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

It is just a year to day, my dear Nicholas since we left Monticello together, you, anticipating a long fatiguing journey, I, a short and pleasant one (in your society in spite of bad weather and roads) and a winter of gaiety & amusement—Time as he bears us along with him frequently appears to have a slow and heavy flight wing, but when we look back to the space over which he has hurried us, we are astonished and even dismayed at the rapidity of his flight. every year lessens our enjoyments for every year diminishes the force and elasticity of that spring of hope, which after all I believe is the great good of life—happiness is the golden ball of the Persian Tale, always rolling before us, which we are destined never to overtake; but wo to him or to her who loses sight of it. the object of existence is gone,—the weather if you remember at this season last year was cold and gloomy, now it is bright and warm and I can scarcely prevail on myself to carry on my usual employments within doors, so much am I tempted to stray abroad and breathe the outward air—the willows and Lombardy poplars have not yet lost their leaves, but the forest trees are entirely bare and there is a strange want of harmony between the wintry appearances which strike the eye, and the feel of the air so “nimbly & sweetly recommending itself to the sense”—our senses are put into complete opposition—we see winter & feel spring. for my part I am such a lover of congruity and prize so highly the “unity of emotion” that I am ready to quarrel with my own comfort on this occasion—but perhaps I know that a few days hence when shivering with cold I shall be the first to deplore the agreement between circumstances and their appearances.

Nothing remarkable has occurred in the neighbourhood lately which I can record for your amusement, every thing seems to be going on pretty much as usual and moreover I have grown so stupid of late, that even if the materials are afforded me I can no longer work them up for the pleasure or edification of my friends. time was when I required but little foreign aid, and could generally draw upon my own resources to carry on a pretty extensive correspondence, but I am becoming very dull & unimaginative, and it is the consciousness of this which makes me remiss in writing, and if I should persist in “following what has ceased to be my vocation” I shall after a while slide back into the matter of fact stile which distinguishes the first attempts at letter-writing, and tell you, for example as I should have done at ten years old, that I want to see you very much and I hope you are coming back soon, but that you will write to me in the mean time &c &c I assure you my dear Nicholas it will soon be this or nothing— for my entertaining powers have “dwindled to the smallest span” and will soon I fear cease to exist—now do not be guilty of so much injustice towards me as to accuse me of those little [. . .] manoeuvring arts by whichladies sometimes strive to enhance the value of the things they say and do, by an affected modesty & mock humility—so far from that, that I deplore to you as a friend the real existence of that state of mind & imagination which makes what was once a pleasure now a toil and it has really become a difficult task to me to “make out a letter” as you will see by my harping so long on one thing, & forcing my very poverty to supply the deficiency of wealth by making the saying a great deal on the subject of having nothing to say.

Adieu my dear Nicholas— Virginia informed you of the accident which happened to my dear Grandfather—he is doing better than we had any right to expect. his appetite and general health are as good as usual, his nights are tranquil—he suffers no pain, and no inconvenience but the present loss of the use of his left hand and the power of taking exercise on horseback—Mama is “right well” I do not think her health has been what we could wish for some time past but I hope it is improving—the other members of the family are all well— V. is staying with Jane at Tufton but will probably return home this evening—a great deal of love to Browse and yourself the assurance of my warmest affection

RC (DLC: NPT); addressed: “To Nicholas P. Trist Esq. Donaldsonville La Fourche Louisiana”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 21 Nov.; endorsed by Trist: “Randolph (E.W.) Nov. 17. 22.”

nimbly & sweetly recommending itself to the sense paraphrases King Duncan from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act I, scene 6.