Saturday, February 7, 2009

Letter to Aglaé de Hunolstein by Lafayette

Chauvaniac 27 March 1783
You are too cruel, my dear Aglaée. You realize my heart's torments. You know that it is torn between love and duty, and you insist that it pronounce a decision upon that miserable resolution. You have seen me make so many that I did not have the strength to keep. A hundred times I considered the last word said, the final promise made; a hundred times I have put myself under obligation in regard to you, and a hundred times the instant I saw you and touched you proved too well how weak I am. I did not see your mother. I looked for her, however, but without being sorry not to find her. Her arguments are so good, and they are so contrary to my hearts desire. When I came back from America, my lovable dear, was it you, or was it I who did the preaching on the way we had of being together? Do you remember my insistence, your refusals, our quarrels. I accused you of repugnance, you accused me of lacking delacacy. Our quarrels ended like all lovers' quarrels, but although carried away by my passion, I would recall both the reproaches of your relatives and the efforts that I was making to win you. Everyday renewed resistance and in consequence new regrets. I was happy, however, it must be admitted, but you were not, and it is you who risk everything while get nearly all the pleasure. You consented hardly a single time without resistance, and the last decisions which you have made are a constant reproach to my lack of delicacy. at each moment you ruin your life for me, and then to make me appreciate it the more, you refuse to share what I feel. And you still demand that I decide? Ah you know only too well my passion, my transport, my entire abandon. You have too often beheld my struggles and my weakness. You have known me; you have loved me in every respect; but you have never known me to be generous except in contemplation, and whatever it may cost me, I want if I can to be so once in reality.
It is over a year that you have endeavored to break this sort of tie. Every day has seen your efforts redouble. Every day you have had to stand for either a display of temperament or of violence. Now you are taking a final course; it is the cruelest for me, but it is only one that might succeed, and the only question is to find out whether I am a decent man. You put in my hands your peace of mind, your safety, and much more, as you know. I do not mention your family, since I would not give up so much happiness for anyone else in the world. You understand the extent of my sacrifice. you have often seen me grow pale merely at the idea of that recouncilation. But after all, for a year, I have seen that there was something more at stake than my happiness. I will silence my heart, and as you have wisely predicted, I am more master of myself in a letter than in a conversation. It would have been kinder not to have given me the pain of deciding, but since you have wished it so, rest assured my dear, that my heart is delicate though passionate. So be it.
I laid my pen aside for a long time before writing these words. But after all, it is your wish, and that of you family. Your whole existence depends on it. What need did you have of my opinion? Can a decent man advise you to ruin your life? No, my dear, and whatever it may cost me, I advise what reason tells you, and decency imposes upon me.
In coming to this conclusion, my dear, I fully realize how repugnant it all is. I well appreciate that only my opinion is needed and that you keenly wish for this decision. For if there were not so acute a danger, you would not place upon me the horror of a decision. Such vile coquetry is so far from the nobility of your sentiments. May you find peace, since we are not to be happy. There you are then at the point where for a year, you have wanted to be.
As to the nonsense people tell you, I do not care to take those feeble weapons away from your family You know yourself, and some day you will know better yet what those weapons are. But at least my heart is my own dear Aglaé. All that you are, all that I owe you, justifies my love and nothing, not even you, would keep me from adoring you.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Madame Tessé

