Catharine “Kitty” Livingston, sister-in-law to John Jay, wrote to him in Paris soon after the treaty of peace, which he helped negotiate, was signed ending the Revolutionary War. Details about the Jays’ son Peter, who had been left behind in the care of the Livingstons, were certainly of interest to his parents.
By the enclosed letter you will see its determined that Master Peter stays with us this Winter. He is very ambitious to write equal to his Aunt Susan his instructer. This morning, as I was looking over him, I read his copy for the day—Commend virtuous deeds. I must do more than that, says he, I must imitate them. He has read Robinson Crusoe and Don Quixote. He is now reading Nature Delineated and is exceedingly pleased with the natural History they contain. He begins his exercise of the day and closes the same with reading a few Chapters in the Bible. He has learned many of the hymns in the book you sent him and frequently expresses a great desire to see you and his Mamma. He enjoys good health and is often complimented with having his Mamma’s complexion. It is indeed sun and frost proof. His under teeth are like Sally’s, the upper ones that have made their appearance are rather larger, they are perfectly white, but foul the soonest of any I ever saw. As we have paid attention to drawing the decayed and those that were in the way, they have every chance of being sound and well cut. …
Kiss Sally and the sweet babes for me, and I’ll pay you with interest when we have the pleasure of meeting. Mamma, Susan and Peter unite with me in Love to Sister and you. Your Affectionate Friend and Sister. C. W. L.
Having lost a baby in Madrid, Sally Jay gave birth to two girls in Paris: Maria and Ann, known as Nancy. It is hard to believe that Peter, at the tender age of seven, could have read books like Don Quixote, let alone Nature Delineated, a book of philosophical conversations. The Jays returned to the United States in 1784; they resided in New York City where John took up the duties of minister for foreign affairs.
The excerpt is from Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay, pages 162-63.
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