Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph

Your letter dearest mother, relieved me from some anxious thoughts which were beginning to take possession of my mind at not hearing of your arrival at Monticello. Col. Peyton mentioned in his letter to Joseph that you were not very well when you left Richmond, & my fears for your health were getting troublesome to me, when I heard that the worst was over, & that you were again doing well. pray do not let your love for clean paint & bright floors every tempt you into exertions beyond your strength; I do not think hard work agrees with you; & you must not expect in a land of red mud & negroes to keep your large house in the order that a small one could be kept in Cambridge where the soil is like chalk, & the servants too much afraid of work, not to take care how they make it for themselves. Although I did not receive your letter until yesterday evening, (when my father Coolidge walked from the post-office here to bring it to me, knowing that I was anxious at not hearing from you,) I should have written by yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) mail, but on monday I passed the day in the square & at Elisabeth’s & tuesday morning took a ride into the country to return the visit which Mrs Edward Everett paid me last summer in Cambridge. to day is also very busy, being the annual election which you know they celebrate here with much pomp & circumstance; the town has been in a bustle since sunrise, & the military militia with their usual accompaniment of boys & dogs have filled the streets with noise & dust. George has been with me all day, or rather not with me except for about half an hour in the morning & again the five minutes time which it took him to swallow his dinner, & before hurrying off again to the glorious doings on the Common. Joseph dined out, & I had the pleasure of carving for two as hungry young gentlemen as ever sought to recruit their powers after a day of action. they came in, George & little Lowell, (the Rev. Dr’s son) loaded with plumes of chicken feathers & swords of cast iron that with which you could not have cut off a chicken’s head, & trumpets which Ellen blew as loud as any one body. they had laid out their whole capital in these goods this stock, & expected on the strength of their superb accoutrements to be chosen officers in a company which is to be raised in Mr Wells’s school. George looks very well, & although he inquired anxiously after you, & expressed his surprise that you had not yet written to him, he is evidently in as good spirits as health. no symptom whatever of pining or home-sickness. Ellen came out, dressed in her best, & flirted alternately with her uncle & little Mr Lowell; who seemed much amused with her ‘minauderies’ & coquetish grimaces. she continues to improve in intelligence & animation, but still without attempting to speak, although her gestures become every day more significant, & she understands every thing that is said to her. she continues to make signs for her bonnet whenever your name is mentioned, &, I believe, remembers you perfectly. I have been out very little since you went away; this evening I am engaged to drink tea at Mr Jonathan Mason’s with the Bishop of Halifax his lady & daughters, who are on a visit to Boston. this [. . .] Lord of the Church walks the street in his ecclesiastical dress to the great delight of the boys. I am told he is a very well-bred & even elegant gentleman. I went the other afternoon to the Gallery of the Athæneum, where it made my heart swell to see so many of my old friends the paintings from Monticello. they had been new-varnished & Jones had done his best to set them off, but they are evidently in a state of decay & ruin, which must prevent their bringing any thing like what was expected. they have been valued by three different persons, two estimating them at what they considered them as [. . .] worth, & a third at what they are likely to bring. the valuation struck me as very low except for one or two pieces. Diogenes & Alexander, for example, is set down by the two first gentlemen at $ 80. & $ 75. & by the third at $ 25. the Holy Family $ 150. $ 100. $ 75. Sir Walter Raleigh. $ 30. $ 15. $ & $ 10. Cortez, Vespatius & Magellan are set put down at as, the same about equal in value by the three gentlemen, who however differ in their estimates, giving $ 75. 35. & 20. Christopher Columbus $ 75. $ 35. $ 30. Dr Franklin again is valued at $ 200. $ 200. $ 150. & the wreck of Hector & Andromache from $ 50. to $ 100. the Crucifixion (from the parlour) [. . .] $ 100. $ 75. $ 40. many of the others are marked $ 10. & some as being quite unsaleable. Joseph proposes to get Alston the painter to make a fourth valuation. but I am not sanguine as to the result. Time, & damp, & dust, & flies, & Mr Coffee, have done their work too effectually. Joseph has determined that it is best for him to sell them at the highest prices they will bring. he has been assured by amateurs, artists, & picture dealers that more money can be got for them here than in any of the other cities. the expense too of removing them would be great & as he cannot possibly hear from you to receive directions in less than a fortnight & he intends, after a forth valuation has been made, to accept the best offers he can get, for if he delays & hesitates, he thinks he will lose [. . .] opportunities of disposing of them which will not return, & it is better that you should have even a small sum of money than a great many decayed & decaying pictures, did.

May 29. I could not finish my letter yesterday and must hurry to do it in time for to-day’s mail. I have just heard from Ann Jones who is expecting to be confined, & has just met with a great loss in her sister-in-law. who she died after a very long & painful illness. poo[r] Ann seems to feel that she is deprived of an invaluable frien[d.] Mr & Mrs Higginson have got back from their southern tour mu[ch] pleased with every thing they have seen, & quite delighted with their visit to Virginia. tell Cornelia I have not given the little handkerchief to Abby, for I have discovered since you left me that she has been in the habit of slandering me in the most hard malignant manner; that long before she left my house she was busy propagating all sorts of ill stories accusing against me particularly, but also against Joseph yourself & the girls. that she represented us all as a set of the worst people that could be found, & in short [. . .] that she is a base, hypocritical unprincipled calumniator, who returns the kindness I shewed her by falsehood & defamation. fortunately the tongue of a servant maid where all servants are unprincipled & ungrateful, can do no mischief. however I determined not to give her C–s token, & in fact if she ever came here, to desire her not to enter the house again. it is a dreadful evil to be condemned to live with such creatures as the Boston domestics.

farewell dearest mother. love to all & for yourself the assurance of my devotion.
E. W. C.

As soon as you send the hair I will have the ring made for Mrs Han Stearns & shall be on the look out for the other things.

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); torn at seal; addressed: “To Mrs Randolph Monticello near Charlottesville Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Boston, 29 May; with notation by Randolph: “answered answered.”