Virginia J. Randolph Trist to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

I could not write to you by the Tuesday’s mail this week, My dearest Sister, owing to a day’s indisposition; and as my turn comes but once in three weeks I did not like to relinquish it in favour of [. . .] another. I have since had the pleasure of receiving your letter which found me expecting it certainly the very day of its arrival. I am now quite well again; and my sickness was a subject of rejoicing rather than sorrowing as it cleared up some unpleasant doubts and suspicions. I think it unjustifiable to murmur at such trial’s, but could not, I fear, bear them with as much philosophy as you seem to do; not on account of the bodily sufferings, so much as the uncertainty whether we should have the means to educate & provide for a large family. but for the certainty that I feel that none of us could keep our health if we could live atall in Louisiana, I should think it a duty to urge Nicholas to return there instead of steadily setting my face against the plan as I now do. Browse wrote him word that he could make a support there by his profession at once; and the success of Col. Robert and Wilson Nicholas on their sugar plantations makes it but more apparent how much his interest suffers by his absence from that country. they made this year from their crop of sugar $20,000; as much, one of the Mr. Barbours said, as he expects to make on his plantation, in twenty years. Brother Jeff was full of the idea of our going there in a body when he left home a wee few weeks ago, and from the style of a letter sister Jane received from him a day or two ago he is completely disgusted with this state which he calls the “last of natures works”. Col. Robert N. returned to visit his friends looking the picture of health and at least ten or twelve years younger than he really is; and he says that the climate has agreed equally well with his brother, and the 50 negroes that they carried there. he also mentioned the circumstance of Sam Hollins landing in New Orleans during the month of September, and staying in the city a week before he went to join them on their farm, where he now is having enjoyed good health steadily. Col. Nicholas said however that in doing so he had put his life in imminent danger, and that it was an act of madness in his friends to send him atall at that season. he said many things that convinced me of the unhealthiness of the climate, but Brother Jeff. seemed to have no fears on the subject, and Sister Jane only a few for her children. I do not think that either of them can make up their minds to go unless many of their friends will consent to accompany them. I know Mama will never listen to a word on the subject. Brother Jeff: is now in New York, [. . .] whither he went very unexpectedly, and inconsequence of a letter from Yates & Mc.Intyre on the subject of the sale of the lottery tickets. he has since written in bad spirits as to the probable event of the lottery; which he doubts the success of very much. a law has been passed in Maryland forbidding the sale of the tickets there; and the state of New York was about to make the same; which would blast the lottery scheme. and he says that he is so sick of it that he is ready to say “damn it, let it go”, that he hopes that the property will pay all the debts and that Mama will have a comfortable support besides. I fear from something in Mama’s last letter that she has thoughts of applying the S. Carolina & Louisiana donations to other purposes than her own necessities, which I should be most sorry for, since putting out of the question her own [. . .] comfort (which is our first consideration) no doubt I do not think it would be making a proper return to those generous people for what they intended as a benefit to her not the creditors of the estate, nor any one else. and Mr. Garrett observed very justly in speaking to Nicholas on the subject, if they had wished the money it so applied they would have appropriated for the payment of the debts as far as it would go. I acknowledge that I do not see why Mama should sacrifice her little independent property which would be but a mite after all, and scarcely be felt in the payment of such immense debts; and though she is too disinterested to take care of her own interest, or ever to bestow a thought on her own ease & comfort; yet she must remember what a hard life duty she would impose on the girls as well as herself in opening a school, which would not probably do more than support her while she kept it. for the sake of the three girls and George whose whole education is to be paid for, if not for her own sake I hope Mama will keep the donations that have been made hers solely for her own expenses, and not suffer one cent to be laid out in such useless, expensive property as land. I am so ignorant with regard to all money matters that it may appear folly & presumption in me to speak or [. . .] form opinions on the subject; but this case appears to me so plain that I cannot think I have mistaken it. Mama, and her children [. . .] living with her & unprovided for in any way, will have nothing from the estate unless after the payment of the debts there should be a small remnant of property [. . .] I have been a good deal pleased with the spirit in which the boys write to us, they are studying well, and seem to [. . .] found all their hopes of success on their own exertions. Ben in his last says “if I can be nothing more, I will be industrious & respectable”. James too appears to be steady & industrious, and I hope he will learn by experience as he seems to rely less on that of other persons than on his own. he gives Sister Jane some trouble by his irregular hours, and in these habits he is confirmed. he rises with the dawn, but will not come into meals at the hours that the rest of the family take theirs has Mama determined to leave George at school? or will she bring him back with her—I feel more & more weary every day of the u[n]settled and uncertain state in which we are living. I have not the power of turning to turn the present moments to the greatest advantage, and leave the impenetrable future to unravel its self in the course of time, but I feel a restless impatience [. . .] to