Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Martha Jefferson Randolph

My dear Mama

As there is a probability of Johnny’s returnig returning to morrow I have determined to write a few lines to you although I have but scant materials for a letter—

Cornelia will probably give Virginia a detail of our Journey to the Natural Bridge—for me it was a complete chapter of accidents—my misfortunes began the day I left home and have not yet ceased, for a cold caught I believe in crossing the blue ridge settled upon my face and has kept me in almost constant agonies—I have not been free of pain one moment for the last eight and forty hours and although not acute enough to confine me to my room it is yet sufficiently so to keep me constantly restless uneasy and nervous—I cannot however regret my trip for the wonder and delight I experienced at the sight of the bridge, (which surely deserves the epithet name of the “most sublime of Nature’s works”) was greater than I can describe. the limestone cavern near it was also a great curiosity for us, it is a cave in the the solid lime stone [. . .] cliff rock divided into accessible apartments by a curtain of stone. there is a passage large enough to admit the body of a man on all fours which probably communicates with other apartments never explored. the earth in it is so impregnated with salt pitre that a pound has been got from a bushel of the dirt. under the bridge I lost your beautifull little [. . .] purse with three or four dollars which I had carried arrived with me and the little pocket telescope which given me by Aunt Jane gave me, and which I valued very highly—our trip independent of the bridge would have been a very pleasant one if the weather had been more favorable and the accomodations better—the manners and character of the people are so different from any thing we are accustomed to and the scenery of the country so wild and picturesque, that we almost fancied ourselves in a new world. there is in the men a stern independence and a contempt for forms and appearances, in the women a bustling activity that we do not meet with lower down the country, that is, if it is fair to draw general conclusion from particular instances and if in a tour of three days it is was possible to make any observations which shall can apply to more than the few individuals who came under our notice—

I brought so much work from home with me, and I have been so tortured by pain that I have not [. . .] had time to commence my system of industry—as we shall be here for a month to come I hope to have it in my power to do something. if it is only to recover the latin I have lost—we have as yet seen no one but Mrs YanceyMrs Clark is at the springs and the situation of Mrs Radford’s brother will probably prevent her from visiting us. Cornelia and myself are not comfortably fixed. our room has been pulled down and it will be some time before we get in it—probably a fortnight—in the mean time we are in that little close, disagreable room to the right as you enter the dining room, where we are so crouded [. . .] we can scarcely turn—the weather hot, and as Cornelia observes we are shut up from all the breezes but those of but the North east breezes Maria is the same untutored savage you formerly knew and plagues us to death with her stupidity and indifference—

I congratulate you on the prospect of another visit from“La [. . .]ienne par excellance Philosophe soi-disante & her attendants chancels, the storm will I hope be blown over, before I return—

I am anxious to hear if any of the Smiths or Goodwins were injured by the fresh in Baltimore—pray write me words, [. . .] If our handkerchiefs are come up send them by Johnny—the towels were a “heartsome sight” but I am afraid that loute Maria will ruin them by bad washing.

Give my love to the girls. tell Virginia Duncan Grey from my recollection of it is not difficult, but will require practise.

Remember me affectionately to Aunt Jane, Aunt Hackley and their families—I had a great mind to have written to Maria Goodwin, but I have been kept stupitied stupified by sewing work and the tooth ach, the two things on earth for which I have the greatest horror.

Pray write to me my dear mother and let me know particularly whether any of my acquaintances in Baltimore are injured by the overflow of the river for (although I mentioned them so lightly with Maria and the Towels) I have thought a good deal about them. John Smith lived on Gay Street which seems to have suffered most and if I recollect right Lyde Goodwin was on Holiday Street. I have felt very uneasy about Mrs Cary Ann Smith particularly; as in her situation the alarm of itself might be highly injurious. my affection for Maria Goodwin makes me anxious about her friends.

I have written in haste and in pain—Adieu my dearest mother, give my love to papa if he has not gone down—my few lines have extended to three pages and I have said nothing of your headach, which it gave me great concern to hear of—I hope you are by this time perfectly recovered and well enough have been able to visit our little Pat, to whose mother & father I beg to be remembered—

Once more adieu and believe me my dearest Mother

your most affectionate daughter—

kiss Sep. for me

[. . .]

I wish you would send me some Armenian Bole if any can be got good and a new tooth brush

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); unsigned; partially dated.

armenian bole: a pale red-colored earth from Armenia, used medicinally and in the composition of tooth-powders (OED).

Date Range
August 18, 1817