Posted on 12 October 2012
On this day in 1786, a lovesick Thomas Jefferson composes a romantic and introspective letter to a woman named Maria Cosway.
Early in 1786, widower Thomas Jefferson met Maria Cosway in Paris while he was serving as the U.S. minister to France. Cosway was born to English parents in Italy and, by the time she met Jefferson, had become an accomplished painter and musician. She was also married. The two developed a deep friendship and possibly more, although a sexual relationship has never been proven. The usually self-contained Jefferson acted like a giddy schoolboy during their relationship, at one point leaping over a stone fountain while the two were out walking and falling and breaking his right wrist. After the wrist healed, a chagrined Jefferson sat down and wrote a now-famous love letter to Mariah, who had just departed Paris for London with her husband for an undetermined time. The letter revealed him to be a lovesick man whose intellect battled with a heart aching for a woman he could not have.