As his wife, Martha, lay dying at the age of 34, Thomas Jefferson and she took turns copying out by hand this passage from the Laurence Sterne novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman. Martha wrote:
“Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity life follows my pen, the days and hours of it are flying over our heads like clouds of a windy day never to return more–everything presses on–
Thomas completed the passage:
“–and every time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, every absence which follows it, are preludes to that eternal separation which we are shortly to make.