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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
The Greeks Us / Greece in West  

Thomas Jefferson, Ease of body, tranquillity of mind

From Correspondence: to John Adams, on political parties


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   THE summum bonum with me is now truly epicurean, ease of body and tranquillity of mind; and to these I wish to consign my remaining days. Men have differed in opinion, and been divided into parties by these opinions, from the first origin of societies, and in all governments where they have been permitted freely to think and to speak. The same political parties which now agitate the United States, have existed through all time. Whether the power of the people or that of the aristoi should prevail, were questions which kept the States of Greece and Rome in eternal convulsions, as they now schismatize every people whose minds and mouths are not shut up by the gag of a despot. And, in fact, the terms of whig and tory belong to natural as well as to civil history. They denote the temper and constitution of mind of different individuals.


    I enjoy Homer in his own language infinitely beyond Pope's translation of him, and both beyond the dull narrative of the same events by Dares Phrygius; and it is an innocent enjoyment. I thank on my knees, him who directed my early education, for having put into my possession this rich source of delight; and I would not exchange it for anything which I could then have acquired, and have not since acquired. (Letter to Priestley, Jan. 27, 1800).

"When young, any composition pleases which unites a little sense, some imagination, and some rhythm, in doses however small. But as we advance in life these things fall off one by one, and I suspect that we are left at last with only Homer and Virgil, and perhaps with Homer alone." (1786)

Also, Jefferson's grandchildren paraphrased him as saying, "If he had to decide between the pleasure derived from the classical education which his father had given him, and the estate left him, he would decide in favor of the former." And a granddaughter noted: "I saw him more frequently with a volume of the classics in hand than with any other book".

   Cf.  Samuel Johnson's, Prepare for eternity     Thanks to Hampden-Sydney College for giving us Jefferson's texts 

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