Mary Elizabeth Randolph (Eppes) to Virginia J. Randolph (Trist)

I have just [. . .] written a long letter to Cornelia & will now do the same to you my dear Cousin, if my patience & the few topics I have for letter writing will permit—of the first you know I can have not the least doubt, but I confess to have some for the latter, as I see, & hear & know nothing, & therefore can have nothing to relate, except indeed my thoughts & dreams, which I expect would be equally tiresome, tho I never could decide certainly which was the worst of the two—you concluded your last letter if I remember right with these words “I am sick & stupid, write soon & give me some spice of comfort”—now although I am extremely diffident of my abilities, in the consolatory way especially, I really had determined, good girl as I was, to write you immediately a long & “most kind affectionate letter” (Miss Edgworths Belinda) but just as I had come to this resolution, news was brought us, of your little strangers arrival, which effectually prevented it & determined me to wait untill you had resumed your lessons, & all around you was quiet & settled again—supposing that to be the case now, I have taken advantage of this cloudy sunday (tho if it was ever so fair I could not go out) to answer your letter & postscript, & write a letter enough at once to suffice untill I go to Richmond, & have something worth writing about. Tell Mary that as long as I possibly could, I found excuses for her not writing, but that I am now convinced she thinks the correspondence, trifling, childish, & utterly beneath her, & has determined to drop it entirely—I wrote to her repeatedly the early part of the winter & received but one letter from her in answer to all mine—I certainly shall not trouble her with any more of my tiresome scratches. but I am sorry, extremely sorry that she should have given up a correspondence which afforded me, & I believe did her once, such real pleasure. I am not in the habit of complaining & will therefore drop this subject now & forever.

Harriet wrote to me by the boat, & to Mama by the last mail—she actually seems to be wild with spirits & writes more extravagantly than ever—she is delighted with all her schoolmates, but has chosen Virginia Heth, for her intimate, confidential friend. she gives a curious account of the commencement of their intimacy—They were not atall acquainted for some time, but at last one evening Miss Heth begun to talk of her dear brother the sailor—Harriet says she “followed suite”—V H asked her, to make her a compliment of brother Mann for a husband, & in return offered her brother Jack. this was agreed upon & they have ever since been sworn friends & call each other constantly sister Randolph & sister Heth—all this Harriet acknowledges to be a little ridiculous, but she says she is really a charming girl, & “it is so delightful to have some one to talk to about sailors in general & brother Mann in particular”—have you written to her, or has she, written to any of you lately?—

I have never had the least idea of accompanying Aunt Randolph to Georgetown, tho I confess I should like it above all things—My trip to Richmond even, is not quite certain, at least in my mind, but I shall be extremely sorry & disappointed if it is out of my power to go—there is a new difficulty just started, which tho it is very foolish gives me a great deal of trouble—I put on last week 2 days following, 2 large mustard plaisters on the back of neck which has made a dreadful sore, full in view (that is to a person behind me) & will leave a red or yellow scar for many weeks—now wont that be quite shocking for a young lady who is just going to town, to turn out?

My dear Virginia how different our letters are now, from what they were 2 or 3 years ago—do you remember what at this season used to be the burden of them all? our gardens—every little green shoot that made its appearance above ground, every hyacinth that budded, every crocus & violet that bloomed, was hailed with the liveliest pleasure, & noted down in our letters to each other with as much exactness & as much delight as we now take in mentioning an expected or promised visit to Richmond. happy thoughtless beings “unsophisticated little country angels” we were then, & for what have we exchanged all those innocent childish pleasures?—can you tell me? for it is really a question I can not answer satisfactorily myself. I will not pursue this subject for it is one calculated to inspire me with melancholy & you with what—? vexation at my tiresomeness perhaps—

The 1st volume of the Eniead I have been done with a long while & the 2nd I finished more than a week ago. it shall be sent by the first opportunity, & I am sorry it was forgotten before as it has kept you waiting. you read it next to the Iliad do not you? or have you read the Odyssey?—I have just been reading Belinda Portman again, & like it almost as much as I did the first time. I mean I was almost as much interested in it, for I like it if possible even better than I did before. The character of the heroine, is admirable I think, & pleases me better more than any Miss Edgworth has ever drawn. She has Rosamunds gaiety tempered & refined & Carolina Percy’s high-mindedness, & nobleness, & all great & good qualities, without her still-dignity & [. . .] insipidity I ha[. . .] been reading, or rather looking over the Antiquary again—it was borrowed for Mama who did not read it last summer, but I could not see it laying about without dipping into it occasionally—do you like the character of the heroine of that? Isabella Wardour—I confess I do not—she is too cold, & calculating, & above all things, too prudent for me. prudence is certainly a virtue to a certain degree, but when it is carried too far it renders a person, if not selfish, at least, uninteresting—Now my dear Virginia I have a thousand excuses to make for this letter but I shall content myself with two—first then attribution attribute the bad writing to my miserable pens, & 2ndly the nonsense to a dreadful cold in the head which certainly so far from clearing my ideas, as I have heard of a ladys saying once, makes me so stupid, & sometimes so cross that I scarcely know what to do myself—adieu—I am your faithful


you see I like the name so well that I mean to adopt it—at least whenever it meets my convenience or whim—

Love to my dear Aunt & Cousin EllenMama also desires to be remembered to you all—kiss the children for me, & tell me, for I am dying to know, what name you have fixed upon for the little boy—not Joseph Corea de Serra I hope—

Tell Cornelia I forgot the Ticknor affair when I wrote to her, but I shall reserve it now for another letter, or till I see her again—

I will only say that I cannot, I will not acknowledge that “it is but a romance after all”—adieu once more.—

RC (NcU: NPT); torn at seal; addressed: “Miss Virginia Randolph Monticello.”.

In Greek mythology, agave is the daughter of Cadmus, the legendary founder of Thebes (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

Mary Elizabeth Randolph Eppes
Date Range
March 22, 1818