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The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Arlington 25th Jany 1840

 

My dear Cousin Hill[1]

 

            I Suppose you have heard by Misses Landory and Letty[2] of my escape from the West and were you able to appreciate the difference of Situation to a man in my circumstances. I know I should have your hearty congratulations. You must not understand that I am displeased with the State of things in that Country; on the Contrary I think it a great Country and will one day be a grand one. All is life Animation and prosperity, but that it is far more pleasant for me to be here than there. I felt so elated when I again found myself within the Confines of the Ancient Dominion, that I nodded to all the old trees as I passed, chatted with the drivers and stable boys, Shook hands with the landlords, and in the fullness of my heart, don’t tell Cousin Mary wanted to kiss all the pretty girls I met. To such extravagant lengths did I feel disposed to indulge my feelings upon my first arrival here, that I even contemplated inflicting some of my company upon you; and there seemed no bounds to any plans for amusement and recreation.  The dreadful calamity with which poor Anne was visited, and which appd. to crush in her all desire of life and hopes of happiness, changed any thoughts into a Sadder current, and now the approaching termination of my season of liesure with the necessary arrangement of some little matters, causes me to fear that my scheme so far as you are concerned will be frustrated. Should my apprehensions be realised you must sympathize in my disappointment & say every thing that is affectionate for me to Cousin M. and my little Cousins. I saw Robert and Charles a week or two since at their school and begged them to spend some of their Saturdays and Sundays with us. Perhaps they have been prevented from accompy. their visit by the cold weather and snowy walk, or by joining in the amusements of the school fellows on those happy days. They looked very well and had grown much since I last saw them. You of course see by the papers all that transpires in the political world. The opposition are gathering head and are in fine spirits. The administration carry a bold front and are strengthening their ranks. Nothing has yet been done in Cong. except to make a partial appn. for their own pockets. Subtreasury and Abolition appear to be the engrossing topics. There seems to be no doubt but that the first will pass; and the second is appy. gaining ground. There is not much more doing in the gay world. Balls have not yet commd. The Theatre is not much frequented, and parties are as yet few and far between. The ladies all seem disposed to follow her Britannic Majesty’s example. The Star of Venus is as much in the ascendant on earth as in the heavens, and February though a short, promises to be a gay and happy month. It will be filled with weddings, and though it has one more day than ordinary I have no doubt all will be occupied. The one that we are most interested in Mr. Wash: Peter to Miss Jane Boyce, will not take place till the 7th. On the 12th, Mr. Bodiscoe, the Russian Minister[3] is to be made completely happy by a Miss Williams of Georgetown. It is to be hoped that the winters of more than half a century will have sufficiently tempered his ardor, or it may be too over powering for a tender plant of “Sweet Sixteen”. She has just accompd.  those many Summers. He has promised to make her a happy wife for 12 years and then have her a rich widow. It is whispered by the young ladies that the joys of this latter period will have him cheaply bought if She survives the years of purchase and although he has a magnificent coat it is surmounted by a horrible wig. By some this is attributive to envy, for among other things that she is to become mistress of, are 1,000 serfs. Tell Letty that Jenny is very much disposed to follow her example, that She has been taking Some very long rides through the woods with Count Barlow[4] and has returned from Clermont[5] quite out of Spirits.  Miss Leana Mason is staying with us and the Count is looked for this evg. Mrs. Fitzhugh[6] was called home this morng. by business; and it is a matter in which it occurs to me you may assist her. The manager whom she had engaged to take charge of her Arkandale estate[7] has disappointed at the very moment he was expd. to commence his duties, and she is now on the look out for another. Do you know of a suitable person now available? You are so fully aware of the requisite qualities; and I presume of the extent and importance of the estate that I need enter into no particulars. It would require an honest, energetic man capable of managing all the operations and of keeping and rendering his accts: In his treatment of the negroes to be as attentive to their comfort and welfare, as to the discharge of their duties; and to be neither harsh or severe in his discipline. In other words, a first rate man, where can she find one? If there is such a one to be had, and that immediately, do let me know, and what compensation he would ask. Of course she will be willing to give what is fair and right. He must understand the cultivation of tobacco, as well as of wheat, corn, &c &c. Uncle Bernard is at Charles, Young B. in the city. Carter is at the Forge, Converting slowly I am afraid, Iron to gold. Sister Nanie at her fathers, hovering over her chickens which during this cold weather requires all the warmest she can procure them. A letter from Mr. Marshall a day or two since describes Anne[8] more composed through under an entire prostration of Spirits. Mildred when last heard from was in Florence. We are all well here except Mrs. C. Her health this winter has been more delicate than I have ever known it. She has been however quite smart for the last fortnight until yesterday. I have not seen her this morg. But hope her present attack may be slight. Jane Carter has returned home. We were much distressed at poor Shirlys death but have heard no particulars except what was furnished by the papers. My movements are very uncertain and cannot be determined until it shall be know what may be the acts of Cong: I fear I shall have to leave here in March for the Red River. If you ever contemplates settling a cotton plantation in that country do make your arrangements to go at that time, and if you have collected any wages from Gardener of Sufficient importance. Send them to me before I start if convenient, or credit them to my account in the Bk: of Va. The little Lees are increasing rapidly, have large mouths & backs that require to be filled & covered. Mary and all the household join me in much love to Cousin M. yourself, Landonia, and Sally &c &c &c

