Martha Jefferson Randolph to Elizabeth Trist
|My dearest friend||de l’abbaye royale de Panthemont a Paris 1786|
Your letter put an end to the inquietude that your long silence had caused us. Be assured that I will remember you as long as I live. I am very happy in the Convent and with reason for there wants nothing but the presence of my friends of America to render my situation worthy to be envied by the happiest, I do not say kings, far far from it, they are often more unfortunate than the lowest of their subjects. I have seen the king & the queen but at too great a distance to judge if they are like their pictures in Philadelphia. we had a lovely passage [. . .] ship in a beautiful new ship that had made one voyage before, there were only six passengers all of whom papa knew, and a fine sun shine all the way, with a sea which was as calm as a river. I should have no objection at making another voyage if I could be sure it would be as agreeable as the first. We landed in England where we made a very short stay, the day we left it we got off at six o’clock in the evening and arrived in France at 7 the next morning. I cannot say that this voyage was as agreeable as the first tho it was much shorter. It rained violently and the sea was exceedingly rough all the time & I was almost as sick as the first time, when I was sick two days, the cabane was not more than three feet wide & about four long; there was no other furniture than an old bench which was fast to the wall, the door by which we came in at was so little that one was obliged to enter on all fours, there were two little doors on the side of the cabane, the way to our beds, which were composed of two boxes & a couple of blankets without either bed or mattress so that I was obliged to sleep in my cloathes, there being no window in the cabane we were obliged to stay in the dark for fear of the rains coming in if we opened the door. I fear we should have fared as badly at our arrival for papa spoke very little french and I not a word, if an Irish gentleman, an entire stranger to us who seeing our embarrassment, had not been so good as to conduct us to a house and was of great service to us. It is amazing to see how they cheat the strangers, it cost papa as much to have the baggage brought from the shore to the house, which was about half a square, as the bringing it from Philadelphia to Boston, from there we should have had a very agreeable voyage to Paris, for Havre de Grace is built at the mouth of the Seine & we follow the river all the way thro the most beautiful country I ever saw in my life, it is a perfect garden, if the singularity of our carriage1 had not attracted the attention of all we met, we were surrounded by the beggars and where ever we stopped we were surrounded by the beggars. One day I counted no less than nine where we stopped to change horses. We saw a great number of chalk hills near Rouen, where we saw also a church built by William the Conqueror & another at Mant2 which had as many steps to it go to the top as there are days in the year there are many pretty statues in it, the architecture is beautiful, all the windows are died glass of the most beautiful colours that form all kinds of figures—
I wish you could have been with us when we arrived, I am sure you would have laughed, for we were obliged to send immediately for the stay maker, the mantua maker, the milliner and even a shoe maker before I could go out. I have never had the friseur but once, but I soon got rid of him & turned down my hair in spite of all they could say, and I differ it now as much as possible, for I think it always too soon to suffer. I have seen two nuns take the veil. I’ll tell you about that when I come to see you. I was placed in a convent at my arrival—and I leave you to judge of my situation. I did not speak a word of french and no one here knew english but a little girl of 2 years old that could hardly speak french. There are about fifty or sixty pensioners in the house so that speaking as much as I could with them I learnt the language very soon at present I am charmed with my situation I am afraid that you will be very much disappointed if you expect to see me perfect, for I have made very little progres. Give my love to Mrs House Browse & Polly and when you will see Hetty Rittenhouse scold her for me she has never answered any of my letters, send my compliments to Mrs Tamage and Mrs Thomson, in short every body that I know. I do not doubt but that you were very much astonished at hearing that Colonel Floyd was married, so was I, but as every one has a different mind we must leave the world to itself & follow what we think right—Tho you have a great deal of patience I am afraid that this scrawl will tire it, but if you knew the pleasure I take in writing to you and receiving letters from you you would pardon me. pray write me very long letters by every occasion I should be very glad to write for papa, but I am sure that he could not have an occupation which gives him more pleasure than that, however, when he cant leave his business I shall do it with pleasure. I do not know when we shall come pardon me this letter being so badly written for I have not the time at present. There come in some new pensioners every day, the classe is four rooms exceedingly large for the pensioners to sleep in and there is a fifth and sixth, one for them to stay in in the day & the other in which they take their lessons. We wear the uniform which is crimson, made like a frock laced behind with the tail like a robe de cour, hooked on; muslin cuffs & tuckers. The masters are all very good except that for the drawing. I end here for I am sure my letter must tire you. Papa sends his most affectionate compliments to you & Mrs House and begs you not to forget that you are indebted a letter to him particularly on the subject of Browse’s relations Adieu My dear friend be assured that I am & ever will be yours affectionately
Be so good as to let Mrs Hopkinson know that I remember her with great gratitude & affection as well as Mrs Rittenhouse.