reward you for a second reading, after reading them along with the others.

Addison was of the first rank among the fine writers of the Age, and has given a definition of what he shewed himself to be an example. "Fine writing" he says "consists of sentiments that are natural, without being obvious;" to which adding the remark of Swift, another celebrated author of the same period, making a good style to "consist of proper words in their proper places," a definition is formed, which will merit your recollection, when you become qualified, as I hope you will one day be, to employ your pen for the benefit of others and for your own reputation.

I send you a copy of the "Spectator" that it may be at hand when the time arrives for making use of it; and as a token, also, of all the good wishes of your affectionate Uncle

James Madison

RC (NjP: Crane Collection); draft (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers); printed in (The Filson Club, Louisville, Ky.).

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