Virginia J. Randolph Trist to Nicholas P. Trist

I did not expect so soon, dearest Nicholas, to have had to communicate to you the death of your Grand-mother. the fatal change took place in her on sunday, & last night she expired at about 11 oclock. she went off, apparently in her sleep, the moment only being known by the cessation of the quick, hard breathing, and the rattling in her throat, which she had had through the day. we observed last week that she articulated badly, & thought it owing to a parlytic affection of the throat; which showed itself also in her strangling whenever she attempted to swallow any thing. yesterday we could understand very little of of what she said; she spoke seldom, and it was only to say answer when spoken to, or to say “O! dear, dear,” or “O! my” &c. Mama was in the room with her when she died, having taken the first watch that night. Mama and the girls had set up with her monday night also. I do not think Mrs Trist suffer’d much, she [. . .] had slept almost constantly, and taken very little notice of what was going on when awake. her face was a good deal distorted and she looked shockingly until after her death, but the countenance of the corpse is placid, and not disagreeable to look at. she will be buried this evening at 4 oclock. I shall write to Mrs. Gilmer immediately to inform her, and you must write to Browse. be sure to give my a sisters love from me, and a kiss from his niece & nephew.

Since I began to write this I have received your letter. I shall make desperate efforts to get to Mr. Madisons before +mas, but it is possible that I may be disappointed, you shall hear by the next mail. I cannot hire the hack, dearest, because it would cost [8?] dollars going & returning, me more than I. possess, and I have not yet heard whether we can have Titus & the carriage. I have not been extravagant I assure you, I have parted with every penny like a miser parting with his hoard, but altho’ the 20 was quite sufficient for all my other wants, it would not hold out to hire a carriage. an accident at C[h]arlton (a little girl of Pats age burnt to death) made me send for silk to make our darlings aprons forthwith, and I had to get one or two articles, such as shoes &c for both of us & then Aunt Scilla’s fee, and the stockings I engaged Betsy Becks to knit for yr grand-mother, rendered my funds too low for the hack. I got pocket handkerchiefs, of which I stood greatly in need, on your account at Les Chots, but I am so dreadfully afraid of swelling your accounts in Charlottesville that there is no danger of my making much use of the permission you gave me to get what I wanted there Les Chots the news about the paper and bonds fills me with consternation I suppose you will have to borrow money to pay W. G. run in but many things have turned out better than we expected, and I trust you will find a purchaser for the paper & get out of your difficulties better than you expect. I foresee that in it will be hard to keep out of debt with your $1400. but we mustshow must be sacrificed, and you will find me willing to practise such economy as you told me you had seen in one family in Washington. I do not approve of the patomac plan at any rate, if we lost your salary in any other way, I should have your society to comfort me, and we would get along some other way, but should you deprive me of yourself in the bargain, I should be almost tempted to follow you with the two little ones, and end our wordly cares together. Mr. Davis sent to ask me to let him know at once whether he could have Betty this next year, and I shall send him word that he can have her until the 1st of Nov. you must tell me what to say about terms and also tell me what to do about getting Betty’s winter clothes. Ellen was to be sold this winter, but to accomodate me, Mama has determined to let one of Sally Marks’s daughters go instead of her. [. . .] Ellen is well pleased to [. . .] nurse the baby, & to go to Washington if Richard goes. & I told her your wish, if you could do so, to buy him. she thought he would [. . .] like it very much.

I have passed two bad nights with the baby, and have some uncomfortable feelings from cold, besides which Pat has been hanging on me and teazing me & talking to me ever since I began to write, I fear therefore much that I had to say will be left unsaid. her cold is better, and her eye quite well. I was afraid to trust her on horse back, with her bad cold & in the unsettled state of the weather, but Lewis had promised to go & see Dr. D. about her, and this he did not do because she appeared to be getting much better. her cold is entirely in her head now. She talks incessantly of “dear father,” and sometimes says “mother I want to see dear father so much”; she is writing for you, as she calls it, every day. Jeff is cross and thriving. he has smiled very sweetly & intelligently once, and is so strong that he can turn himself from his side on his back. my dear Nicholas if I can not get to Mr. M’s at Christmas, I know not how I shall bear the disappointment. my heart swells now when I think of you, and the saddest time of all, is the hour of the evening that I am was accustomed to see you return home. Pat frequently asks me to tell her of father’s bringing her apples & potatoes when he came home. I was singing “John Brown & his two little Indians to the baby, and she asked me if “dear father did not sing that song.”

I do not believe that I have said what I had to say but it is late and my teeth are aching, and I have been so often interrupted that I will take leave until next week, when you shall hear if we have been able to arrange our visit to Mrs. Madison which my heart is so much set on. Adieu dearest, believe ever in the constant and tender affection of your wife.

V. J. Trist

Wormley brought your books from Jones’s book store the day you left home. I feel strongly tempted to intercede in behalf of the Plutarch in the pile on the floor, perhaps [. . .] some of these days Pat & Jeff may read it with pleasure & profit; one volume is lost which will injure the sale, more than it will the value of the book, as the volume lost contained the least interesting lives.

Your Grand-mother’s burial was attended by Mr. Garret, Mr. Davis, Dr. Carr, Benjamin Winn, & E. Winn & E. Garret. Mr. Hatch of course.

Mama & the girls send love. a kiss a piece from the children. Pat shall put her P.S. to this letter, she was asleep when I dispatched the last.

Brother Jeff has gone to Bedford, and we cannot go over to Edgehill until he returns, which will be a week hence; it will be the last of next week before we go. direct your next to C. afterwards I suppose you had better direct to E—ville.

Tufton is sold to John [. . .] Price Sampson. six and a half an acre for pine barrens and all.

RC (NcU: NPT); addressed: “To— Nicholas P. Trist Esqr Washington”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 11 Dec.; endorsed by recipient: “Trist. V. J. Decr 10. 28. (Death of Mrs Elizabeth Trist). Sets of pencil marks appear at foot of text, with the words “tis the name of father,” “tis dear father,” “I want kiss him (father),” and “that is little Willie” written beneath each set in the hand of Virginia J. Randolph Trist

titus was an enslaved man belonging to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and formerly to Randolph’s father-in-law Wilson Cary Nicholas. sally was an enslaved woman who had belonged to Martha Jefferson Randolph’s aunt Ann Scott Jefferson Marks (d. 1828). Her two daughters were Nancy and Charlotte. ellen and Richard were husband and wife. Ellen was an enslaved woman belonging to Martha Jefferson Randolph, while Richard was an enslaved man belonging to Virginia Randolph Cary, Martha Jefferson Randolph’s sister-in-law and thus, Virginia J. Randolph Trist’s aunt.