To Madame de Tessé.
Monticello, December 8,1813.
While at war, my dear Madame and friend, with the leviathan of the ocean, there is little hope of a letter escaping his thousand ships ; yet I cannot permit myself longer to withhold the acknowledgment of your letter of June a 8 of the last year, with which came the memoirs of the Margrave of Bareuth. I am much indebted to you for this singular morsel of history which has given us a certain view of kings, queens and princes, disrobed of their formalities. It is a peep into the state of the Egyptian god Apis. It would not be easy to find grosser manners, coarser vices, or more meanness in the poorest huts of our peasantry: The princess shows herself the legitimate sister of Frederic, cynical, selfish, and without a heart. Notwithstanding your wars with England, I presume you get the publications of that country. The memoirs of Mrs. Clarke and of her darling prince, and the book, emphatically so called, because it is the Biblia Sacra Deorum et Dearum sub-coelestium, the Prince Regent, his Princess and the minor deities of his sphere, form a worthy sequel to the memoirs of Bareuth; instead of the vulgarity and penury of the court of Berlin, giving us the vulgarity and profusion of that of London, and the gross stupidity and profligacy of the latter, in lieu of the genius and misanthropism of the former. The whole might be published as a supplement to M. de Buffon, under the title of the " Natural History of Kings and Princes, " or as a separate work and called “Medicine for Monarchists: The Intercepted Letters," a later English publication of great wit and humor, has put them to their proper use by holding them up as butts for the ridicule and contempt of mankind. Yet by such worthless beings is a great nation to be governed and even made to deify their old king because he is only a fool and a maniac, and to forgive and forget his having lost to them a great and flourishing empire, added nine hundred millions sterling to their debt, for which the fee simple of the whole island would not sell, if offered farm by farm at public auction, and increased their annual taxes from eight to seventy millions sterling, more than the whole rent-roll of the island. What must be the dreary prospect from the son when such a father is deplored as a national loss. But let us drop these odious beings and pass to those of an higher order, the plants of the field. I am afraid I have given you a great deal more trouble than I intended by my inquiries for the Maronnier or Castanea Saliva, of which I wished to possess my own country, without knowing how rare its culture was even in yours. The two plants which your researches have placed in your own garden, it will be all but impossible to remove hither. The war renders their safe passage across the Atlantic extremely precarious, and, if landed anywhere but in the Chesapeake, the risk of the additional voyage along the coast to Virginia, is still greater. Under these circumstances it is better they should retain their present station, and compensate to you the trouble they have cost you. I learn with great pleasure the success of your new gardens at Auenay. No occupation can be more delightful or useful. They will have the merit of inducing you to forget those of Chaville. With the botanical riches which you mention to have been derived to England from New Holland, we are as yet unacquainted. Lewis's journey across our continent to the Pacific has added a number of new plants to our former stock. Some of them are curious, some ornamental, some useful, and some may by culture be made acceptable on our tables. I have growing, which I destine for you, a very handsome little shrub of the size of a currant bush. Its beauty consists in a great produce of berries of the size of currants, and literally as white as snow, which remain on the bush through the winter, after its leaves have fallen, and make it an object as singular as it is beautiful. We call it the snow-berry bush, no botanical name being yet given to it, but I do not know why we might not call it Chionicoccos, or Kallicoccos. All Lewis's plants are growing in the garden of Mr. McMahon, a gardener of Philadelphia, to whom I consigned them, and from whom I shall have great pleasure, when peace is restored, in ordering for you any of these or of our other indigenous plants. The port of Philadelphia has great intercourse with Bordeaux and Nantes, and some little perhaps with Havre. I was mortified not long since by receiving a letter from a merchant in Bordeaux, apologizing for having suffered a box of plants addressed by me to you, to get accidentally covered in his warehouse by other objects, and to remain three years undiscovered, when every thing in it was found to be rotten. I have learned occasionally that others rotted in the warehouses of the English pirates. We are now settling that account with them. We have taken their Upper Canada and shall add the Lower to it when the season will admit; and hope to remove them fully and finally from our continent. And what they will feel more, for they value their colonies only for the bales of cloth they take from them, we have established manufactures, not only sufficient to supersede our demand from them, but to rivalize them in foreign markets. But for the course of our war I will refer you to M. de Lafayette, to whom I state it more particularly. Our friend Mr. Short is well. He makes Philadelphia his winter quarters, and New York, or the country, those of the summer. In his fortune he is perfectly independent and at ease, and does not trouble himself with the party politics of our country. Will you permit me to place here for M. de Tesse the testimony of my high esteem and respect, and accept for yourself an assurance of the warm recollections I retain of your many civilities and courtesies to me, and the homage of my constant and affectionate attachment and respect.