Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Virginia J. Randolph Trist

Four weeks have nearly elapsed since I received my dear Virginia’s letter which I meant to have answered sooner, but have had not a moment’s leisure. (as usual.) for my life is a very troublesome one & my time so frittered away in little occupations & interruptions that I have scarce a moment to devote to any species of recreation or pleasant employment. my servants torment me to death by their laziness, insolence, ingratitude & fickleness. I have changed my cook three times since mama has been with me, and am at this moment preparing to part successively with every domestic in the house my good Fanny has fallen into weak health & is going into the country—Sarah having fretted herself & me almost into consumptions has at last resolved to try her powers of teasing on some one else, whilst I scarce know whether to rejoice most in my own deliverance from her ill-humors or to regret the loss of a very good nurse for my baby—the Cook being engaged to another lady only came to me pro tem & has not more than a month to stay, & Wilder, (whom you must know, I think, by name,) thinks he cannot do better than marry Fanny & fix himself in the country upon his father’s farm, so that soon, [. . .] he too will be taking his departure. now is not such a prospect of domestic trouble a flattering one for any woman with one brat hanging at her heels & another in expectation. however it does no good to complain, & “How to make the best of it” is a lesson which sooner or later must be learned by all who wish to pass through life without losing sight of it’s blessing [. . .] whilst gazing too intensely on it’s troubles. my present poppet is such a source of hope & comfort to me that I do not allow myself to repine at the thought of another, although I should certainly have preferred to defer the arrival of the little sister another year. talking of babies reminds me to tell Cornelia that Mrs Sam Eliot. (who was married during her visit to Boston) is the joyful mother of a young heiress.

Joseph’s father has returned from Washington having made acquaintance there with Aunt R— & my friends the Vails. he arrived on the 14th, & the 15th, being his birth day, the whole family dined by invitation with us; & the next night mama & myself went to the theatre to see the celebrated McReady in Macbeth; I, sore against my will, for I have lost all relish for such pastimes—McReady was however great & mama much pleased & this was being the only satisfaction I anticipated I was not disappointed. Mama is just now reading a letter from Papa dated Darien in Georgia; he is staying at the house of a Mr Spalding a rich man of the country with whom he is much delighted so far. he speaks of the oranges already in leaf, of asparagus served at table, with several other etceteras of this delicious climate, whilst I, who am so tremblingly alive to this species of enjoyment, look out upon the ground covered with new fallen snow & ring the bell for fresh coal upon the fire. to give the old one his due however we have had passable weather enough for the last two or three weeks, & I hope soon mama will be able to take something like regular exercise—her health is decidedly much better than in the beginning of the [. . .] winter. the great drawback to her comfort has been I think the wrangling of the children whose incessant disputes keep her vexed & uneasy. it is strange that behaving so well as they do at school, they should resume all the Randolph as soon as they get home. Septimia has I think been seriously injured by the society & example of Susan Coolidge who is a very bad girl at a very bad age; I fear you will all find that her Septimia’s winter in Boston, along with a portion of geography & arithmetic, has given her a great many bad habits of self-sufficiency & insubordination—this of course is between you and ourselves—

If, (as I hope & believe it has done,) the senate of Louisiana should have confirmed to mama the gift made her by the House of Delegates, this second $10,000 with the success of the Lottery Bill, will I hope put an end to all necessity for the school which I have never been able to [. . .] my [. . .]for; consider as so inevitable as you all seemed to do; at the same time the preparations you have be all made for it will be useful to yourselves as well as to the little ones you have had under your care. the habits of mind induced by the hard campaign of the winter, the economy of time & the forced attention to unpleasant but useful details, will prove of eventual benefit even to your self dearest Virginia, & little Martha will assuredly hereafter reap the harvest of your painful efforts. thank Heaven this winter is over, & I trust we may have it in our power are at liberty to hope at least that the “winter of our discontent” may now “be made summer by the glorious sun” of better prospects.—

We are waiting rather impatiently for old Willard to go on with [. . .] clock, which is certainly the finest piece of workmanship I ever sa[w] but I think less of the convenience to the University, than of the [oppor]tunity afforded us of sending on the engravings for Harriet & Cornelia & the frocks for Mat. but I am sadly disappointed in these last. I got material for four, three calico & one white cambric. two only are finished done & they are made very indifferently & by no means answer my expectations; a third will I think be finished, but the fourth I doubt whether the scissars will be even put into it—the wretch of a mantua maker has had them a month, & the sketches of those that are done are out of hail of each other; what makes the delay more inexcusable is that they [. . .] are almost entirely plain, & have [n]ot an hour’s work in trimming. but the “canaille” of Boston think they honor you by doing any thing for you at all, even though they are more heavily paid than any trades people upon earth, & there is no alternative but to submit to their insolence or dispense with their services. the frocks are I fear all too short unless Martha continues to be something of a pigmy; but should you find them so, an additional frill or letting down the tucks (which are not half as deep as I ordered them,) will probably make them of sufficient length. I am promised a pretty apron pattern which I shall send along with the frocks—my darling suffers much in teething, she has six little pegs which have cost her six spells of sickness. (I hope you will be more fortunate.) the rest of us are doing pretty well; I to be sure am always ailing, but that of course. farewell my dear girl, excuse this hurried, interrupted apology f[or a] letter. Mama is writing one better worth sending but it is unfortunately not half finished & the post boy is blowing his horn. you were quite right to say nothing to J— about the octagon table & to tell me what you did. I knew not that mama had mentioned it to you—I never had a thought of depriving her of it, but was excessively anxious to obtain it in case of it’s being otherwise disposed of. I think J— seems to forget the number of mementos which he already possesses, all the manuscripts of every description, the watch, gun, sword, with many presents received at different times. his rights however are certainly far better than any body’s else except mama’s own, & I have at least the invaluable writing desk, & the precious spectacles which I owe to your disinterested affection dearest Virginia, & prize above every thing I possess. all that I had myself received, except the desk & watch & a few letters, are buried in the ocean, but I picked up a few trifling scraps of paper on which He had written & an article or two of his clothing which constitute my treasures. the Brescia table I do not care so much about. it had no particular connexion with Him & this is the only standard by which I estimate the value of these relics. I am very glad of the Washington particularly on acct of the crown, & the Franklin I am really delighted to have, & offer my sincerest & most grateful thanks to my old friend Mr Nelson for this act of delicate attention & kindness. I am afraid my dear Nicholas will think from Joseph’s letter that his exertions in our service have been ungraciously returned, but I assure him of our gratitude & warm affection. farewell my dear sister, love to all & kisses for the babies. to the old ladies remember me kindly. I shall write to C— & Mary as soon as I can—is not Jane thinking about producing a little Ramsay for us.

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); torn at seal; addressed: “To Mrs Nicholas P: Trist. Tufton near Charlottesville Albemarle Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Boston, 20 Mar.
Virginia J. Randolph
Date Range
March 20, 1827