Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Nicholas P. Trist

I have been owing you a letter for a long time, my dear Nicholas, and have delayed writing, in the hope that an improved state of health and spirits would have enabled me to discharge my debt with some pleasure to you, as well as to my self, but days and weeks have passed, and left as they found me, heavy and spiritless, and I have at length determined to wait no longer for a more happy or amiable mood, but write at once and convince you, if I can, that my affections are as warm as ever, although my entertaining powers have diminished so wofully that my letters can have no value, but what they may receive from your feeling of [. . .] kindness, & willingness to be pleased with whatever gives news of your friends.—

Whatever portion of animation remains to me, is generally employed in efforts towards the entertainment of two young ladies who came from Richmond a few weeks ago to remain with us until the last of September. one of them a sister of your old friend Martha Woodward, being about my own age, it has become my particular province to entertain and from her extreme amiableness I find the task not difficult even in my present stupid state. the other, a beautiful girl of one and twenty, with whom Cornelia and Virginia made acquaintance last winter in Richmond, seems to add a good deal to their pleasures by their her society. the girls and herself are frequently on the wing between this place and Ashton, always bearing Elizabeth or Harriet along with them, & these expeditions contribute equally to health and amusement. Martha Richardson, such is the name of the young lady, is always ready to walk, to ride, to read, or work, or play upon the Harpsichord, falling into any employment or recreation offered to her, and enlivening all by her blithe laugh and cheery countenance. I do not know whether Virginia has spoken to you of this amiable addition to our little society—from the account she gave me of her last letter, I should suppose you must think her “distraught.” she tells me that among other things she talked to you of the signior members of the family, leaving (I conclude) your imagination bewildering itself in a vain attempt to account for the introduction of an Italian title into the family, and marvelling what individuals were henceforward to be distinguished by this donnish appellation—

As the Autumn approaches in it’s melancholy beauty, I wish more than ever that you were with us again, my dear Nicholas—you were here at this season last year, and I think that one of the characteristicks of the sort of weather which prevails in the Fall, is the power of producing the strongest association, the most vivid recollections. my memory is never so busy as during this time, and I recall with astonishing accuracy the events and feelings of my past life, particularly those occurring at a similar season in former years. Memory becomes like the magic mirror described by Scott, the mists disappear, the clouds roll away, and the image is reflected, distinct as reality itself.

Each fainter trace that memory holds

So darkly of departed years,

In one broad glance the soul beholds,

And all that was, at once appears

If I think of you more than usual, so it is with more anxiety, for the Autumn in Louisiana is a season, not for sentimental recollections, but for what Moliere calls “des fièvres bonnes et belles” so take good care of yourself & make Browse do the same.

Virginia heard from your Grandmother last evening, but as I presume she will be writing herself soon I shall leave her to do the ho[. . .] her letter and merely say that Mrs Trist is well, as we all [. . .]

Adieu my dear Nicholas, a great deal of love to Browse, write me whenever you cannot employ yourself more pleasantly and rely on my unalterable affection—

RC (NcU: NPT); torn at seal; addressed: “To Nicholas P. Trist. Esq. Donaldsonville La Fourche Louisiana”; stamped and postmarked Charlottesville; endorsed by Trist: “Randolph (E.W) Sep. 8. 22.”

The magic mirror was a poem addressed by John Wilson to Sir Walter Scott, first published in the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1810 (1812).

each fainter trace ... at once appears quotes from Lord Byron, “When Coldness Wraps This Suffering Clay,” no. 20 of his Hebrew Melodies (London, 1815).