Gossip from Paris, 1780: John Paul Jones

Portrait of John Paul Jones
John Paul Jones, 1747-1792 / Comtesse de Lowendahl (1775-1839) / Watercolor on ivory, 1780 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, conserved with funds from the Smithsonian Women's Committee

Called to L’Orient to look after his ship, Jones wrote to the Comtesse that “nothing short of . . .duty to the glorious cause of freedom,” could have induced him to leave “while my heart urged me to stay.” He declared, “You have made me in love with my own picture because you have condescended to draw it.” Enclosing a lock of his hair, he proclaimed, “If I could send you my heart itself or anything else that could afford you pleasure it would be my happiness to do it.” He promised to send a cipher “for a key to our future correspondence so you will be able to write me very freely and without risk.”


The Comtesse, who apparently had entered into a flirtation with the thought that Jones might help her husband secure a command in the Continental army, abruptly drew back and told him, “I am touched by the feeling you have for me, and I would have liked to be able to answer them, but I could not do so without deceiving a gentleman with whom I live, and I am incapable of doing that.” Jones, “the most agreeable sea-wolf one could wish to meet with,” was left with only his miniature to remember her by.