Cornelia J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge
|New London. Dec. 11. 1826.|
I have been so constantly employed in copying those manuscripts, my dearest sister, that I have not been able to write to mama or yourself, or indeed any of my beloved family; I have thought nevertheless incessantly of you. Mama’s spirits still seem to be bad, from her letters, worse even than there is occasion for; for after all why should we dread a school so much; it will keep us employed busily for several hours in the day; many other things which people in more prosperous circumstances [. . .] have to do, are the same in that respect. keeping house is as hard & as disagreable work; sewing work to some is as disagreable. and I am quite sure that we shall not fail from want of exertion on our part I think I can work, myself, steadily, & I have the most perfect confidence in every member of our family. The bitterest of our grief is over, & for my part, with the dismal future constantly before me, the consequence of what is lost & what cannot be restored, the certainty that the bright hopes which even we sometimes entertained in our younger days, [. . .] can never be realized, leaves me in that state of mind that I care not what trade I follow what situation I am placed in, except that I have a dread greater & horror which almost makes me shudder, at the idea of living at Tufton, of setting down at the foot of our own mountain in a sort of dependance, & perhaps a stranger living there, I own I have not philosophy enough for this to think of this with any sort of composure. My dearest mother I hope will not let us [. . .] take the toil of the business on our hands; we are young & able to bear it she is not, she will direct every thing & we can act under her direction; aunt Jane takes no part in the school here, her health does not permit it, neither would mama’s permit her to apply herself constantly to [. . .] the business. We shall not find it half as bad as we now think it will be, & infinitely better than [. . .] dependance particularly dependance on brother Jeff. for to tell you the truth, he is so possessed with the idea that we do not know how to be economical that nothing would could persuade him the contrary, if we lived on less than one of his own negroes costs him, he would think if we lived on so little that another would live on less; [. . .] & the trouble of another household would be a trouble that he would always feel very much let it [. . .] be as little as it could be; no man [. . .] could bear the trouble of two families & only one of them properly his own. an instance of this infatuation of brother Jeff.s occurred the other day; he gravely told Elizabeth & Francis before my face that we gave sugar & coffee (I forget now what quantity) to seven or eight persons (servants) at Monticello every week; this among similar monstruosities I denied of course & told the truth of the case; Elizabeth & Francis thought of course that I who was one of the housekeepers knew best & believed me but when I was gone out brother Jeff. said I was entirely mistaken, that he knew the truth of what he asserted. Elizabeth gave up any idea of convincing him of the contrary after this & said he was Randolph in this at least that having once let his imagination convince him of a thing however improbable, he would continue to think it though his own senses were to tell him the contrary. yet [. . .] doing us this great injustice, brother Jeff. would make great sacrifices for us & would maintain us [. . .] extravagant as he thinks us in preference to seeing us keep a school. there are so many ways of earning money even here that I should never despair of being able to support myself; & if all the evils of poverty were to live badly & work hard it would be very endurable. were I to see mama well & contented & cheerful; & my sisters so also, life would be more endurable & when youth is past the greatest wealth would not make it better than barely endurable. since I have been copying my dear grandfathers letters & seen how indefatigable he was in the discharge of his duties; how watchful; attending to the smallest as well as the greatest things; & never despairing; but being defeated in one plan ever ready with another; never without resources, even when these seemed not to exist to any one else; seeing this in him, I have said, we are his children, and the energy he has shewn in public affairs, is in our blood & we will shew it in our private affairs. we will never despair, we will never be cast down by difficulties, we will bear ourselves bravely & be cheerful in the midst of misfortunes, & if we are thrown upon our own resources we will find them in ourselves. I am delighted that George & Septimia are going on so well I hope George will be a yankee in all their good qualities & they have many; but we have some too, & I hope you will remember that George is a Virginian & may hereafter take an active part in the affairs of his own state, & [. . .] will not let him be bound too closely by their opinions; & do not let him forget his sisters; he is the love & the pride of my heart; & I hope to see him one day tread as near in the footsteps of our beloved grandfather as [. . .] he can.
The Rutland plan we always knew could not be carried into execution, but I should not be frightened by the terrible terribly long list of hardships mama [. . .] us; they are not in reall reality near as great as they seem sound to our ears; what is the cleaning of a house where no dirt is made? what is house keeping where [. . .] people are content with so little; one servant would do almost the whole of what was requisite cooking & washing & ironing certainly. The fire would be the great objection, not the work; & if there was more work to do than [. . .] our Virginia wives are accustomed to do, so much the more necessary for one of us to be with Virginia & the board would be a trifle we should have to pay; but we never thought seriously of the plan the climate was too great an objection to be easily gotten over, a cold climate migh[t] agree with us better than our own but not one of such excessive rigour [. . .] another thing yet, when people leave their country because they [can]not make money in it they would not go to a place where the earning[s] come in so slow, it is as easy to go where a fortune can be made & wh as there. any place is better than this state, people can no longer live here; whatever be the cause whether our slaves, or whether the hard laws made against us by Congress I am not wise enough to know but the effect is the same and [. . .] numbers & numbers are leaving the state thinking they will do better any where than here.Adieu dearest sister when I begin to write to you thoughts come so thick & fast I know not how to arrange them [. . .] intelligibly, & I dare say the only part of this letter which you will understand is that I love you all unspeakably & think of you incessantly; my own beloved mother who I scarcely think of without tears; your self, my dear Joseph George, Septimia & my little blue eyed Ellen who to me is the sweetest thing that ever lived. the family here send their love to you, aunt Jane’s health is as usual, she says she lives on your tea; she takes it three times a day, & was much gratified at the attention from you. Elizabeths children are sweet interesting creatures; Jane is the strangest talker I ever heard she comes to me incessantly to ask about Willie ( Too Ell (Ellen Coolidge ) Ellen) & little Martha & can tell the colour of the eyes & hair of each one; she came to me to beg little Too Ell to [. . .] come & see her & to tell her to bring her mama but not her papa, for she is afraid of men, & thinks Arthur, the only thing in [. . .] pantaloons she knows is made to be cuffed & kicked by her. John is the largest child I ever saw, strikingly like uncle Eppes & so affectionate in disposition as to be continually leaving his play running to his mother putting up his lips & making the sound of kissing that she may stoop & kiss him. Harriet wishes you to send her the title of a book published in Boston; a selection of french comedies chiefly Moliere’s, in one volume. Elizabeth wants some receipts for making rye bread as I told her I believed they used rye in Boston; & no one here knows how to use it.
remember me to every member of your family [. . .] grandmother, father mother uncles aunts & cousins for all of whom I have some grateful remembrance particularly since they have been so kind to Mama, except one who was my particular aversion G. B. as you know—
Betsy Walker is dying of [. . .] woman in dreadful health.