1822 April 30
fr. Mayo to Lee (fr. original)
Richmond, 30 April 1822
I have the pleasure to acknowlege the receipt of yrs. of the 21st inst: & regret you had not leisure to say what you had heard respecting my short visit at Montrose. I arrived there about one o’clock on thursday the 4th. after a drive of nearly 20 miles over a rough road without meeting with a stopping place of refreshment for myself or horse. As I alighted from my vehicle a servant presented himself. I enquired if Mrs. Rose was at home and was answered in the affirmative. As I walked across the yard I saw Miss McC. standing at the window if my vivid imagination did not abuse my willing credulity with the delusive representation of the most lovely figure I ever beheld, dressed in black with dark hair & eyes and a face more round than oval. I cd. not be so rude as to fix her with an uninterrupted gaze & while I affected to cast a careless look in a different direction she disappeared. Having now attained the threshhold of Montrose the painful intelligence was announced to me that “Mrs. Rose was ill & cd. not see company.” At the moment I apprehended that this was meant as an indirect repulse. But maintaining my presence of mind I asked the servant if I cd. not go into the parlor, & have pen, ink & paper – wishing to make some inquiries about my packet & the letter I had forwarded from Mr. Reynolds. I again hesitated about visiting as it wd. exhaust time & gave the servant a verbal message. During his absence Mrs. Rose came in from the adjoining room quite unexpectedly. She appeared in such delicate health as perfectly to justify the excuse she had made in the first instance. Our conversation was brief & somewhat vague – at least Mrs. Rose seemed so positive & inflexible in the position she had taken, in defiance of the conciliatory conduct I had endeavored to practice from the beginning, that I considered it would be rudeness in me to urge the object of my visit or attempt to mitigate the offence I had innocently given, and concluded it wd. be better to relinquish a pursuit, from the prosecution of which I had sanguinely counted on so much commendation from others, and incalculable happiness for the parties concerned, rather than view the slightest imputation of disrespect even for the strange and unaccountable prejudices which Mrs. R. had taken up on the occasion. I therefore, after she had politely consented to take charge of the bundle of music for Mrs. Lee, wished her better health & bade her adieu. Uncertain which way my course lay, after going back some distance towards the store, intending to turn towards Westd. C. house it occurred to me to turn to the right=about & pursue the road which passes Montrose southwardly expecting to find a ferry across the Rappahannock more directly in my route than Tappahannock or Port Royal. Accordingly without difficulty, I brought up with Layton’s, when, after splitting my throat awhile, I was answered by the ferry man, and procured a passage about an hour by sun; when I got some refreshment for myself & horse, of which a drink of water was not the lest grateful to my parched lips, which had not greeted that delightful beverage of nature since I left Hoe’s ferry.
I recollect that Mrs. Rose expressed her astonishment that I shd. feel any concern for Miss McCarty, as I had never seen her; to which I replied in effect, though not in the same words lest it shd. be considered profane, that it was not necessary to see our Maker in order to appreciate his divine attributes, and feel a holy love & gratitude for his unbounded goodness which all nature proclaims to every thinking being. In like manner when all who know Miss McCarty proclaim her superior merits, it wd. be the grossest skepticism to doubt her transcendency to the rest of her sex. Not to feel our interest in such a woman under any circumstances wd. bespeak an unnatural want of sensibility – not to sympathise, nay, wish to participate with her in misfortune, wd. declare an obduracy of heart totally disgraceful & opprobrious to the noble principles of my sex. And such indeed is the fact, that a general sympathy pervades the land; but I alone claim the singular merit of openly defying public prejudice by making the offer that others timidly think commendable.
I also observed to Mrs. Rose that I had endeavored to be clear upon the subject in my letters: & I doubt not that I evinced by my manner the extreme delicacy I felt in discussing verbally a subject from which there seemed so little to hope, & some risk of giving further offence by persisting, after all I had done cd. not convince.
Upon enquiry for my packet, containing letters from several of my most respectable female relatives, which I hold above all value, I learnt that it was probably sent on to the Genl. Post Office. I have written to Mr. Meigs, and have his answer stating that such a packet has not been recd. This will give me occasion to call on Mrs. Rose again, as she alone can authorise me to draw it from the office in Wesmoreld. if it still be there.
I hope you will not infer from this acct. that Mrs. Rose has in my opinion disregarded the injunction of St. Paul who says in his epistle to the Hebrews, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” I rather incline to think I did not afford her an opportunity to offer me any civilities; for it occurred to me afterward, that my departure was somewhat more precipitate or abrupt than was expected, as I percieved the ladies all at the window as I turned at the yard gate to take my gig. Indeed the reception I met with at Montrose is as mysterious to me, as the interest I have taken in Miss McCarty is incomprehensible to the family at Montrose.
I understand that Mr. Wm Robertson has written to a friend to enquire who I am. I have taken no pains to inform myself of the particulars. Would to God I cd. reasonably suppose such a step might bear a favorable construction, as I certainly shd. if Mrs. Roses mode of regarding the matter did not defy all my reasoning on the subject.
I send you the two No’s of the Compiler which contain my communications. The affair concluded by the Editors acknowleging my connections in the presence of several gentlemen, & refusing thro’ the medium of his paper to recieve any further communications of A. Z. without his name. This fellow yet skulks contemptibly behind his disguise though I have sufficient reason to believe he is an interested bookseller who wished to obstruct the sale of my book. But I have the satisfaction to find that the sales have been greatly improved by the eclaircissement – and that I have completely converted an evil blow into the means of procuring its opposite good.
Please present my best regard to Mrs. Lee and accept the best wishes of
P.S. I cannot but wish that Miss McCarty could see all I have occasion to write on this subject. I think she cd. not longer consent to be the dupe the victim of erroneous prejudice. She wd. at least percieve something more to my credit than the interested motive – a sincere regard for herself. Pray let me hear from you.
Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 7, M2009.166
Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 July 8