Extract from Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge’s London Travel Diary

the last day of the month I do not know how it is that doing so little I have so little time to do any thing in. It is a problem I cannot solve.

On Sunday, feeling somewhat feeble from my late indisposition, I went with Mrs Stevenson, by appointment, to call on Mrs Grote, wife of the radical member of parliament, and herself a politician of no common vigour and zeal. I do not admire female politicians. My ideas on that subject have not kept pace with the march of intellect. My Grandfather used to tell me that it was one of the privileges of my sex to be exempt from the necessity of taking active part in the violence & turbulence of party politics. Of course if a woman thinks at all she must have an opinion, and I am myself “tant soit peu” conservative in my ideas. Perhaps because, in my country, all the tendencies are towards an abuse of the opposite principles. Putting domestic slavery out of the question, it has never been my lot to see any thing like oppression of the many by the few. My sympathies have never been excited on the popular side, because with us the people have all the power. Property, if not equally divided, is accumulated by no arbitrary law in the hands of a few. The spirit of caste, where it exists at all, is perpetually shifting it’s ground. There is perpetual movement every where. We are in a state of constant revolution. All the evils that I see, arise from too much liberty and not too little. The violence, the vulgarity of Democracy is always before my eyes. Were it otherwise my feelings would be different, because no one can feel greater indignation than I do at a tale of injustice or oppression, or a more deep and solemn reverence for the inalienable rights of man.—But to return to my radical Mrs Grote, she is a tall, masculine looking woman, with a countenance full of intelligence & independence, decided in her manner and tone and altogether a favorable specimen of her kind. Perhaps Mrs Grote might be Mme Roland in Mme Roland’s place. Mr Grote is milder and more gentlemanly than his wife, and is said to be much under her influence, and much indebted to her superiour vigour of character if not of intellect. He is called, in a spirit of prophesy, the Wilberforce of the vote by ballot—A measure of reform which he seems pledged to carry through, if his concentrated powers and perseverance can possibly accomplish it.

From Mr Grote’s house, 3. Eccleston St. we drove to the door of the Countess Duchess of Sutherland. Mrs Stevenson who had been always very kindly treated by this aged and great lady wished to inquire after her health. She had been seriously ill for several days, but to-day was now, we were told by a servant at the door, very much better. This morning’s paper announces her death!

The same day, Sunday, we dined with Mrs Stevenson and passed a pleasant evening. Monday, Mrs Glass dined with us. Mr & Mrs Grote left their cards as did Mr & Mrs Morrison with an invitation to pass this (Wednesday) evening at their house.—Tuesday Mr Coolidge & myself called on Mrs Stewart a Scotch lady who visited me some time ago, and on Mrs Mill the wife of an old friend of his in India.

I have made a mistake in my date and gained a day. This is the 30th & not the 31st of the month which ends on thursday, to-morrow. To-day is the coldest I have felt in England, there is a slight sprinkling of snow on the ground, and for the first time, I, this morning, wished for a fire in my bed-chamber. The cold, however, is not severe enough to be unpleasant, and I go now to prepare for a sortie into the open air.

MS (MHi: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Diary, Ms N-1027); in Coolidge’s hand. Published in Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England: The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838–1839, Ann Lucas Birle and Lisa A. Francavilla, eds. (2011), 198–201

tant soit peu: a little; slightly.