John T. Kirkland to Joseph Coolidge
|Dear Sir,||Cambridge Octr 12. 1826|
The American Academy of Arts & Sciences have assigned to me the interesting duty of preparing & delivering on the 30. of this month a Discourse designed in respectful notice of their deceased ex President Mr Adams & their Associate Mr Jefferson. I am especially to consider them in their intellectual & literary character & their patronage of Lettered Knowledge & the sciences—
With respect to Mr Jefferson his Summary view, Notes on Virginia & official & other published papers—with a few of the letters printed & incidental items of information from friends or visitors must furnish the materials. I cannot expect to go into the detail which is reserved for his special biographer.
There are one or two points upon which the observation of yourself, communicating with Mrs Coolidge would give me light.—
I would know whether he had learned French before he went minister to France—or whether he learned it there. Did he speak it fluently? Did he read either of the other modern languages of the literary nations—Italian German Spanish?—He had a great deal of Mechanical dexterity: & Mease of Philadelphia has a model of a plough which Mr Jefferson made with his own hands.In the biogrophy in Public characters 1801. Mr J. is said to have cultivated Musick & executed well;—in his early life, I suppose is meant—on what instruments was he a performer?—
I should like to give a few particulars of his agency in establishing the Virginia University—Will you favor me with any documents which you have on that subjects?—I have seen in the newspapers the first paper memoir or report of Mr Jefferson on that subject—also the laws.—I should be pleased if I could learn the present state of the Institution—
Excuse the trouble I may give you by such interrogations—please make my very respectful compliments to your lady &
P.S. I have always understood that Mr Jefferson had considerable knowledge of Greek. He did not apply himself to any of the oriental languages?