Jefferson, Maria Cosway, and their “Jours Heureux”

Happy day, enchanted hope,
charming reward for such a tender love;
I shall see her, I shall hear her,
I shall rediscover happiness.

— aria from Sacchini's opera Dardanus

In 1782, Thomas Jefferson traveled to Paris to as a trade ambassador. While there he eagerly partook of the cultural and social offerings of the city. He was introduced to Mrs. Maria Cosway, a talented artist and musician. They subsequently spent part of nearly every day together for a month. Among their activities was the Parisian opera, where they experienced works of one of its rising composers Antonio Sacchini. Soon after Maria’s departure from Paris in 1786, Jefferson sent her a copy of the aria Jour Heureux from Sacchini’s opera Dardanus.

With the copy Jefferson sent of the aria to Mrs. Cosway, Jefferson wrote, “I send you the song I promised. Bring me in return its subject, Jours Heureux!” She responded by sending him a collection of songs of her own composition which she recently had published.

An arrangement of this aria was published in an 18th century Parisian anthology. We have included a facsmile of it for your downloading enjoyment. More on Jefferson's musical life can be found in our “Jefferson's Music” podcast.