Cornelia J. Randolph to Virginia J. Randolph Trist

I have the head ach, dear Virginia, & do not know whether I can write as long a letter as usual, but will not defer writing as tomorrow I shall be employed all day closely. I read your Louisiana schemes with pain & yet would not say no to them; the abandoning Monticello altogether would be a heart breaking thing but remaining there in poverty such as ours would be a life of pain & so many of these strokes we have suffered now that they are but as things expected; again, it would be stepping deeper into the slough [. . .] of slavery but shaking off the fetters of poverty. for myself I care not for money unless with it I could make myself a pair of wings & breakfast with one friend & dine with another a thousand miles off “or flee away & be at rest”

Wild wish, & longing vain,

And brief upspringing to be glad & free.—

My soul is bound & held I may not flee.

For even by all the fears

And thoughts that haunt my dreams—unknown untold untold unknown

And by [. . .] the womans tears

poured from mine eyes in silence & alone

Had I [. . .] thy wings, thou dove!

High midst the gorgeous ilses of cloud to soar,

Soon the strong cords of love

Would draw me earthwards—homewards yet once more.

I could not help writing these beautiful lines as they came in to my mind. but to return to the subject; to make money for my friends I would do any thing; I would put on mens cloths, go to Louisiana, make a fortune, die of the yellow fever & leave it to you all; I would marry a horrid old man here, beneath whose feet the grave seems opening yet has hand & voice raised to abuse & ill-treat every body that comes in his way & has sworn to marry a woman under thirty [. . .] within the year, I say, I would make the bargain with him if he would give me his immense fortune to divide among you. I can do neither unfortunately [. . .] but will try to make my mite along with the others. you will laugh at me for [. . .] talking of teaching drawing & indeed I am far from being competent to it now but think I improve every day & my drawing master said to me the other day in his broken english & he is not given to praise, “I like this drawing, there is so little that is anxious in it & yet it is not rough” and “I admire the delicacy & diligence of this but you have done it wrong, you have done it in a way that is much more difficult than the proper way” he however cancelled these compliments by saying I drew my leaves like twigs & bows.

You talk to me about “fairy scenes” believe me all this glitter & show brings but little happiness, a girdle of gold is bound over many an aching heart, diamonds sparkle about the person, & ostrich plumes nod over the brows of many who are all sadness & care within; to me all this is novelty & distraction of thought; I am amused by it; but for these people it has not this charm; & yet they could not do without it; many some there are who are under the dread of being excluded by loss of fortune from this society which is the breath of their life & yet which they cannot enjoy from this fear & danger. some have left at home a beloved friend whom they try in vain to think is not sinking into the grave from consumption; some feel that death will soon take themselves from this gay circle. some are pining with love & jealousy seeing the beautiful & beloved object receiving with too much pleasure the attentions of a rival, or, knowing themselves loved, know also that poverty has put his veto upon the union of the parties; some have had the bright hopes of their youth suddenly blighted by relentless pain. some girls are ugly & have few charms & see themselves neglected while others who have no more merit have crowds of flatterers round them. & some even are mortified because their companions are [. . .] dressed than they [a]re; and these things are not imaginary, [. . .] imagine I see cases of all.

I had not time to finish my letter & since I began it I wrote another to you by Mr Higginson, a gentleman who is going from here to Virginia & will go to Monticello. he set off yesterday (1st of april) but will not be very expeditious in his journey; these gentlemen who were to have gone before found the roads impassable & came back from richmond. Mama is here & well adieu my dear sister breakfast is ready & I must go.

RC (NcU: NPT); mutilated at seal; ink stained; addressed: “To Mrs N. P. Trist Monticello near Charlottesville Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Boston, 2 Apr.
Date Range
March 30, 1828 to March 31, 1828