Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Virginia J. Randolph Trist
|Boston April 15. 1834.|
Your letter of April 8. reached me this morning, dearest Virginia, and my children being all in bed I shall at least make an attempt to answer it, although my hand trembles with fatigue and my head aches from the same cause. My nursery woman left me to day upon a notice of twenty four hours, being obliged to accompany her only sister, who is dying with consumption, to a part of the country which being her native home the poor creature wishes once more to see. Algernon is just recovering from a severe though short illness & both Sidney and Jefferson have bad colds, so that with three sick children and no nurses you may suppose I have small leisure of mind or body. I was very much interested in your account of the election and the enthusiasm of the negroes is so perfectly in character with all I know of them that I almost fancied I could see old Minerva’s [. . .] capers & hear the blank countenance of her disappointed competitor. Here we have an equal degree of excitement in which I cannot sympathise & therefore view with scorn. There have been actually a hundred guns fired on the Common to day in honour of what they call the triumph of the Whig party in New York. True they have lost their Mayor, but then have they not succeeded in getting the Aldermen. And the Whig party being all of them “black bitter Tories” enemies of the Administration and supporters of the Bank, their impudence in usurping the name of Whig really causes my “corruption to rise.” However I have no desire to be burnt as a Heretic merely for adhering to the true Faith and I therefore talk no politicks except with Mary or Thomas Bulfinch, who if he does not agree with me is at least too mild and moderate to be offended at my differing from him. I am sorry to hear of Nicholas’s misadvantures; I have written to him once this winter & sent my letter by a vessel bound for Havana which probably got there before he did.
April 17th I began to write upon the 15th dear Virginia, & by the 20th I dare say my letter will be ready for the mail. The children continue poorly and the prevailing epidemic being lung-fever I am obliged to nurse them their colds for fear of their degenerating into a disease which next to scarlet fever is the worst scourge of childhoods in this unpropitious climate. Two young children of two of my friends are now lying at the point of death. How I envy you the power of letting your little ones breathe the air of Albemarle! the most healthful I suspect in our country—at least far superiour in purity & elasticity to any that I have ever known. I am glad Monticello is no longer in the market to be hawked about by that crazy creature Mr Hart, who has been lately in Boston tormenting every body the natives to subscribe for the purchase. He called to see me and his mind was so evidently wandering that I was glad to have him out of the house and dissuaded him all I could from going round among persons who, besides having no friendly feeling for the name of Jefferson, were about that time almost crazed by their own pecuniary troubles. I hope “yellow foot speckled foot” may not “trip and be gone” as his predecessor Dr Berkley has done, but stay to put things in order and restore as far as possible the house and grounds to their original beauty.
I have heard frequently from Joseph in Bombay. His health is perfect & his spirits good. I think however his return before the end of another year quite improbable if not impossible. I hardly hope to see him before the summer of 1835 and this is certainly a great drawback to the satisfaction I feel in his success. My situation is really a forlorn one although my pride instigates me to make the best of it among my acquaintance here—but what with the constant ill health of my children, the intolerable badness of our white servants, a very limited income, a harsh unpleasant climate and the almost total want of family connexions who are either able or willing to comfort or assist me, my life is a troubled and a weary one. This winter particularly Joseph’s mother has been confined to her chamber, his father suffering from a terrible fit of hypochondria[. . .] by which he is rendered equally unfit for business or society and his sister the only person in the whole family who is in a situation to take any interest in me or my children. Aunt Storer is so much of an invalid and I such a prisoner to the house that although living next door we sometimes do not see each other for weeks together. Poor Mary has altogether had a melancholy visit to Boston. She was just beginning to get acquainted and enter with some spirit into such amusements as are were within our reach when she went into mourning and since that time the house has been a perfect hospital, servants, children, one & all affected in various ways with colds, sore-throats fevers and a long list of evils. Mary has assisted me in taking care of the children, the rest of her time she has past in sewing, reading or writing, her only recreation a walk and that most generally a solitary one for I have been too closely confined to accompany her. I fear her associations must be all unpleasant; there has been little to render them otherwise. The situation of Joseph’s family has cut off even the resource which their society might have afforded and the winter altogether has been to me the most d[reary?] I ever past and f[or] her I fear painful & wearsome.
I have been interrupted, wonderful to say, only once since I began to write, and that pleasantly by a visit from Martha Stearns. She has come to spend a fortnight in Cambridge & promises to pass a day with Mary. She looks blooming as a rose & seems in good spirits. She told me however a bad piece of news which she heard from her uncle Mr Stearns, that Alexander Rives had after all lost his election & that Jefferson would be yoked to that canting hypocrite Walker Gilmer during the ensuing session of the legislature. Quelle horeur.
Tell Cornelia that Mary & myself ascertained the price of the German Books necessary for a beginner to be about $7.25. Dictionary 8v. $4.00 Grammar $1.25. Book of Exercises $1.00 German Reader or Book of Extracts $1.00. A pocket dictionary of small size may be had for $1. 50. and a small grammar for $.62½ cts.—When you write to Joseph, which I hope you will do, you had better enclose your letter to me, (the postage is no more than two single letters and my correspondence is so small that I can well afford an extra letter) direct it to the care of Thomas Bulfinch and I will forward it by the first opportunity. Adieu dearest Virginia, I have been interrupted fifty times since my ill-timed boast and must hurry to a close. Give a great deal of love to all our friends & tell Mama I never see one of her old acquaintance without their making particular inquiries after her. Joseph in all his letters sends the most [. . .] affectionate messages to her and all of you which, as I seldom write, I am remiss in delivering. Ellen is teazing me for a sheet of paper upon which she proposes to indite a letter to Martha, but as the lines are to be ruled and the pens mended I put her off to a moment of more leisure. Heaven bless you.