Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Virginia J. Randolph (Trist)

Your letter gave me so much pleasure my dear Virginia, that I will lose no time in answering it, as the best proof I can give you, of my great wish to hear frequently and fully from you; with regard to your aversion for writing, if it proceeds from the idea that you write badly, I can only say, that if you never write to better judges than I am, your correspondents will have as much reason to be satisfyed with the style of your letters, as with the warm affectionate feelings they express.The bundle sent by the Carpenters arrived safe: but your precaution with regard to the lavender bottle was useless—my instinct on this subject was not likely to fail, and from the moment I felt found that this packet contained a bottle, I was perfectly aware of its contents. but I am too much of a real Epicurean, to be prodigal of my means of enjoyment; and this “care killing nostrum, this fountain of pleasure” has so far, been used with a moderation which Philosophers might admire.

Have you ever in your life known such hot weather. Saturday (the 31st of July) Sunday, Monday, the thermometer stood at 97° 96° 97°. Yesterday (the 3d of August) it reached 99°. Grand papa thinks that such a degree of heat has never before been known in this State. Towards evening however a [. . .] breeze sprung up which brought us clouds and a fine rain, lasting almost all night, and relieving in great measure our fears for the corn crop, which in this neighbourhood was not too far gone to be resuscitated. we were more fortunate in this respect than many of our neighbours. the rain appears to have extended but a little way, and while whilst we derived full benefit from it, [. . .] plantations at the distance of three or four miles remain as dry as ever.

One of the very hot days last week, we were invited to dine with a near neighbour whom we had never before seen. we found kind hospitable people who appeared delighted to see us. a low thin man, with white hair, and a body bent almost double, but more from courtesy than age; not a mean and servile courtesy, but that excess of native politeness, which has never been restrained by an acquaintance with forms. a very fat red-faced woman, bustling about with her negro wenches, and making you as “welcome as May. the house exhibiting every appearance of vulgar plenty, but also of [. . .] the good rural management, which [. . .] afforded these abundant supplies so abundant. [. . .] Judge of my surprise when in the course of conversation I discovered the good man Mr Walker, to be a brother of the Dr Walker who married our cousin Miss Eppes, and consequently, also the brother of my elegant Mrs Bell! Here, Cornelia and myself were for the first time introduced to Mrs & Miss Watts; the wife and daughter of perhaps the only decided enemy that my dear Grandfather has [in]1 the neighbourhood. if indeed, you can call a decided enemy one who has, at least, always had a regard for appearances, & whose real opinions & feelings we are therefore not obliged to know, publicly, however we may think of him and them in private; this does not prevent Mrs Watts from being a very uncommon woman, and me from regretting that C. & myself should be debarred by political rancor, (or [. . .] whatever other cause may operate the same effect,) from a society, which would suit us better than any other we can find here. I cannot help thinking that Mrs W. herself would find herself rewarded [. . .] have no cause to regret the cultivating an acquaintance with people capable of appreciating her, and upon whom her [. . .] talents & the cultivation of her mind would not be thrown away. If however she prefers the gratification of an illiberal prejudice, you know we treat these things with great sang froid, and are upon the whole rather indifferent whether people like us or not. For the rest, the few hours spent in Mrs Watts’s company did not leave as favorable an impression of her temper and dispositions, as of the powers of her mind. she appears to be a woman of a haughty and independent spirit, with quick feelings and keen resentments. great shrewdness and penetration, but apt to be biased by passion and prejudice. Do not laugh at me for having made so many discoveries and in so short a time. people of decided characters soon shew themselves, and unless there are particular motives for concealment, you will generally find that those whom it is so difficult to know, have [. . .] nothing in them worth knowing. [. . .] Besides I am something of a physiognomist, and the peculiar expression of Mrs Watts’s countenance, the full black eye, the slight curve of the upper lip. the contraction of the brow with the full broad expanse of forehead above it [. . .], said volumes to my imagination

Burwell has had another attack, not so alarming as the first, and was releived from a state of violent pain by the application of blisters. I do not know what to think of his case, but he is a great deal better, and is going about and quite cheerfull, I am in hopes that there will be nothing to retard his rapid recovery. when you write pray mention Critty and his children & say how they are, it will be very gratifying to him. the day the carpenters arrived he was very weak quite ill and seemed very unhappy at hearing from them that Critty continued unwell. John Hemmings begged it of me as a very particular favor to “give his news to Aunt Priscilla” to say he was doing well but mighty tired of the Forest and wished himself at home. any message that she may send him it will give me great pleasure to receive from you—for Johnny is one of my prime favorites and more so, now than ever since I have witnessed his kind attentions to Burwell.

Give my love to my dear Mary; I shall write to her by the next mail; I am glad to see from her letter to Cornelia that she is forming such good resolutions with regard to her education—there is nothing I wish more than to see you both my dear girls well educated [wo]men; for I am sure there is nothing contributes more to give elevation to the [cha]racter, than having the mind filled with objects worthy of employing it. Give my love to my dear Mama & Papa & with kisses for my darling Geordie & Septimia & kind recollections remembrances to all the family I remain my dear geord Virginia

most affectionately yours.
E. W. R.

Grand Papa is anxious to hear from Mama on the subject of M. Cathalan’s papers he wrote to her by the last mail. Thank Aunt R. for taking such good care of my “pride of Barbadoes”Adieu once more my dear Virginia in six weeks from this time we shall see you all.

Throw this into the fire as soon as you have [. . .]t, for even I am ashamed of it. I have written partly by candle light and in a [. . .]t at hurry, although you would not think so from the length of my letter

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); mutilated at fold; addressed: “Miss Virginia J. Randolph Monticello near Charlottesville.”
1Omitted word editorially supplied.