Marie Jacinthe de Botidoux to Martha Jefferson (Randolph)

editorial note

The text that follows is part of what Botidoux referred to as one of her “journal” letters. The Editors have broken this manuscript, which spans nearly three months, into sections dated as Botidoux dated them, and grouped each transcription together with its translation. Unless otherwise noted, Botidoux’s original punctuation and spelling have been retained. Links to navigate from one dated section to another appear below.

To “journal” beginning 4 Nov. 1789To previous “journal” entry 15 Nov. 1789To next “journal” entry 21 Dec. 1789

15 Decembre [1789]

Mon journal n’est pas bien exact Comme tu vois Mais en verité ma chere C’est que je suis fort embarassée, tantot je pense que je t’ennuye en te racontant des choses qui ne sont pas plus plaisantes et que [. . .] Ces details ne t’interessent pas du tout, ensuite je me ressouviens de nos arrangements et que Lorsque j’allois te voir chez ton pere tout Cela t’amusoit, [. . .] ma chere pour arranger Cela dis moi dans ta premiere Lettre, Ce qui t’aura ennuyée Les choses sur Lesquelles tu veux plus de detail enfin Corriges ma Lettre à ta fantaisie,=

Les projets de Bath sont changés elle va actuellement passer à L’isle de France avec Lançon qui va epouser un homme de Ce pays, bien entendu quelle aura la fortune en poche pour La faire valoir elle s’amuse toujours beaucoup chez Mde De vergennes, j’y ai aussi retourné plusieurs fois malgré L’ennui que j’y avois eu, tu ne te fais pas d’idée du ton de Ces dlles, elles sont a se Chatouiller avec les mrs a se battre enfin L’autre jour elles se sont trainées en Cabriolet comme tu sais que Les petites de La Classe Le font quelque fois, C’est au point que j’en suis toute deconcertée Car Comme tu peux te L’imaginer je ne me mêle pas de Ces gentillesses, Cependant je me suis un peu amusée La derniere fois primo C’est que j’y ai fait deux Conquêtes Ce qui me rend fort orgueilleuse Car j’etois en très grand negligé et Ces dlles en grande parure et puis C’est que j’ai Causé presque toute La soirée avec un de Ces mrs qui n’est n’etoit pas ainsi que moi Curieux de se battre et se faire trainer aussi Ces dlles ne L’aiment-t-elles1 pas—[. . .] tous Les jeunes gens devoient revenir dejeuner avec nous Le Lendemain mais Comme j’avois un billet pour L’assemblée j’ai parti Les 7 heures du Matin, Lorsqu’ils sont arrivés, Le premier a demandé tout haut mais d’un air tout étonné, Comment! Mlle B. n’est pas ici, L’autre a fait beaucoup plus rire Car [. . .] il a pris un de Ces mrs a L’ecart et Lui a demandé à L’oreille ou j’etois, on a beaucoup ri de Leur surprise et Moi Comme tu [. . .] pens[es] je m’en suis fort amusée. peut être Les reverrai-je Ce soir. j’ai fait aussi une grande Connoissance avec Le Vte De mirabeau nous nous disputons Comme deux diables Car il est aristocrate decidé, tu ne te fais pas d’idée d’un homme de sa Laideur il est gros comme un tonneau de petites jambes et de petites Cuisses grosse Comme mon bras un ventre qui Lui tombe jusqu’aux genoux, des joues si pendantes qu’on ne Lui voit point du tout de Cou, une Cœffure Large Comme un boisseau et encore avec des cheveux qui n’ont surement jamais eu de papillotes Car ils sont tous herissés, mais il est bien dedommagé du Coté de L’esprit Car il est très aimable surtout si grand faiseur de Compliments que je ne sais que Lui repondre, L’autre jour on parloit de L’abbé Mauri je m’adressai à Lui pour Lui demander par quel hazard Cet abbé qui etoit si generallement meprisé L’année derniere etoit [. . .] porté aux nues Celle Ci. tout Le monde resta stupefait de mon Compliment Ma chere C’est que Cet abbé est L’ami intime de mr Le vte de mirabeau tu peux juger Combien je fus deconcertée quand on me L’eut dit, il ne fit qu’en rire et me dit seulement que je ne pouvois pas L’aimer puisqu’il etoit aristocrate

