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  • 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 curator, Colin Woodward, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



1822. Jany. 8.

Dr. Mayo to H. Lee (fr: original)

Richmd. Jany. 8. 1822-

Dear Sir,

            I snatch a brief moment from the pressure of business to impart to you a hint of “what reinforcement we may gain from hope” which I assure you is a resource with me hitherto inexhaustible & has therefore  saved me the necessity of drawing any “resolution from despair”, & affords me the consoling maxim ‘nil desperandum

            To be brief I have enclosed to Mrs. Rose a copy of my first letter to her now in yr. possession in such a manner that she cannot get over recieving & perusing it. And I am deeply impressed with the belief, that she will abate her scruples before she has barely passed the exordium; to which was the envelope itself may favorably predispose her good graces.

            I have concluded the envelope by observing that I feel my character too deeply implicated, not to make every laudable effort to extricate it from unmerited censure; and, that, in order to be assured whether I am excused or yet stand culpable in her estimation. I shall take a ride to Westmoreland after a reasonable lapse of time (say two or three weeks) & beg to be indulged in a few moments’ conversation with her (Mrs. R).

            And could you for a moment apprehend that I would yield at all to despair? When for my part I can see nothing so formidable in the correspondence you have communicated to me. In the first place, I feel myself infinitely indebted to Mrs. Lee, for her favorable prepossessing, & have no doubt they have some influence with Miss McC. if they do not ultimately with Mrs. R. & as to Mrs. R.’s objections, they are only of a general nature, and such as would occur against anyone who might step forward as a stranger without having his views understood. I do not therefore consider the epithets used on the occasion as personal to myself; on the contrary I commend Mrs. Rose for her wary zeal, & feel sanguine that she may become as warmly my friend when she has it in her power to appreciate my sentiments, even in the proportion of a penny’s worth to the pound – if I may be allowed so gross an illustration of the exalted character of my view, above the ordinary human conception. But far superior to this is my chief dependence – Look to Miss McCarty’s own words, they are neither daggers not frowns – nor indeed anything that I consider absolutely repulsive – they are a meek resignation to the advice of her grandmother – while they constitute the most captivating, the most enchanting form of expression, that the english language could have afforded! “I have seen your letter to grandmamma & approve of what she has said in answer to it.” Not another word to enforce her own wrath against the monstrous odious adventurer who plots against her temporal & eternal welfare. She concludes with this impressive & amiable expression, in which my enraptured imagination fancies it sees the all eloquent dew-drops of deep regret – yes; those beloved words – “I believe it wd. be madness in me to marry any one” – have made an impression upon my heart that can never be erased but by the most unexpected reproaches from the lips that have uttered them. Yours sincerely,

R. Mayo

Excuse haste & Let me hear from you again, till I see you.


Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 7, M2009.160

Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 July 1

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