Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ann C. Morris
|Boston Feb. 8th 1833|
I am afraid dear Nancy from the account you give of your self that you are wearing your self out by attempting more than you have strength to accomplish, and sacrifising the most important object in life your precious health, to secondary considerations. your small family requires but few servants but those few are absolutely necessary not only to your comfort but your life, and those I would have, and of the best. remember dear sister we are not what we were “20 summers ago” and that exertions that would not materially have injured us then, would will destroy us now. I think my self that not only the health & happiness but even our characters are so much affected by domestic vexations and fatigue that I would economise in any and every thing but that. people have a great deal of trouble of that kind here, they cant afford generally speaking to give high wages, the factories draw off so many and pay them so well that any thing that offers is sure of getting a place, and the facility with which they get one when dissatisfied, give them such habits of changing that you never are sure of retaining one a month; but the rich with whom high wages is no object get the best & pay them so well that it becomes their interrest to retain a good place, and they experience all the luxury (for surely it is one of the greatest) of good servants.
With regard to Our Sister Virginia I have been for some years past very anxious about her. the too free use of Opium indulged in more freely perhaps from the solitude in which she lived at Carys brooke, the absence of the excitement and salutary restraint of society was the root of the evil. I was afraid of her stay in Norfolk also for fear of her [. . .] involving her self in difficulties1 from her want of experience in the expense of living in town, but Harriet’s last letter contains a very satisfactory account of her. she says “she appears much interrested in her school and having no assistant is compelled to be always in place, her afternoons are devoted to walking, she visits the pensioners of the Dorcas society, the Orphan Asylum, and indeed has something to do with, or for, all the charitable schemes on foot in our town, Now having no family at home to suffer at home from for her attention she can spend her leisure time abroad with propriety”—If she does not get tired, and if she can regulate her expenses by her means perhaps the situation may suit her very well. while she lived at Cary’s brooke, the head of one of the best families in Virginia, [. . .] mistress of an estate that although in debt was under such perfect management while Neal Gay had the direction of it that she lived in great Comfort and abundance, she was a mother of the church and very much courted by the pious brotherhood; far be it from me to suggest that the luxuries of her table, her rank in life or the great command of money which at one time of her widowhood she had appeared to have, had any influence with the holy brothers & sisters, that resorted occasionally in great numbers to her house, but her affairs became lest prosperous, Mr Gay gave up the mannagement of her estate, and I thought her importance in her church sank in proportion as she had less to bestow. other bad con and worse consequences ensued, which a life of [. . .] activity and the wholesome restraints & excitement of society may [. . .] counteract & even make her a usefull member of society her, perseverance is all that I doubt & fear. George obtained a leave of Absence for a year to go to a french school to perfect himself in Mathematics & french but the cholera prevented that plan, and he returned home where he now is taking lessons from a french tutor who is competent also to teach what ever he else he will have time to acquire. he is a manly honorable boy, and one that will most religiously perform his duty where ever it lies. that is at least the character that the officers of his ship have given me of him. they say he has all the materials for a fine Officer, and both of his captains at parting gave him honorable testimonies of their approbation. Septimia has grown up handsome. her style of beauty is very classic so much so that a painter in Washington Asked My leave to take Harriet Hackley’s & her picture, but they both objected to being exhibited in so publick a manner and the application was refused on that score. when she is well dressed in the ball room she is really a striking figure. she moves well, & dances very gracefully, whilst her modesty & naiveté give a great charm to her manners. I should not speak so freely to any one else dear Nancy but you also are a mother, with all the pride of a fond Mother glowing in your heart, you are also a near relation of the dear children and have always been kind enough to express an interest in them which makes my boasting [. . .] less impertinent than it would be to a stranger or one who had had an opportunity of judging for [. . .] themselves I believe I mentioned Ellen Bankhead’s marriage to you & since that her eldest brother John to a Miss Christian from the lower part of the state Ellen appears to be extremely happy. her Mother in law My old friend Polly Coles, afterwards Mrs Robert Carter, gave her a most affectionate receptio[n] you have heard also no doubt of poor Harriet Willis’s death. after great suffering she gave birth to a dead child on the 22 of November, was seize with a fever which fell on her brain and expired on the 28th 9 months only after the death of her poor Mother. what a melancholy situation for the dear survivors, two such losses in their small circle of domestic blessings, in so short a time all besides is strange, and very little to interrest one in the society of so new a settlement I dread the Consequences for poor Elisabeth. Lucy is extremely religious & disposed to melancholy her health also is very delicate. Mary Page is a sweet girl, good & chearfull, but I do not know how her spirits will stand this last blow
My letter is such a villainous unsightly scrawl that I am ashamed to send it but have not time for a better
adieu dear Sister remember me affectionately to Gouverneur I must still repeat what I have so often said before. if possible I will see you but it will depend upon the movements of my escort & perhaps also upon contingencies which I can not always controul. Yours most affectionately
Ellen begs to be affectionately remembered to you both