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Extract of Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Martha Jefferson Randolph, 14 April 1818

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

April 14th 1818.

Grandpapa has been taking such a long nap, my dear Mother that I began to despair of getting ink in time to write to you, but he has at last made his appearance, and as I have very little to tell you, I shall in spite of my fatigue, make an effort to write. we did not stop at Warren the first night as we intended, but after dining with Mrs Patterson got on to Mrs Gibson’s who received us very hospitably, much more so than we had a right to expect, intruders as we were. the second evening we got to Hunters; to my great joy the young ladies were from home and we were spared the ennui of their company. We arrived an hour by sun, and the maid shewed V. & myself1 to a very comfortable bed room in the great house, from the windows of which we had the unpleasant prospect of a party of travellers from the west, consisting of a Mr & Mrs Smith with their child and servants who came to sup and lodge at Hunters—they appeared to be genteel people travelled in a handsome carriage, and had altogether the air of “gens comme il faut” but their arrival put us in such an ill humor that we declined leaving our room untill we were called to supper.2 we were with them but a short time, but the lady had so sweet a countenance, & looked altogether so mild,3 that I could not but confess, I should have spent the evening full as agreably in her company, as pouting in my own room; but it was too late for regret, and I had just read in a novel lent me by Mrs Patterson, that there are “two sorts of things you should never grieve at; those you can help, and those you cannot help.” this philosophy pleased me so much that I determined that very evening to commence the practice of it.

We arrived here this morning to an eleven o clock breakfast and have been busy ever since, unpacking and arranging. the chest of drawers is such a convenience that I no longer regret its being brought from Monticello, especially as I hope we shall be able to worry Grandpapa into having more of them made. V. and myself intend to be very industrious during our short stay, as it seems fated that we shall never do any thing at home.

Give my love to Jane and thank her for having recommended the “Miser married” to me. the first half volume is insufferably stupid and dull, but the rest amused me a good deal; the character of Lady Winterdale is so well drawn that it redeems the whole book. V. and myself feel very much indebted to Mrs Patterson, for her kindness in lending us these books, we found them a great relief to the ennui of the journey; we got in so early in the evening, and loitered so long at the tiresome taverns, where we stopped to have the horses fed, that reading was a most valuable resource during these weary hours.4

RC (ViU: Coolidge Correspondence); extract, consisting of opening of letter; signed with the initials “E.W.R.” on last page. In the unextracted portion of this letter, Randolph worries about her mother’s health; reminds her to “move the gun-powder from the hearth”; suggests “Archibald or Lucius Cary” as possible names for her newborn brother (George Wythe Randolph); comments on the health and looks of her nieces Martha Jefferson Randolph (Taylor) and Margaret S. Randolph; discusses the courtships and marriages of various acquaintances; offers to return “such Spanish books as we do not want”; desires that new sleeves be made for several of her dresses; requests that the seeds and beans she left behind be planted; states that she “shall not fail to do Uncle Tom’s [Thomas Eston Randolph’s] business when I go to Lynchburg”; dispatches a small trunk to Monticello; declares that “there is no time to make cake for Tim” (Septimia A. Randolph [Meikleham]); sends her love to the family; and calls on her mother to “throw this letter in the fire.”

v.: Virginia J. Randolph (Trist). gens comme il faut: “proper people.” two sorts … cannot help is from Catherine Hutton, The Miser Married (London, 1813), 1:27. here: Poplar Forest. jane: Jane H. Nicholas Randolph.

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

2Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

3Here “and genteel” is canceled.

4Reworked from “in the weary hours of captivity.”

Index Entries

  • books; in Spanish search
  • books; novels search
  • Buckingham County, Va.; Gibson’s ordinary search
  • Campbell County, Va.; taverns in search
  • carriages; mentioned search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); books critiqued by 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
  • fodder; for horses search
  • food; cakes search
  • furniture; chests of drawers search
  • Gibson’s ordinary (Buckingham Co.) search
  • gunpowder; mentioned search
  • horses; fodder for search
  • Hunter’s ordinary (Campbell Co.; proprietor Robert Hunter) search
  • Hutton, Catherine; The Miser Married search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; great-grandchildren search
  • Meikleham, Septimia Anne Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); cake for search
  • Patterson, Mrs. (of Buckingham Co.) search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ’s grandchildren visit search
  • Randolph, George Wythe (TJ’s grandson); naming of search
  • Randolph, Jane Hollins Nicholas (Thomas Jefferson Randolph’s wife; Wilson Cary Nicholas’s daughter); recommends book 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); health of search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); letters to, from E. W. R. Coolidge search
  • Randolph, Thomas Eston (TJ’s cousin); mentioned search
  • seeds; E. W. R. Coolidge’s search
  • Smith, Mr. (at Hunter’s ordinary); family of search
  • Spanish language; works in search
  • Taylor, Martha Jefferson Randolph (TJ’s great-granddaughter; Thomas Jefferson Randolph’s daughter); described search
  • The Miser Married (C. Hutton) search
  • Trist, Virginia Jefferson Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest 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