Cornelia J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge
|Monticello Feb. 23 1826|
It is long since I have written to you my dear sister, partly because I have not had time, & partly because I had nothing to write about but unhappiness & misfortunes; fortune has persecuted us so unrelentingly that even though at last she seems to give us one smile to excite hope, not one of us has spirits to feel it a promise of future good. I do not know whether mama has written to you of grandpapa’s lottery scheme, or whether you may have seen it in the papers; it was a petition to the legislature that he might make a lottery of the mill & some land near it, to enable him to pay his debts. the thing was so unexpected and that his friends were much startled by it; they had always been the most strenuous opposers of lotteries before, & it would not now seem strange, (they thought) to change sides, to favour him; besides they feared for the effect it might have on his reputation, & this made some difficulty in the passage of the bill, although his friends were as warm and true, & as anxious to serve him as friends could be; but on reflection they determined that this was not a common occasion for a lottery, and it could not be a prece– for any individual (such was the argument of one of his friends) but such as should have done services to their country equal to his, and these, it was rather to be regretted, were not so numer many as to make it dangerous to establish such a precedent; besides all were obliged to allow that it was the only means left him to pay the just debts of his creditors, (for property will not sell here now except at a great sacrifice) and a means that could injure or oppress no one. finally the bill passed. brother Jeff. who had gone to Richmond on that business has returned home & says he shall go to New York about the middle of march & thinks he can arrange matters so that I can go with him. I have been long anxious to be with you & if any exertion of mine could have carried me I would have gone long ago but it was a case in which I could only be passive. mama says she is more anxious for me to go now than ever and if brother Jeff. can go [. . .] at the time that he has named I think I shall get to you at last, but if the multiplicity of his affairs here should detain him much longer it would scarcely be worth while for me to go to return again directly, & to arrive after you had recovered health and spirits. if in the mean time any other escort can be obtained & I can raise the means to carry me I shall certainly avail myself of the opportunity. hearing nothing of Mann I almost despair of him. my preparations now that I am in black will be very smal[l] & soon made, but at present I am so engaged in cutting out & fixing the work of the girls that I have not much time to devote entirely to myself. to Ellen’s & Septimia’s work is added that of the baby in which we all join. & I of course I take my share. and several hours every day are spent in teaching the children who are now five in number. thus without housekeeping even, I have my hands full of business. Virginia is housekeeper at present.
It was not any objection to Thomas Coolidge as an escort which prevented [. . .] one of us from going at the time he came on; on the contrary we regretted much that he came at a time when it was impossible for us to leave home, as otherwise we would gladly have availed ourselves of his protection. the second letter that you mentioned he wrote we never heard of untill your letter (yours or Mr Coolidges I forget which) was recieved. it has never reached us.
To our other causes of uneasiness we have that added of the illness of the little baby to whom we were all becoming much attached. the little thing seems to have taken violent cold or as I rather think has the prevailing influenza. it has high fevers at night and seems to suffer much either from pain or some other uncomfortable feelings. they say it is like papa, & Virginia & myself who are with it night & day & watch every change in its countenance, flatter ourselves it has his constitution at least, & in this I place much hope. but not considering this, it has many chances against it, the circumstances of its premature birth & our not being able to get a nurse with a baby of its own age; [. . .] or that can give it even half of her milk, so that we are obliged to feed it much from the sucking bottle, are very disadvantageous. it is just five weeks old & Wormley’s daughter Ann who suckles it, though she seems to have a quantity of milk, has a hearty baby of five months old, of course his milk is too old & besides she cannot give enough of it
We would not call in any phisician for the world for except Dr Dunglison & him we cannot get; for much cause have we to think that the mismanagement of our ignorant Drs [. . .] has murdered the poor babys mother; but this of course we speak not of. both mama & herself, when she was sufficiently in her senses to think, protested against the quantities of medecine that were forced down her throat but the mischif mischief was done before proper attendance could be obtained.
Nicholas has had the influenza very badly & still has a troublesome cough hanging about him.Jane & her baby continue well—Virginias health is [. . .] as good as I suppose we can expect it to be—sometimes she is much indisposed, as was the case last night, but she is not so unwell as to prevent her from keeping house to day; she finds that the exercise she is obliged to take in this business is beneficial to her. her appetite is generally very good, too good she fears, but I do not know that this is the case really. her shape is not what we could wish it to be, it is more like what mama’s used to be at such times; her waist has thickened prodigiously & this you know we have always hear[d] was rather unpromising for the suffering she is to expect.
adieu dearest sister, if I write more I shall give y[ou] [. . .] desperate fit of the blues but you must reflect that I am disposed now to look on the dark side of things I hope [I] shall be able to go to you. I think it more probable now than I have thought yet, thought though not altogether certain. mama would have answered Mr Coolidge’s letter last sunday but was prevented by some unexpected demand of her time. she will write in a day or two—believe me ever your most affectionate sister.
Brother Jeff. will take the first opportunity to be reconciled with Mr Bankhead, for as Ellen & the baby are with us he must of course be admitted here. Ellen has turned her attention to her education—she has much ambition to and does not give way to unavailing grief though more frantic grief than hers was at first I never witnessed.the incoherency of my letters remind me of Mrs Morris s. I am afraid you have much difficulty in understanding them but such as they are I must send them or none, once more adieu for I am in great haste.