Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

I was just preparing to write to you dearest Ellen when I received your very welcome letter. I am sorry you have been so much disappointed in you[r] present situation and can truly sympathise with you in the distress of a large house with out servants to keep it in order. ours according to the fashion of the place has the additional discomfort of naked floors. we have but one Carpet down in the parlour & mean to take that up as soon as Emily, our Parlour girl, is well enough to scour & dry rub it the garden I find will be a horrible nuisance, or an expense that it seems doubtful whether I can meet. from the time of N—s appointment to Havanna [. . .] his salary as clerk stopped, of course our whole family consisting of from 16 to 17 grown persons, and 6 children black & white have no ressources but my slender means income, not even Julian’s [. . .] mite—; for N had borrowed it all before hand. [. . .] two sales that nothing but dire necessity would have compelled me to make, will with my interrest due the first of July, pay off my bank debt & all the bills I hope, but will not leave me one cent but Lewis’s contribution for the next six month. the debts & bills are about equal, (at least I hope they will not go beyond,) my ressourses. but Nicholas, Virginia, Cornelia Mary Page, who has been sent to us on account of her health, the nurse & children & George, for a short time, will leave us in a week to spend the summer months in Virginia, from whence they will not return George & Nicholas excepted, till October. that that will reduce our household to 10 grown persons & 2 black children one however Sally old enough to be usefull we got rid also of a work woman Who has been sewing in the house for 6 or 7 weeks but not of the tutor who dines with us three or four times a week. he will charge nothing for George or his attent attendance on the girls who all read spanish with him, of course an occasional dinner is very little in return. we have been very much disappointed in the Consulship. Mr Cleveland writes Nicholas that the average profits of the place is $6573. that living is so extravagantly high; that with the most grinding economy, Mr Shaler who lived in his family and himself, could only lay by $2000 per annum. the poorest board without wine or any thing but the plainest fair fare was $2 a day. Mr Thompson told N it had cost him about 1000 a year boarding, in a common way. Mr Cleveland says more over that N will have to pay about $500 for the reccords & & belonging to the office, & that he will not remain for less than one half of the profits, which N is obliged to agree to for the present. in short My own private opinion is that Mr C not with standing his reputation, is determined to take every advantage the law will bear him out in, I should say an extortioner, though N seems to be satisfied with his statements. and but with his very expensive habits or more properly speaking his desperate ignorance of economy, I see nothing certain but the expense. this statement however does not include the comercial transactions in whi[ch] Mr Cleveland tells him Mr S— & himself never would engage on account of the ri[sk. s]till I hope with all these draw backs he will be able to contribute some thing to the house hold expenses. but I will never again dispair the means of partial relief accomplished by means so abhorrent; have been divested of their most distressing features by it’s being the desire of the parties them selves, so that at least it has not been sullied by a tear or even a reluctant assent. I got a letter from Ben informing me of the death of Charles Bankhead he went one night to Ben’s room accompanied by his servant and told him he had been drunk for some days & was very ill. Ben immediately gave him what he thought the case required; & set up with him till two o clock when he said he was much better. Benjamin went to lie down in an adjoining room leaving him with his servant. at 6 o clock he had an appoplectick fit after which he lived about two hours in a state of absolute insensibility from which it was impossible to rouse him. poor Ellen will be dreadfully distressed for he was really a kind father, and little Willie has [. . .] shewn a degree of feeling on the occasion that has a good deal affected me. L is positively engaged. and Margaret has written to me. the girls have all written to her and I think you also had better do the same for I think it a pity as the thing is to take place to mortify them by any shew of backwardness on our part—the Vails speak very well of her as a warm hearted generous tempered girl full of energy and extremely useful, in short an admirable poor man’s wife. no time is fixed and no plans decided upon as yet. her faults appear to proceed from the extreme severity of her mothers temper, which have has kept the children at too great a distance to inable her to form their manners & characters, as those mot[hers] who live on friendly an confidential terms do so much better, than by cold precepts and example, deprived of its charm by too great [. . .] of temper. she is wild, perhaps indiscreet, but with her warm affections I hope that may be corrected. she seems devotedly attached to L & to love all the family for his sake. I think a letter from You would be kindly taken the address is Miss Margaret G. Meade. to the care of Mrs M. C. Meade spruce street Philadelphia. I believe our accompt stands $8 50ct d sundrie. $5 for V—s shoes 37½ $40, of which I returned 15, leaving 25. the postage I have really forgotten but presume it does not exceed $4 making $43 wanting 12½ cts whatever the surplus is if any Nell must lay it out in some thing for some of her numerous progeny. adieu dear daughter. kiss the darlings for me I wish I could relieve you in your labours remember me to the ladies & gentle men of your family and believe me ever and unchangeably yours.

M Randolph

the girls all join in love and when you write to Joseph dont forget most afectionate remembrances from us all N made the note payable to T. Bullfinch as your man of business

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); ink stained; torn at seal; dateline adjacent to postscript; addressed: “To Mrs Joseph Coolidge Junr to the care of J. Coolidge Senr Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; postmarked City of Washington, 25 June; endorsed by Coolidge: “Mother. June. 1833”; with notes by Coolidge: “Consulship of Havana. Death of Mr Bankhead. Money Troubles.”