Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

I must write to you My dear Ellen, when I can, and not wait for tim[e] to do it quietly and rationally. I have literally not one quiet hour from 5 in the morning my usual hour of rising, till 10 at night, when we generally retire. the odd half hours and quarters that I can command I will most chearfully devote to you now that I have got through the press of sewing, but as poor a creature as I am with my needle even the little that I could can do has been indispensibly necessary. we have had more company this summer than usual, and I have had more to say to them in consequence of My dear father’s indisposition, and I certainly have saved him a great deal without giving offense which the denial of the heads of the family would in most instances have done. the consequence of my being so much in the drawing room is that the servants have been kept waiting for orders and for work that I was to fix, hens hence the loss of a great deal of their time which was in some instances replaced by mine. but to have a house constantly filled with visiters to be entertained in the day, and accomodated at night, too often “wears out welcome” I am very fond of society but “toujours perdrix” is insufferable—Your Grandfather is stationary in his health, not as well as when you left him but not likely to be worse than he is, and Doctor Dunglisson has at last prevailed upon him to submit to a remedy which will give him much longer interval of ease, but circumstances which he could not explain to me will delay the use of them it for some days. he has in addition to his other causes of suffering a rheumatick affection of the hip which distresses him a good deal in walking. he rides in the carriage every day, going very slowly from once to three times round the round a bout according as he feels weaker or stronger

We also have bid a last adieu to our old friend the general, he seemed extremely affected at taking leave of My father. I delivered your message by shewing him that part of your letter that related to him, he seemed more than pleased at your affectionate mention of him, he shewed considerable emotion, and said he would write to you from Washington. they talk very confidently of returning, and I think he seems to contemplate events that might make him a resident here. in which case I should not be surprised at his fixing upon Boston. he speaks of it as unquestionably the most desirable place of residence in the United States. Your Grand father did the same except in point of climate, but Mr de la Fayette’s knowledge was of a later date. still I wish you were gone to house keeping for although I am sure Mr Coolidges family are “as kind as heaven” to you, yet the want of an employment will which interests you will make you feel the separation from your own much more than when your attention will be occupied by your the novelty of your domestick arrangements, which you will find have their charm. in every situation dear Ellen, life is a checkered scene of light and shade, that clouds will sometimes arise in Boston as they did at Monticello to obscure the brightness of your day is certain, but let the experience of your past life remind you always, that it is but a passing evil, that a few hours perhaps and the scene will be restored to its pristine beauty. you know in the abstract that nothing is perman[ent] neither joy nor sorrow, but you often forget to apply that knowledge in practice—every sorrow takes off to a certain degree the keen edge of our sensibilities and consequently every succeeding one finds us, if not better able to bear, yet with diminished sensibility to the evil. a most wise dispensation, for we always retain enough to enjoy the good in store for us, and it is no loss to have less for the cares incident to every situation in life. I do not know what has betrayed me in to this fit of moralising a habit I am not addicted to, but the fear of your imagination occasionally running wild with you when I am not with you there to seize the reins, made me turn Aunt Marks for a while, and give you a chapter out of My common place book—

Speaking of the old lady always brings [Gleobulus] to my mind. very probably his mania was occasioned by some such inmate in childhood, when patien[ce] with it’s “sweet flower” has not attained its growth yet. the old lady always begs to be remembered to you, and that I will tell you she is totally blind now. when I remind her that she was so when you were here, she says oh no, she saw a little then, enough to walk about the house alone, but now all is darkness. she dates her total loss of sight about a month since. her newest fancy now is a palsy in all her limbs to prove which she walks incessantly, if she had said of the brain she would have come nearer to the truth—the Sale is put off till december. J—n and had a meeting in presence of the chancellor in which mistatements were corrected and a reconciliation ensued. the only good effect of such a measure will be to spare the family the scandal of such a rupture, which was most desirable; but you know the parties too well to hope for any thing like cordiality on one side. decency of deportment is all the most sanguine can expect, and that henceforward will I hope be preserved. this conversation which passed in presence of the chancellor, who behaved admirably on the occasion, and John Page a mutual friend, has been a most fortunate event for J—n. he had documents which proved the correctness of his statement and as far as he is concerned it is for his interest that the truth should be known. delicacy and duty to his opponent will make him silent where his honor does not force him to speak—things have gone off much better than I dared to hope, and when this business is finally setled we shall all be relieved. You may look out for V.s piano as soon as you please that matter is setled—Nicholas and My self had to support her against the prudence of the Tufton family to whom I imposed silence by declaring them incompetent to the business, having no ear they could form no just calculations upon the subject quantum of Enjoyment it would ensure through life. Jefferson laughed and said he would not be offended at their not following his advice, but as usual he thought every body in the wrong who differed with him in opinion, although he did not say so. however a good humoured acquiescence, where the judgement cant be convinced, is all that we have a right to ask of our friends—Mrs Judge Johnson (Mrs R— Jefferson) and Mrs Neville (your old friend Nanny Dish Nancy Jefferson ) are both dead. the poor clergymen who pronounced their funeral orations must have been considerably embarassed for a subject for the accustomed eulogium on such occasions—

Miss Vail and Aaron have been with us and left a great deal of love and respect & for you. he [. . .] took a view of the house which he means to send you. she will probabl[y] visit us again before she leaves the neighbourhood. adieu My dearest Ell[en] [. . .] recieved a letter from Mr Coolidge some time since which I will try and an[. . .] as soon as possible. in the mean time thank him for it, and accept for both the unalterable love of a Mother’s heart.


every individual in the family beg to be particularly and individually remembered to you. as there are too many to be “expressed” they must as in your old latin lessons be “understood”—The saying that a half of a loaf was better than no bread applies always to my letters, if I had time I would not send such hurried careless scrawls, but you must put up with them such as the are, for thoughts that are scattered a dozen times in the course of one letter can have neither consistency nor arrangement—

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); dateline adjacent to signature; torn at seal; addressed: “To Mrs Joseph Coolidge Junr to the care of Joseph Coolidge Junior Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville 1 Sept.; endorsed by Coolidge: “1st September 1825”; with notes by Coolidge: “Company at Monticello Necessity of sparing Grandpapa. His health. Last visit of Gen. La Fayette. Boston as a place of residence My father & Jefferson. Aunt Marks.”
Date Range
September 1, 1825