Virginia J. Randolph Trist to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

I received your last letter some time ago my dearest sister, but as my turn to write to Boston comes only once in three weeks and I make it a rule to address every other letter to mama whether I am in her debt or not, I could not sooner thank you for it. indeed it appears to me of very little consequence to which of you I direct my letters, for the contents are for you both always. but you must not suppose that I that think it equally unimportant to whom you direct your answers, for it is a privelege that I prize very highly to have the first reading of the letter and to retain possession of it when the girls have read it. Mama’s last was entirely on the subject of our school. nothing has been done as yet and the same difficulties still oppose the plan of keeping it in Charlottesville, and yet this will be necessary, I imagine, because all our resources are here. Mr. Higginbotham told Benjamin that Isabella Wydown was to be married in 6 months. and that he had offered Mary Ann 300$ a year for seven years, if She would return to live with him, but that She had not then given an answer. we heard from another quarter that She said if mama opened a school she would resign her place to her. this sacrifice of course none of us wish her to make, and brother Jeff proposed that we should make a sort of division with them by taking none but large girls; at least none under ten or twelve years old. our high charges too (the Richmond terms), would make [. . .] their school more popular I dare say than mama’s. with regard to the part that each of us would take in teaching, we thought it adviseable to decide at once that we might try & prepare ourselves to do our duty. we propose that Cornelia should fit her self to give lessons in drawing & spanish, Geography and the use of the globes. that Mama should teach the first class music & french, and also Italian if she to those who wish to learn it. but as it is 40 $ a year [. . .] to Italian teachers here, I doubt whether most people will not be too economical to learn. [. . .] Mary can teach a second class french, besides teaching grammar and having a class of history. I will try and teach the girls who have never begun music, their gamut, & to play Foots minuet after which I shall turn them over to Mama; and I suppose I must try & teach writing & arithmetic. the elements of natural history which Mama named in her list, Cornelia proposes to add to her share, as She thinks it very dubious whether She will have a single spanish scholar. I believe the best preparation that I can make for teaching music & writing is in trying my hand on sister Jane’s children; of course the time that I devote to them does not improve my own playing, but I believe that I shall understand music better for it, and gain some experience which will be more important to my scholars than my performing better myself. I am fully aware that no one who heard me play would think me fit to teach their children, but if I did not honestly think that I could give them as good a beginning as they could get at any of our schools, I would not undertake it. I am trying to induce Margaret & Patsy to practise regularly by telling them that my character as a music mistress is at their mercy, and if I do not get them to playing easy tunes passably by the Spring I shall be almost afraid to undertake to teach music. my scruples are greatly encreased by hearing that 60 $ is the [. . .] charge for giving music lessons. the house keeping is a difficulty that we have not yet gotten over. we all agree that it will never answer to change about from one to another, and that it would be extravegant to employ a person for the purpose, & each of us have offered ourselves & been rejected by the others, though I dare say the house keeper will lead the pleasantest life of the whole. brother Jeff thinks we had better not take any step, until after congress adjourns. with regard to the claim that mama mentioned I believe he thinks it better not to advance it until the lottery is done with. this is the out line of our conversations, at present, on the subject of our plans for the future. Nicholas has determined to devote this year to getting into practise here; and then look about him & decide where he will fix himself permanently. he thinks the business of this neighbourhood declining, & already not greater than1 the demand. judge Barbour told him that the same talents that would make 5 $ here, would make 100. in Washington, and Mr. Wirt also advised him to go there. if I must leave mama, I should like very well a small establishment in the country near Washington, where Nicholas would be convenient to his business, and yet not encumbered with the expenses attending living in town. we might seclude ourselves entirely, and neither of us have a wish to mix much in society. I do not see why Mama might not go where ever we do, for [. . .] when Monticello has gone out of the family neither her interest nor her inclination I should think would keep her here. speaking of Monticello reminds me of what I had to say on the subject of the Octagon table that mama gave you, my dear sister, a destination of it agreeable to us all, but which one circumstance made us determine not to mention to Brother Jeff until we had written to you about it. he has long set his heart on having it, and he said it was the only thing in the house that he would bid against Joseph for. but that it was priceless in his eyes, that he would pay any sum to own it, and that his intention was, should he ever obtain possession of it, to give it to Mama to keep during her life time, & beg her to leave it to him. I am sorry, very sorry indeed for this, but we thought it best to tell Mama & yourself the whole affair, the greatest mark of confidence in you, my dear sister, that we could possibly give. the Brescia table may be yours for the price it sold at, and perhaps Mama can replace the other, by something equally valuable in your eyes, as having been used daily by our beloved grand father. we did not mention the thermometer to brother Jeff either, nor shall we until we hear further from [. . .]2

Willie is weaned, and has learnt to say very distinctly the word “pretty” and applies it so as to show us that he understands it. Martha has lost her bloom entirely, and with it her beauty in all eyes but her mothers. you need not be afraid to invite her to visit her cousin Ellen, for besides your baby’s countenance which in itself would be beauty enough for one face, C. thinks that her features are more regular than my daughter’s. and she will have more over the charms of a first rate education, as well as its solid advantages, so you must acknowledge that there will be no danger of my dark eyed girls rivalling yo[ur] little belle in the hearts of the beaux and I hope that they will be sisters in affection.[. . .]3

To reconcile mama to the drawing of our teeth pray mention that there was an abcess at the end of the fangs of mine & one of mary’s, & that I had already experienced what the dentist said wd. be the consequence, pain all over my head & face, & soreness of the glands of my throat. C. insists on my adding that there were 26 plugs to be put in the several mouths on which Mr. Roper operated.

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); mutilated; unsigned; in the hand of Virginia J. Randolph Trist; incomplete.

mary ann Wydown and her sister Isabella were educators and conducted a school for girls in Charlottesville, Virginia (Mary J. Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge, 25 Jan. 1827).

1Manuscript: “than than.”
2Manuscript torn and missing text at this point.
3Manuscript torn and missing text at this point.
Date Range
February 11, 1827