Music, it seems, played a particularly significant role in his courtship of the rich young widow Martha Wayles Skelton. A biographer reports, “Two of Mr. Jefferson’s rivals happened to meet at Mrs. Skelton’s door-stone. They were shown into a room from which they heard her harpsichord and voice, accompanied by Mr. Jefferson’s violin and voice, in the passages of a touching song. They listened for a stanza or two. Whether something in the words, or in the tones of the singers appeared suggestive to them, tradition does not say, but it does aver that they took their hats and retired, to return no more on the same errand!” It’s not really surprising that Jefferson and Martha were wed on 1 January 1772.
Francesco Geminiani: 12 Concerti Grossi after Corelli, No. 7-12
Jefferson purchased a number of instruments, including a couple of harpsichords and a guitar for his granddaughter. Virginia Randolph Trist remembered, “I had for a long time a great desire to have a guitar. A lady of our neighborhood was going to the West, and wished to part with her guitar, but she asked so high a price that I never in my dreams aspired to its possession. One morning, on going down to breakfast, I saw the guitar. It had been sent up by Mrs. — for us to look at, and grandpapa told me that if I would promise to learn to play on it I should have it. I shall never forget my ecstasies. I was but fourteen years old, and the first wish of my heart was unexpectedly gratified.”
Jefferson passed his love for music to his daughter. “Do not neglect your music,” he writes, “it will be a companion which will sweeten many hours of life to you.” But what about Jefferson’s connection with Mozart? Joining Benjamin Franklin and John Adams as ministers in Europe, Jefferson spent five years in Paris working on trade agreements with England, Spain, and France. Recently widowed, Jefferson arranged to meet Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was visiting Paris. He was planning to commission a piece in memory of his late wife. However, Jefferson apparently was horrified by Mozart’s “ineptness and lack of grace. The gentleman is socially uncouth and frivolous,” he wrote. As such the commission never materialized, but Jefferson remained a lifelong devotee to Mozart’s “heavenly music.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Divertimento, K. 563