Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Head and The Heart!

Ah, romance! On this day, October 12, 1786, a lovesick Thomas Jefferson composed a romantic and thoughtful letter to Maria Cosway, who he met in Paris while he was serving as US minister to France. She was English by birth, but lived in Italy at the time. She was an accomplished painter and musician, AND she was also married. But, Jefferson was smitten. They had developed a deep friendship, but eventually he, a lonely widower, was head over heels.No wonder, she was quite the beauty, and being rather worldly, she was up to his intellectual capacity as well. Little is given away as to the intimacy of this relationship.

His famous letter, entitled "A Dialogue between the Head and the Heart" chronicles his ecstasy and his misery. He pines for someone who has made him "the most wretched of all earthly beings". Then he chastises himself for being so emotionally swept away.  He studies Desire v. Integrity. The letter is quite long , though see below a part of it.
He ends by stating that "security against such pain of unrequited love is to retire within ourselves and to suffice for our own happiness." Let it be, let it be!

Later, in 1789, after her husband died, she opened, in Italy, a convent school for girls. And Thomas moved on the presidency, and a hushed, yet scandalous, affair with his mixed race slave, Sally Hemings.

By the way, the movie Jefferson in Paris, a Merchant Ivory film (1995), is an interesting take on the subject. Nick Nolte plays a credible Jefferson; Greta Scacchi, passionate as Cosway. It is lush and beautifully filmed on location in Paris and at Versailles.
It's a guilt pleasure!

1 comment:

  1. Thats so cool to see his actual handwriting. This makes me want to watch Jefferson in Paris :)