1821. Novr 6.
From H. Lee to Dr Mayo (fr: original)
6th Novr 1821
From the first I believe I intimated to you that the sensibilities of the particular & protecting friends of the young lady, were probably in a state so unsettled and alarmed that a proposition of the nature of the one you meditate from any quarter would be received with great suspicion if not rejected with infinite disdain, and I think throughout I impressed upon you the necessity of patience & circumspection in your feelings & measures in relation to the affair, with an energy & iteration of which you could hardly comprehend the propriety. The events of yesterday justified my apprehensions & will vindicate the prudence of my counsel.
Some few days ago Mrs. L. recd an affectionate invitation from her grandmother Mrs. Rose to visit her if she could consent to see her sister. Mrs. Lee replied that so far from having any indisposition to see her she shd be glad to meet her as her sister, & that her resentment of her misconduct was lost or overpowered by her sorrow for her misfortune. This with other consolatory & conciliating remarks constitutes the substance of Mrs. L’s letter. She accordingly made the visit and after the confusion and agitation of meeting was over the sisters fell into a tete-a-tete of much affection & intimacy. & Mrs. L., not without my approbation, suggested to her sister that you had intrusted to me conversation and by letter – your desire to become acquainted with her, and the intention which you declared was dawning on your mind of becoming a suitor for her hand. Though surprised at the information and perhaps astonished at its having been conveyed through me, Miss McC. did not, as far as I can learn, manifest any repugnance at considering generally the merit of a proposal of the kind, provided it was supported by evidence of unquestionable respectability & honorable sentiments. & in regard to the ascertainment of these she emphatically avowed her determination to be more than ever scrupulous & exigent. From a wish to be candid & clear in her proceedings in an affair of such momentous delicacy, from a fear of having the smallest appearance of any thing oblique or clandestine in her conduct Mrs. Lee next imparted to Mrs. Rose the younger (the aunt of herself & Miss McC.) your design, when although the communication was accompanied with qualifying explanation, that it only embraced a wish to see & estimate the attractions & the virtues of the object & could not so far possibly offend or diminish the feelings or the dignity of any individual or of any family in this country. & would be open to examination or refusal after it was made, yet the mere suggestion was repelled by the aunt not only with displeasure but with vehement indignation, was odiously & interperatively communicated to the grandmother in whom it appeared to produce more violent feelings of resentment & antipathy than ever in the aunt. & in the sequel they both combined in stigmatising it as a measure diabolically contrived by me for the purpose of inflicting the latest blow of distraction upon the young lady herself & of torment upon her family, entertained by you with the base motive of lucre, & cherished by Mrs. Lee through a weak & wicked subservience to my infamous & cruel purposes. To this confusion of false inferences were added many enceptions of a spirit violently hostile to the success or agitation of any project of the kind from any quarter, as being in the present circumstances of the object (the amiable object I must say) unfavorable to her quiet & to her moral & religious advancement as well as to her social elevation & her individual dignity. When you know as much of the difficult & almost illegible page of human nature as I have been doomed to study, you will not find it difficult to trace those surprising starts & inconsistencies of conduct to features of character not unamiable & indeed respectable & when you give due weight to the force of our recent domestic calamity, you will scarcely consider phrensy on this subject in her offended relations, as much out of the way of the natural operation of the human passions. Be this as it may I was characterized as the vilest & most inveterate assassin of her honor & peace & you as a fortune-hunter.
You will then be able to judge how much of caution & solidity are required for the successful prosecution of your designs, how well founded you must be in testimonial as to your personal communications & carriage. You will at once perceive the unfitness & indeed prejudice of any assistance or indeed cooperation in any part. & that however interested I may feel in your success I must bear the appearance of total indifference & disengagement. I confess I did entertain the hope that by cordially supporting you in it, I should prepare the way for a gradual restoration to their forgiveness if not to their favour & with that hope felt great anxiety to appear at least modestly in the transaction. But this hope is now frustrate[d]. I am now informed that she will be 21 years old on the 9th instead of the 29th of this month & I advise you to get very explicit, respectable, authoritative & particular letters of introduction to Mr. Wm S. Jett & Mr. John Campbell of this county & if possible to Mrs. Margaret Rose the grandmother & to Mrs. Ann W. Rose the aunt & it would be well to obtain letters to these last from the Bishop or some other respectable clergyman. A letter of decisive recommendation from Mr. John Scott of Fredericksburg to either of the Mrs. Roses wd have great influence in your favour. These preliminaries are of so much importance that I may venture to assure you they are indispensible. As to myself however intimate & friendly my relation to the family might be, you must be aware that my acquaintance with you is both so partial & so recent that it wd not be in my power to give a clear & confident introduction to you. & even if it were that in my present state of attainder any interest exhibited by me in your favour wd be injurious. I trust that you will likewise bring my letters over with you & such other strong ones as may satisfy them that you are worthy of the romantic passion you appear ready to feel for Miss McC. & that any share I may have had in stimulating or directing it may not be ascribed to the very worst motives. Let me see or hear from you by return of mail.
Shd Belzer be in Richmd please inform him that he can get a job or 2 of some profit by returning this way to Balte.
Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 7, M2009.143
Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 June 17