Mary J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

My dear Sister

Mr Coolidge was kind enough to give us frequent news of your health during the first week of your confinement & judging from his favorable accounts I hope you will soon be able to confirm his reports with your own hand, at least I will take it for granted that your eyes are now strong enough to decypher one of my scrawls, but what shall I say to you on the subject of the late event? I can suggest nothing in the way of consolation for your troubles but the hope that the worst of them is or is very soon to be at an end and that it is not with in the limits of probability that you can continue to go on as you have done. I remember four years ago that Mrs Singleton told me, she had gone on from the first year of her marriage having children as fast as it was possible to have them, until she had brought seven into the world & that she had never had another since. one of her sons is now at our University, at the time I saw her she had with her, her two daughters & twin boys, two little fellows in short jackets & little round hats, looking with the aid of similarity of dress, like duplicates of each other. the lady I believe was some years your senior, perhaps a good many, when she married, but it is a long time ago & I think she must have given up her “chien de metier” a long time before her years rendered it impossible for her to go on with it. now it is my prayer & my hope that you may be no less, if not more fortunate & that your little family may be considered as made up, god grant that it may suffer neither increase nor diminution & that you may live to see yourself surrounded by grown sons & daughters & feel the happiness of inspiring in others what you have already felt. we heard a few days ago from your old friend Cousin Anne Jones, she has given her husband three promising boys & by accident failed in giving him a fourth this summer. she writes always in a tone of cheerfulness & content and never omits making affectionate enquiries after you and your little ones. Virginia is now with us & we have the pleasure of assembling our whole family together (with the exception of yourself and George) very frequently. James generally pays us a visit on Sunday & Ben who is living for the present with Dr Gilmer comes often to see us. he has not yet determined where he will settle himself, in the mean time he gets some practise practice by visiting Dr Gilmer’s patients, but his principal object in going to board with the Dr was to familiarise himself with the appearance & management of the medicines he will be obliged to employ in his practice. as yet he is but little acquainted with many of them, having seen them only in the samples exhibited in the lecture room. James still continues to farm on a small scale, he is industrious, but from want of judgement & miscalculation, meets with but little success. the The spot on which stands the small house he has hitherto occupied, is included in the land sold to Dr Barclay, but there is still some land left for him to cultivate & he proposes to put up a log house upon it instead of his former dwelling. poor fellow! I am afraid he will scarcely take the trouble to make it as comfortable even as it might be made, but I am glad at least that he is not thrown out of employment entirely by the sale of Monticello. the Barclays are now established there, I hear they begin already to be annoyed by visitors, but that they are determined to resist s the encroachments of strangers, at least Ellen & Septimia walked there from Carlton one evening, they and were refused admittance by the servants, who said they had positive orders not to suffer any one to enter the house. the Barclays were absent at the time & Tim & Ellen had not heard that they had taken possession of the house when they went up. we had thought at one time, when it seemed impossible to find a purchaser for Monticello, that we might perhaps have it in our power to spend the summer months there, we should not of course, have aspired to anything beyond the necessaries of life, while we made that our abode, but we should have contented ourselves with these & the enjoyment of our beautiful scenery and we should have been happy. our fine airy rooms woul and delightful situation would have been to us the greatest comforts we could enjoy in fine weather. how little would suffice for comfort anywhere indeed if it were j but summer all the year round, or spring or autumn which [. . .] would be pleasanter still perhaps, but winter. cold winter I dread everywhere, to be shut up within doors & with closed windows, to be shivering all day long with aching feeling feet & freezing fingers, to have everybody crowded into the same room & round the same fire, without the possibility of enjoying elbow room or quiet or privacy even for an hour on in the day! why I think it as serious a trial of temper as matrimony itself or as a rainy day in a stage coach, when as Capt. Hall informs [us “][every] body’s temper is tried & found wanting” it is not good for people to be br[ought?] too close together, especially in situations where the comfort of each one is directly opposed to that of all the others—you have probably seen in the newspapers all the details, at least the most important, of the Southampton tragedy, in the newspapers too shocking to be exaggerated. there has been a great deal of excitement & even of alarm in this neighbourhood, but there never was the smallest ground for the latter. the men however in many instances took the alarm & the panic among the women, (I am told, for I have not been off of this plantation myself since the news arrived) was pretty general. sister Jane has been perfectly miserable on the subject, but fortunately for the rest of us we have been all quite cool enough to understand reason & consequently have never had an idea of fear or any anxious thought about the present, as to what the future may bring forth it is impossible to say positively but very easy to foresee that danger must arise hereafter, if some remedy is not applied in time. it is not while the whites are in numbers, three to one against the blacks & with the advantage of having arms in their hands that Virginia need fear the fate of St Domingo, & the destruction of the conspirators at Southampton is more likely to operate for the present as a warning than as an incitement to rebellion, still it is impossible not to see to what all this tends, when we know that the black population is rapidly gaining ground on the white. they say that the people of this state are opening their eyes to the truth. I wish it may be so & that they may continue to keep their eyes open after the excitement of the present moment is over & until they have taken measures to remove the evil.

Old Col. Lindsay died a few days ago I have heard no particulars of his death except that he had gone to bed at night apparently in his usual health—we are all well here except colds & except sister Jane’s encreasing ailments which it is to be hoped will shortly terminate. Martha had an attack of fever soon after her arrival, but it lasted only a few days & she is playing about again but Virginias maid Emily who came with her as a nurse for Jeff. has been confined to her room for ten days & we begin to be apprehensive that her disorder will turn out to be nervous fever. Washington has not been healthy this summer. my love to Mr Coolidge & kiss your little family for me. how I wish I could see them all. adieu

affectionately dearest sister
M. J. R.
RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); addressed: “To, Mrs. Joseph Coolidge junr care of Joseph Coolidge junr esqr Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; postmarked Everettsville, 27 Sept.; endorsed by Coolidge: “Mary. 25. Sept. 1831”; with notes by Coolidge: “Jefferson C.s birth. Mrs Singleton comforts me. Mary’s good wishes The Barclays at Monticello. Dear Monticello. Ben a physician poor James. Discomforts of a small crowded house. Southampton Insurrection. Evil forebodings.”

every body’s temper is tried & found wanting is from Travels in North America, in the years 1827 and 1828, by Basil Hall (1830).