Cock Spur Island
December 1st 1830
And have you been sick Cousin, & your Mother too? How I wish that I had been in the stead of both. And could I have known that it would have relieved those whom I so much love, I am sure I should not only have borne it patiently but have rejoiced in its duration. But you are well now, & I hope becoming fat & rosy again. Do don’t let Miss Eleanor get so fat, or I shall die with envy. Tell her not to be walking about the passage & rooms all day, so that a man can find no place to- to- read in, but to run up & down that hill, & not to eat so many bunns & buttermilk, for there is no necessity for her being so fat. Is there no way for me to get there again? To read to you, walk with you, ride with you. What a contrast between that & what I am now have to do. To be out early & late urging a set of poor creatures to the top of their strength to erect that, of which the next tide will destroy half, & perhaps all. And after one week of hard labour in all weather & at all times, (For we must work between tides) to commence the next, exactly upon the same ground, to do the same thing. This is by no means encouraging Cousin, but as I have the consolation of knowing that I am obliged to do it, & will have in some way or other, all my life, I will tell you of something else. I went up to Savannah last week to spend a day or two with J. Mackay before his departure for the Indian nation. And having seen him off, was already aboard the Engineer to come down again, when the Packet from N. York passed, in which I discovered Sweet Charles. I of course returned, to conduct himself & family to the lodging I had procured for them. The Madam looked very well & had not been sick an hour. But the Master had hardly got stiff again, such a good shaking he had received those ten days at sea. It did me good to see him so lank & limber. He was delighted to get in a house again, My wife, was every other word & his hands were going on each side. I left them after tea, & had a moonlight sail of three hours back. Yesterday I paid them my first visit , & found our Cousin Eugenia quite happy. She had received a letter of forgiveness from her Father, & the weather was so mild & sweet, & Charles looking so like a “May morning” that I am sure she could have nothing left to wish for. She says that those few words she said in Phi— has made a vast difference in her influence over him. That he soon gets tired of staying in the house, walks out, reads the papers, comes back, wonders when Robert Lee is coming up from Cock Spur, & then walks out again. I carried the Miss Mackays to see them & the next time I go up I will take others, though Charles says that he and his wife don’t want the trouble of making acquaintances. Ah but Cousin when the mail arrived I was made happy too, for it brought me your last letter. And does time pass rapidly with you? It does go so slowly here; the days appear to pass away, but the nights, the long nights, I sometimes think that day will never come again. But these must pass too, & at last Spring will be here. And then I know that at least one of us will be found all & more than all, than could possibly have been anticipated , but as for the other, I fear your expectations [. . .] be very low, to have them realized. Don’t fear that yo[ur] [. . .] are not amusing, or take any trouble to effect that purp[ose]. Write any thing & every thing, for indeed I want to hear nothing except what concerns yourself, as for other matter I can get it elsewhere, but this I can only get from you. I said all those affectionate things to Mrs Carter, & gave your love to the Misses M. which these last say, they return threefold. They have asked all kinds of questions about you, which I hope I have not been too much prejudiced to answer incorrectly. At any rate they must not be disappointed should they ever see you. I can condole with Mr Harris & Mr A. too if he wishes me but really I have too much anxiety for myself to think much of theirs. Tom K. is going to France in the Spring to join the French Army, he says he is tired of this World & cares not how soon he finds another. Harford was in S. one day I did not know of it till he had left, or would gone up to see him. I have heard that Mrs. B has returned to the Maj. They have not reached here yet & all this time I might have been with you. I got a case made in N.Y. for the miniature, you don’t know what a comfort to me & Bob. I would not give him for three of your Toms, he is so sensible & affectionate, & seems to know that I have no other companion. I have no news to tell you, only being in S. ten hours. I left there at ½ past ten last night & arrived here at one this morning & having been obliged to be out since day light, makes me feel rather dull tonight. Give my love to your Mother & Father, to all at R. Alex. Geo. &c I hope you will not go down the Country. What is the fate of Montgomerie? And now My sweet Mary I must end, you know what I would say to you if I was there, but I cannot write it. Your letter from N.Y. has arrived. I would not have lost it for the whole City. Am I to believe all that was in it? do think of your true and devoted
R. E. Lee
I shall not be able to send this to the Office for some days.
Tell cousin M. I do teach those men something Good, for I learn them to do their work faithfully handsomely and scientifically. How am I to write you longer letters. I am sure I fill every place. Is my hand as hard to read as yours. It is well you did not copy M.
Source: “Lee in Love: Courtship can Correspondence in Antebellum Virginia,” edited by Rob deButts, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 115, No. 4 (2007), 486-575.
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 March 16