Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"And is the farm as interesting?"

While searching the net for a few final answers to a tattered Sunday NYT crossword I’ve been carrying with me, I ran across a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to Charles Wilson Peale in 1811 from his home at Poplar Forest. It is the entirety of a letter which surrounds a Jefferson quote I hold dear. Enjoy!

To Charles Wilson Peale Poplar Forest, August 20, 1811

It is long, my dear Sir, since we have exchanged a letter. Our former correspondence had always some little matter of business interspersed; but this being at an end, I shall still be anxious to hear from you sometimes, and to know that you are well and happy. I know indeed that your system is that of contentment under any situation. I have heard that you have retired from the city to a farm, and that you give your whole time to that. Does not the museum suffer? And is the farm as interesting? Here, as you know, we are all farmers, but not in a pleasing style. We have so little labor in proportion to our land that, although perhaps we make more profit from the same labor, we cannot give to our grounds that style of beauty which satisfies the eye of the amateur. Our rotations are corn, wheat, and clover, or corn, wheat, clover and clover, or wheat, corn, wheat, clover and clover; preceding the clover by a plastering. But some, instead of clover substitute mere rest, and all are slovenly enough. We are adding the care of Merino sheep. I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one through the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.
Your application to whatever you are engaged in I know to be incessant. But Sundays and rainy days are always days of writing for the farmer. Think of me sometimes when you have your pen in hand, and give me information of your health and occupations; and be always assured of my great esteem and respect.

3 comments:

Liz said...

The Jefferson quote is a favorite of mine as well. I love seeing these old letters... so different (esp in language) compared to the current world of emails.

Holly said...

And enjoy I did. The articulation is so beautiful. I wish we still used language in the same manner.

Jenn said...

Two great quotes in that one.

Poor Jefferson. So worthy of admiration: such a dreamer, and such a terrible businessman. I do 'think of him sometimes.'