Joseph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph

My dear Mr

To any one else I should feel it necessary to begin my letter with an apology, but I have such confidence in your affection, and reasonableness, as to hope that you will excuse my seeming negligence when I frankly tell you that knowing Ellen wrote regularly, I have not forced my thoughts from the subjects which have so imperiously occupied them the whole Spring, and Summer—I mean business, which has been attended with so many anxieties that I have been able to think of little else. I do not mean that you and yours are not often in my thoughts, and that the many sorrows which you have been called to endure have not been to me the source of many regrets: my warmest sympathy has been awakened in your behalf, as has that of all my friends,—but I have not written to you sooner when I must have done it more from form, and a compliance with what propriety would seem to require, than because my mind was free, and had need of saying to you how frequently and kindly we thought of you.—It has been a subject of great satisfaction to us, and I am sure to you also, that you decided upon returning to Va—how many regrets has it spared, or rather how much comfort must it not have given you! The events which have taken place, since your return to Monticello, painful as they were, no one, I feel, would wish to recall—; the void they have occassioned is not a melancholly one, and the circumstances under wh. they took place has had a great deal of comfort in them. The changes which are to follow will be of a more distressing nature, yet no situation is wholly destitute of consoling circumstances, and if it is painful, in the extreme, to quit Monticello, (as from your letters, and Jefferson’s advertisements I see you intend to do,) Washington, and particularly Phila, will offer you the enjoyment of much which was not in your reach in Albemarle; and should you come further north I need not say that you have secured friends, here, who if they are not like those of a longer standing have discernment enough to perceive your many virtues and warmth of heart enough to welcome your return to them.—I wish to say to you how deep an interest I feel in you, and how desirous I am that the plan you adopt, should be that which all shall think the best.—Nicholas writes me that he means to seek his fortune elsewhere than in Charlottesville; he is right, but let him do it in Washington; and, as I wrote him, stir up the interest of every friend in his behalf; and back his claim with the fact of the failure of the lottery, and those other sources which were looked to for the support of Mr Jefferson’s family: how many unknown and undeserving individuals are there who are receiving large emoluments for unimportant services—! and will it be difficult for the grandson of a President of the U.S: to obtain, for the support of his family, what others who have no claims obtain? In that situation he would have independence secured to him, and opportunity, too, to prosecute his studies—; indeed I need not repeat the comforts which 1500. or 2000 pr. annum would give—: urge upon him to let no pride, or false delicacy, prevent his soliciting Mr Madison, and Mr Monroe, as well as P. P. Barbour, Rives, and every friend he can muster in Virginia, or elsewhere; surely Clay is his friend, and would do all he could for him; and, if James Barbour is at hand, he could throw weight into his Scale. If he succeeds, and I will not allow myself to doubt it, you will join him in W. or go to Philabut, depend upon it, you would be far happier in P. than in W:—your associations with it are of a different character—: your old friends are, many of them, there; you would be nearer to us; and, whatever Mr Madison may say, would find your little fortune go as far there as any where; whereas Washington would remind you more forcibly, perhaps, of the sort of life you once led there, contrasting strongly with that which you will lead in future, and its society is of a far less agreable character: if there are objections to Washington and Phila are there others equally great to Cambridge? Several circumstances will conspire to make it more pleasant hereafter than it has been; Mr Henry Ware, it is supposed, will be connected with the theological school there, and with his wife add much to the society; then Mr & Mrs Follen, and Mrs Farrar, and perhaps Ed. Everett and his wife (if he is chosen President) and Mr & Mrs Hayward, and whoever else may be added to the list of the Professors, will perhaps Judge Story family—; these will give it more the of a town air than when you knew it; and you could take George home to your house, placing him on the footing of a day scholar with Mr Wells, which would diminish your expenses—and give him all the benefits of a regular education.

