Thomas Jefferson Papers

Extract of Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Martha Jefferson Randolph, [after 29 August 1817], document 3 in a group of documents on Jefferson’s Trip to Natural Bridge, [ca. 13–17 August 1817]

III. Extract of Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Martha Jefferson Randolph

[after 29 Aug. 1817]

My dear Mama

Johnny’s arrival gave us great pleasure as we began to be very anxious to hear from you, and I thank you very much for having spared time to write such a long letter. the head of Christ is really a great curiosity, Grand-papa is almost as much pleased with it as we are, and considers it extremely ingenious & original. it is certainly a very fine face and the character is so decided that I believe I should have known without being told for whom it was intended. we have studied it with so much attention that I think we know exactly the proper distance from the candle and the wall:—

We have been entirely alone since our return from the Natural Bridge, but have not felt at all solitary—we are anxious to see you all, but too constantly employed to suffer from Ennui—I go on with my latin bravely—Cornelia has finished Cordery, and will make an end of Gillies before she returns home. we have seen no body but Mrs Yancey; and Mrs Clay. the last came very kindly and spent a whole day with us—from ten o clock untill near sunset. you may imagine how rapidly the hours passed and what a “feast of reason and a flow of soul” it was for us.—I must do the old woman the justice to say that I do not believe she intended to have paid so long a visit,1 but her savage husband wholly unconscious of the ridicule and impropriety of the thing insisted upon staying all day.2 he is much more uncivilized than any Indian I ever saw, and indeed I doubt whether the wild Hottentots described by Peron are as bad—they certainly cannot be more savage in voice and manners, or more entirely ignorant of the rules of good breeding; but I have (as3 Larry would say) wasted too much ink on them who d’ont desarve it. De Laage dined here the same day and was full of apologies for the state of confusion in which we found his “menage4 the day we called on his wife—“Mde5 de Laage is the most foolish little woman in this world” said he “would you believe it mademoiselle she cried all day long after you left her, and could not be comforted for having been found in such a situation by Mrs Randolph & the young ladies.”6 he seems pleased with Lynchburg and very gratefull to Grandpapa for letters of recommendation which he says have been of essentiel benefit to him.

Grandpapa had heard of Mr Du Pont’s death and was much distressed at it. he has received a letter from Baron Quinette who has got back to New-York. he sent him a french pamphlet which had been directed to M. de Rochemont, by which we conclude that he is probably called by that name in France—. I believe it is common for the French to take the names of their places—is it not? perhaps Papa may know him in his public character as Mr de Rochemont

RC (ViU: Coolidge Correspondence); extract consisting of first half of letter; undated, but composed after TJ’s receipt on 29 Aug. 1817 of letters from Quinette de Rochemont of 6 Aug. and Victor du Pont and Eleuthère I. du Pont de Nemours of 11 Aug. 1817; addressed: “Mrs Randolph. Monticello.” In the unextracted portion of this letter, Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) describes her nieces Pat (Martha Jefferson Randolph [Taylor]) and Margaret S. Randolph (Randolph); mentions the birth of Mary Mansfield Smith (Nicholas), the daughter of Cary Ann Nicholas Smith and John Spear Smith; describes her letter as being full of nonsense; sends greetings to the whole family, including “both my Aunts and their daughters”; and in a postscript expresses her displeasure at her aunt Mary Randolph for not sending any pocket handkerchiefs; says that they have sent back their spare clothes and books in anticipation of returning home; requests that Sally Cottrell (Cole) unpack her trunk and that Martha Jefferson Randolph take charge of the books, as some are borrowed; and states that she found La Eudoxia dull despite the recommendation of Elizabeth Goodwin Stevenson and George P. Stevenson.

For the Colloquia of Mathurin Cordier (cordery), see Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Martha Jefferson Randolph, [ca. 10 Nov. 1816]. feast of reason and a flow of soul comes from Alexander Pope’s works in imitation of Horace (Pope, The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace [London, 1733], 39). François Perón (peron) described various African peoples in his Voyage de découvertes aux terres Australes, 4 vols. (Paris, 1807–16). The character larry Brady admonishes himself, as quoted above, in a letter to his brother Pat in Maria Edgeworth, The Absentee (New York, 1812; first published in London the same year as part of her Tales of Fashionable Life), 1:237, 239.

1Preceding three words interlined in place of “unconscionable.”

2Reworked from what appears to be “making a day of it.”

3Omitted opening parenthesis editorially supplied.

4Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

5Omitted opening quotation mark editorially supplied.

6Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • books; novels search
  • Clay, Charles; visits Poplar Forest search
  • Clay, Editha Landon Davies (Charles Clay’s wife); visits Poplar Forest search
  • clothing; handkerchiefs search
  • Cole, Sally Cottrell (TJ’s slave); as maid search
  • Colloquia (M. Cordier) search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); books critiqued by search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); education of search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); letters from, to M. J. Randolph search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Cordier, Mathurin; Colloquia search
  • De Laage, A. F.; moves to Lynchburg search
  • De Laage, A. F.; visits Poplar Forest search
  • De Laage, Madame (A. F. De Laage’s wife); TJ’s granddaughters visit search
  • Du Pont de Nemours, Pierre Samuel; death of search
  • Edgeworth, Maria; Tales of Fashionable Life search
  • Edgeworth, Maria; The Absentee search
  • Gillies, John; works of search
  • Hern, John (TJ’s slave; b.1800); as messenger search
  • Jesus; likenesses of search
  • Latin language; study of search
  • Nicholas, Mary Mansfield Smith; birth of search
  • Péron, François; Voyage de découvertes aux terres Australes search
  • Pope, Alexander; quoted search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ’s grandchildren visit search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); visitors to search
  • Quinette de Rochemont, Nicolas Marie; sends pamphlets to TJ search
  • Randolph, Cornelia Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); education of search
  • Randolph, Cornelia Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Randolph, Margaret Smith (TJ’s great-granddaughter; Thomas Jefferson Randolph’s daughter); described search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); letters to, from E. W. R. Coolidge search
  • Randolph, Mary (Thomas Mann Randolph’s sister; David Meade Randolph’s wife); mentioned search
  • Smith, Cary Ann Nicholas (John Spear Smith’s wife; Wilson Cary Nicholas’s daughter); family of search
  • Smith, John Spear; family of search
  • Stevenson, Elizabeth Goodwin (George P. Stevenson’s wife); books recommended by search
  • Stevenson, George Pitt; books recommended by search
  • Tales of Fashionable Life (M. Edgeworth) search
  • Taylor, Martha Jefferson Randolph (TJ’s great-granddaughter; Thomas Jefferson Randolph’s daughter); described search
  • The Absentee (M. Edgeworth) search
  • Voyage de découvertes aux terres Australes (F. Péron) search
  • women; letters from; E. W. R. Coolidge to M. J. Randolph search
  • women; letters to; M. J. Randolph from E. W. R. Coolidge search
  • Yancey, Elizabeth Macon (wife of Joel Yancey [d.1833]); visits Poplar Forest search