Joseph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph

I began a letter to you, dear Mother, some days since, and have carried it half written ’till this moment; and now that I had determined to finish it for tomorrow’s mail it is no where to be found: And so to put an end to my long silence, and to keep the promise voluntarily given to Ellen to write you before I sleep, here I am at my desk just as every one else is going to his bed. Many things have kept me silent, tho. your kindest of letters deserved an immediate answer; incessant visiting, which calls for by far too great a portion of my time, together with some anxiety about my Father’s health; and the result of a negotiation into wh. I have entered, of late, with one whom I am to succeed in a business wh. has hitherto been profitable, and promises to continue so, have left me but little liesure for writing to you as I could wish—: but I will lose no time in apologies—but go onto say that we are pleasantly established in the fashionable part of Boston; that our house is good, and our friends numerous; Ellen’s sweet conduct having secured the goodwill of all: that to make us more contented nothing is wanting but the presence of some one of the family at Monticello;—and this is wanted; for, as I am necessarily much absent during the day, and calls of ceremony or tedious things, it would be a great comfort to us both if Cornelia or Mary were here to share Ellen’s lonely moments; indeed so much have I felt this, and feared that it might give her a distaste for Boston —the being so much alone—that I had almost determined to ask as matter of favor that one of the sisters might be spared us for the winter at least—; but of this shall write you when my Bro. goes South: your letters do much, however, to alieve the anxiety wh. E. feels about the health of those she has left—; and, although I am sure that no opportunity of writing is ever neglected, I cannot refrain from entreating all with you to let us hear as often as possible.In many respects the fears wh. E entertained about a residence here will prove groundless—; the climate is better far than she anticipated, and would she consent but to take the precautions universally adopted by our northern ladies, she would suffer but little inconvenience from it. In her domestics, too, she has been tolerably fortunate; one of them, her own woman, is invaluable! she is beginning too, to discover that our claims to the character of a rational hospitality are not, as she supposed, wholly unfounded; and, if not quite satisfied with the politics “of these parts” is, at least, not disappointed in the views of religion wh. she finds to exist among us—: indeed, I do not despair of altogether of making her something of a Yankee, yet: for she has not seen those establishments upon wh. we found our claims to distinction; our public schools, and hospitals, and various manufactories—; she has not even seen the more beautiful parts of [. . .] the city in wh. she lives; because, being favor devoted entirely to Commerce, during the week they are too public, and crowded, and her Sundays have been always otherwise occupied: [. . .] The university of Cambridge is known to her but by name; but its valuable library, and cabinets of natural history of with its philosophical instruments, and laboratory, will afford her pleasure hereafter:—But she will not love Virginia less because she loves Boston more than formerly; her affections are two strongly given to the South to be soon eradicated; and it cannot be desired to offer, to one of the leading principles of her mind, the imagination as much, if not more, than the systematic and well-organized north. But I need not tell you dear Mother that she loves you with a fervour not to be shaken, and that ’tis no small happiness to us to have such a sentiment in common; for truth bears me out in saying that few live who are so dear to me, also, as the family with whom she has connected me.Some days since I had a delightful letter from Nicholas, and mean to answer it; tell him I think much of him, but can convince him of it only by my efforts to obtain a piano for him whose excellence shall shew that it his commission was properly attended to: indeed if the one now in view, proves to be good as it promises, (it is not yet finished,) there will be few I fancy to compare with it in Virginia: tell him that I shall insure it from Boston to Richmond, for this late accident, dear Mother, has given us abundant regret; most unfortunately, the three other vessels then in port were passed by, and the Washington selected by M Peyton; of her loss you have heard by a memorandum of mine upon the envelop of Ellen’s last, but we are not absolutely without hope; for we hear that, being loaded with Cotton and flour, the vessel did not sink, and instructions have been sent from this place, where she was insured, to tow her in to Philadelphia; and I have written to a friend there to use every effort to ascertain the certainty of our loss. How often have I looked at the vacant shelves wh. her long-looked for books were to fill, and thought of the little [. . .] Cup wh. was to decorate her table, and of the keepsakes of her friends—! and, still more, the letters of her mother, and her grandfather—! I can only cry pazienza, with the Italians, and submit to what I cannot change; and this recalls to mind the fire wh. has just occurred here; I confess had it destroyed, as I feared it would, some stores of my father wh. were uninsur’d, my submission would not have been in silence; the tableau prints will tell you of the extent of the conflagration;—[. . .] our lawyers are the principal sufferers; and among them is my Bro. whose small library he was valued at $1000:—more than 20.000 dls of law books were burned!I am very glad that all goes on well at the University; the notice of the difficulties there attracted some [. . .] attention here, but I gave the best acct. of the matter, with wh. Gd P. had furnished me: We are obliged to unorganize ours, in order to repress a too licentious spirit among the students; who, however, study well.

I have been wishing for sometime to write to Col. Randolph, and shall not fail to do so when any thing occurs of a nature to interest him; I wish it were in my power to be of use to him by inquiries, or otherwise, pray remember me to him, and to Jefferson also, and beg Nicholas to assure Dr. Dunglison of my regard, and congratulations.I have written, dear Mother, until the lamps flicker, and Ellen, who has long been in her chamber, will wonder what can have become of me; I ought to have begun earlier, but have been looking over the life of R. H. Lee, just recd—will you thank dear Virginia for the pains she took to copy the “arrangement”, I mentioned; and say to Cornelia & Mary that one of them must prepare to come to us soon; and that Mary must keep the Lerochefoucault belonging to Ellen, for my sake, as I have a copy wh. shall take its place—: dear Mother, present me most gratefully to Gd Pa. whom I am anxious to see again—, and to friends far, and near;

affectionately, Yr Son—
J: C Jr

is Col. Carr well? and all at Ashton?

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); addressed: “To Mrs Randolph: Monticello Charlottesville, Albemarle Cy Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Boston 12 Nov.