Cornelia J. Randolph to Virginia J. Randolph (Trist)

We went yesterday my dear Virginia to hear Mr Meade preach & our hearts are all won, not by his sermon, for I w can never consider think his doctrine any thing but monstrous, but by the appearance of the man himself; I was very p much prejudiced against him for many things, the principal that I had heard he spoke ill of grandpapa & I thought him a fanatic that would hang & burn from principle if not from passion; but it is impossible that such a mild pale countenance should belong to any but a saint, one who had long [. . .] subdued every thing like passion, & could be guilty of no act of cruelty, so that if he spoke ill of grandpapa it was merely because he did not know him, & [. . .] view’d his religious principles in the wrong light; his sermon was extremely eloquent & his countenance manner & whole appearance that of a man that of a man wrought up to the highest pitch of enthusiasm; I considered him as a religious enthusiast, acting under the influence of a violently excited imagined imagination, but then such a countenance as he has! one that expressing expresses every thing he feels, & now was almost sublime, & then he is so much like cousin Ann, that I thought it was impossible he [. . .] could be any thing but good; you see at once that every word comes warm from his heart, & I am now convinced that he is is one of the purest & most passionless of mortals. he read the morning service in a voice that thrilled through me, afterwards came a long sermon to which my attention was riveted from the first word to the last, by this time he was nearly exhausted as he confessed himself, then he made a short address (they were about to administer the sacrament) that was the handsomest thing I ever heard & went into a little narrow confined place to with the rest of the clergy to take the sacrament,1 by degrees the crowd closed round him so that I lost sight of him, the ceremony was finished & they were all engaged in prayer, when I observed a bustle among them, & sister Jane exclaimd “he has fainted” I do not think I ever felt as I did at that moment in my life & sister Jane & Mary [. . .] were as much interested in him as I was; we stood however still & looked on & saw one very young clergy man alone appear to take the least notice of him, no there were two, that [. . .] who supported him & fanned him with the fans of the ladies present who all rose from their knees & offered every assistance in their power the other clergy men went on with their prayer as if nothing had happened; we waited untill we saw him recovered & go out into the open air & then we left the church without speaking to any one though sister Jane had determined to invite several ladies to dine with her. You will be surprised to hear that one of the best [. . .] sermons that has been preached was preached by the bishop, We heard that, & thought that it contained more good sense than all the others put together, common place to be sure it was, but more rational than any, the others are too fond of talking about things that I am sure [. . .] but a small part of the congregation understand a word of, I am sure [. . .] there was a part of Mr McGuire’s that if I could have understood at all it would been [. . .] by very close closet study; the bishop brought forwards all the arguments that the Trinitarians, generally used use in support of their doctrine, & did not speak so lightly of morality as the others did, they seemed to consider faith in what they or no one else ever pretended to understand, the only thing needful for salvation, he merely said merely that [. . .] morality alone was not sufficient; he is a good old man I believe, very pious & very zealous, though I believe he thinks “a saint in crape is twice a saint in lawn.” his sermon (as it seems to me every sermon does) made the ladies cry, & in the midst of it he made an address to the clergy which made them all draw out their white handkerchiefs, the sternest of them, Mr Ravenscroft, stood it a long time but at last his face puckered up in the most hideous manner, Mr Keiths tears had been streaming for some time, & the bishop himself cried so much that I was near joining from simpathy.

In the course of the sermon the bishop said something about the conduct of husbands & wives towards each other which made sister Jane laugh & at that moment she caught one of the clergymen’s eyes who immediately stretched his mouth from [. . .] ear to [. . .] ear & yesterday we met him in the [. . .] road & he recognised her with a broad grin. yesterday the bishop & most of the clergy went to Walkers church & I suppose those who remaind will leave Charlottesville to day; the convention is at [. . .] was not attended by near as many persons & were [. . .], what the number was who did come I have not heard exactly.

I got a note from Mr Hickman yesterday addressd to Miss Cornelia Randolph & sisters, he thanks us for our hospitality to him in very grateful terms, desires his respects to be given to every member of the family by name, regrets that his destiny should prevent his mingling frequently in the our refined society & the social enjoyments of our little circle, says, disclaiming presumption, he loves the young ladies of our family, & hopes to meet us all in heaven, & a great deal more which I have not time to tell you.

Ask mama what I must do about the cooks summer cloths they have applied to me for themAdieu my dear I have already kept Old Davy waiting an unreasonable time for my letter; George begs that mama will come back to Monticello that he my may go to see her; he is really quite melancholy poor little thing. give my love to my dearest mother & sister & accept my tenderest love for yourself. Mary says she would have written if she had had time

RC (NcU: NPT); damaged at seal; addressed: “Miss Virginia Randolph Poplar Forest.”

a saint in crape is twice a saint in lawn quotes from Alexander Pope, An Epistle to the Right Honourable Richard Lord Visct Cobham (London, 1733), p.5, later collected in his Moral Essays in Four Epistles to Several Persons (Edinburgh, 1751), Epistle 1, line 136. The implication is that a bishop (typically wearing lawn) receives or is entitled to more respect than a mere clergyman (who wears crape).

1Manuscript: “sarament.”
Virginia J. Randolph
Date Range
May 20, 1822