Extract from Thomas Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph

of all the cankers of human happiness, none corrodes it with so silent, yet so baneful a tooth, as indolence. body & mind both unemployed, our being becomes a burthen, & every object about us loathsome, even the dearest. idleness begets ennui, ennui the hypochondria, & that a diseased body. no laborious person was ever yet hysterical. exercise & application produce order in our affairs, health of body, chearfulness of mind, & these make us precious to our friends. it is while we are young that the habit of industry is formed, if not then, it never is afterwards. the fortune of our lives therefore depends on employing well the short period of youth. if at any moment, my dear, you catch yourself [. . .] in idleness, start from it as you would from a precipice of a gulph. you are not however to consider yourself unemployed while taking exercise. that is necessary for your health, and health is the first of all objects.

PrC (MHi). Published in PTJ, 11:250–1.
Date Range
March 28, 1787
Quote Category