• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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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West Point 23 June 1853

My dearest Markie

I have wished often to write to you since your departure, but fearing I could tell you nothing interesting, in the brief minutes I have for friendly Correspondence, I have left to nimbler pens the pleasure of informing you of all you wished to hear. When your long letter to M. arrived, as she was not here, I commenced a letter to you. Its tenor was so afflicting to me, & I well knew would be equally sad to you, that I abandoned it, & left that to be imported to you by others too. Now, yours of 16 May, is just at hand, written on first hearing of the event that has overwhelmed us with grief. Both letters were forwd to M. on the day of their receipt, & I presume if not from her, you have learned from others all that Could be said or told. I have no language to express what I feel, or words to tell what I suffer. The blow was so sudden & crushing,1 that I yet shudder at the shock & feel as if I had been arrested in the Course of life, & had no power to resume my onward march. Do not think me so selfish as to repine, or to wish undone, what has been done in mercy & charity, nor would I if I could, recall a glorious angel from heaven to resume the ills, the griefs, & infirmities of life. But well as I know the happiness it has brought to her, I feel the anguish it has left to me. But I must bear it, & for her sake would bear more. May God give me the necessary strength & above all the power so to live, that when I die, my last end may be like hers —I presume you have recd ere this, a description of this event from those nearer where it took place. To avoid repeating an oft told tale, I will only say that the utter disregard of self, so conspicuous in her life, shone brightly in her last moments. Her illness was short. One day in the garden with her flowers, the next with her God. When told by the Dr she was dying, & asked if she had any message for her absent daughter, her only anxiety seemed to be for her, & she replied “how terribly she will be shocked when she hears this.” Then turning to her Grddaughter who could not repress her grief said, “how can you cry so Annie?” She felt no care for herself. Her lamp was always brightly burning & she breathed her last repeating the Lords prayer. “Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” We have all lost a dear friend, but for every tear that has been shed on earth, there was a smile in heaven, when she entered. M. is still with her father who has been very ill. He is now better & able to ride out every day. I hope to be able to join her next week, & bring them all here on my return. The Examination is just over. I have much to do, send off the reports &c &c. In the uncertainty of this ever reaching you I will refrain from saying more. I have thought of you Constantly Markie & long to see you. I did not know you were going to Paris, when you left the Country, but thought your Aunt was in England, or I should have at first written to my sister to find you out. When I did write, she was in great distress, & has since been in Geneva. At the date of her last letters, she had returned to P—Her daughter was married, & their misery is extreme. I recd leters from your Cosuin M. today. She said nothing particularly of Tudor. Aunt Anna, Mrs Gurley & the Conrads are at A— Mary & Fitzhugh are still at school. Rob & Mildred with me. I will take them all on with me when I go — Mrs Berards family are well. Remember me kindly to your uncle & aunt, & believe me always your cousin

 

R E Lee

 

 

 

Source: Huntington Library, San Marino, California

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 August 24       

 

 

1. Lee is referring to the death of Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis, his mother-in-law. She died 1853 April 23, a day after her 65 birthday.

 

 

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