Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph

I was prevented by a touch of headach from writing to my dearest mother yesterday, the ‘jour de l’an’, to offer her the best wishes of the season warm from the heart of a grateful & devoted daughter; many many returns of the same day to you my own best loved mother, marked by more auspicious omens & brighter [. . .] prospects than you have hitherto been blessed with, & may you enjoy through your children the happiness which has been so generally denied to yourself personally, except when drawn from the stores of your own patient & cheerful submission to the evils of your life, & the sunshine of your own native dispositions. my head-ach of yesterday lost me, besides the pleasure of telling you how every new year adds to my love for you, a very brilliant sermon from Mr Greenwood, & as I could neither write nor go to church, I lay down & read an article in the last No. of the N. A. Review, in which our friend Hunter is, I am afraid, almost proved to be an impostor. this strange & well supported attack upon one whose claims I had deemed so irrefutable has left my brain bewildered; when I remember the man, his countenance, movements, gestures, the wild Indian turn of his eye, the half-savage grunt or snort with which he began or ended his discourses, the sudden erections of his figure & expansions of his chest, with a thousand other et ceteras so indicative of what he professes professed his early education & habits to have been, I think it almost absurd to doubt his assertions, & when again I turn to the arguments & documents brought forward to prove him false, I am thrown into new uncertainties. the article in question is from the pen of Gov. Cass, & seems intended to shew how very little any thing that has been [. . .] written or said on the subject of the North American Indians can be relied upon, how [. . .] ignorant we still are of all that is most interesting in relation to them, & how great, how almost insuperable are the obstacles to our being better informed. he shews Heckewelder to have been repeatedly mistaken, Duponceau falling into frequent errors & misapprehensions, Major Long often deceived, & Hunter he [. . .] to be an Impostor an impostor & his book full of gross blunders, such as could not have been fallen into by even a skilful cheat. “It is evident”, says the Reviewer, “that the Compilers of Hunter’s work had examined the preceding accounts of the Indians, which have been published. but he was not able to discriminate between the differing different customs of differing tribes, & has therefore described the Osages & & the neighbouring nations as possessing customs of which they have no knowledge”. then follow many particulars of these mistakes; false statements of facts in the history of the Indians are likewise “ relevés”, & the whole concludes with letters from four different persons, denying the truth of Hunter ’s assertions & declaring their belief in his unworthiness. the first of these is Gen. Clark (Lewis & Clark) who says that he has resided in that part of the country since 1807, & that it is impossible Hunter could have lived with the tribes & gone through the scenes he describes without k some knowledge of him & his history reaching his (Gen. Clark’s) ears. “many of the circumstances (these are the General ’s own words) mentioned by him are to my certain knowledge, barefaced falsehoods”. the second is Vasquez, a man of spanish descent, & subagent for the Kansas, who accompanied Pike in his expedition. he declares that he has been engaged in trade with the Kansas 19 years, & that during the whole of the time there was no white man of any age or description a prisoner among them. then comes Major Chateau who has known the Osages since the year .75. in the capacity of trader, agent or otherwise, & declares says that during that period there never was any white boy living with or brought up by them. & last & most appalling comes is the Testimony of John Dunn of Cape Girar Giradeau member of the Missouri Legislature. of him Hunter had said “as Mr John Dunn, a gentleman of high respectability of Cape Giradeau county, state of Missouri, had treated me in every respect like a son or brother, I adopted his name” &c &c “& have since been known as John Dunn Hunter &c”. upon this Mr John Dunn writes that he never knew any such person as John Dunn Hunter, nor any one at all answering to the description, & that he is fully convinced that the man wearing this name & character, is an impostor. Hunter speaks of going to school several weeks in the neighbourhood of Cape Girar Giradeau; Gen. Cass, satisfied himself by enquiries among the most respectable inhabitants, that no such youth was, under any name, ever known there.—I do not know what to think or believe.—I past the remainder of yesterday in looking over “the Rebels” a new novel by the author of Hobomok; I found it utterly destitute of any species of merit, & too stupidly silly for endurance. Christmas has not been very merry for me, & passed pretty much as other times. I had the satisfaction of cont[ri]buting ten dollars towards making up a little purse for Maria Greenwood, which the ladies of the King’s Chapel, (the Church in which Mr Greenwood preaches,) proposed as a Christmas box for her. my mother, grandmother & sister-in-law gave each as much, & when the sum was completed it amounted to 400 dollars which were we presented in the name of the ladies of Mr Greenwood’s church; elsewhere these might appear to be something degrading to the person receiving such donations, but in Boston you are previleged to offer any thing to your minister or his wife, who receive these presents as matters of custom & would be accused of most unbecoming & unchristianlike-like pride, if they hesitated or shewed any repugnance in accepting such offerings. the clergy are better off here than any where I have ever known, more respected, treated with more consideration, & more is done for them in various ways. and very respectable & excellent men they generally are.—I am now going out to make a few visits as the day is rather pleasant, & my head is right again. I am getting my family in better order after dismissing two domestics & supplying their places by, I hope, better ones. my fastidious cook has given place to another, a good tempered old maid, & the honest but drunken Irishman has been succeeded by a Genevan, a genteel capable servant, with not half the good feeling of his predecessor, but a great deal more style. moreover he keeps Joseph in practice speaking french & saves me a great deal of trouble about the house. I will fill up my paper when I return, if I have time.

—I have received Virginia’s letter for which she has my best thanks. I am in debt to all my sisters & shall begin to pay off as soon as I can. the piano is not yet quite finished. mine continues as stiff as ever partly because I have so little time to practise on it. I wish you could give it a little suppleness for me; the tones are the finest I almost ever heard. I forgot to say to the girls how much I had been disappointed in Mary Lyman’s beauty. I never saw her until lately although we had exchanged calls. the standard of beauty is different here from what it is with us. Miss Lyman is thought in Boston the ne plus ultra of female loveliness, but when I remember the Peri brightness of Elizabeth Phillips & the holy calm of Mrs Middleton’s unearthly countenance, I cannot understand how a face & figure so little spiritual so entirely mundane as Miss Lyman ’s could ever be thought of as a standard. there is regularity of feature & [. . .] freshness of coloring & a good sensible discreet face enough; but nothing romantic, nor classic nor saint-like. nothing of the heroine nor the Greek statue nor of Raphael’s Madonas.

adieu dearest mother. Joseph sends his warm love, mine awaits all my dear ones. kind remembrance to my neighbours & especially to Mrs Dunglison. ever your own

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); torn at seal; addressed: “To Mrs Randolph Monticello near Charlottesville Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Boston 4 Jan.
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