Wythe to Thomas Jefferson, 10 January 1786

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"Wythe to Thomas Jefferson, 10 January 1786, pg 1." Image from the Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers.

Letter text, 10 January 1786

Page 1

GW to TJ

My neighbor Madison, just now, sent to me a pacquet, which i perceived by the superscription, to have come from you; a favour little descried by one who had not writen to you since you crossed the atlantic. I will not say what was the cause of this silence; but can swear; that the cause was not forgetfulness of you, nor want of good will for you. Before i opened the pacquet, observing it to contain books, i hoped to see the copy of one, with a cursory reading of which i had then lately been delighted. You will know what book i mean, when i tell you, that he, who indulged me with the reading of it informed me, that the author had not yet resolved to publish it. I shall rejoice to find myself judged worthy one of those copies already printed, if there will

Page 129 of The Tragedies of Aeschylus (1746), with the line "οὐ γὰρ δοκεῖν ἄριστος, ἀλλ᾽ εἶναι θέλει," from Seven Against Thebes.

Page 2

"Wythe to Thomas Jefferson, 10 January 1786, pg 2." Image from the Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers.

will be no more. I wish to get the arms of Taliaferro, which, from information, i believe to have been a tuscan family, engraven on a copper-plate, with this motto Oϒ ΔOKEIN APIΣTOΣ AΛΛ’ EINAI, and the name Richard Taliaferro. But i would not have this done, if it can not be without giving you trouble, nor unless you will order to whom here i shall repay the cost. Perhaps the motto, taken from Aeschylus (επτα επι Θηβαις six. 598) would be sufficient without αριζοζ.[1] If you think so, leave out that word. Adieu. 10 jan. 1786. Williamsburgh.

See also


  1. This line from Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes concerns the commander [[wikipedia:Amphiaraus|]], whose shield has no sigil, since he "wants to be, not to seem, the best." Wythe's shortening (and leaving out "best") renders the motto, "Not to seem but to be." See William Buckner McGroarty, "The Taliaferro Family," William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine 4, no. 3 (July 1924), 192.