Mary J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

I was just setting down to write to you my dear sister when I received Cornelias letter, but as I believe she was was the last to whom I wrote I will make no change in my first intention and shall therefore delay answering the letter till another time. I am afraid you have not received the weekly bulletins from home with as much punctuality as formerly as the office of writing them has devolved principally upon me for some time past and I have been too much occupied with a variety of matters to keep up an uninterrupted & frequent correspondance with any one; mama and Nicholas with their irregular letters have sometimes filled up the gaps it is true, and even when this has not been the case I hope my pen has never been so long idle as to cause you any feeling of uneasiness about “friends far away” I almost envy C. for having been of so much use to you, and the more so as I am afraid in the same circumstances I would should have been a very poor assistant: my genius certainly does not lie in my fingers and notwithstanding the experience that Willie has given me, nursing still appears to me the most awkward business in the world. I never went farther into the mysteries of his toilette than simply changing his outside clothing to make him fit to appear in company, and a terrible bit of screaming which which did anything but improve his appearance was the never failing consequence of my rashness. with Miss Martha I have literally had nothing to do, in the first weeks she required nothing but what belonged so exclusively to Aunt Scilla’s functions that I could not have the presumption to give offer any interference, and now that I might really be useful to Virginia by helping to take the little lassie off her hands a part of the day, I am just entering upon the labours of housekeeping and find it, in the beginning at least, such ample occupation for mind and body that I have no superfluous time at my disposal—tell Cornelia if it will be any comfort to her to know it, that I have not been working like a drudge or a packhorse ever since she went away; on the contrary I was never more idle and dissipated in my life than during the greater part of the time that Jane and Mary spent in the neighbourhood, a period of about six weeks. their visit furnished the occasion, and the assistance of a nurse for Willie and Tim and Ellen as housekeeper’s, allowed of my entering into most of their parties of pleasure without having to reproach myself with [. . .] neglecting the comfort of others. I spent every evening of the week I staid in Charlottesville, in company, and we had pleasant walks and delightful serenades. wherever I went I found kindness and cordiality from both old and new acquaintances and the privilege of making myself at home, and my only embarassment was how to refuse hospitality so liberally offered that it could not all be accepted—since Virginia has been well enough for me to leave her without uneasiness I have also ventured out again to be absent a whole day and night or two nights at a time in search of amusement. last week the girls and myself went sunday morning to witness the ceremony of a consecration in performed by bishop Moore in what is as yet our only church, though the presbyterians are labouring to build up another, which is to be devoted to the exercise of the ceremonies of their own faith. the church was too much crowded for me to judge whether there is really anything impressive in the one I witnessed on that day. the procession with the bishop at its head walked up the aisle through two files of students who must each have squeezed themselves into a space no larger than a nutshell to have enabled it to enter at all, and it no sooner passed on than a sudden rush from behind, shut the whole completely from my sight and hearing. the sermon given us by the right reverend father on this occasion was not more enlivening than his sermons usually are, and I was much more interested in one I heard delivered at night by a young man apparently not above eighteen, whose pale but handsome features were lighted up by a glow [. . .] youthful enthusiasm which seemed to come from his he[. . .] the morning after, the birth day of Patrick Henry we went with a party to the University to hear an oration delivered [. . .] by a student one of the members of a society who have assumed the name of our celebrated orator. I was interested in the oration which proved to be better than I expected, and once when my attention was just begining to flag it was recalled by a well timed compliment to my dear grand father, when the speach was over our party went up into the gallery of the Rotunda to give me an opportunity [. . .] of observing the echo which produces in some degree the effect of a whispering gallery, but unfortunately we found ourselves preceded and were soon followed by a crowd of noisy people all talking and laughing and stamping with their feet, making altogether a din which was absolutely stunning, and soon forced me to give up all thoughts of [. . .] hearing a whisper amid such an assemblage. in the evening we braved the rabble in a black guard looking booth to see an exhibition of animals and with the assistance of a strong party of gentlemen actually made good our position in front of the circle of spectators and I was repaid for my trouble by seeing an elephant for the first time—Harriet has come home and promises to spend some time with us this summer—we were very much shocked to hear a report of Mrs Victor Randolphs death which proves to be false, she has been for several weeks however on the brink of the grave and was not thought out of danger when we heard last—Virginia and her baby are well, mama not so well but still not confined to her bed, grand papa rode to Charlottesville to day which is always a favorable sign with him. my love to Joseph & Cornelia and believe me ever dearest sister yours most tenderly & faithfully

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); torn at seal; addressed: “To Mrs J. Coolidge Junr Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 8 June; endorsed by Coolidge: “Mary: 6t June. 1826”; with notes by Coolidge: “Cornelia’s usefulness. Mary’s dissipation. Consecration of the Church by Bishop Meade. Oration on Patrick Henry. Grand papa rode to Charlottesville.”
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