Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Martha Jefferson Randolph
|Poplar Forest. Sept. 13th 1820|
We have reached our journey’s end my dear Mother, in safety, not without some disagreable adventures, such as being confined one whole day by the rain—at Flood’s tavern we left Uncle Eppes’s before sun-rise monday—the morning was lowering, and it was dropping rain before we set out, but you know Grand-papa—he was morally certain we should have “a cool agreable cloudy day for our journey, so preferable to travelling through the hot sun”1—about nine o clock it began to rain violently; and we were exposed two hours and a half, untill at half after eleven oclock we were glad to take shelter in the filthiest of all filthy places, and remain untill the next morning when we were enabled to continue our journey—it is impossible to describe, the horrors which we witnessed at Floods—and I do not believe that in any civilized country such another spesimen could be given of the degree of degradati[on] to which man may be reduced by dirt—these people have been growing worse and worse, untill it has become absolute pollution to breathe the same air with them. I believe a Hottentot would turn away with loathing—add to this the old woman has fallen into her dotage, and both the old and the young are eternally scolding, and their discordant screaming voices drove me from corner to corner of the filthy sewer they inhabit—there was literally no rest for the soles of my foot our feet, and we should all have preferred travelling through the rain, had it not been for Burwell & the drivers—
Grandpapa has born the journey pretty well, but to day one of his legs on which the bandage had slipped is a good deal swelled and even blistered. I am afraid he is beginning to get too old for these long journeys, in all weathers and with such uncomfortable fixtures. I look forward with alarm to almost the whole fall of autumn past here, at a distance from his family, his physicians and the comforts of his home.
I found the harpsichord in a very bad state, the sound-board split for 12 or 14 inches, the strings almost all gone, many of the keys swelled so that when pressed down they do not rise again, and the steel part of the different stops so much rusted that several of them refuse to obey the hand. the music is mouldy, and some of it dropping to pieces—the instrument itself & the books lay in a cellar, I think Mrs Eppes told me six or seven years. Francis and myself turned over the books together; we found the name of Maria Jefferson, & the initials of M. E. written in Aunt Maria’s own hand in a great many different places; some of the songs, too were evidently copied by herself. I have almost entirely forgotten her, but there were so many mute memorials; I do not know how Francis felt, but when I looked round that comfortable establishment, and saw all those blooming children I could not help feeling as if a stranger had usurped her rights, and as if none other there should have been no other mistress or mother there—there was no doubt a little selfishness in this for had she lived, I should have been at home at this sweet place and in this charming family. and in my mother’s sister and her children, I should have found another mother & other brothers and sisters—
Mrs Eppes is I am sure a very amiable woman; she is certainly an excellent manager both of her children, and her household affairs—the children are without any sort of exception, the best very best I ever saw, and the boys as good and as clean as the girls.
Adieu my dearest mother—the further off the dearer, is a motto said to be applicable only to bad tempered people but I certainly never feel the full extent of my devotion to you so well as when separated from you. however, far or near, my heart is incapable of any feeling which can be put in competition with it's attachment to you, and faites que’ j’aimes la vertue au fait que j’aime ma mere, would be the most forcible prayer I could address to heaven—
Give a great deal of love to all around—, to Virginia in particular, to whom I would write, were it not for the “ridicule” of three long letters after a week’s absence, and for Cornelia I have such a budget of news, that my shoulders will not sustain the burden till we meet again, as it is all about her Bedford acquaintances. I shall therefore discharge it in a letter to her. to Aunt Cary present me affectionately, tell her the ring is safe so far, and she may live in the hope of seeing it with whole bones. I met Jack Page at Mill-brook, and he made so many and such particular enquiries concerning her health and spirits, that I began to think, that in this case neither time, nor absense, nor marriage, had had produced their the usual effect.
We shall dine with you on the 24th—you may expect us almost certainly.