Cornelia J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

We have such a press of work of all kinds, dear sister that I can scarcely spare time to write but I must try even if I can only do it [. . .] a few lines at a time. We had delightful weather for our journey & from Philadelphia p very pleasant company; on board the boat with us was a Mr Payne of Boston who had been introduced to me by Frances Apthorp, who was at least a gentleman & not averse to ladies’ company; he was travelling for his health. An Englishman just landed on the first day of may, a liberal, gentlemanly, man & one of [. . .] information & very agreable; he was a capt. or Col. (I do not know which) Hardy of the army; we soon got very well acquainted with these gentleman & regretted that we could not have them with us during the whole journey. the Englishman was a friend of the Capt Hall who was here & told us he ([. . .] Capt Hall) had lost his commission in consequence of some offensive things said of the English government in his book; he said also that Capt Hall though something of a cynic & not given to enthusiasm was inthusiastic in his praise of grandpapa; if I reccollect right however we thought him very inthusiastic. There was in the boat with us also a georgian, Mr Wild a member of Congree Congress; he was a fine manly bold looking fellow—with one of the finest countenances I ever saw, a true son of the south, & one of the best sort; [. . .] his person tall & rather above the common size, his eyes full of fire & intelligence, his motions gracefull but as untutored & free almost as those of an indian & his wholeappearn appearance rather picturesque; his manners & conversation had the same character, not those of a man whose life had been [. . .] divided between the study and drawing room, but those of a man of strong natural sense who had seen much of the world (at least the world of his own country) & estimated properly the advantages & disadvantages of all he saw; his gallantry & politeness were natural & born with him not aquired; his conversation not literary but very interesting & shewing an enlarged & liberal mind. The englishman after we were all shut up in the stage together took out a beu beautiful gold box & [. . .] handing it to Septimia told her to touch a spring which he showed her she did, when the lid flew open & out flew a little [. . .] feathered bird about the quarter of the size of the humming bird & with all its richest colours; it immediately began fluttering its wings moving its head & singing with all its might while its tiny beak quivered & its black eyes shone so bright that I could scarcely persuade myself it was not a real bird—its little black legs too were as natural as possible, & its song a birds song not a regular tune; a little cha, cha, che, che, cha, kept up for some time & then a pause & then he began again; Aboulcassems bird in the Persian tale was nothing to it; I assure you I feel quite a childs delight in [. . .] recollecting it, & quite as much admiration of the arts as Mrs Royal when she saw the alabaster roses—apropos of Mrs Royal—she has written a book call “The black book” because I suppose she abuses every body in with the most unqualified vulgarity, who would not buy her first book. I do not know which is most conspicuous in it; her absurd vanity & self conceit or indecent ribaldry & fishwoman fluency, & having said all this I have not used language half strong enough to give an idea of this disgrace to womanhood & civilised society.We had delightful weather coming down the bay & up James river, that grand beautiful bay & noble river, I sat on deck & admired them all day. In Norfolk we saw aunt Hackley just just long enough to kiss her & tell her good bye; she looks well, but poor Maria Woodward! she looks ugly & miserable beyond any thing I ever saw, Cousin Jane looks well & Harriet is very pretty. Richmond is a picture of ruin & desolation; the streets empty, the houses going to decay, the hot wind whirling the dust about, the sun scorching you & the dirt offending your eyes & spoiling your cloths clothes every where without, but within I must say the houses are as neat as the yankee houses & the people so hospitable! so kind! the men so full of gallantry; real, native, respectful gallantry, never stepping beyond their own rank but ever ready exactly at the time & place & in the manner that their services are required; & the girls gentle, modest, unpretending & graceful & lady like; I had dwelt so long on the advantages that the people of New England have over us & their superiority in so many important points, that I began to think the little we had to boast of was but a chimera, a thing unreal & existing only in our imaginations, but the loveliness of nature in men as well as things inanimate struck me as much almost as the ruin & decay of all that depends on the exertions of men. In Richmond both Mama & myself were taken sick, but coming up the country although we were sixteen hours travelling in the stage, we revived as soon as we breathed our own mountain air; Mama has since been in better health than she has been this spring before. As we came up we saw some signs of a revival; in the stage with us was one of those industrious plebeians of Havanna who is establishing a manufactory there, one of the Magruders of the Union Mills, it made me glad to see the signs of prosperity & industry at that place. Mr Magruder had been to Boston several times & was is going there again soon. he said he had not yet been able to persuade the women to do the work, [. . .] they consider it disgraceful to work as he hirelings & particularly in so public a manner—

At home we found sickness we did not expect, papa ill & even threatened with dropsy but he is very much better than he was & yesterday was able to drive about in a single chair for several hours; his appetite too has returned. I was so shocked when I saw him looking so pale & haggard that I forgot every thing for the moment but the filial feelings I used once to have so warmly, We never have seen him look as he does now. he is very uneasy about himself & seems to have softened towards every body. We go to see him every day & the life he leads now seems to suit him so well that I hope he will continue it, that is occupying the pavilion alone & receiving our [. . .] daily visits.Aunt Marks’s [. . .] strength keeps up astonishingly & she does not suffer pain; her appetite too is usually exceedingly good & though she keeps her bed she can get up & even walk; yesterday she was much worse but I think it probable it was only a temporary change; to day she is better. the cancerous swelling is so shocking a looking place that I wonder any one can have it and live; it is as large as my fist & the inflamation extends all over her breast & chest; it discharges incessantly so as to keep her constantly wet, & the danger is of her strength & life itself bee being exhausted by this discharge. Poor old woman her life is not of value to any one but her death would distress us all exceedingly.

Nicholas’s health [. . .] & his spirits miserable; the life he is leading is a constan[t] [. . .] of mortification to him yet he cannot deci[de] what business [. . .] he is persuaded he cannot practise the [. . .] I wish he wou[ld] think the active life of a country [. . .] lawyer [. . .] suit his health [mu]ch better than the life of study & writing he [. . .] leads.1
& Betsey Gibbon have made a match, Miss Betsy Walker married a man named Michie & is now a widow; Rheinhart has married that idiot Catherine Minor. Malvina Terrel has had an offer of marriage & refused it because the the gentleman was younger than her self; this is fact; the youngest sister, Martha Terrel is certainly soon to be married.Robert Douthat is dead & so is Mrs Randolph of Wilton: Miss Jud[y] Lomax is also dead & our neighbour Old Mrs Rogers of Belmont hung [her]self in a fit of [. . .]dness.Mary tells me since I wrote the above that [. . .]as already told [. . .] most of the news.

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); torn at seal; on two sheets with bottom half of second sheet cut away presumably by Coolidge; addressed: “[. . .] [Mrs. Jo]seph Coolidge Junr Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; endorsed by Coolidge: “Cornelia. May. 24. 1828”; with notes by Coolidge: “Journey from Philadelphia to Baltimor Mr Payne. Mr Wild of Ga. English Officer. Capt. Hall. Richmond. Good manners & hospitality of it’s inhabitants. Papa’s health. poor Aunt Marks!”
1Second sheet ends here.
Date Range
May 24, 1828