Cornelia J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge
|Monticello Sept. 11 1826|
Virginia has yielded what I considered the privilege of my elderhood, my dear sister, that of writing the first letter to you, but after all I have nothing to tell you that you knew not before; that our spirits were not lightened by your departure you will easily imagine, Virginia’s nerves had such a shock that morning that she was quite unwell all day, and a few days afterwards (not probably from that cause) she was taken with a violent fever; one day she was quite ill & I feared much she should have the fever that for some years before her marriage she had every spring but it lasted only about 36 hours and she is well again. it seemed something like the attack that Ellen had but more violent; we thought it probable that Joseph’s illness was the same, I hope he has quite recovered. & can pursue the journey without inconvenience. we feel very desolate without you, I think of dear little Ellen’s sweet enquiring face & beautiful blue eyes often & often, but always when the dressing hour comes; we miss you on the store room at twelve o clock, where your places are ill supplied by Jane & Mary Cary though these are sweet girls & I like them much. [. . .] even this morning I observed every one pass by the chair Joseph sat in at breakfast [. . .] as we used to do when he was here; untill the table was full.We were much disappointed at Martha Woodwards not coming which was explained to us by Col. Peyton. what became of the letter I wrote Miss Eliza? you had time I suppose to have a bonnet made to travel in.You were to leave Richmond yesterday but I did not understand whether you would reach Baltimore this morning or whether you staid in Norfolk all night last night, neither, whether you will still be obliged to remain two days in Philadelphia, or when you will arrive in Boston. I hope you will write to us directly.Mama as we predicted, as soon as you were gone begun began to recur to her old scruples about going to Boston, to which it seemed the very disorder of her mind, agg agravated by the scenes of that day, magnified & added new ones to, but she says having given her promise she will not retract, and still goes on with her preparations. brother Jeff. talks of setting off in october. Cousin Polly Carr came after you were gone, she was sorry she had not seen you & Jane & Mary were au desespoir at the event of your going before they arrived, which however they heard before they came up. they seem well enough content with the attendance of Lewis & Ben when he comes home, & I hope we are in no danger of an over flow of students while they are with us this time; Jane’s beau Mr Coulter has been up once to pay a short visit, he took the opportunity of attending upon Miss Clark (the dwarf) who paid us a visit. I do not know whether you have seen her & her brother, I was much reminded of the actions of a monkey by theirs,—they move so quick & are so active, & their diminutive size is wonderful; she seems good humoured & polite, very gay & coquettish, he surly & disposed to maintain his equality among men by airs of importance which only make him appear more ridiculous he has become quite fat & has a considerable pieface. they are neither of them ill formed or very ugly. he excites more ridicule I think, & she more pity, for they say at times her spirits fail her & she laments her fate greatly.
The weather since you left us has been divine, autumn is approaching with its softest gentlest aspect, the south wind comes so softly that the most delicate person does not shrink from it & yet is fresh enough to revive one after the heat of the day, which however is not great enough to be disagreable; the prospect never was more beautiful, whether in the morning When the lanscape is covered by a soft mist & you look to the east & see the blue horizon disappear behind those beautiful Edgehill & shadwell mountains, or in the evening when the deep indigo & bold outline of the blue ridge shows against the bright gold coloured or orange western sky, or at [. . .] night when Jane & Mary seek the countenance of my respectable years & I walk with them in the moonlight while the boys follow & chat with them, or we set on the stones at the end of the lawn & look [. . .] at the pillars of the house gleaming from the deep shade of the trees; our climate & scenery is certainly most delightful & I should enjoy it so much if I could feel as I used to do, but I look on & see that all is beautiful & yet take no interest in it; Virginia & yourself always said that with the pleasure these things occasion there always arose feelings of pain, but it is not always the case with me, I sometimes have felt unmixed delight. I think one reason mama objects to going to Boston is that she fears she shall only return to these scenes to pack up to leave them forever; if we do leave this place where I wonder shall we go, we all would prefer quitting the state if we can. but whether to Louisa Louisiana or Vermont, to the west or the east, when people’s inclinations are so different & yet all wish to hang together, is hard to say. wherever it may be I hope [. . .] what Virginia & the poet say is true
|Oh! deem not that the tie of birth|
|Endears us to this spot of earth,|
|For where so e’er our steps may roam,|
|If friends are near, that place is home,|
|No matter where our fate may guide us|
|If those we love are still beside us.|
these are beautiful lines I think and favorites of Virginias as well [. . .] yours I believe, but I am afraid you will think Jane Cary or Lilly [. . .] is writing to you. I have this day delivered the keys into Mary[’s] hands to have & to hold untill October when I shall again reluctan[tly] resume them; . of I first however did the good deed of cleansing the augeian stables, the store room & cellars, the first of which is the admiration of all who see it it looks so clean, I wish you were here to see how bright Nicholases plate looks & how polished the floor is—I have worked so hard on it however that I feel the effects in my aching limbs & shew them in my yellow face. but hope three weeks rest will recruit me.
do not forget to deliver as much of my messages [. . .] as you think proper to your friends in Boston among whom I count Mrs Ticknor & Mr Baldwin. I say as much as you think proper, because I know not how much may be thought to express an undue interest by those chilly northerners.
It would be hard to write so long a letter more completely of nothings my dear sister, but at least it will tell you we are all well & love you together with Joseph & the baby to whom I send a kiss each.