George Town April 10th 1829
My dear Son,
I believe my last letter to you was conveyed by Mr. [Bladen] Dulany. I thank God that I have been spared to write to you again for my health has declined very much within the last two years, and I never calculate on living longer than from one season to another. I am very happy to learn from Mr. Dulany that the North Carolina with return home as soon as the vessel he will sail in, reaches the Mediterranean. I hope to see both my dear Boys at home in June. Robert will then have been absent two years. He is much pleased with his situation at West Point, and has advanced rapidly, never having received a mark of demerit, and being assistant professor of mathematics, which appointment gives him $10 per month in addition to his monthly allowance. The Captain (as Robert calls Carter) is driving on at the law, and if he makes any money he must be laying it up, for little of it is seen at home. He was admitted to the bar of the supreme Court during the last session so I hope in time, he will be in a more prosperous situation. I think when I last wrote, I informed you of Ann’s intended marriage, which was solemnized on the 22nd of last June. This is the 8th day since the birth of her daughter, who lived only a few hours, and you with readily imagine from the tenderness of Ann’s disposition, how much she deplored the event.
Mildred has grown since you saw her, and I hope you will find her improved in some respects. She is as fond of books as the Capt:, and both, do very little else than read; so you will know how the family affairs are conducted, when you consider that I am too much of an invalid to take the part in the management of them, that I formerly did. Alas! Alas! I wish I had my little Boys, Smith & Robert, living with me again. My Brother Bernard’s three elder daughters, & Charles Henry, spent the last four month with us. They are accomplished, pretty Girl, Mildred, quite a beauty. Charles is also a handsome man, very honorable, & correct. They left us this day week, to go to Shirley, accompanied by your uncle Williams, Shirley, John Hill Carter, & Carter Lee. They will return to Philadelphia the latter end of this month, to await the return of their father, from England. They returned to America last June, after an absence of five years.
Your relations generally, are going on much as when you knew them I believe, all living that you left last, excepting your uncle Randolph, dear Boynton Carter, & your uncle R. B. Lee, who died a few weeks ago. Poor Alexandria has suffered much by fire this winter. Mr. Dulany will give you the particulars; it has lost some of its old inhabitants too, Capt. Dangerfield, Mr. Irwin, & dear Dr. Dick, & Sam Thompson. I have told you everything I thought would be interesting to you my dear Smith, and now have arrived at the disagreeable point in my letter, the obligation I feel, to chide you for never writing to me.
It certainly is your duly to write to your Mother, more especially, as her health is so impaired, that you can not calculate on ever seeing her again, but exclusive of my desire to hear from you, I lament your dislike of writing because it will be such a disadvantage to you though life. A man who cannot write a good letter on business, or on the subjects of familiar letters, will make an awkward figure in every situation, and will find himself greatly at a loss on many occasions: indeed I cannot imagine how he could pass through life with satisfaction or respect ability. Should you arrive at any eminence in your profession my dear Smith, it will be essential to your reputation to write a good letter, the knowledge of which cannot be acquired in after life. You must write often now, in the days of your youth, and form a good style.
Let me entreat you then my dear Son, to write often to me, if your letters are not well written at first, you will improve after a time, and I will promise that no eye shall see them but mine. I must again mention my hope of seeing you in june. My disease is an unconquerable one, but the symptoms at present, are such as do not threaten a speedy death, but as all things are uncertain in this world, and nothing so precarious as our hold on life, I must beg you now my dear child, always to remember how anxious I have even been for your moral, and [letter torn] welfare, neither of which, can be attained without [letter torn] exertions on your part. You must repel every evil [inclination?] and allow yourself to indulge such habits only, are consistent with religion and morality. Oh! that I could impart to you the knowledge gained from the experience of fifty-four years, then would you be convinced of the vanity of every pursuit, not under the control of the most inflexible virtue. I wish the powers of my mind were equal to the affection of my heart, then could I give you such precepts, as would influence your conduct through the several stages of life, but as that advantage has been denied me, I must entreat you my dear Son, to reflect often on your poor mother’s solicitude for you, and let it stimulate you to acquire the best habits; indulge not one, that you could not remember on your death bed with satisfaction. Keep my letters that you may read them when I can write you no more, they will awaken your recollection of your Mother’s fondness for you, and perhaps prove incentives to the cultivation of those virtues, she was most desirous you should possess. Join your prayers with mine my Son, that God! may bless you, and impart to your mind every good gift, and that best of all, the peace which passeth all understanding!
Your most affectionate Mother,
Ann H. Lee
Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, M2009.173, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 March 13