Joseph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph, with Postscript by Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge
|Fredericksburg—June 25. 25.|
I have ruined the sheet on which Ellen has been writing; and the day is so warm, and her black “Isaacs” so uncomfortable, that she has gone to lie down, awhile, and has left but a poor substitute, to continue her letter—; before doing so, I will transcribe what she had written.
“Contrary to my expectations, my dearest Mother, I am enabled to write to you from this place by the accident of being delayed a day; we were so late in getting from Mrs Madison that it was past eight before we could leave orange Court house; still as the roads were good, and the hack had four horses, we might surely have reached Fredericksburg by six—which would have left us full time to go in to the steam-boat; but the driver was so tender of his cattle, that neither threat, nor entreaty, would prevail on him to move out of a slow ox trot, which got us on at the rate of three miles an hour, or scarcely so much: Cornelius and his mule cart travel with the speed of light in comparison to the Fredericksburg hack with four horses, and the kind hearted charioteer! en [. . .]auche, they charged only eight dollars for the use of this equipage for two days; reasonable enough, in contrast with Richmond prices. we were out in two very heavy rains, and arrived a little before eight o’Clock in the evening: too late to think of going farther. our quarters here are comfortable, and we shall leave the place this evening, and arrive in Washington to-morrow morning; there again we must be detained by the absence of our luggage, which we were in great consternation at not finding here. I presume the stage was too much crowded to admit of its being taken it in at Charlottesville:—I have my black silk frock, which I find fits me infamously, after all my trouble; and a single [. . .] hkf; a single black petticoat, and a few changes of linen: I shall shine with all these [. . .] in the Metropolis which—at this season—is, however, little better than a dirty crowded country village.”The old horses carried us very well to Gordonsville, where we were glad to find Nicholas:—Mr and Miss Madison recd us with the utmost kindness; and their manner to me; seemed to say—“for Ellen’s sake, we feel an interest in you”: Mrs M. did every thing to induce us to remain some days with her.—telling us that Mrs Cutts, and Mrs Decatur, were expected to arrive on the very evening of our departure;—but we were obliged to leave them, with only the promise never to pass their house at a future visits, without calling upon them: Nicholas accompanied us to the Court House, and left us, there, with the most affectionate wishes of both for his health, and success: we were more than 11 ½ hours on the road, tho. the distance is but 35 miles, and we stopped but once: at an inn kept by Mr Robinson we met two gentlemen, one of them no longer very young, who were on their way to Mr Madison’s, and mean to visit Monticello, also. I did’nt take to them: the younger was silent, and the other self-satisfied, and intrusive, he seemed to think that Mr Madison, and Mr Jefferson, were under many obligations to those who called upon them; at least, that the obligations were mutual: he told me a strange tale wh. has’nt been confirmed, here, “that a committee of the Georgia legislature had, in answer to the Govr, advised him to propose a separation of the states, and that the Potomac be the dividing line!”On the road we met the ladies who were expected t at Montpellier; Mrs Decatur very much agitated at the meeting, Mrs Cutts was more calm, but still a good deal affected.
This day is very warm and we have acted wisely to remain here till the evening: I have just heard that my eccentric Bro. remained in Fredericksburg 2 or 3 days; and th a portfolio has been sent from the inn where he lodged containing letters, too to and from himself, and also one from me to me to my father, wh. he had carelessly left behind; of course these have been read by the croud of listless saunterers who frequent a village tavern, and I feel something like indignation at perceiving on a loose sheet wh. was designed for a letter to his friends in Boston, an elaborate description of Ellen—her personal and mental qualities—: a minute dissection, as far as circumstances permitted, of her head and heart. This is intollerable, certainly; yetWe are not a little anxious about our baggage: ’Twill be pleasanter to stay in Washington than to remain here, and I have recd the promise of one or two individuals that if it makes Fredericsburg, on Monday or before, that it shall be sent forward, and thus it will be recd in Washington, on Tuesday morng :There is no situation wholly without comfort, and I console myself for its non appearance by the recollection that it was’nt exposed to the rain of yesterday wh. probably would have stained and injured all her finery:I hope we shall find letters from you all in New York, and tho. without any expectation of success shall inquire in every City on our way: either Ellen or myself will write frequently that you may know all the incidents of our journey, and how she bears the fatigue of the coaches and steamboats: We were both sorry that Cornelia’s labours Should have been in vain, and the skreen left behind: Ellen suffered in the ride to Montpellier, but Mrs Madison furnished her with green silk for a shade, if necessary during the rest of her Journey. Mary’s cake and wine did good service yesterday—for we had but a spare breakfast, and felt no appetite for dinner: and I close this to induce Ellen [. . .] join me in finishing the drop biscuits and the Tunbridges. my dear Mother, be certain that I shall take every care of E:—and, giving my love to all friends, believe me
Joseph took advantage of my nap to spoil my letter, but as he has written a better one we must forgive him, especially as he took the trouble to copy my nonsense for you dearest mother. we are just setting off & I can only say I will write from Washington. the fatigue of the journey will only stupify me & I know you will love my letters just as well stupid as wise, for a mother’s heart asks just the knowledge of the well-being of what it loves & the assurance of that devoted love which dearest dearest mother you know so well that I feel for you. love & kisses to all my darlings including my best loved grandfather, say something to Papa for me, to Jefferson Jane & all, & believe me your own Ellen.