Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Martha Jefferson Randolph

My Dear Mother

A slight indisposition which serves as an excuse for me to withdraw from the hurry and bustle in which I live, for the short space of a few hours, gives me an opportunity to write to you; the dinner bell is ringing but I have obtained leave to dine in my own room, and the time which would otherwise have been employed in dressing or other fatiguing ceremonies will now be spent in a way much more agreable to myself. I am glad to hear that my Dear Grand father is getting so much better, ever since the reciept of your letter in which you mention his indisposition I have been constantly unhappy; that circumstance (joined to the bad state of James’s health) has made me quite homesick.

I went last evening to a large party at Mrs Marx’s which I have understood was given to me, the company was gay and brilliant; the Ladies were all splendidly drest, Miss Mayo wore a brown silk velvet embroidered round the tail, waist, sleeves & bosom with gold, Mrs Mackenzie the same except the colour of her dress which was splendid purple; Miss Riddle had on white satt satin with a lace dress over it; Miss Maria Barber, Miss Carter & Mrs Peyton Randolph in satt satin, the Miss Marx’s in gauze & Canton Crape. Polly Barber, Willy Ann Armistead who is a belle, & myself were drest well, but simply. Miss Mayo took occasion during the course of the evening to come up & set by me; she lamented that circumstances had occurred, which rendered it impossible for her to visit me while I stayed where I now am; but hoped we should frequently meet at other houses, as she was extremely desirous to cultivate an acquaintance from which she expected to derive so much pleasure, &c. &c. of this you may suppose I believed as much as I thought proper; I shall see very little of her for Aunt Randolph and herself have ceased to be on visiting terms. Our society has recieved a most agreable addition in the person of Dr Archer; (who married a Miss Tabb) he appears to have taken a fancy to me for he has behaved towards me with as much affection as a brother could have done; he is very highly esteemed & every body regrets (& none more than I do) his determination to leave Town tomorrow.

I have got pretty well acquainted with Mr Barksdale; I am one of the few ladies whom he treats with attention, for he has been always remarkable for avoiding their society, not that he dislikes the sex but the great reserve of his manners & his diffidence renders it impossible for him to become [. . .] the possibility of his becoming acquainted with them. Aunt Randolph is his first favourite, Miss Riddle the second & I do not believe that there are many other ladies in town to whom he is more attentive than he is to me. he is a very interesting young man, nature appears to have endowed him with Talents his education is very good, his temper mild, & he seems totally free from vice of any description; his greatest fault is a want of stability, he has no firmness of character & of course has been often misled, & Major Lee at one time engaged him in some acts of folly & dissipation of which I suspect Mr Barksdale has been since ashamed. his large fortune has been upon the whole a disadvantage to him, for as every wish is gratified as soon as it arises, he can never be stimulated either by hope or fear; he has been from the age of eighteen completely his own master & has contracted habits of indolence which [. . .] make him the victim of languor & ennui; he has nothing to do, nothing to think of and yet if any thing [. . .] the world offends him it is to hinting at these little defects.

Thank the girls for their letters, I shall answer them as soon as I have time & I hope they will continue to write to me occasionly. I am very sorry I did not recieve Cornelias letter sooner for I could get a copy of Popular Tales for two dollars & a quarter; when I come away I if I can [. . .] spare the money I will bring them to her; I cannot get a doll for less than two dollars & even then it would be a mean thing.

I got a letter from Papa to day; he leaves it to my choice whether I will return home in the stage to morrow or remain where I am some time longer, I have decided to stay, for the first 10 days of my visit were miserably dull, and the Town is (owing to I know not what cause) becoming every day more gay & agreable; I do not believe this circumstance would prevent my return, but Aunt Randolph is so much distrest at the idea of my leaving her immediately, that I should be sorry to do do it.

Give my love to all the family. Harry is down here at present and I shall send by him, the curtains for the Landau, all of Sister Anns books except those which I must have bound, & the little things for the children which I mentioned in my last letter.

My Tunisian shawl is the admiration of the whole Town, and it is allowed to be handsomer than one which is to be raffled off for 250 dollars & which it is woollen but not as fine a crimson as mine. Papa says that if I do not return with him he will delay his own trip up N departure untill Saturday the 2d of April & go up on horseback.

Adieu my dearest Mother, I am never happier than when engaged in writing to you, and yet I am so hurried always that I have never time to say all I wish to say, or to tell you how sincerely I love you; in fact how completely my affection for you is the passion of my life, & how sad & Trifling every other feeling is in comparison with that—no human being ever loved a mother as much as I do you, but then no one ever had such a mother, you shall hear from me again shortly & I now remain your most affectionate daughter.

E. W. R.
RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); partially dated.