Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Virginia J. Randolph Trist

I am much pressed for time, dearest Virginia, but cannot let Sarah Webber go to Havana without a few lines for you. She accompanies the Knights and promises herself great satisfaction in seeing Joseph. She will perhaps remain all winter but, as this depends on her humour which is rather variable, she may return in November.—I am greatly troubled at not receiving the suit of clothes which were to serve as patterns for Joseph’s clothes new ones. The time for Mary’s going approaches, my tailoress is engaged for the second week in October and I am at my wits end to know what to do, as I have not a single old garment which can in any way serve me as a guide. Mary wishes to sail early in November and if before that time I should hear nothing of the bundle which you sent out in the summer I shall be completely at a stand. Would you believe that we have not seen Hannah Stearns since her return, and do not even know where nor how she is. We have been, to be sure, all the summer at Mt Washington and have just got back to town.—To morrow a vessel sails for Canton which will take the segars & shaving soap, and for which I have been writing until I have got no eyes left, and to morrow also the Knights sail for Havanna. I have got some wire plate covers which I want to send you if I can as I think they might be of service in a place where there are so many insects as Cuba, although the ants would crawl through the meshes of the wire net which in these french covers is not quite close enough.

I believe I owe a letter to Cornelia, but perhaps she may be on her way to the States by the time this reaches you. Should she decide upon remaining with you I will then favour her with one of my precious letters which remind me more of what old Mrs Trist’s used to be than of any thing else. I am getting fairly into my dotage. The tremendous headachs to which I have been a martyr so long, have done the work of time & anticipated the decay of years, my hair is gray, my teeth rapidly decaying going my memory gone. Thank Heaven the pure air & excellent living at Mt Washington have afforded me a respite. I am decidedly improved in health, so much so that I hope to get comfortably through the winter; could I have gone to Havana I should have been quite restored, but this I could not do. Joseph’s father, though better a great deal than I ever expected to see him again, holds his life on a most uncertain tenure. I ought not to leave him, and having once made up my mind to the necessity of the case I must try and do the best for myself in this old barn of a house where winter is felt with double severity. I have laid in a stock of fuel which would enable a steam boat to circumnavigate the globe, it will not carry me more than half through the cold season, which is beginning now & will end by the 1st of July, & not till then. nine months of fire is the regular arrangement here.

Mary is writing and will tell you if there is any news. I have received your merinos and will have them dyed but it must be very dark colors, as they do not understand the art, here, of discharging the original dye & can only therefore give very dark shades to such articles as are dark in the first instance.

Farewell my dear Sister, I shall not have time to write to Joseph by this opportunity as I have already set at my desk until I feel quite nervous. Dinner is ready & after dinner I must go shopping for some articles which I want to send to Canton.

Give a great deal of love to Nicholas and the little ones and the girls if they are still with you. Heaven bless you, dearest sister, you must long ago have received my letters telling you of my de[ter]mination to remain in Boston this winter and my reasons for it. I wish I could tell you something of dear Jefferson but Philadelphia is as much beyond my reach as Havana.

Once more a tender adieu—
E. W. C.
RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Letters); mutilated at seal; edges frayed; addressed: “To Mrs Nicholas P. Trist Havana”; endorsed by Trist: “Coolidge E. W.”