Saturday, November 03, 2018


I Give Up Newspapers

Thomas Jefferson, letter to David Howell (December 15, 1810):
I read one or two newspapers a week, but with reluctance give even that time from Tacitus and Horace, and so much other more agreeable reading; indeed, I give more time to exercise of the body than of the mind, believing it wholesome to both.
Id., letter to John Adams (January 21, 1812):
But whither is senile garrulity leading me? Into politics, of which I have taken final leave. I think little of them and say less. I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid, and I find myself much the happier.
Id., letter to Charles Pinckney (February 2, 1812):
Age begins to press sensibly on me, and I leave politics to those of more vigor of body and mind. I give up newspapers for Horace and Tacitus, and withdraw my mind from contention of every kind...
Id., letter to Nathaniel Macon (January 12, 1819):
I read no newspaper now but Ritchie's, and in that chiefly the advertisements, for they contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper. I feel a much greater interest in knowing what has passed two or three thousand years ago, than in what is now passing. I read nothing, therefore, but of the heroes of Troy, of the wars of Lacedaemon and Athens, of Pompey and Caesar, and of Augustus too, the Bonaparte and parricide scoundrel of that day.
Despite strenuous efforts, I have not yet withdrawn my mind from contention, and so I take particular pleasure in quoting from Jefferson — some censorious prigs want to ban quotations from him at the university he founded, which is also my alma mater. See Derek Quizon, "Some students, staff want UVa to stop quoting Jefferson in campus communications," The Daily Progress (November 4, 2016).

Cf. Henry David Thoreau, letter to Parker Pillsbury (April 10, 1861):
Blessed are they who never read a newspaper, for they shall see Nature, and, through her, God.

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