know the most important events it conceals from us, although very probably there is nothing in store for me that I need expect with impatience. N. still talks of going to Washington finally, but the uncertainty whether I shall be separated from Mama or not is very painful. I long for a home once more, where I may make permanent arrangements & plans for my convenience & comfort. the feelings that everything with which I look around me hear prevent any interest; I look towards Monticello as to an object that I doat on & have lost forever. and at this place as a sort of temporary resting place from that way inshort expecting to go [. . .] away at no very distant time, (though I do not know exactly when) and the desire to be settled make me very tired of the present state of things. if I was certain that I should continue to live with Mama I should feel still more impatient. you are mistaken in supposing that we had made any preparations for teaching this winter, for just as the days had got long enough for us to do anything worth speaking of, and we had made a sort of division of what we would teach intending each of us to apply ourselves to our own particular branch, we heard that it would be no longer necessary to keep a school. during the month of December, Cornelia’s absence from home & the shortness of the days left Mary and myself no time to ourselves after teaching the children. we did little else in January, and now that the days are longer and really but a small portion of our time (comparatively speaking taken up with the children, the remainder does not suffice for my sewing work. I am now making (with a great deal of assistance from others to be sure) a piece of linen for N. and ’tho’ this is the third week that I have worked closely on it, I shall not finish until the last of the next. the little frocks you promise baby will be the more acceptable that I dare say I should not have got her into short clothes unassisted before mid summer. She still continues small, & very [. . .] backward, She is nearly 11 months old, and has not cut a single tooth & does not attempt to crawl. at her age Maria walked. I have been obliged to put flannel shirts on her lately to cure her cough which is very constant, & very bad generally. I never mentioned to you a narrow escape that she had in th[e] winter from being killed by a fall from a high bed. She fell head foremost, and her forehead touched the floor first, and I suppose I owe the salvation of her precious little life to her ripping a part of the way down on the blanket which was hanging to one side. I did not know of the accident until an hour after it happened. last night I had another alarm about her, her cradle is obliged to stand opposite a window, and a violent gust of wind in the night broke the fastening of the shutter which slammed & shiver’d a pane of glass, we were roused by the noise & found her cradle strewed with the sharp pointed fragments from the broken pane, and I do not know how it happened that she was not cut very much. the splinters of glass were driven in with such force that some of them fell at the opposite side of the room.—[. . .]Mama mentioned the octagon table in her letter to Sister Jane immediately after I had written to you on the subject my dear sister, and I have since reflected that brother Jeff: really had so many treasures of the sort in his possession that you had a greater claim to this than he independant of Mama’s having given it to you already at the moment that I wrote I was thinking of his anxiety to own it, at which both Mama and yourself were ignorant, and I did as I would have been done by in telling you. after Mama mentioned it in her la[st] to sister Jane I knew what I had done was useless, and since that have felt glad that She gave [it] to you in preference to him. as we did not mention the thermometer at the time, perhaps Mama had better tell make him a present of it again when she writes. it will grieve you both very much to hear of the depredations that have been made at Monticello by the numerous parties who go to see the place. Mama’s choicest flower roots have been carried off, one of her yellow jessamines, fig bushes (very few of which escaped the severe cold of last winter), grape vines and every thing and any thing that they fancied. N. consulted with Mr. Garrett and put a notice in the paper’s requesting the visitors to desist from such tresspasses, but Burwell says that they have been worse since than they were before. as it appeared to be entirely useless to do any thing in that garden, Wormley is planting everything down here.—as I sat at the window late this evening trying to write to the end of the sentence by twilight, I saw a cavalcade sweeping down the hill which proved to be Cornelia returning home with Jane Cary, and a train of beaux who did not come in the house even to warm their finger’s & toes after quite a cold windy ride. Mr. Coulter was one of the beaux, and he is certainly from what I hear in love in good earnest & sober seriousness. the girls saw young Bolivar, and thought him very interresting in appearance tho’ they did not hear him speak or see him nearer than across the room. N. is scolding because I have not left room for him to put a post script to my letter, and I could easily fill another page now without putting saying any thing better worth saying than on the preceding pages; am truly ashamed of the slovenly, foolish, badly expressed, incoherent letters that I make Mama & your self pay the postage of, but I can not do better, I have given up in despair. give my tender love to all your sweetest kiss to baby, & embrace my dearest mother for me as you would for yourself. adieu dearest sister burn this scandalous letter I pray you.

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); mutilated at seal; internal tears; three sentences illegible; addressed: “To Mrs. J. Coolidge junr Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 29 Mar.; endorsed by Coolidge: “Virginia. 23d March. 1827”; notes by Coolidge: “Thoughts of removing to Louisiana. Mamma’s scruples, & desire to employ the S.C. & L. contributions to the payment of Grandpapa’s debts. School plan relinquished. Depredations at Monticello. My brothers & Martha Trist.”