Virginia J. Randolph Trist and Cornelia J. Randolph to Nicholas P. Trist
|Edgehill March 16th 1829|
We arrived here in safety on the tenth, my Dearest Nicholas, & found James alive, but having been for several days on the very brink of the grave. for three days he was in a raving delirium, and he has, in living through it all, showed more constitution than either his physicians or ourselves thought that he had. thank heaven! he is now certainly & decidedly better. all the alarming symptoms have abated very much, and he has more strength left him than we expected him to have after the violence of the disorder had exhausted itself; but he is not out of danger, and the least error in the management of his case, even now, would no doubt prove fatal. Poor Harriet & Uncle Tom, have had an agonizing task to perform, and their grief, has been augmented by the conviction that Aunt Jane had not strength to survive such a bereavement. She has been very sick, probably from the protracted state of suspence in which she has been kept, for Elizabeth wrote word that she bore the first shock with great firmness. Sister Jane & myself are staying, with our little ones, in the old house, for the sake purpose of keeping this one as still as it is necessary to keep it. I brought the children home with very bad colds taken two days before I left Carys-brooke. Martha’s throat was so sore a few days ago that I showed it to Dr Gilmer, & by his advice shall give her frequent doses of salts. a gargle she can not use. the boy has a dreadful cough, and his eyes are very much affected. the cold in his head is very annoying, too, particularly at night. the poor little fellow missed his “black cow” so much, that I have at last relinquished Ellens services as a nurse, for the present, to put her in Sarah’s place & take Sarah to nurse the baby. she sleeps in my room and suckles him at night, & will probably continue to do so until I wean the baby him from her when we are going to Washington, unless I can bring back my own milk, which I am making desperate efforts to do. I drink like a fish & worry the baby to draw the empty breast two or three times every day, & if I can only bring milk enough to nurse him at night I shall be satisfied. none of the servants like to have to leave their comfortable beds to sleep on the floor in my room, nor could I bear to ask it of them on any other consideration than the health of my child.—Since you have been too busy to write to me regularly, I have felt more than ever the sacrifice I have made in giving up of your society for so long a time. it is true I never had the pleasure of having you much with me, but the little that I did have of your company & conversation, was necessary to my happiness. I had the satisfaction of knowing, too, that in cases of sickness you would would be with me. and yet as much I as I want to see you again, I would not for the world have you here now. I had rather not see you until this fatal fever has spent itself. it is true that Dr. Dunglison did does not apprehend any danger to the rest of us from the case now in the house, but we feel uneasy about Brother Jeff & Ben, particularly Ben who sets up every night from two oclock, and has been the most devoted nurse that could be throughout James’s illness. if you were here it would be expected that you should sit up sometimes, which I know would make you sick; & besides I am afraid that you would visit at the University, and that I think would be running a risk. I received a short letter from you this morning, part of which, containing an account of the sale of the books & intended for Brother Jeff, I gave him. I fear very much your present habits will injure your health. late bed hour, & irregular hours for meals are so trying to the stomach & head have I have not been very well lately, my stomach is out of order, and this keeps me nervous, low spirited & irritable. it is my daily task to keep these symptoms from being troublesome to others, but as I am not very successful you may congratulate yourself on being out of reach of being annoyed by such ebullitions. Martha, too, is very bad if she is atall indisposed. she is more of a baby than Carolina, and is quite a cross wayward child. I should be more uneasy at this disposition, if I did not find her quite good when she is well. I have made your wishes my law in governing her, and where I deviate one iota from them, it is from ignorance or necessity. Miss Edgeworths works have arrived, and Sister Jane is much pleased with them. I fear you will think that I have taken great liberties with your property when I tell you that I have lent to Aunt Cary your cut glass for the occasion of Mary’s wedding. she made the request, and I put her off for an answer, until I had consulted Mama whether she thought it would be running any risk. she thought it might be packed with perfect security & sent by the carriage, and as after a visit of seven weeks during which I received every possible attention & kindness, I had little in my power, in return, I determined to lend it to her, & have heard that it arrived safely. I gave her [. . .] my india rubber shoes, which she appeared pleased with; and by Mama’s advice I offered her Richard, if his services would be acceptable at the time of Mary’s marriage. I believe she means to accept them. Sister Jane said she could find employment for him, but that brother Jeff disliked having any more servants about the establishment. she proposed keeping him until Aunt Cary wanted him, however, and thinks that afterwards you can hire him better in Washington than in this neighbourhood. he asked my leave to visit his father & mother in Richmond, and a[s] I understood that Aunt Cary had made him the promise that he might before she parted with him, I did not think you would object to my compliance with the request.—I hope when you return next month (I have fixed in my own mind the first or second week of April for the period of your arrival) the weather will be fine & that I shall have the pleasure of visiting, with you, on horse back, Monticello, and all my our old haunts about the place & its immediate vicinity. how sad I feel when I look back to our residence there. the scene of my happy child hood; my acquaintance & union with you, dear Nicholas; and where I enjoyed the society of friends lost to me forever (in this world) by death, or other separation. it is true I have been very unhappy there at some periods of my life, but love for the spot was a pleasure locked in my heart, and of which nothing could deprive me. how strong local attachments become with those who have known but one home. Cornelia wishes to add a post script to my letter & I must bid you adieu for the present, believe dearest husband in the tender, devoted love of your own
If Joseph did not desire you to get John Randolphs book on gardening I think you had better not send it to him; he is nothing of a gardener & never will be, & would prefer having any other memorial of grandpapa. in general it is not old & curious books he would prefer, I think, but such as would grace a drawing room library. his taste is for talent embellished by elegance fashion & style.
I am sorry to say that the piano has been very much neglected this winter inspite of my good resolutions, but you must still have hopes of me, for I have not been much to blame. Aunt C’s “rattle trap” stood in her room where the family sat constantly, and being not atall better than the old harpsichord, I should have annoyed everyone by practising on it without benefitting myself.—Sister Jane desires me to give her love to you and say that she is delighted with your present, that it has always been the object of her wishes.
No one has ever mentioned to you the reason that Brother Jeff was so dilatory in sending the books to Washington he had been was urged by several gentlemen of this state to delay as long as he could to give an opportunity to The Legislature of Virginia to buy them. among others Mr Gordon & Mr. Cabbell spoke to him or to Dr. Dunglison (I forget which) on the subject.—Mrs: Gordon has twins.—you must not
Do not be uneasy about us on account of the fever. James’s room is kept so airy that every one is liable to cold & rheumatism who sits much in there. Uncle Tom sits up in his great coat & with a yarn cap on his head, Brother Jeff & the girls sit up in the dining room merely going into his room at stated times.—excuse this rigmarole of a letter.