Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge
|[ca. 28 May 1829]|
It is a long time dearest Ellen since I wrote to you, or have written regularly; and I so seldom write to any one else, that although the list of my correspondents is an appalling one if they were at all particular with me yet they are mostly indulgent kind friends glad to hear from me when I can write, and not offended when I do not. We are at present engaged in a business that precludes work, writing, & reading of every kind but the one; in which the revising and correcting the copies of the manuscripts. 10 hours a day will probably enable us to get through them some time in July, I do not know if the Ana of which there are three volumes are included, if they are not we shall probably be employed the rest of the summer. Mr Wills and my self take a setting of 5 hours, Cornelia and Mary as much More, and Jefferson from two to three, which will make up for occasional interruptions. but from the trouble we have had with a considerable part of them from the fading of the press copies, I am convinced that none less interested than the family would have undertaken some of the volumes them, at any price that would not have totally defeated the one of the chief purposes of the publication. Ben’s fever has left him, and he is sitting up to day out of bed for the first time. very thin and weak but doing well; I suspect he will be able to travel before James now. & I never saw such a prostration of strength in my life, or so slow a recovery of it. he walks with a cane staggering like a drunken man, and although he can walk down a few steps, yet for his life he could not ascend one, with out assistance. his appetite is great, and his stomach pretty good. he has fattened even, but his strength does not keep pace with the rest at all.
Jane, Virginia and Miss Stearns are gone to the University to hear the funeral sermon of the victims of the fever, that is to be preached by Mr Mead and a great one no doubt it will be. the convention Episcopalian is sitting in Charlottesville, and the crowd & heat will be dreadful. I did not mention in My letter to Joseph that Burwell has petitioned to be admitted as a member of the family, contributing the same share to the general fund that Browse will—he has shown great interest in the family, and a very strong personal affection to my self. the first thing he did after Nicholas rented a house was to give me his Mother’s beadstead, bed & & and to have it set up in my room. he says he means to give up his office and retire from Washington. Mrs Fleury told N. that his intention was to lead a Monastic life in some catholic institution. he said nothing of that him self, but leads the life of an anachorite. a system of complete mortification and penance—he said we might put him any where, but begged that he might not be “thrown off” when the family came. the size of the house and the additi[on] of his mother’s bed will still leave us two & two rooms for Your accomodation dearest Ellen—Ellen Bankhead will stay here to finish her education under Miss Stearns, a most wise and excellent determination, and one that I would most gladly have made for Tim; but reason you know is not her fort. she has been thrown in such dispair by the proposal that I gave it up against my better judgement, for it was certainly except for her music the best thing that could have been done. We have been fortunate even beyond our most sanguine hopes in Miss Stearns her plan Miss S. is a most excellent one, firm but gentle, she commands both respect and affection from her scholars, and the esteem of all who know her. I beleive her to be as high minded delicate & honorable she is learning music that she may teach the girls, Jane’s daughters as a [. . .] regular part of their education; for the others I presume she will be allowed an additional charge. I teach her and find her a very apt scholar.
You will be surprised, but I hope not mortified to hear that I have taken a certain number of scholars at 30 $ the session of 5 months, Miss Weydown’s terms; except that having no school I am [. . .] able to devote more time to them. My object was to pay my bills in Charlottesville with out breaking in upon the interest due, out of which Miss Stearns’s salary I will be pay paid although Jefferson objected. but he has paid Georges expenses this year which brings it to the same thing in the end. three years of mourning and very straightened funds had reduced the wardrobes of the whole family to a style not admissible in any society in which we would appear, and although it will be upon the simplest scale yet where the wardrobe is to be created from the foundation in so large a family it will cost more than I could afford from my slender income. 1 or 2. plain swiss muslin dresses for parties, 3 cambric dresses, & a dark silk will I believe be absolutely necessary, with a pelisse for Mary, & bonnets for all. when the expenses of our removal, the 100 $ for house rent due in October, and the little indispensible furniture is purchased, we shall have very little remaining to open house with. Nicholas’s funds are bound up to the last farthing this year. I presume we shall join stocks, but in proportion to numbers. Mine would be the largest, but as I furnish 2 servants & N. only one for the nurse cant be counted, and as the furniture is all mine with very little exception, it will be more equal than at first sight it appears. My wish is to contribute 600 $ Nicholas the same, & Browse & Burwell 300 each which covers all the expenses of a single Man except dress, or nearly all in the cheapest boarding house in Washinton; washing & fuel & furnished from that fund. we have a garden which Richard ought to cultivate, and give us our vegetables; I think we might keep 1 or 2 cows for we have grass & [. . .] surrounded on three sides by common. such are my ideas for nothin[g] [. . .] been settled between us, but I think we may live comfortably in Washing[ton] where living is cheap, and we are known, to be and of course where wealth will not enter in the scale of our importance. but if we can live upon the above mentioned sum N. will be able to lay by 4 or 500 $ a year & Browse & Burwell a great deal more, at the same time making one family each will be a member of the same with the authority & I hope the feelings of children, and not boarders, a term my pride cannot digest. none but those who have been with out a home, can only know the luxury of again possessing one. to have a house to receive Joseph & your self in, to be contributing to you comfort in every way whilst with me, to have [. . .] Preciocita& Bess at my heels, the boy in my arms, and even the pleasure of combing Joseph’s head, are all distinct and pleasing features in my day dreams, in which the girls join with as much pleasure as myself, and talk over with an interest that you dearest Ellen can better conceive who know our feelings & habits, than I can describe. I have written three pages of down right gossip, but at such a distance the most elegantly written letter does not give half the pleasure that circumstance purely personal however carelessly expressed do. Mary Cary was married last thursday C. & M. officiated as bridesmaids. You will probably see them in Boston as Mr Fairfax talks of the usual tour the Lakes Niagara & & they will probably settle in Washington. he has graduated at Philadelphia as a physician. they leave Cary’s brooke about the first of June but will probably make some stay in Alexandria where his father lives—
Jane sent with the hams one of her crewets that she wishes matched or another made exactly like it. with her bacon went 2 hams & 2 shoulders for old ye elder Mr Coolig Coolidge & your self two for each from Col. Carr. they are two years old he had told me of them and desired me to send for them, but to his great mortification the rats had cut them so much that he would not have sent them but for my sending—he is very grateful for the attentions shewn John both M by Mr C and Joseph and begs you will return his thanks & & &
we have sent off Richard & 1 waggonload of furniture Beds & &, Nicholas Burwell & Browse when he arrives will sleep in the house take their break fast & tea I presume and [. . .] perhaps dinner also if Richard is competent to a beaf steak or a mutton chop. N & B. had already moved there, and enjoyed the birds & trees & turf very much they say it is a very neat sweet looking place & very conveniently disposed. [. . .] has 12 rooms besides the kitch[en] & pantry and a promis[. . .] to build a study for N. chargin[g] only the interest in add[. . .] to the rent 400 $