Jefferson's Letters to Angelica Schuyler Church
JEFFERSON WROTE INTIMATE LETTERS TO MARRIED WOMAN
(posted on http://genforum.genealogy.com/church
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- She was beautiful and independent with
a razor-sharp intellect. Her patrician upbringing was tempered by sensitivity
The morning you left us, all was wrong, even the sunshine was provoking, with which I never quarreled before, he wrote. I took it into my head he shone only to throw light on our loss: to present a cheerfulness not at all in unison with my mind. I mounted my horse earlier than common. I took by instinct the road you had taken.
It was in Paris, the winter of 1788, and Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and now Americas ambassador to France, was smitten with the formidable Angelica Schuyler Church, the already married daughter of a Revolutionary War hero.
"I think I have discovered a method of preventing this dejection of mind on any future parting," he wrote her on Feb. 17, the same day she left Paris to return to London.
"It is this," he explained. "When you come again I will employ myself in finding or fancying that you have some faults. & I will draw a veil over all your good qualities if I can find one large enough."
Angelica Church likely came closest to meeting Jeffersons feminine ideal after his beloved wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, died in 1782, when he was only 39, said Jefferson scholar William Howard Adams. [Ed. note: cameo at left shown only to suggest a likeness of Angelica Church.]
They were quite simpatico, Adams said in an interview.
New insights into Jeffersons relationship with Angelica come from Jefferson letters recently purchased by the University of Virginia, the school he founded.
Angelica, sister-in-law of Jeffersons bitter political enemy, Alexander Hamilton, corresponded with many of the young countrys most prominent figures, among them Hamilton, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Her family kept the letters she received, but in February contacted a book dealer in Hadley, Mass. about selling them.
The dealer offered them first to the University of Virginia, which paid $275,000 for a total of 13 letters from Jefferson and 64 more from Hamilton, Washington, Lafayette and some lesser lights.
Angelica, 13 years younger than the tall red-haired Virginian, filled a real emotional need for Jefferson, says Adams, a fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies in Charlottesville.
A New Yorker, she replaced the beautiful and temperamental English artist Maria Cosway as the object of Jeffersons affections while he was American ambassador to France, Adams says.
At one point, Angelica gave Jefferson a handsome silver tea urn, a perfect beauty, according to the recipient. Angelica said she hoped the urn will sometime at Monticello remind you of your friend.
A small portrait of Jefferson by painter John Trumbull enthralled both women, and each obtained copies from the artist.
Angelicas note accompanying the tea urn said that while Marias copy was better, she held a better likeness of Jefferson in her heart.
Was Jefferson in love with either of the women, both of whom were married?
There is something going on, some sort of attraction between Jefferson
and Angelica, says Jan Lewis, professor history at Rutgers University
and author of The Pursuit of Happiness: Family and Values in Jeffersons
He was deeply depressed for years after his wifes death. Once he got France he pulled out of it, she says, primarily because of Maria.
Still, Jeffersons ardor for Angelica remained undiminished for many years after their first meeting in Paris in the winter of 1787. At the time, his infatuation with the flashier but more demanding and complex Maria was waning, and they eventually lost touch.
Six months after they met, Jefferson begs Angelica to return to Paris and in August 1788 he seductively proposes that she accompany him on a vacation to America.
Think of it, my friend, and let us begin a negotiation on the subject. You shall find in me all the spirit of accommodation with which Yoric began his with the fair Piedmontese.
The characters Jefferson mentioned are in a sexually charged scene in Sentimental Journey, a best-selling novel of the day by English writer Laurence Sterne. Yoric is forced to share a room at a crowded Italian country inn with the lovely stranger Piedmontese, and the two eventually have sex.
The unexpected allusion in Jeffersons letter remain ambiguous, his intentions disguised by hinting at other possibilities, Adams says in his book.
In an earlier letter, Jefferson also urged Angelica to return with him to America: "Lets go back together then. you intend it a visit; so do I. While you are indulging with your friends on the Hudson, I will go to see if Monticello remains in the same place, or I will attend you to the falls of Niagara, if you will go with me to the passage of the Potowmac, the Natural Bridge, etc.," he wrote.
Said Mrs. Lewis: If you were a guy trying to make an impression on a woman (in the late 18th century) you would take her to Niagara Falls or Natural Bridge.
A decade later, Jefferson was still trying. Writing from Philadelphia, the vice president of the Unites States pines: "Tho you have taken so great a step, there is still a wide space between us. I shall entertain the hope that we may meet at this place, as on a middle ground. perhaps you may find it not unpleasant in winter to get this much nearer to the sun. but whether we meet or not, I shall for ever claim an esteem which continues to be very precious to me, and hope to be, at times, indulged with the mutual expression of it."
Adams says it is impossible to know for certain if Jefferson ever had
a love affair with Angelica, Maria Cosway, or other women.
WHO WAS 'MR.' ANGELICA CHURCH?