Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Martha Jefferson Randolph
I received your letter of March 12th only yesterday my dear Mother, and along with it Cornelia’s of the same date—I am afraid I shall not have time to answer both, as it is late and I have several little things to do. yesterday I reached my place of destination and settled myself quietly on the Church-Hill, where however as you may suppose I am literally buried; for it is so distant from the fashionable part of the Town that we might as well be in Albemarle for gaiety.Aunt Hackley is very sick has been confined to her bed for more than a week & this made me delay coming to her, as I feared being in her way—this fear I find to be quite groundless, and from the cordiality of her reception I am sure she is pleased to have me with her. I spent some days with Aunt Randolph at her particular request—some reports have gone abroad with respect to a disagreement said to [. . .] exist between her & our family and it was even said that this was the cause of my staying at Col. Nicholas’s—the good people of this town have so much time to attend to affairs that do not concern them that there is no action however simple that can hope to escape their charitable animadversions. Many causes have concurred to delay the operation which was to be performed on my mouth; I am assured it will be very simple, and have no fears on the subject—I have not once thought of it since I came down except to regret the putting of it off.
I am very glad to hear that Virginia is certainly coming down—besides the advantage of getting her teeth filed she will spend her time very pleasantly I am sure—the spring will be so far advanced as to admit of her going out as much as she pleases, and many persons who would not or could not visit her in winter will think nothing of a walk or ride in fine weather—she will find a number of girls here near her own age who & she may I think calculate upon every gratification which the polite attentions of the Nicholas family can procure her. Cornelia says something about her dresses & not knowing the fashions—almost any kind of trimming will do—tucks, flounces, work &c are all worn indifferently—some of her frocks had better be cut out in the neck in the way they have been worn for more than a twelve month past, & her ruffs should be very full in order to admit of their being quilled to a collar long enough to fit the neck of the half-way dress. if she has a canton crape instead of trimming it in that troublesome manner of puffings in which mine was done. two deep [. . .] flounces of silk the colour of the crape hemmed at the bottom & set on one above the other either with an silk bands to hide the whips or else gathered into conchitas as we used to do our frills when Aunt Hackley staid at Monticello. Mrs Patterson is expected from Baltimore the day after to morrow and she may perhaps bring some new fashions, but I find my last winter cloathes full good enough for me. advise Virginia to bring with her all the little things she may have occasion for, soap, pins, pomatum &c. for all these little things run up what is a long bill for poor people; there is a pack of visiting cards in my table drawer belonging to Cornelia and myself which she had better bring as Elizabeth and herself will probably visit together & these cards have “the Miss Randolphs” written on them.—worked ruffs are quite fashionable, so if she has any let her bring them. I [. . .] have no doubt her [. . .] open wrapper will answer full as well as if it had been cut by the regular pattern and will be a handsome stylish dress. I suppose she has a muslin or two for parties—her yellow canton crape will be usefull in this way. there is a sort of walking [. . .] dress which Julia Wickham wears & which the Miss Nicolas's are having made, I will describe it although I do not know whether Virginia can avail herself of the description—it is a cambric petticoat, flounced, tucked or embroidered with an open wrapper of Canton crape worn over it—the crape should be of a spring color. Julia Wickham’s is pale yellow—the Miss Nicolas's green. there should be gloves & shoes of the same color. ruffs are worn almost altogether collars very little, I think not at all by the elegantes, but of this I am not quite certain—the ruffs, such as we [. . .] wore at home, a broad or narrow collar with one frill at the top & another at the bottom, quilled in the middle in very large quills, and worked, plain, or trimmed with edging, as you please.
I had no idea of filling a letter written to you with a history of fashions my dearest mother; I always have so much to say about my own affairs, & particularly about my own feelings, that I do not perhaps think as much of other people as I ought to do. in this case the wish to give V. the benefit of my limited knowledge on the subject of dress, and th[. . .] of not having time to write another letter has made [. . .] depart from my general rule of talking of myself. I [. . .] a great deal to say which must make the subject of another letter, for if the feelings of the moment have evaporated before another post, they will be succeeded by others, the expression of which will be equally interesting to me, & I fear equally wearisome to you.
Papa is still at Varina—give my love to all the family particularly to my dearest grandfather & to Jefferson when you see him.
I have written in the midst of “Hell's hubbub” and although I know what I intended to say I am by no means certain it will be equally intelligible to you