Mary J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

it is so long since I have written to mama or yourself my dear Sister that I can scarcely recollect to which of you this letter is due, according to my rule of writing alternately to each of you, but I believe it was to mama that I addressed my last letter. we went up to Monticello Saturday week to get the house in order for Mrs Dunglison’s reception, (who as Virginia told you has agreed to spend the vacation there instead of at Hardins where the Dr. & herself meant to have taken their child for the benefit of change of air) and were detained [. . .] by a rainy spell which did not clear up sufficiently for us to return till Thursday morning. Mrs Dunglison arrived wesdnesday evening and the next day we put her in possession of all the rooms prepared for her accomodation, including the public rooms, the two chambers opposite the diningroom, with all their appurtenances, closets, cupboads, &c &c also the little closet at the foot of our staircase & our old “wareroom” which with the kitchen and dairy in addition, comprised we thought as much room and as many of the conveniences of the place as she could require, after introducing her to all these various places and explaining their advantages, Virginia and myself left her on thursday evening, but Cornelia & Ellen remained to take care of Willie who had been declining so visibly and so rapidly for the last week that it was a very great relief to our uneasiness about him to have such an opportunity of placing him under Dr Dunglison’s superintendance. I do not think the child has ever been healthy since the violent attack he had in the winter and for the last four weeks he has been labouring under a constant bowel complaint which has reduced him to a perfect Skeleton. his eyes are hollow and his neck shews distinctly every bone and sinew in it, indeed he looks more in his general appearance, like what I recollect of Aunt Harriets daughter Mary when she first carried her to Monicello, than any child I have ever seen since, and one day last week he laid in our arms throughout the day so entirely languid and lifeless and looking so wretchedly that we we were miserable about him, the next day however he was a little better & Dr Dunglison came, and willie has ever since been improving though slowly, under his management; the arrangement we have made will secure for him all the advantages of that he could receive from medical aid, and we shall continue to keep him at Monticello under Cornelia’s care or mine as long as we think he requires it—we have received many pressing & kind invitations from the Dr & Mrs D. to stay with them and having our own rooms and our own servants about us enables us to do so without inconvenience to them and we feel still less scrupulous about it because sister Jane will be able to assist them often with butter from her dairy & fresh meat & mama’s hen yard ought to produce some eggs and chickens for their use—I believe they will remain at Monticello till the first of September and that is about the time that w Sister Jane talks of moving over to Edgehill, and we propose to take possession of our own old home again which will allow us a month to make ourselves comfortable before mama returns. Nicholas will go on for her the 1st of October I believe—Aunt Cary will not get into her house this winter and her present plan is to occupy a house of Mr Timberlake’s which he is to lend her until hers is ready. she is determined to leave Recess. we are not without our fears that she may again propose a junction of the two families and brother Jeff. prophesies that one or more visitations in the course of the winter is the least we may expect, and this was urged as a sufficient reason for our remaining here for the present at least. but we hope to avert the evil, if it does really threaten us, by not speaking of our intended return, and we hope Aunt C. will be fixed at Mr Timberlake’s before she knows of our intention. one plan that Virginia suggested and which seemed to meet with approbation from the higher authorities, was that, instead of plastering up the stoves all of which were taken down to be cleaned except the one in the appendix we should have them removed & stowed away in among the lumber in some of the cellars, and live entirely on the first floor which might be made to accomodate us but would not admit of guests. you know there are three bedrooms (including the sitting room) below stairs and we might use the dining room as a bedroom. & breakfast and dine in the hall and convert the appendix into a store room, unless indeed w[. . .] prefered making a chamber of it & retaining our old dining [. . .] we all think it best that mama should get what furniture we are obliged to have, in Boston, where she can chuse it herself. New York would be no doubt a better place to by buy furniture because it is cheaper, and but then she has no friend there to whom she could apply to make purchases for her, and the things should be bought and sent on immediately. we shall furnish a list of the needful articles when brother Jeff. makes a remittance, which I suppose he will be able to do at once from the interest of the South Carolina appropriation which is already due—the only things I remember at present without which we could not possibly keep house, are chairs, knives and forks & glasses. we have no side table; but a large black walnut one of Mrs Nicholas’s which Mrs Dunglison is using, answers pretty well as a substitute. we have the white and gilt tea china still and all our plate which was nailed up in a box and brought down here for safe keeping. but of this we will speak fully when we write to mama—The Keys are gone. Mrs Key seemed really distressed at parting with her acquaintances in this country and I daresay is regretted by many of them. Mr Key is a happy riddance for the University and the country—Sally is going into [. . .] Dr Emmets service when he returns from New York with his bride. I do not know upon what grounds she counts upon remaining in the State for the law forbidding it, was expressly explained to her when she had her choice to make between freedom and continuing to belong to you. the price given for her is considered a very good one in these times—I heard to day that your old acquaintance Mrs Dr Watson has just presented her husband with twin boys after having given him five daughters in succession. when you return to Virginia you will find [. . .] most of your acquaintances fixed in comfortable brick houses, such is the present spirit of improvement among them. Col. Carr. Mr Garrett. & Mr Southall are building pretty good sized ones and brother Jeff’s which is smaller will yet be large enough to accomodate all his family, including Mrs N. & Margaret with ease & comfort.

I have no room for more & yet have scarcely said all I had to say—kiss dear baby for me & tell me what time in Ag August you expect to be confined. love to Mama Joseph & the children. I heard from E. who has done extremely well, better than usual, in her confine[. . .] though her situation at the time of the birth was o[. . .]—ever & affectionately yours dearest Sister

do not forget to send my album by Mama. I hope you have written in it

I went yesterday evening to Morven, and was agreeably surprised to find Eliza Garrigues there. She desired me to give her love to Mama & yourself particularly by the next opportunity. poor Mrs. Higginbotham is in hourly expectation of being confined, & looks worse than I ever saw her.

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); torn at seal; addressed: “To Mrs Joseph Coolidge junr Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 31 July; endorsed by Coolidge: “Mary. July. 29. 1827”; with notes by Coolidge: “The Dunglisons at Monticello. Aunt C.s plans & Fears of a visitation. The Keys gone back to England.”
Date Range
July 29, 1827