Virginia J. Randolph (Trist) to Nicholas P. Trist

I expect you have accused me of relapsing into my lazy habits of last Fall, Dearest Nicholas, and I hasten to vindicate myself in the very first moment that belongs to me. The meeting of the visitor’s which was to have taken place as soon as the assembly rose, was postponed until the usual time, the first monday in this month, and is consequently just over. Mrs. Madison accompanied her husband, and we had besides a visit from Mr. Gordon, & a grandson of Dr Priestley’s, whose name is Finch. Mr. Finch is making his tour of our country, mostly, on foot, with his wardrobe wrapt in a news paper, of course his visits can not be very long at a gentlemans house, a circumstance which I assure you does not make them less agreable. As he was heard to articulate no sound that the ‘wild man of the woods,’ could not have been taught to imitate, and as he resembled that species more than the human, in person and address, I really expected that he was a second edition of ‘Sir Oran Haut ton’ who figured in Melincourt, but Mr. Madison says that he is a man of some learning, and had even lectured on the subject of Geology in some of the Northern towns.—Have you ever heard the melancholy fate of our old friend the Abbe Correa? he is dead, and appears to have died in the mad house, but whether he was really mad, or put there on pretence of madness for his political opinions, is not known. the last news that was heard of him before his death, he was in Portugal, and confined in a mad house. I felt very sorry to hear this account, and should like to know what has become of Edward Correa.—The last enquiries that I made on the subject of Dabney Terrell he was in Louisville, but as it has been some time since, I will ask Col. Carr the next time I see him, where Mr. T. now is, and let you know. I believe the L,s are now on the pinnacle of fashion in Washington, and Miss Cora very much of a belle, but her first appearance occasioned great disappointment, probably because some injudicious friend had raised the public expectation too high, even for a pupil of the “splendid Mrs. Livingston” to answer them. Sister Ellen is so much better acquainted with the fashionable world than I am however, that She can give you more information on the subject, and very probably has done so in her last letter. Charlottesville has been so very gay this Spring that one of the new comers compared it to Washington!!! parties are given every evening, and I suppose Mr. Ferril Carr will be more unwilling than ever to permit his wife to visit there, as he thinks already that She has acquired too strong a taste for town life [. . .] from spending an occasional week at Horse de ville” with her mother and Sisters. we are invited to spend to morrow evening with Mrs. Brockenbrough; & as we think the “whole fleet” to much to inflict [. . .] upon one family we have in this case chosen Sister Ellen & Mary to represent us. this is the only invitation that we have been honoured with.

I congratulate you upon your having won a smile from that most fickle, and most despotic of all mistress’s, Fortune; and as she seldom bestows her frowns or favours singly, you may expect a long train of lucky chances like the last; unless my bad star should mar your prospects, in which case Browse will have a monopoly of her smiles. Pray what do you mean by ‘my Christmas gift’ that has been ‘duly received,’ and that you are so insatiable as to want ‘a million of’? one would suppose that I had made you a present of some valuable coin, or precious stone; and I should be tempted to think so myself, knowing my memory, if poverty was not one of those realities of life that never suffers itself to be forgotten. well you have given me a lesson in patience, for I am dying with curiosity which can not be gratified in less than two months; and then if you have forgotten all about it, I must carry this same curiosity to my grave. in truth however I do not inherit so much of mother Eve’s failing as to endanger my life, which I may reasonably hope to preserve long enoug to welcome you home next summer in propria persona, instead of leaving a death bed speech & confession to represent me. I am very sorry to hear that Browse continues indisposed, and I wish that he could try the effects of our healthy mountain air, and the skill of our [. . .] Doctor with his twenty five years experience. he knows how much pleased his friends would be to see him again, and I can tell him that he will save his brother from a broken heart b occasioned by the separation from him. Your last letter arrived so mutilated by it’s journey, I suppose behind the stage, that it was scarcely necessary to break the seal to read it. I am very unhappy at having our correspondence published in this manner, and have no ray of comfort but in the belief that the post office in Donaldsonville at least, is kept by french, and that my letters can not be read even if they should be torn to pieces on the road as yours are. am I right, or are they too exposed to the same danger of gratifying vulgar curiosity? The only alternative however would be worse than the present evil, therefore I must submit.

I have finished Appians history of the civil wars of Rome, and am now going to read the Roman lives in Plutarch, the Grecian I read when I was reading the history of Greece; I think biography much more agreable than history, which in truth I do not like. it is exclusively an exercise of the memory, and I have none. so is biography, but that is more amusing, from it’s hav[ing] [. . .] more anecdote than history. a bad cold obliged me to desert the harpsichord and [. . .] guitar before the meeting of the visitors, but I will practice again now that we are alon[e] [. . .] and try to improve a little before you come. This is a busy season however for my needle, w[hen I?] cast aside the winter apparel and prepare my summer wardrobe. I need not apologize for giving you all these details with regard to my occupations My dearest Nicholas, for though they would be tedious to others, I know that you like to know what I am doing; and are pleased when I have it in my power to tell you that I am spending my time usefully. Your approbation, and that of my dear mother and the girls, excite my indolent disposition to exertion; and are my strongest aids in the endeavours I make incessantly to correct the faults of my temper.—I shall perfume [. . .] this letter with some of your violets, which you will not think the less sweet because I have worn them all the morning, and also with a double blue violet that Mama just gather’d from her bed, and which is only the third flower it has produced this Spring. I wish I could add one of my beautiful roses, the bush is not two feet high I am sure, and it has already brought six roses to perfection, and now has several [b]uds coming on. Give my love to Browse, My Dear Nicholas, and since you have a mind to be my [n]ephew, believe me ever your affectionate Aunt

V. J. R.

Mary will revenge my wrongs with tooth & nail, & her saucy little tongue; she had the impudence to call her Grandmother ‘a mean lazy thing’ the other day. what will become of you?

I am very sorry to hear your situation with regard to the post office, and I think you should write to me every good saturday, as I may be subject otherwise to so many disappointments in my expectation of letters from you;—

RC (DLC: NPT); mutilated at seal; addressed: “To Nicholas P. Trist Esqr Donaldsonville La-fourche Louisiana”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 10 Apr.; endorsed by Trist: “Randolph (V.J.) Apr. 8. 24.”

The novel melincourt, by Thomas Love Peacock (1817), was an “an overtly political satire,” featuring an orangutan mimicking human behavior and ultimately gaining election to Parliament (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).

in propria persona: “for one’s self.”