Headaches

Jefferson suffered from periodic headaches throughout his life. Passing mentions in his correspondence and entries in his account books give some idea of their frequency, severity, and treatment.

Primary Sources References

1764 March 20. (Jefferson to William Fleming). "I will endeavor to answer it as circumstantially as the hour of the night, and a violent head act, with which I have been afflicted these two days...My head achs, my candle is just going out..."[1]

1776 May 24. (Edmund Pendleton to Jefferson). "I am sorry to hear your pleasure at home was interrupted by an inveterate head ach..."[2]

1784 March 16. (Jefferson to James Madison). "I know he [Mazzei] will be worse to me than a return of my double quotidian head-ach."[3]

1784 May 10. "Pd. Dr. Murray in full L34--4."[4]

1784 May 17. "Pd. for...bark 3/9."[5]

1784 May 22. "Pd. Dr. Bass for bark 7/6."[6]

1784 March 1. (Jefferson to William Short). "Having to my habitual ill health, had lately added an attack of my periodical headach..."[7]

1784 June 8. "Pd. at Newhaven for 2. oz. bark 6/."</ref>MB, 1:552.</ref>

1790 May 1. "Pd. for 1.oz. bark 3/."[8]

1790 May 3. "Pd...4. 1 oz. bark 3/--7. Do. 3/."[9]

1790 May 10. "Pd. for washing 13/3--bark 3/."[10]

1790 June 4. "Pd. for oz. red bark 3/6."[11]

1790 June 13. "I have been prevented acknoleging sooner the receipt of yours of April 30, by an attack of the periodical head ach which came on me the 1st. of May, and has not yet quitted me. The first week was vilent, the rest has been moderate nad for these 10. days past I have been able to do business."[12]

1790 June 13. "I am to return you thanks for your kind favor of May 28. which found me so far recovered as to have no further occasion for medecine. It was the first time the bark had ever failed to remove my complaint very speedily."[13]

1791 June 23. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "I am in hopes the relaxation it gave me from business has fred me from the almost constant headach with which I had been persecuted thro the whole winter and spring."[14]

1807 March 16. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "The remains of a bad cold hang on me, and for a day or two past some symptoms of periodical head-ache."[15]

1807 March 20. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "I am now in the 7th day of a periodical head-ach, and I write this in the morning before the fit has come on."[16]

1807 March 20. (Jefferson to Albert Gallatin). "Indeed, I have but a little moment in the morning in which I can either read, write, or think; being obliged to be shut up in a dark room from early in the forenoon till night, with a periodical headach."[17]

1807 March 23. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "My fits of head-ach have shortened from 9 hours to 5. but they have stuck some days at 5. hours, and when they will give further way cannot be divined."[18]

1807 March 27. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "My fit of yesterday was so mild that I have some hope of missing it to-day. I write this in the morning, but will keep it open till the evening to add the result of the day...P.S. Afternoon. I have scarcely had any sensation of a fit to-day: so that I consider it as missed."[19]

1808 March 29. (Jefferson to Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge). "I must here close, being under an attack of periodical head-ach. It began on Friday last. Sunday it was severe. Yesterday more moderate so that I hope it is on the wane. About an hour in the morning is all the time I have to write in the day."[20]

1808 April 3. (Jefferson to Cornelia Jefferson Randolph). "I mentioned in my letter of last week to Ellen that I was under an attack of periodical head-ach. This is the 10th. day. It has been very moderate and yesterday did not last more than 3. hours."[21]

1808 April 12. (Jefferson to Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge). "I am entirely recovered of my head-ach."[22]

Footnotes

  1. PTJ, 1:15-16.
  2. Ibid, 1:296.
  3. Ibid, 7:30.
  4. MB, 1:547.
  5. Ibid, 1:548.
  6. Ibid, 1:549.
  7. PTJ, 6:570.
  8. MB, 1:756.
  9. Ibid, 1:757.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid, 1:758.
  12. PTJ, 16:487.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid, 20:568.
  15. Family Letters, 302.
  16. Ibid, 304.
  17. L&B, 11:165-166.
  18. Family Letters, 304.
  19. Ibid, 305.
  20. Ibid, 338.
  21. Ibid, 339.
  22. Ibid, 340.

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Discussion

says

I can relate--this list of quotes could be a list of status updates from my own FB page!

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