Le Cte Charles de Lameth a été il y a près de 6 semaines faire une visite à L’annonciade ou on pretendoit que mr De Barentin etoit Caché Ce qui ne s’est pas trouvé vrai, on a fait sur Cette expedition une brochure qui est La plus delicieuse chose du monde je te L’enverray avec quelques autres. C’est une parodie de La henriade tout a fait plaisante—Curson m’a écrit Le 4 de Ce mois qu’elle venoit de recevoir une de tes Lettres de L’isle de wi Wight, tu y as donc retourné retourné Car voila Long tems que tu m’avois écrit au moment de partir—je ne Concois pas que depuis trois mois il n’y ait pas eu une occasion pour L’amerique, j’espere que mr shurt ne m’oubliera pas du moins je Le Lui ai bien recommandé, nous avons eu une fête pour L’abbesse Comme L’année derniere C’est a dire qu’on a dressé devant elle une grande table ou etoit du Caffé du sucre, du vin de Liqueur & C’est un bouquet charmant que Celui La. Comme Les tems sont très mauvais nous n’aurons point de tasse mais on nous a donné des Bources des portefeuilles & pour ma part j’ai eu un sac a ouvrage de satin rose garni en frange—Ma sœur est enfin Mariée et si heureuse, qu’unie à L’homme quelle aime son Cœur ne peut suffire à son bonheur, Ce Sont Ses termes, nest ce pas La du romanesque tout pur. a propos de romanesque nous avions bien deviné Le seigneur noidain etoit amoureux de dublanc il est parti et de son superbe Chateau il Lui écrivoit qu’il n’osoit pas Lui dire tout Ce qu’il adoroit en elle. je vais après demain chez Mde Du blanc je t’acheverai2 de voir Les Lettres pour t’en faire part—notre Correspondance Continue entre Les Ladies Tuftons et Moi, je me suis mise sur le ton de Leur dire des folies de manière que je ne suis plus si embarassée,

editors’ translation

15 December [1789]

As you can see, my journal is not very precise, but, to tell you the truth, my dear, it is because I am greatly embarrassed. Sometimes I think that I bore you by telling you things that are not more amusing, and that these details do not interest you at all. Then I remember our old ways and that, when I went to see you at your father’s place, all those details amused you. To settle that, my dear, tell me in your first letter what you have found boring, the things about which you want more details, in a word, correct my letter according to what you fancy==

Bath’s plans are changed. She will presently go to the Île de France with Lançon, who is going to marry a man from that country. Of course, with her fortune in her pocket she will be able to make the most of it. She always has a lot of fun at Mde de Vergennes’s. I also went back there several times despite the boredom I had there. You can have no idea of the manners of these young ladies. They tickle one another with these gentlemen and fight over them. Finally, the other day they dragged themselves around, in the manner of a cabriolet, like you know the little girls in the schools do sometimes. I am at the point where I am altogether disconcerted, because, as you can imagine, I do not meddle in these frivolities. I did, however, have a little fun the last time. First, because I made two conquests, which makes me very proud, because I was dressed very casually and the other young ladies were all dressed in their finery, and also because I talked almost all evening long with one of these gentlemen who was not, as I was not, interested in fighting or being dragged around. So these young ladies do not like him. All the young people were supposed to come back to have lunch with us the day after, but as I had a ticket for the Assembly, I left at 7 in the morning. When they arrived, the first gentleman asked in a loud voice, looking surprised: “Why! Mlle B. is not here?” Another made everyone laugh because he took one of the gentlemen aside and whispered in his ear, asking where I was. Everyone had a big laugh over their surprise, and I, as you can well imagine, was quite amused myself. Perhaps I will see them again this evening. I have also developed quite an acquaintance with the vicomte de Mirabeau. We argue like two devils, because he is a staunch aristocrat. You cannot imagine a man as ugly as he is. He is as big as a barrel, with small legs and small thighs the size of my arm, a stomach that falls all the way down to his knees, jowls that hang down so low that one cannot see his neck at all, a coiffure the size of a bushel and also hair that surely never saw curlpaper because it is all frizzy. But he is well compensated for it intellectually, because he is quite amiable and, above all, such a compliment-maker that I know not how to respond to him. The other day we were talking about the Abbé Maury. I turned to him and asked what could possibly explain the fact that this abbé, who was so generally despised last year, was praised to the skies this year. Everybody was stunned by my compliment, my dear, because this abbé is a close friend of the vicomte de Mirabeau. You can imagine how disconcerted I was when I was told of this. He only laughed and told me that I could not like him, since he is an aristocrat