I wish I had better news to give about the pictures: the Exhibition has closed, and only one has, as yet, been sold; the Franklin, to the Atheneum! so many have been sent here from almost every city at in the union, and so many have arrived from abroad, that with the tremendous pressure for money, it has been impossible to sell yours: too many came, and too poor ones among them, which gave a prejudice against the collection. how ever I shall continue to try, and hope when the strangers arrive from various parts, about Commencement time, to dispose of some of them. The portraits of Mr Jefferson and Mr Madison have been brought to my own house, [. . .] for safe keeping—; when you have decided upon a place of residence they shall be forwarded to you. My present intention is to limit the six or eight which have merit, and try them all by public sale—; to let the poor ones go, and if the better ones will not bring the appraisement to bid them in:—I hope the Atheneum will buy the plaister cast of Lafayette; and a gentleman of my acquaintance the Napoleon: the Ariadne I shall do the best I can, with.

Since you left us there has been great activity here, new granite buildings going up, every where; the most sumptuous hotel has been commenced by the Eliots and Perkins’s —to cost 200.000 —; two military bands now play 4 times every week, in the evening, upon the common; Nahant is full; the rail-way house is finished; and every thing is thriving—& not a failure of moment during the last months of unex[. . .] distress for money—: The Atheneum is flourishing, they have just voted 3000 d[ollars] for the purchase of certain pictures—and their stock of books increases daily.

You have heard of the sale of my little horse—but you cannot conceive how much I miss him!—you also know that G. Bulfinch’s engagement is off—: our pretty little neighbourhood neighbour, Mrs Binney, has just had a miscarriage, and is alarmingly ill:—& our next neighbour Mrs Wm Lyman is expecting hers, wh. will be the 19thMy Bro. is to be married, today, to Miss Goldsborough—on his return he goes to my Father’s house, and afterwards hires an house near us in Mt Vernon.—The lady is beautiful, and sweet-tempered, with a good deal of character. My friend Wormeley goes to England on the 1. October, he takes the violins—and thus saf saves freight, duty, and commissions; I hope to get 100 to 150 guineas for the Cremona in London. I have recd $60 from Peyton, it was not necessary to send it: in compliance with your request I sent some quills of vaccine matter to Dr Dunglison; wh. I trust he has recdMr Long has not yet arrived, nor do I expect him—: The Duke of Saxe Weimar’s book is out, he mentions by name every body whom he saw in this country among other things his wedding visit to Ellen, at my Father’s.—Has Clarke the printer arrived, and does he suit? please tell Nic. to write.

we have had a singular season, frequent rains, and occasionally great bursts. Ellen is very thin, more so than I ever saw her, and feeble: but not unwell: the babies are well. Miss Stearns and her father are at the Springs for her health; Dr & Mrs Kirkland have journeyed as far as the Falls;—letters have been recd from the Nortons in England, delighted of course, they had seen Mrs Hemans! Old Stewarts death you have seen in the papers; his character, by Allston, I forwarded to N.—his oil painting of Mr. Jefferson which was in so little repute with you is pronounced one of his best efforts; in a good light, and at a proper height, it is of an admirable effect.—All your friends remember you and speak frequently of you; among them particularly Aunt Storer, and my mother, and Mrs Stearns. Miss Stearns was here a few days since and full of inquiries.—I go to see George as often as I can, and every holiday he comes to town: Mrs Stearns receives him every Saturday: he grows, and is improved in appearance; Mr & Mrs Wells speaks well of him; he seems happy; and the school is encreasing. Mr Martin Brimmer is to marry Miss Wadsworth, and Wm Otis the beautiful Miss Marshall!—Tell Nicholas to answer my inquiries about the books on architecture—: Mr Edward Brooks and myself have undertaken to translate Milizia’s work—no small affair—: I bring this disjointed, rambling letter to a close, with my best love and remembrances to all. let us hear from you soon.

Yrs. truly,
J. C jr.
RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); partially dated; torn at seal; addressed: “To Mrs Randolph: Monticello, Charlottesville, Albemarle, Virginia”; stamped and postmarked; with notes by Coolidge: “paid single. Mailed Augt 7th.”