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

My dear Virginia

I was very much distressed at hearing of poor Critty’s death, for independant of the shock to Burwell, I cannot forget that she was my nurse for a good many years, and whether she discharged the duties of her office properly or not, yet the feeling that attaches us to those immediately about us, is instinctive, and not altogether depending on their merits. I shall miss her a great deal. ever since I have been grown grew up I have found her services really valuable & most cheerfully rendered. it will be long before I can get accustomed to the deprivation of them, and long very long, I shall miss her [. . .] figure and voice in those places I have been used to see & hear them. I have been recollecting that some time ago, when I was lamenting very seriously that I had not secured one of her elder children Mama promised I should have th any one of them not disposed of. Susan and Emily I believe Cornelia and yourself had taken at that time, and I think I pitched on little Martha as subject to no prior claims. I hope with all my heart this is the case, for I am more than ever anxious to have it in my power to befriend, and educate as well as I can, one of these children, and if I remember right Martha is a little sprightly black-eyed [. . .] girl, whom I have often noticed with pleasure. I think her poor mother would have liked this disposition of her, for I believe she preferred me to the rest of the family. If however Mary or any of the rest of you should have a prior claim why then Mama’s promise will hold good for little Theana.

Burwell as you may suppose is overwhelmed with grief, I have not seen him since he heard the news which was last night. but although h[e] did not shew himself, he came out early in the morning and did all his business as usual. he did not lay by and send me us the keys as I expected he would, and I am very glad of it for the want of employment would only leave him more time for the indulgence of his grief, which is so sincere as to excite the greatest degree of sympathy. if he should be averse to the distributing of all his children, I am willing to waive the claim I spoke of altogether, or else to promise that if I should ever quit my family of which there is scarcely a possibility, I will then surrender every my rights. or if Mama should be unwilling to deprive herself of the last of a family which has a hereditary right to be highly valued, I will say and think no more about the matter.

I received a very melancholy letter from Maria Goodwin who has suffered a great deal this summer from various causes; besides George Stevenson’s death, the family have met with a severe loss in the person of Mr Ridgely, a their cousin and intimate friend, & the brother in law to Mrs Lyde Goodwin. he died after an illness of a few hours; leaving his wife pregnant, after a childless marriage of ten years, which in every other respect was a perfectly happy one. Maria Goodwin’s elder sister Mrs Mc. Blair, was for a long time at the point of death, and is but just recovered, so that Maria herself is almost worn out with anxiety and fatigue, although much benefitted by a short excursion to the Bedford York Springs, whither she accompanied Mrs McBlair

I am much pleased to hear that you have got Jane B. with you, and still more so to hear that she has turned out a beauty, a thing I by no means expected. I shall have hopes for myself after this, and may expect with so rapid an im[p]rovement to rival Helen. Jane B. always had an intelligent face, never a hand some one. she is I believe a girl of a great many good qualities. her too great frankness which so often takes assumes the appearance of levity, is the result in part of a severe education, which made her a slave at home and subjected her to all the intoxication of recovered liberty when ever she was suffered to pass the limits of her prison. besides her unhappy situation, caused every one to treat her in a manner calculated to impress her with the idea that friends were to be found every where but at her own home, and that every body took a lively interest in her affairs.

you will hear from us but once more before our return. we shall leave Poplar Forest, Sunday the 12th. in the mean time however I hope you will all continue to write as long as we can receive your letters, which come very direct, and are the only things that keep us alive, at this melancholy place. I have wished for my flannel several times; a petticoat I have but a jacket I have wanted, especially since I have had a slight attack of what I believe is the rheumatism in the ribs; did you [. . .] hear of such of thing?

Adieu my dear Virginia, give a great deal of love [. . .] every body. kiss Geordie, and remember me particularly to Jane Braddick, Aunt H. & Aunt R. to my dear Mother I need say nothing, for she knows what I feel for her.

most affectionately yours
Ellen

If Aunt C is with you a great deal of love to her

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); partially dated; torn at seal and bottom right corner of first page; addressed: “Miss Virginia J. Randolph Monticello near Charlottesville Albemarle”; stamped; postmarked New London, 2 Sept.