Cornelia J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge
|Monticello July 13 1825|
Virginia & myself have had a contest, my Dear sister, about who should write by this post but I could not yeild my birthright so easily in this case, willing as I am to give up the melancholy privilege in general; I am not very fit company however for you or any one else this evening for I am sick with many sad thoughts; mama is from home & grandpapa unwell & out of spirits. I cannot bear his pale looks & weak voice; do not however be frightened he is not too unwell for mama to leave him, his stomach is in good order & it is only his old complaint that afflicts him & that the Dr says is the inseparable companion of advanced years. Mama had returned home to us, but promised to go back to Elizabeth if she did not continue well; she was unsually well, & had easily & quickly passed her perils, but from excessive care for fear she should take cold, from that mistaken idea that the gentlest breath of heaven was too rude a blast for a flower so frail, she was kept so warm that a constant state of fever was the consequence, & as the weather became hotter the fever rose untill it became very high, aunt Jane was terrified, thought something terrible was the matter, Harriet miserable, & the whole family desponding; Francis came up & I returned home with him as he thought her spirits were low & company would be good for her. when we got there (the thermometer was 91 here that day, & probably much higher at Ashton) we found her in a hot close room covered up in bed; the doors & windows were open it is true, but the shutters were closed & a screen set before the door; Francis was in despair but nothing we could do or say would prevail on her or them to let more air be admitted except than what could come through the window in the recess the shutter of which was at length unclosed at his entreaty She had been using hot applications for her treat breasts & I believe there is not one of us who would not have sunk under the debilitating effects of half of that stewing & smothering. Elizabeth has I am convinced naturally an uncommonly good constitution & Francis thinks so also. that night her fever could not go off entirely & the next day mama was sent for much to our sorrow. we tried all we could do to prevail on her to stay, particularly as grandpapa was quite low spirited at parting with her, but whether she thinks it is our duty to do all we can for them I know not, but she would go. Elizabeth is better & she has promised to return to morrow. The more I think of our impending misfortunes the more I rejoice at yours & Virginia’s marriages, I forget my jealousies of your husbands, I only think that from part of these misfortunes at least you are rescued & that your solace, comfort, sympathy, & assistance in many things will be ours as much now as ever. better none than even one companion in misfortune. from loss of fortune you are safe & [. . .] in other griefs you will have comforters in your husbands.
Since you went away Ellen Carr has been dangerously ill, first with a bilious fever & when that left her it was found her liver was affected & she continued ill in consequence of that. she was in much danger also of an abscess forming somewhere within, in which case the drs agreed she would be in the extremest danger, but I suppose they must have succeeded in discussing the collection of matter that was forming for she is much better now. Maria Carr has been her constant nurse, & has gone through more fatigue than I thought any one could bear. she stood one whole night by her bedside fanning her & Sarah N. & herself at one time were obliged to be incessantly moving her for she could not lay still & was too weak to be able to turn herself. Sarah said it was the greatest fatigue she ever underwent. The ladies of Charlottesville have been as usual all kindness & hospitality; when we sent to offer & our services to set up with Nelly they [. . .] declined them saying that the drs had already said there were too many nurses; they were nevertheless extremely grateful for the little attention we paid & for Virginia’s kind & ever affectionate notes to Sarah Nicholas.
The news of the neighbourhood is the chit chat & scandal of the University [. . .] & every thing that passes there. Mrs Key has a daughter much to the fathers mortification, which report says is to be called Virginia. I suppose mama told you your maid Sally was at present with Mrs Key, she objected to living at the University but agreed to stay untill untill Mrs K. was out of her confinement who is much pleased with her Mrs Dunglison says. She had been in the greatest distress for a maid & could not get one. Mr Key is in wretched health the climate does not agree with him at all, & the duties of two professorships are too much for him. There is one shocking piece of Scandal afloat. it is that Mr Raphael’s sister whom you may have remarked as a very bold impudent girl was missing one night & found at twelve o clock in one of dormitories of the students & it is said that it is not one but many that she visits, but really this is scandal of too black a dye to write.
The belles [. . .] of Charlottesville & beaux of the University have come to a formal declaration of war, the beaux gave a barbecue & invited the belles who however went not, & which so affronted the beaux that they would not go to the party of the belles although they knew they were depended on for partners. the belles filled with indignation met & exacted a promise from each other that they would go to no more parties where students were to be; I, accidentally was present at the debate & it appeared to me so ridiculous & undignified to t make such a fuss about it that I tried to persuade them them to go to the next & shew they were indifferent as to what conduct the students pursued & would not alter their course for their misdemeanours, but I talked to the wind, [. . .] untill I happened to say go if it is only for half an hour they caught at these words with great delight & said yes, we will go for half an hour & come away just as the gentlemen begin to enjoy themselves & so they determined to do, as the most signal vengeance they could take, & thanked me for my advice. the young gentlemen were mightily pleased when they heard what commotion they had excited.
We have had much company & been out very often since you went away Harriet & myself went to a lecture given on purpose to ourselves, & in the evening Mr Bonnycastle rode from Charlottesville to Ashton with us, Harriet was in a gig & I on horse back & I scarcely know whether I was most ashamed or diverted with the feats of horsemanship exhibited by my escort the horse was wild & ran away with him the first thing, leaving me to take care of my self, instantly shouts of laughter & applause [. . .] were heard from the terraces of the University & the gig party laughed so they could scarce keep their seats I could not help joining [. . .] in the mirth & we all stopped & laughed untill the tears streamed from our eyes; this was not all for the horse again ran off & [. . .] coming full tilt against the gig & was near upsetting it, he likewi[se] play’d all [. . .] of pranks & capers sometimes the gentleman would be on on[e] & before I had tim[e] to think he had frisked over to the other. a few days [. . .] I heard, via Mr [ s H]igginbotham, that I was to be married to Mr Bonnyca[stle] this week. Mr [B] is in love, but neither with H. or myself but with a laugh[. . .] little girl from Loudon, who they say had such fascination in her look that she no sooner cast a glance upon a man than he straitway fell in love with her. Wilson Cary is terribly smitten with a Miss Slaughter of Culpper. Lucia’s beau Arthur Smith has forgotten her & can neither hear, see think, or dream of anything but that pretty Miss Gray whom you saw, she also is kinder hearted than Lucia & does not suffer him to sigh in vain. so, as the match is what is called a good one & the Gray family marry at fifteen I suppose it will be a match. We visited Mr Tuckers family & found the girls as silent stupes as I ever saw. one of them his niece, Miss T. of Bermuda is pretty, she is a brunette with red [. . .] cheeks & lively black eyes. Judge Dade has been with us, they seem to think he is inclined to accept the professorship, but his wife objects to it, so I suppose it depends upon the report he makes her when he goes home whether he will accept or not. I like Judge Dade vastly but have not heard the wise ones give any opinion concerning him yet.
Adieu my dearest sister, I have written you a budget of tittle tattle, you had rather have heard more about ourselves; but we go on in the same gait that we always do, nothing new has occurred. Nicholas talks seriously of going to the springs for his health, which continues bad. Old Mrs Trist is staying with us at present. once more adieu dearest sister may heaven avert misfortune from you & grant you happiness in this world & [. . .] confidence in the next. give my love to Mr Coolidge & believe me your own affectionate sister.