Featured Letter: The Season of Mince Pies
Thomas Jefferson very rarely mentions Christmas in his letters. He wrote often enough on that day, and on matters requiring sufficient complexity and length, that he clearly did not give the day over routinely to mirth and festivities. The letter below, however, shows that Jefferson’s household did expect seasonal fare to be prepared. Although he advised his neighbor, the formidable Mary “Captain Molly” Lewis, that he had to decline her offer to sell him some brandy, and he also dodged her request for an opinion of the best price to take for her wheat, Jefferson did not hesitate to ask her for some apples. Writing on Christmas Day, he specified that he wanted some sent back by the bearer of his note for immediate use, this being “the season of mince pies.”
The news of the embargo reached me yesterday. this rendering the hope of getting money for our crop more than doubtful, makes it necessary to avoid new money engagements. I am therefore obliged to decline taking the cask of your good old brandy which you were so kind as to offer. the same circumstance affects deeply the question on which you consulted me, whether you ought to take 3/9 for your wheat. I am really not now able to give an opinion. I will take the liberty of apply sending for some barrels of apples; and if a basket of them can now be sent by the bearer they will be acceptable and enable us as accomodated to the season of mince pies. Accept the assurance of my friendship & respect
PoC (MHi); at foot of text: "Mrs Lewis"; endorsed by TJ.
Posted January 2011. Reprinted from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, 7:78.