The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


It is very long, my dear sir, since I have written to you. My dislocated wrist is now become so stiff that I write slow and with pain, and therefore write as little as I can. Yet it is due to mutual friendship to ask once in a while how we do. The papers tell us that General Stark * is off at the age of ninety-three. Charles Thomson still lives at about the same age, cheerful, slender as a grasshopper, and so much without memory that he scarcely recognizes the members of his house-hold. An intimate friend of his called on him not long since; it was difficult to make him recollect who he was, and, sitting one hour, he told him the same story four times over. Is this life? …

It is at most but the life of a cabbage; surely not worth a wish. When all our faculties have left, or are leaving us, one by one -- sight, hearing, memory -- every avenue of pleasing sensation is closed, and athumy, debility, and malaise left in their places -- when friends of our youth are all gone, and a generation is risen around us whom we know not, is death an evil?

I really think so. I have ever dreaded a doting old age; and my health has been generally so good, and is now so good, that I dread it still. The rapid decline of my strength during the last winter has made me hope sometimes that I see land. During summer I enjoy its temperature, but I shudder at the approach of winter, and wish I could sleep through it with the dormouse, and only wake with him in spring, if ever. They say that Stark could walk about his room. I am told you walk well and firmly. I can only reach my garden, and that with sensible fatigue. I ride, however, daily. But reading is my delight. I should wish never to put pen to paper; and the more because of the treacherous practice some people have of publishing one's letters without leave.

to John Adams, 1 June 1822