Showing posts with label Richard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Richard. Show all posts

15 December 2019

Jefferson in Love


Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826
Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826
Benjamin Franklin may have been a young America’s philosophical sensualist, the ladies’s man of our founding fathers, but Thomas Jefferson had his moments. One of them occurred– where else– but France. In 1784, Franklin tugged Jefferson to Europe as a newly minted diplomat of a fledgling nation reaching out to skeptical countries with hundreds of years of history behind them.

Jefferson was suffering trying times. He recently lost his wife Martha and another daughter and would soon lose yet another. In all, Jefferson fathered eight daughters and two sons, but death took its toll upon his children. Throwing himself into duties of state brought a welcome respite from personal woes.

In France, Jefferson fell in love with its people, the arts, the architecture, and the land. And then he fell in love.

Less than two years into his stay, Jefferson met 27-year-old Maria Cosway. English although Italian born, she was smart, witty, pretty, an accomplished musician and artist, multilingual with a Tuscan accent, supremely talented… and… married. A marriage of convenience, as it turned out, but still married.

Richard Cosway, 1742-1821
Richard Cosway, 1742-1821
She’d wedded English portrait artist Richard Cosway, quite the rouĂ©, reputedly a libertine in his younger days and a lecher in elder years. In an artistic sideline, he painted erotic miniatures. Their marriage was not one of romantic delight; far from it.

On an extended holiday in Paris, she was ripe, as the gossips declaim, as was he. Jefferson fell for her hard, and she tumbled for him. How physically far the relationship went that season remains a private mystery of history.

The feelings certainly ran emotionally deep. Even as Jefferson succumbed to his duties as envoy, then Secretary of State, Vice President, President, and numerous post-political accomplishments, Cosway never let the flame she carried flicker out.

After they parted in October 1786, Jefferson wrote a lengthy letter of love. Next time we’ll publish this four-thousand word tome of emotion, his now famous ‘Dialogue Between his Head and his Heart’.

Maria Cosway, 1760-1838
Maria Cosway, 1760-1838
Maria, already smitten, wrote she spent “an hour to consider every word, to every sentence [she] could write a volume.”

In 1789, Jefferson returned to the struggling United States to serve as Washington’s Secretary of State, before being elected to office. Cosway continued gathering renown for her accomplishments. They continued writing one another across the miles and years.

Still corresponding thirty-five years later, Maria was 62 and Jefferson 78. She wrote of their unfulfilled love for one another. “In your Dialogue, your head would tell me, ‘That is enough,’ [but] your heart perhaps will understand, I might wish for more.”

Next week, Jefferson’s famous letter– it’s dense to modern ADD readers, but worth learning the most personal thoughts of the man who would become our third President of the United States.