Nicholas P. Trist to Virginia J. Randolph (Trist)

Dear Virginia

At length, after being a month without a letter from you or any of the family, my father brought me one last tuesday evening. As soon as its date, (March 7th) met my sight I was sure something had happened; for otherwise you could not possibly have suffered a whole month to intervene between your letters. I got Safely through however; but in such perturbation, that it was only on a Second reading that I observed you alluded to a letter which had never reached here, and which I therefore gave up as lost—It has nevertheless proved a faithful messenger; and Saluted my eyes yesterday at the post-office, completely soaked but otherwise in a better condition than might have been expected after all the hardships it has undergone. My heart felt so light on being relieved of the load which had been weighing on it for upwards of a fortnight, that I should have written by the very first mail, had I not been occupied with some urgent business to which my attention had been requested by an a person who has claims on it.—Now that it is got through with, I hasten to write, [. . .] Knowing you, will feel very anxious about the fate of your letters.—Your vulgar, plebeian sickness has, been you see been near affording a fine giggle to some postmasters clerk, or village gossip. it is an affect of the violin and triangle which I dare Swear they never heard of before; and I should certainly have had to disown you outright, if the eyes of the little frenchman at the post office were half as peering as Sundry other good people’s of the village would be with the Same chance: take care of ever again making me ashamed of you!

Your letters confirm the anxiety serious anxiety I had begun to feel on Ellen’s account. Every day some new cause presents itself for regretting our want of fortune; if we were only rich enough my dear Virginia, to spend a couple of summers in visiting Canada and the northern States, it would I am sure remove the complaints of all of us. But although this is not in our power. I trust that Ellen will join some one of the parties to the Springs, as they go by this year: such an excursion I prescribe, in opposition to Dr Watkins’s Calomel.—The Shannondale Springs are also highly Spoken of, and they are only a pleasant day’s journey from Washington. She would meet with agreeable society there; and in point of Scenery, that valley is said to be a second tempè.—Before I forget it, who is this Dr Watkins who died at Gordonsville on the 17th February, & was “a chesterfield in his manners.”—But for this trait, and your mentioning our Dr Watkins as having gone to Tennessee, I should have felt a good deal alarmed on reading that Notice.—

Cornelia will know exactly how much assistance to expect from me in reading Virgil, when she learns that I have this very day commenced studying Phædrus. To my shame be it told, I have, in the last five years, totally lost the little Latin I ever knew; and could now no more read Virgil than Homer.—Some extracts I have met with, in the course of my reading, out of Tacitus, make me desire very much to read him; and for this purpose I am beginning my declinations once more. If I do not return before the fall, I may perhaps then be sufficiently advanced to wade with her through the beauties of the Mantuan bard—I can well conceive, my very dear Virginia, your feelings at the departure of so estimable a member of your little circle; But, we were made to be tossed about, and sepearated by a thousand circumstances of daily occurrence; and You must learn to [. . .] dwell a little less on the ‘Shadows’ and a little more on the ‘lights’ of life.—The leaving a brother who is devoted to me, and to whom I am devoted, is a much more Serious cause for unhappiness than the departure of Elizabeth from among you; but still, I find consolation in the hope that although we cannot pass the meridian of life together, as we have the morning, its evening will again see us united.—This paper is execrable, and I am completely jaded with riding and writing; so you must excuse this scrawl in consideration for of the promise to write again as soon as I shall be a little freshened.—When you write to Bedford give my Love to Francis and Elizabeth, and tell them that the news of my arrival at Monticello, whenever that takes place, must be the signal for their setting out. Miss Harriet will find the ‘dutiful housewife’ a much more profitable study than the ‘blackguard’s dictionary,’ though perhaps not so agreeable a one.—Present me affectionately to the Girls: as to Mother, I am seriously affronted; and it shall not be an easy matter with her to regain favor.—To yourself, need I say, my beloved Virginia, that I am as ever, your own

Nichs Ph: Trist

The Servant has just brought yours of the 10th March, in company with four five others (So you see my correspondence at present is no trifle)—two of which are from Natchez, where a new difficulty has arisen—Ah Mon dieu! quand pourrons nous dire après la guerre, on a la paix”?“—More trouble, more writing, and more anxiety! But for the prize I contend for, dearest Virginia, I would feel seriously, disposed to “curse and quit”—You shall have the details in my next—Adieu!

RC (NcU: Southern Historical Collection, Nicholas Philip Trist Papers); addressed: “Mrs M. Randolph of Monticello Near Charlottesville Albemarle County Virginia.”

The Vale of Tempe (tempè) is a narrow gorge in Thessaly, Greece. The Pineios River passes through it on its way to the Aegean Sea.

Trist paraphrased a line, ah mon dieu . . . on a la paix? (Oh my god! When will we say after the war, was peace?) from L’Echarpe blanche, ou le Retour a Paris, a play by Jean Henri Dupin, first performed in the Théatre du Vaudeville in Paris, July 1815.

Date Range
April 6, 1823 to April 7, 1823