Mary Elizabeth Randolph (Eppes) to Jane H. Nicholas Randolph

Mr Nicholas has promised to be the bearer of our important dispatches to Albemarle, but altho we had timely notice of his departure, in the true spirit of Randolph procrastination we have delayed writing until the last moment, & are now in great haste & fearful trepidation lest we should be too late.—you see, I am the most unceremonious of correspondents, my dear Cousin, for you have not vouchsafed a line in answer to my last letter, & yet here I am seated in the midst of noise & confusion to employ (for my own pleasure at least, tho perhaps not for yours) an accidentally unoccupied half hour, in giving you an account of our yesterday evening’s entertainment.—The Gov. invited 10 of the western delegates to take tea & an oyster supper with him, & altho he had been in the horrors for three days about it, he never mentioned the subject to any of the family until so late yesterday, that poor Maria toiled herself to death to get things in proper order for the occasion.—we would fain have excused ourselves from appearing, but Aunt Hackley, who is my lady paramount with us all, determined otherwise, & at seven o’clock we were ushered into the parlour, & took our seats among those wild men of the woods, who looked like so many frightened hares, & seemed to contract themselves into the smallest possible space whenever we approached within speaking distance of them.—when we first looked around us, & saw the uncouth beings by whom we were surrounded, with their shabby cloathes, & wooden faces, & harsh discordant voices, we felt perfectly hopeless of being able to conform to Aunt H’s precepts of making the agreeable among them; but the shy smile of a certain Mr Haymond first gave us an opening towards an acquaintance, & in a short time we were “hail fellow well met” with the whole set, & mingled as familiarly among the plebs as the best republican in the state could do—republicans, as we are, however, we were shocked & scandalised at seeing Dansforth, the door keeper stuck up among them, & thought such a levelling of all distinctions quite intolerable.—two of the gentlemen, with whom we became acquainted, expressed a great fondness for whist, & some desire to challenge us to a game, & by a little harmless manœuvering, I got Cornelia & Harriet seated at the whist table with them, & kept myself unengaged till after supper that I might have the pleasure of playing a game of chess with Mr Nicholas—when this begun, I neither saw or heard what was passing around, except when I occasionally caught the whispered remarks of some of the lookers-on, “there, now she has missed”—or “he has missed of it now,” with similar interesting & elegant observations, which distracted my attention less than the uncomfortable feeling which I always have at finding myself surrounded, & pressed upon & sometimes in danger of being touched, by such awkward, ungainly creatures—but these are my prudish feelings I suppose—for any “6 feet of men’s flesh”—close at my elbow would produce the same.—the girls have been terribly scandalised at Cousin Richard’s caressing manners, as they style it when they are in good humour, but they have less gentle epithets for it at other times. he is continually putting his arm round them, & taking their hands, & biting their shoulders, besides a thousand other annoying tricks, which as I have never been a sufferer from them, I do not now remember—I always like to be a touch-me-not, & porcupine, to such people, & I believe he is beginning now to regard me as one of those ladies, who “with whip & fan and stand off man!” choose to keep all impertinents at a distance we were not in bed last nig[ht u]ntill 12 o’clock, & just as [we?] were falling asleep, and as Mr Nicholas, & the chess board, and Cousin Jeff’s tobacco covered lips which I had kissed, & the alligators by whom we had been surrounded, were swimming before my eyes, we were suddenly aroused by two delightful flutes under our window, which made sweet harmony to our ears, & carried us back in fancy to that summers nights 2 years ago when we were serenaded so charmingly by some of our own countrymen, at home—Cornelia & Harriet have made a most desperate stand against Virginia & myself, & a civil war I suppose must be the consequence of their reiterated insults—a Mr Wolfe, from Charlottesville, propagated some reports here concerning Virginia, which serves as a ground work for their charges, but Heaven knows why they have drawn me into the scrape, unless it is that “having the ornament of a meek & quiet spirit” they think me incapable of defence.—I shall take care to shew them their mistake, however, for I have no idea of staying in the shade for them, & still less will we suffer their insiduous attempts to make it appear that we are set by on a shelf & forbidden fruit to the gallant citizens of Richmond—no no—their Indian admirer—& train band captain—they may have & welcome—but if any prize of worth should appear, they may look to it, & expect no generosity from our hand—but a truce with this nonsense—my dear Cousin, I fear you will [. . .] think me mad or foolish, or both perhaps—Give my love to Margaret & kisses to the children—& if I should not have time to write to Lucy, pray by the first opportunity let them know that we are well.—

ever most affectionately yours,
M. E Randolph.
RC (Poplar Forest: Moss Collection of Eppes Letters); torn at seal and folds; addressed: “To Mrs Thos Jefferson Randolph Tufton favd by Major W. C. Nicholas”; endorsed by Randolph: “Elizabeth.”
Mary Elizabeth Randolph Eppes
Date Range
January 13, 1822
Poplar Forest