About 6 weeks ago, comte Charles de Lameth went to visit the Annonciade, where Mr de Barentin was allegedly hiding, which was found not to be true. Someone wrote a pamphlet about the expedition. It is the most delightful thing in the world. I will send it to you with a few other pamphlets. It is a very amusing parody of La Henriade—On the 4th of this month Curzon wrote me that she had just received one of your letters from the Isle of Wight. This means you must have gone back there, because you wrote me long ago when you were leaving—I cannot believe that for three months there has not been an opportunity to sail to America. I hope that Mr Short will not forget my request. At least I asked him repeatedly. We had a party for the abbess like last year, that is to say, we set a large table for her, with coffee, sugar, liqueur and wine as a grand finale. Since the times are very bad, we will not receive cups, but we were given purses and wallets. I got a needlework bag in pink satin trimmed with fringe—My sister is finally married and so happy to be joined to the man she loves that her heart cannot cope with her happiness, to use her words. Does that not sound like pure romance? Apropos of romance, we had guessed well. Lord Noidain was in love with Dublanc. He has left, and from his superb chateau, he wrote her that he did not dare tell her all that he adored in her. The day after tomorrow I am going to Mde Dublanc’s. I will try to read the letters to let you know about them—The correspondence continues between the Ladies Tufton and myself. I have reached a point where I can say all sorts of silly things to them, and so I no longer feel so awkward.

To next “journal” entry 21 Dec. 1789

RC (ViU: Botidoux Letters, # 5385-aa); partially dated; quotation marks in translation editorially supplied. Translation by Dr. Roland H. Simon.

Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, was known as the Île de France (l’isle de france) when France held it, 1715–1810. dlles: “demoiselles.” The brochure was La Prise du couvent des Annonciades, ou Filles Bleues de Paris (Taking the Convent of the Annonciades, or Blue Girls of Paris), by Charles Françoise, marquis de Bonnay [Paris, 1789], a satirical telling of Charles de Lameth’s search, with soldiers of the National Guard of Paris, for Charles de Barentin among the nuns of the convent. la henriade [London, 1728], Voltaire’s epic poem on the life of Henry IV, focused particularly on that man’s role in the 1589 siege of Paris. Martha, with her father Thomas Jefferson, sister Maria, and the enslaved Sally Hemings and James Hemings, sailed for america from Le Havre, France, on 8 Oct. 1789, arriving at Cowes, Isle of Wight, early the next day. While there they stayed at the Fountain Inn and visited Newport and nearby Carisbrooke Castle. Embarking aboard the Clermont at noon on 22 Oct., they anchored off Yarmouth until sailing early the next morning, and arrived in Norfolk, Virginia, on 23 Nov 1789 (James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826 [1997], 1:745–7).

1Manuscript: “L’aime-t-elle.”
2Manuscript: “t’acherais.”