We speak this week with President Jefferson about the art of letter writing. Prompted by a letter from a listener, Jefferson shares his insights on the process. The exact number of letters Jefferson wrote is not known, but it is safe to say he wrote in excess of 20,000.
This week's episode was inspired by a letter from Cameron Shorkey
- Monticello: Thomas Jefferson's Polygraph
- Founders Online: From Thomas Jefferson to Martha Jefferson, 11 December 1783
Jefferson’s letters are essentially works of art. If genius is “an infinite capacity for taking pains,” Jefferson was a genius, because he approached letter writing with the same commitment to excellence and mastery of detail as he did architecture, library science, paleontology, brick-making, and everything else in his long and amazing life. It would be impossible to imagine Jefferson with messy handwriting. It would literally be out of character for him. His letters are a window on his soul, and his soul was orderly.
Read this week's Jefferson Watch essay, "An Infinite Capacity for Taking Pains."