Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Martha Jefferson Randolph
|Poplar Forest July 18th |
We have reached our journey's end in safety my dearest Mother, having met with no accident on the road, no misadventure of any kind, except being driven in to Hunter’s yesterday morning by a shower of rain, which forced us to take a neat comfortable breakfast at half after seven o clock, instead of one both dirty and ill-cooked which I we should have found between eleven and twelve at Chilton’s. On arriving here we found our windows uninjured by the hail, and our room clean and pretty well aired by Eugenia's care. all the glass on the north side of the house is demolished but Grand-Papa’s room has lost but one window, which will soon be repaired. Cornelia is well and in good spirits but complaining of fatigue in spite of this however her books and drawings are all unpacked and we are both preparing to go hard to work to morrow morning.
Poplar Forest looks rather more dismal than usual; the long absence of the family, appears to have produced its effect in encreasing encreased the look of wildness and desolation of [. . .] longs to it every thing around. the weeds growing to the very door of the kitchen, as high as your head, the planks of the terrace torn up in places by the violence of the wind, the front of the house offering nothing but the sashes of its windows, except where they were protected by the portico, the dining room darkened by the boarding up of the sky-light, and the floors stained and [. . .] moulded by the entrance of the rain-water; add to this the close musty smell which a house long shut up continues for some time to retain—and yet in spite of all this, I have felt no depression of spirits—to the contrary, there are associations and recollections which combined with hopes for the future give me a sensation of cheerfullness and animation—I recall remember how profitable my former visits have been, how much more I have always carried away, than I have ever brought, how usefully my time has been uniformly spent. I go from room to room and there are particular recollections attached to each. here, every day for six weeks at a time I have devoted from seven to eight hours to my latin, and laid a solid foundation which gives their its full value to the most trifling addition. there hour after hour, I have poured over volumes of history, which I should in vain have attempted to read at Monticello, and which were perhaps necessary to fix upon me point my uncultured ideas, and give regularity & uniformity to a shapeless mass which had of ideas accumulated without method or order by habits of hurried & desultory reading—how often has the acquirement of one bright idea thrown light upon what was dark before and called into life and activity what had been long lying dormant & useless. and dormant and then after a period, even a short period of this sort of labour, to look back without a single feeling of regret or self-reproach—I have often thought that the life of a student must be the most innocent and happy in the world; that is, of [. . .] a man who studies studying, [. . .] chiefly for present gratification and because he finds it the most agreable way of passing his time, and is therefore exempt from all envy and fears of rivalship—for such a man the passions must sleep and the mind alone be awake, he must be alike free from nervous anxieties, feverish hopes & groundless fears. pride, vanity discontent ennui, uncharitableness can find no room in a mind occupied entirely by other things, and the pursuit of knowledge unlike other pursuits is subject to no disappointments. it is a road where every step counts, where every advancement is secure, what you have acquired is beyond the risk of loss, and if the Course should be forever beyond the reach of human attainment, at least you are never in danger of having the labour of years frustrated by a single cross accident, or of having (after running half your course) to begin again at the point from which you set out. if I had been a man with the advantages of early education, I would have been just such a one, I think, but being a woman and not a rich woman, I must be content with peeping every now and then into a region too blissfull for my inhabitance, and after having felt myself for a short interval as “passionless and pure” as Byron's Spirit, return to the vanities, follies cares and pleasures of ordinary life.
Cornelia does not appear to have remarked the additional gloom in the appearance of our dwelling, but has been fretting all the morning over the loss of the sky-light, which darkens the [. . .] dining room so much that she cannot draw in it—and the glare of light which falls on her beggar and his dog shews the nose of the latter in so unseemly a place, that it shocks me to look at it—she hopes however with the aid of green baize curtains to get on pretty well with her work—Grand-Papa is so little fatigued by his journey as to have ridden to see his old friend Mr Clay this morning—Eugenia and the workmen got up safe and well and we can already observe what a wonderfull difference her presence will make in the comfort of our situation
Adieu my dearest mother, I have written a long letter as Virginia would say “out of my own head” for I have really nothing to tell you—pray write to me very soon, for all my industry will fail to secure from me against the ‘blues’ if I do not hear frequently from my family, I thought of you all so much the day I left you that all the kindness of the Enniscorthy family failed to make me cheerfull; dear George with his pale face and bright eyes, and his little naked shoulder as he stood at the door after we had taken leave of him haunted my imagination, and it made my eyes fill with tears whenever I thought that I should not see him again for two months and that in the mean time he would utterly forget me.
let me know whether you have got entirely rid of your sore throat and you must write by post my dear Mama, for the return of the cart is entirely uncertain, it is even probable that Henry may return go home with his mules and leave it here.
once more adieu my dearest mother, & believe always in the attachment of your daughter.
Give my love very particularly to Mrs Trist, Papa if he is with you and the girls and boys. ask Mary if she will collect my books and put them away for me. I rely on Virginia’s care of my pride of Barbadoes and multiflora rose, if my mocking birds & the other multiflora were should arrive, I recommend them most particularly to the whole family—give a great deal of love to Jane, and let me know how Sarah is. will you my dear Mama have four volumes of the British Theatre returned to Aunt Jane as soon as whenever they are no longer wanting—Margaret Nicholas has three of them, the fourth is at Monticello, and there was a fifth which I took the liberty of bringing along with me to read on the road. tell Jefferson that his commission was remembered by all three of us, Cornelia’s office and mine was to put GrandPapa in mind but for this there was no occasion.
GrandPapa has just told me that he shall send orders for the carpenters to come up in a fortnight or three weeks.
Kiss Septimia for me.