very truly yours,

R E Lee

 

Chas Turner not and. but espd. duty

 

Source: Facsimile of original, Stratford Hall vertical file

 

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 December 16

 

 

[1] Hill Carter (1795-1875) was the son of Dr. Robert Carter (1774-1805) and Mary Nelson (1774-1803). Hill inherited Shirley plantation after the death of his father. Hill at the time was a minor. He studied in England and served in the navy during the War of 1812. On 1817 November 19, he married Mary Braxton Randolph (1800-1864). Mary was Hill’s first cousin.  

[2] Letitia M. Burwell (1810-1905) grew up at Avenel plantation in Bedford, Virginia. She was the daughter of politician William (1780-1821) and Frances Burwell. In 1895, she published her memoir, A Girl’s Life in Virginia before the War.

[3] Alexander deBodisco was born in Moscow in 1786. He worked as Russia’s ambassador to the United States from 1838 to 1854. In April of 1840, he married Harriet Beall Williams, a school girl who was only sixteen. A great beauty, Harriet was not from a prominent family. Baron Bodisco was known more for his charm than good looks. As Lee notes in this letter, the baron apparently wore a wig. The baron died in 1854 and is buried in Washington, D.C. Harriet remarried to British officer Douglas Scott.

[4] Lee may be referring to Joel Barlow Mason (1813-1861), who was mortally wounded at the battle of Bull Run.

[5] “Clermont” in Fairfax County, Virginia. In 1840, the plantation was owned by General John Mason (1766-1849), the son of George Mason of Gunston Hall. Clermont was the birthplace of Fitzhugh Lee (1835-1905), the son of Sidney Smith Lee and Anna Maria Mason.

[6] Anna Maria Sarah Goldsborough Fitzhugh (1796-1874). She had no children with her husband, but she adopted Mary Caroline Goldsborough (1808-1890).

[7] “Arkindale” was owned by William Henry Fitzhugh (1792-1830) of Ravensworth plantation. Fitzhugh was the uncle of Mary Ann Randolph Custis Lee. Arkendale is today an unincorporated community in Stafford County, Virginia. In 1850, the slaves at Arkindale were freed according to Fitzhugh’s will. Fitzhugh, who was a member of the American Colonization Society, asked that the freed slaves be sent back to Africa.

[8] Rev. William Louis Marshall (1803-1863) was married to Anne Kinloch Lee (1800-1864), Robert E. Lee’s sister.

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