George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Tobias Lear, 9 November 1793

From Tobias Lear

New York November 9th 1793

My dear Sir,

A thousand times after my letter to you, enclosing Observations on the Potomack &c. had gone, did I wish to recall it: for the more I reflected on your situation at this moment, in point of business, the more did I see the impropriety, as well as the unfriendliness of my adding to that burthen, which I could not but know was at least as great as it ought to be, and more especially as mine was a business in which the public was not interested. I have been ever since distressed on that account. And the good letter with which I have been this day honored from you, has not removed my uneasiness on that score; altho’ it is to me another proof of that attention towards me which has already made too deep an impression on my mind for time or any event to erase. I say it did not remove my uneasiness; because I was convinced by it and the notes & letters accompanying it, that it must have taken up more of your time than I had, upon any grounds, a right to ask for at this busy moment. My thanks & gratitude, my very dear & honored Sir, are too small to offer for all your goodness to me: But they are all I have that can be acceptable to you.1

I have seen Mr Robertson, who took your portrait for the Earl of Buchan, and he tells me that he sent it to his Lordship, by way of Glascow, more than six months since; but he had never heard whether it got to hand or not—and says he is much distressed to learn that the Earl had not receivd it when his letter to you was written—and that he shall not rest until he has ascertained its fate.2

I have got all the information of & about the man whom I mentioned in my last, that time & circumstances have permitted me to do. He is a tolerably well sized & well made man of about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches—and about 30 years of age—a German by birth—speaks the french language well—dresses Ladies’ & Gentlemen’s hair very well.3

The account which he gives of himself is—that he lived for upwards of four years with Lord Barrymore as his Valet de Chambre and occasionally acted as his Steward. Finding that the Expenses to which Lord B. was subjected from his stile of living & other extravagances would not allow him to pay his domestics so regularly as their necessities required, he thought best to quit him; and as a Mr Cox, who had superintended the building a Theatre for Lord Barrymore, was about to come to Philadelphia for the purpose of attending the building the new Theatre there, he thought it a good opportunity of trying his fortune in this Country 4—and was, after he got to Philadelphia, fixed upon as a suitable person to keep the Coffee rooms in the New Theatre; but the use of that Theatre having been postponed—he found it necessary to resort to other means for a living—and followed the business of hair dressing there for some months, ’till Mr Hyde came to this place to keep the Tontine Coffee House when he came here with him & has been since the hair dresser of the Coffee House. He says he understands the duties of a Butler well—and can set out a table in as handsome a manner as any man: But he is not acquainted with marketing or providing for a family—He would prefer acting as Valet & Butler to having the duty of one only. He would not undertake the business for less than two hundred & fifty dollars per year. Thus far the man says of & for himself. His price I tell him puts him out of the question; if every thing else should answer.

Mr Hyde seems to be the only person who knows anything particular about the man here. He says he is a sober, steady, neat man—He has lived in the Coffee House ever since Hyde has kept it—Hyde says he thinks the man capable of doing those things which he professes—and from his own knowledge of the kind of person who would be servicable & agreeable to you, Hyde says he could venture to recommend this man.

The foregoing is all I can collect respecting Jacob Baur & therefrom it must be left with you, my dear Sir, to decide. Should you think any thing further of him, Mr Hyde seems to be the only person capable of giving information here.

Tomorrow, wind & weather permitting, I shall sail—and let me visit whatever clime I may—or let whatever will be my situation, I shall never fail, my dear & honored Sir, to implore the best of Heaven’s blessings for your health & happiness—I feel more for your goodness towards me than I can or ought to express to you—Accept every thing that a grateful heart can give & present me, if you please, in the most respectful & dutiful manner to Mrs Washington. With truth & sincerity, I always shall be your devoted & affectionate friend & servant

Tobias Lear.


3In his letter to GW of 3 Nov., Lear had mentioned that Jacob Baur was interested in becoming GW’s valet.

4The Earl of Barrymore’s Theater at Wargrave was opened in 1789. The foundation of the New Theatre on Chesnut Street in Philadelphia was laid in May 1792, and the theater was opened with a concert in February 1793, but dramatic productions did not begin there until February 1794. Before his association with Barrymore, Cox reputedly was associated with the Theatre Royal at Covent Garden (John Robert Robinson, The Last Earls of Barrymore, 1769–1824 [London, 1894], 47).

Index Entries