Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph

I had intended to have written to Virginia by this mail, dearest mother, but your letter of the 16. has determined me to delay for another week writing to her, as I fear I shall not have time for both. & wish to answer you. the captain of the brig Washington is in Boston, & from him we have learnt the particulars of our loss. the storm was a terrific one, the vessel completely destroyed, & the crew saved with difficulty. of the cargo, one barrel of flour was the only thing rescued from the waves; my trunks were dashed to pieces in the captain’s sight, who saw the books & papers actually ground into a paste (by the violence with which they were whirled around within the wreck,) & as the old sailor expressed it, looking like one of like the pulverised rag of a paper mill. it is useless to say any thing more about this unfortunate accident; I was very sure you would be as much grieved as I was myself, & this still embittered the sense of my loss, in proportion however as I lament what is gone, I rejoice in the little that was saved. the dear old chess men, (which you must not send to me until you can get another set for the use of the family) poor Gov. Lewis’s furs, but above all my precious little Paraclete seem to me now like the remainder of the Sybil’s books, above all price; I even the odd volumes of books, of my little library will be henceforward dear to me as the relicks of saints, & when I return home next summer, I dare say I shall find in my old hiding places, some odds & ends rendered valuable by their being my property in former times, although then, perhaps, despised & disregarded. Joseph is extremely pleased with the promise of the desk which he regards as something sacred, I shall be very glad of the pincushion, & we both return our thanks to dear Cornelia for the portmontres , which I hope she will succeed in completing. Joseph found a little volume at one of the book stores the other day, & thinking it might suit her, brought it home for my examination: upon looking it over, I fancied it was what she has been wanting, to give her the rudiments of mathematicks, as applied to the art of drawing, & we accordingly laid it by for her; and I think I must venture to enclose it to grandpapa by mail; it will make but a very small packet. it grieves me, dearest mother, that you should speak of the loss of my things as disconnecting me in some sort with “an unfortunate family”. alas! I chiefly prized them as associated with my fond recollections of that beloved family those cherished friends, to whom in weal or in woe I still belong shall never cease to cling with the most devoted love. no change of name or place can change a woman’s heart, & I still feel myself as much belonging to my own race & blood as when dwelling in the midst of them, & I cannot bear to think that they should consider me in any way estranged from them. my interests are [. . .] as much as ever identified, with those of my friends for my heart is as much as ever alive to the circumstances which surround them, & they surely will continue to watch over my destinies with as keen feeling of participation in my joys & sorrows, as when they had me in the midst of themselves; at least I would not for the world think otherwise; it would make me too unhappy to suspect any thing like forgetfulness on their part, when on my own the memory of all they were & are is yet so “green in my soul”. in amid the gaieties of a town life, the [. . .] & thoughts of [. . .] [. . .] never [. . .] in alll respects, the pleasures of an enlightened society, the kindnesses of my husband’s family, & many things to render me satisfied with my lot, what is there I would not give up to be restored once more to the home & friends of my childhood?—my husband, his love, & the hope of making him happy—nothing else, & reserving this alone; I could breathe my whole soul in that beautiful expression I which so often recurs to my recollection. Heu! quanto minus est cum reliquis versari quam tui meminisse.

“To live with them is far less sweet,
Than to remember thee”; dearest, dearest mother!
RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); partially dated and conjectural based on interior evidence; first two pages only.