Mary J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

it is so long since I have written to you dearest sister, that I will not wait till the beginning of another week, our usual time for writing, though I have nothing particularly interesting to tell you, Nicholas and the girls having already given you all the details relative to the sale, that we supposed you would care to know. the subject that most engrosses our thoughts at present is the formation of plans for the future, we had a conversation on the subject last night, and brother Jeff. declares it as his opinion that we ought no longer to delay issuing proposals for our school, to convince people that we are not holding back with the forlorn hope that something may be done which will render our own exertions unnecessary, but that we really expect nothing from the public and are determined to rather to rely upon our own endeavours to render ourselves independent. I do not suppose that the example of South Carolina will be followed by any of the other states, but she will have done enough to lighten our burthen and perhaps to secure a subp subsistence which we might have found it difficult or impossible to obtain with our own unaided means. I ought perhaps to have addressed this letter to mama as she is in fact the person to judge and decide on the matters contained in it; and we wish to hear from her at once, as brother Jeff. says there is no time to be lost and that he wishes our advertisement to come out early in february. he wrote last night to Col. Peyton to make inquiries about the terms and charges of the best schools there and at the same time communicated our project to him. Charlottesville is the only place we have ever thought of for the location of our school, mama I believe prefered it, and indeed I know no other that would offer greater or even as great advantages. she was afraid of interfering with the Miss Wydowns and to obviate this objection had an idea of proposing to them to join us, but on considering the subject since she left us, we recollected that the house in which they teach is kept for them by Mrs Davenport [. . .] whom it would not do to deprive of her employment, and whose family if united to ours in addition to the Miss Wydowns themselves, would form a household of such size that to as would exclude boarders, and could scarcely be maintained by the profits of a single school. brother Jeff. seems to think that Charlottesville will support two and that Miss W,s will not be endangered by ours, as our charges will be higher than theirs if we place ourselves on the same footing with Mrs Garnet and Mrs Hamilton. and this he thinks we ought to do. in all these matters we feel the want of mama’s presence sadly, we do not like to make any decision or take any step without consulting her, and yet we cannot afford to lose time and cannot wait hope to receive an answer to any one of our questions in less than a fortnight, and even supposing we had months or years before us to employ in the discussion; after all there is nothing like debating the thing in person, but as there is no remedy for this we are must be content with hearing from her by letter and beg that she will write without delay, and as fully and explicitly as she can give us all her ideas and wishes on the subject. one thing wanted in particular is a list of the things to be taught which we cannot undertake to furnish, in most branches I hope we are or may render ourselves competent to give her assistance, but there are others on which she only possesses the information requisite and we therefore leave it to her to name whatever she will undertake to teach alone or with such aid as she knows we can give her. must Italian be put upon our list? brother Jeff seems, I think, to desire that we should promise some other language besides french. he is in good spirits and says to us what he forbore to say to the boys, (for reasons that you will readily understand) that he has good hope of saving something from the wreck of the property which, joined to our other resources, may enable us to discontinue our school in a few years, (perhaps in two or three) and at some future day to become inhabitants once more of dear Monticello—this darling object will be much furthered if we can contrive to maintain ourselves by the profits of our own industry, so as to leave what little property we may possess unincumbered for a time by the maintenance of our large family. the boys I hope will be able to do some thing for themselves after a while—Lewis has gone to Mr Giles’s school and Ben will go in a few days to Mr Lewis in Spotsylvania who is very well spoken of by a great many people. tell mama that the beds and house linen have not been sold, and that we all thought it best to retain as many of the former in particular, as would be necessary for the use of the family. thank heaven the whole of this dreadful business is over, and has been attended with as few distressing occurrences as the case would admit. the negroes with one exception I believe, are all sold to persons living in the State, many of them in this neighbourhood or the adjoining counties, and most of them I believe also, are well and satisfactorily placed, as much to their own wishes as they could be in leaving our estate. during five days that the sale lasted you may imagine what must have been the state of our feelings, such a scene passing actually within sight and every hour bringing us fresh details of everything that was going on. the troubles of Boston servants would have sunk into nothing in comparison with what we felt on the occasion, and you would have agreed with us dear sister, that it is better to submit to any personal inconveniences however numerous and annoying they may be, than to live in a state of society where such things as these are of daily occurrence. Cornelia is very sick with a cold and sore throat, complaints that are always prevalent here. Ellen has had no return of her croop and the rest of us “find ourselves neither well nor ill” but great complaints are made on all sides of the unexampled severity of the winter. the babies as usual continue to afford our sole amusement here. Maria totters about on the carpet and Willie looks after her with longing eyes, for as yet he scarcely attempts even to crawl. his only accomplishment is kissing which he is passionately fond of and does very sweetly. I long to see dear little Ellen, she cannot be growing ugly I am sure—it is long past bed time and my fire is going out. Love to Mama & Joseph and kisses to baby, and tell the dear children we are as anxious to have them back again as they are to return—ever dearest sister your own

M J. R
RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); addressed: “To Mrs Joseph Coolidge junr Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 25 Jan.; endorsed by Coolidge: “Mary. 25. January. 1827”; with notes by Coolidge: “plan for opening a school. Jefferson’s advice—What are mamma’s wishes? Sale at Monticello. Distressing scenes. Severe cold.”