Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph
|Boston March 23. 26|
It is past ten nearly eleven, & the mail closes at half past 12, my dearest mother, & the fear of interruption will make me hurry still more than the shortness of the time in which I must write at least a few lines lest you should be uneasy at not hearing from me. on Sunday, the regular day for writing, I was stretched on my back, unable to move without great pain, & quite incapable of setting up long enough to write to you. a pretty severe, although not an i unexpected attack from a complaint long hanging over me, & I believe incident to my situation, was the cause of my sufferings, & [. . .] I am just now well enough to come down stairs whilst my room is cleaning. the skill of my excellent Physician soon procured me relief from pain, & yesterday I took a ride of several miles for which I feel all the better. Dr Warren thinks the general effect of this temporary evil will be beneficial to me, & my confidenc[e] in his truth is equal to my great esteem for his knowledge & experience. indeed I am constantly renewing my thanks to Mrs Ritchie for securing his services to me, & the more I see of her the more I acknowledge the injustice of my former dislike to her. she is one of the finest women in Boston in talents & manners, & those who know her best are those who think the most highly of her. she has just presented her husband with a second son, the first having nearly attained the ripe age of 13 months, but as she suffers little or nothing in childbirth, & Mr Ritchie has retrieved his affairs so as again to be master of a princely fortune, I see no cause she has to shrink from the thought of a large family, nor indeed does the prospect distress her, except as being not the most pleasant way of employing her time. I have met with a good deal of kindness from several other ladies; three or four have pressed me to send for them without scruple at any hour of the night if they could be of any service to me, & frequent little presents, of fruits & greenhouse flowers & such matters, shew feelings of kindness which it is grateful to be the object of. yet, I am not intimate with a single person in Boston; it is a singular state of society where there is so much general benevolence & such individual reserve. these women would nurse me & watch by me & do any thing & every thing to serve me, without pretending any thing like a particular preference or friendship. had I been placed among such, at the age of twenty when I was full of romance & enthusiasm, I should have found it impossible to become reconciled, but now the case is widely different and I congratulate myself upon being exempt from that slipshod intercourse, that impertinent intrusion upon my private hours & employments which exists so much less here than elsewhere. still there is a lingering remnant of the ‘ besoin d’aimer ’ which sometimes haunts me, but the unchanged love of my husband, & the dear remembrance of ‘friends far away’ are in general fully sufficient for my heart. I should have wished to inspire & to feel something warmer in my mother & sister-in-law, but their affections have all that character of exclusiveness which renders any new impression impossible. the porcelain [. . .] clay of their hearts received, when soft & flexible, the finest forms, of which human dust is capable, but having once hardened in these forms can never by any process be moulded into new ones, or suffer the smallest variation in those which were original. I have never spoken of my two little sisters Susan & Anna, although most important personages in their household. I often wonder how my mother-in-law, a woman of great gentleness of temper but astonishing force of character & principle, & who performs all her other duties in a manner which really almost realizes the beau-ideal of religion & virtue, should have given way so much as she has done to these little ones who lord it with imperial power over father, mother, brothers sisters & servants. but what is more surprising still is that in spite of this system of education, they are not bad children. they will have their own way to be sure, but they interfere but little with others & are by no means teazing or fretful. the whole family, except the parents, join in abusing Susan, but I think undeservedly. she will spend what money she likes upon her dress, eat what suits her taste & at such times as her caprice dictates, go to school, or stay at home according to her fancy, laugh & sneer at her country cousins, call the maid servants by their simple surnames, address the respectable & respected housekeeper, a personage standing much upon her own importance, by the somewhat undignified appellation of “old Nick” instead of her own proper title of Mistress Nichols, but with all these impertinences Susan is not a troublesome inmate, & is upon the whole peaceable & orderly. Annie is a pretty little childish creature [. . .] sweet baby of six years old, who has been petted & lapped [. . .] so as never to have grown except in years, but perfectly go[od]-tempered & rather affectionate in her disposition. the other family of Coolidges, children of f my father-in-law’s brother, are absolutely a different race of beings, as unlike their cousins as dunghill fowls are to pheasants. the proud blood & high aristocratic spirit of the Apthorps is wanting to their veins & they are as utterly plebian as if their father had been wrongly engrafted on the Coolidge stock, which, peace to the ashes of my respected grandmother, no one could ever dare to insinuate. these young Huns are six in number with about more than 30. 000 Ds a piece. the two sons are almost innocents, & the only grown daughter Catherine, a very good girl, but downright vulgar in appearance, & gawky in manners. their fortunes have been taken care of by their uncle, & are flourishing, their persons by the second wife & widow of their grand father, a most excellent woman something about the standing of old Mrs Lewis, our former neighbour, in gentility—I suppose talking scandal has made my pen run so glib as to fill up three pages in time for this mail—& now adieu my own best loved mother, embrace my dear grandfather & give abundant love to all around. Jefferson & Cornelia, are I trust upon the road. I almost wish my accouchement could take place before they arrive but have no idea that it will. with unbounded love I remain your daughter.
It is ten days since I have heard from home.