Cornelia J. Randolph and Nicholas P. Trist to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

It is my turn to write to you dear sister, & so I mean to do though I have little to say now, ever, that can make it desirable to receive my letters; complaints that I indulge too much in, & details of distressing or disagreable things are the beginning middle & end of them. I cannot even say we are all well, for though none of us have been ill we all have had ailments that make us sufficiently uncomfortable. Virginia has just recovered from one of her bad tooth achs, she put on a blister at once which broke the fit but for several days she was very sick & lived on just enough to keep her alive. I am still suffering with an obstinate sore throat which I have had for three weeks & for which I am clothed in flannel from my neck to my ancles to no purpose: it is better however now & I hope is going off; the rest of the family have all suffered much from colds. the winter here has been the hardest I ever knew, but it did not last very long & seems to be over now.

The boys are both gone to school; Lewis found the Wigwam, a wigwam really, as far as neatness & comfort & most customs of civilization are concerned; it remains to be seen whether they are as more advanced in the sciences they pretend to teach. Ben is much better pleased with Mr Lewis of Spotsylvania & from all I can learn he is an extraordinary man. he is said to be the best classic scholar in the state; that is not saying much, but he is really a good one & proposes a plan for a grammar or dictionary, or probably both, for teaching all the languages ancient & modern at the same time, and Mr Long & Dr Blatterman are so much pleased with it that (I have been told) they have both offered him their assistance if he will undertake the work. they tell a curious anecdote of this Mr Lewis; he was in conversation with Dr Blatterman, & during the time frequently made notes in a pocket book which he held in his hand; this displeased the Dr so much that at last he asked him what he was about, when Mr Lewis shewed him that he had been writing down from his mouth the opinions many of the opinions he (Dr B.) had just delivered, & then taking another book from his pocket shewed him ideas that he himself had before written of his own, which were so exactly Dr B’s that they frequently ran for whole lines in the same words; Dr Blatterman in amaze exclaimed “why how have you stolen my ideas,” though they had never conversed before on the subject. If this man should do any thing worthy to be produced in the literary world I should rejoice that he was a Virginian, for though we owe our state for nothing but unjust accusations & ingratitude I have still filial feeling enough to be glad at any thing like merit shewing itself in these degenerate days. they say the University too will turn out some fine young men.

With regard to our school we have determined on nothing, we are in uncertainty & dilemma about every thing; about the place, for if we succeed here we shall break up the Wydowns, & that Mama would not do nor would we, & brother I think would not consent to our leaving the neighbourhood, as we have resources here we should have no where else; but keep a school somewhere we must. Mr Garrett thinks Monticello itself would be the place, I do not know what brother J. thinks of this I should suppose he would not approve with regard to the time of its opening, the advertisement will not be put in the papers yet, lest it should appear as if it was done to induce the legislature to do something for us; like making a shew of poverty. The legislature they say will do nothing. We propose to teach music, french & what are usually called the English branches of education; & we wish very much that mama would recover, while she is in Boston, what she has lost of her italian for every thing will add to our profits; how I wish Joseph would have given me those lessons he tantalized me with while I was there, I could then have taken the beginners myself; Virginia wishes to do that with the music scholars, & we all wish to do the same with the french, so as to leave mama the highest classes only. Brother Jeff almost insists upon my undertaking drawing, but I would not, being no better qualified than I am; he says I can go to Richmond & take lessons there; I suppose Mrs Petticola would give them to me & she is the only person I would take them from. but I have another plan which I should prefer if Mr Brown (my old drawing master) would agree to it; but I hear he would not; it is that he should supply me with written instructions & copies lessons to copy from, these if he would sell would serve me again for my future scholars; if you all think the scheme is not a wild one & that Mr B. would agree to it, I would should be very glad of to hear it was proposed to him on the terms you think best or can make, & if he consents, that we should lose no time in going to work; but you will decide upon this for me & write me what is your decision. I find that [. . .] good lessons are all important (drawings I mean to copy from.)

We are weaning Willie & the poor little fellow is very unhappy about it but does not give us a great deal of trouble at night.

I have given so much of my time to teaching the girls since I have been here, that I have not had time to apply to spanish as I wished, that we might teach that also; & it is the same case with the other girls. neither have I proceeded with the manuscript since I left Poplar Forest. brother Jeff has employed Andrew Leitch I believe as his clerk, but I do not know when he sets to work. Mr Everett wrote quite a friendly letter to brother Jeff accompanying the proposal to buy the paintings. I must send an extract of a letter from Harriet to mama I forgot to do it when I wrote to her.

“There is a way in which I might get the engravings from Boston directly, by getting Cummings & Hilliard to send them on to North’s book store, directed to the care of A. R. North. but this might be troublesome to my aunt and I had rather wait & trust to chance for a conveyance. do tell me all you hear from aunt P. of the regulations of the Boston schools. you kn[ow] I am collecting every body’s ideas.” Adieu dear sister I must leave a part of my paper for Nicholas. give my love to all that are with you including Joseph & the baby & to Miss Bradford when you see her; & say something for me to all my acquaintances. your aff[ecti]onate sister

C. J. R.

In a note I lately received from Judge Cooper, he desires his remembrance to mother, & suggests the propriety of writing to Dr Ramsay, thanking him for his efforts so zealously & successfully exerted. In a late letter from Dr Davis, he asks for a copy of his letter to mother. He is obviously one of your vain simpleton’s; but every one of the body merits all the attention we can show him. Tell mother from me, & do you join me, dear Ellen, & see my decree executed, that she must write a few lines to Dr Ramsay Member of the South Carolina legislature. I am satisfied from Dr C’s note that such a thing ought, in his opinion, to be done: & that it is expected in all probability. Tell Joseph that after all I forgot to thank him for the whip—unfortunately, however, I have already got it broke.—Dunglison asked me about the wine again the other day. Good night. and a kiss to the little Nora.1

Did mama ever write to genl La Fayette?

we have determined to call the first daughter that is born in the family Carolina, & Jane says she will call her son Ramsay.

C. J. R.

Jane has been scolding us for forgetting to deliver a message of thanks for the Souvenir. she thought it beautiful.

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); torn at seal; addressed: “To Mrs Joseph Coolidge Junr Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 6 Feb.; endorsed by Coolidge: “Cornelia. Feb. 4. 1827”; with notes by Coolidge: “My brothers at school. Mr Lewis of Spotsylvania the best classical scholar in Virginia. His plan for teaching all languages at once. His conversations with Dr Blaetterman Plan of a school, [. . .] her Feelings for the State of Virginia. Mr Bankhead. South Carolina. Dr Ramsay.”
1Preceding paragraph in Nicholas P. Trist’s hand.