Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph

I will at least begin a letter to you, my dearest mother, although I scarcely know when I shall have time to finish it, perhaps now, perhaps not until next time week. my baby has been very unwell for several days and this morning I sent for Dr Warren whose prescription seems already to have relieved the little fellow of part of his uncomfortable feelings. he is a fine child, I think, very fat & goodnatured and I hope will be healthy. Bess is the picture of a country milk maid with life laughing in her eyes, and the clear fresh blood almost bursting from her round hard cheek, but Ellen is a feeble and delicate creature, frequently unwell and never robust. she wants more exercise and more air than I can give her in town, and I often wish you were not such an immeasurable distance as well that I might send her to breathe the mountain air under your care, as for a great many other reasons. She stays almost constantly with me and teases me by her incessant questions. she has the greatest passion for listening to stories, little verses, or short descriptions of whatever comes within her comprehension, and her memory is tolerably retentive. I shewed her some gold and silver fish several weeks ago, and read her the account which Mrs Barbauld gives Charles of these little creatures, their coming from a country a great way off called China &c. yesterday she asked me what the tea spoons were made of, I told her silver. silver, Mama, said she, after a moments thought, comes from China. I traced the association at once with the silver fish. in a variety of ways she shews an inquiring mind and a power of combining ideas. She expressed great indignation at Dr Warren’s ordering the baby to be washed in sea-water. no, Tommy shall not be washed in the sea. Tommy is no sish (fish.) I asked her a day or two ago what I should send to market for, for her dinner. “some baked pears and a piece of the great fish that gives the oil.” I had been describing the whale to her a short time before. She has a large pink hat which was the joy of her life until a boy in the street told her it looked like a baloon. the next time she went to walk she came to me for a stick that she “might kill the boy who said her hat looked like a bayoon.” it was with some difficulty I diverted her from her bloody intentions and persuaded her [. . .] not to mind what the foolish boy said. I am afraid you will think I am giving you rather too much of this nursery gossip, but I recollect how fond you were of the heroine of my tales, and that they will have an interest for you, they could have for no one else.—

I scarcely [. . .] know what else to write about just now except my children, they occupy me so exclusively. your friends here are generally well, and make frequent inquiries how you are &c. I believe I mentioned to you that Sam. S. Perkins had failed, but his rich & generous brother has established him in a new and much better house than the one he was forced to quit. since that John Rogers is reduced to beggary, and within a day or two Charles Toney, whose father left him ninety thousand dollars is likewise proclaimed a bankrupt. the distress in Boston is unparalelled and I am sure I do not know where it is to stopped. Factory stock is gone to the dogs and those whose property was vested in that way are of course ruined.

April 28. My Boy has been so unwell since I began my letter that I have not had time to finish it. he has been threatened with lung fever but is better to day owing to the timely remedies administered by Dr Warren. he is sleeping calmly, and I will try to fill up my paper before he wakes. I think if Mrs Stearns would have agreed to receive us in her house we should have gone to Cambridge for the summer on account of the childrens’ health, but ladies and babies make bad boarders, and she does perfectly right to decline them. George has just left us after a three weeks stay but he was so constantly at the store that I saw but little of him. he is a very good boy, behaves perfectly well & enjoys uniform good health. his last summers clothes were made so unmercifully large that they are loose upon him now, so his wardrobe will require no great additions. a new nankin coat and pantaloons perhaps, with gilt buttons, for sunday wear. I have bought him new socks, and completed his stock of drawers. his shirts are good yet. after paying Mr Wells’ last quarter about sixty dollars remained in Joseph’s hands, and not one hundred as he wrote you word. but I will let you know whenever you are out of funds. your accounts are kept with the utmost regularity, & every item entered in a book which I keep on purpose. George has been pretty much clothed from George Joseph’s wardrobe and I have made acquaintance with a smart tayloress whose work is excellent, & her prices moderate.

My baby is crying. good night dearest mother I will finish to morrow if I can.

May 1st. I will not keep my letter any longer under the vain hope of having leisure to fill my paper. my boy continues unwell; I have him in my arms all day and at night am often too much interrupted to write. as soon as I am a little more at leisure I will write to all the girls; I feel p[a]rticularly anxious to have time to for writ a long letter to Virginia. [A]dieu dearest mother; the mail does not g[o] out now until [te]n o clock and I am finishing to put my letter in to night. Did I ever mention Joseph’s wish to own the Natural Bridge? ask Jefferson what it is valued at. Joseph cares only for the Bridge and does not want the land attached to it but I suppose they must go together. I never told you how much I like my next-door neighbour Mrs Wm Lyman. she is without exception the most indiscreet person I know, & I would sooner publish a secret in Buckingham’s newspaper then confide it to her keeping, but I scarcely ever knew a more generous open-hearted creature than she is, and a most excellent neighbour.

dear love to all and once more good bye dearest mother.
RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); torn at seal; addressed: “To Mrs Randolph Edgehill near Everettsville Albemarle Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Boston, 2 May.