• The Lees of Virginia
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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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Arlington 20 Nov 1858

My dear Cousin Anna


I have recd your letter of the 17th enclosing me your check for $1000.00. I do not know how to express my thanks for your kindness; or my gratitude for your thoughtful consideration. The repairs which I have felt obliged to undertake to avert the dilapidation of the house & property fallen to my Care, has as you supposed worn down my purse; but as I limited from the outset my operations to my finances, & have advanced them according to my means, they have not borne so heavily upon me, & I have been enabled to meet their Cost as I have progressed. My outdoor operations are about closed for the winter. The mill & overseers house are completed. The mansion house & stable covered in, & the interior arrangements only to be finished. The masonry of the barn in completed & the super structure will be prepared this winter. Every thing so far is paid for, & I have funds in hand, sufficient to finish what I proposed to accomplish. This as you will see on your first visit, is not of great magnitude, but enough I hope to prevent the decay of what has been previously constructed & transmit the estate to its future possessor in tolerable preservation.

I have been this particular in my account my dear cousin Anna to shew you that I counted the cost before commencing, & have not been led estray [sic] in my progress by the desire to accomplish all I might think necessary. I have had a strict regard for economy both in my plans & progress as I wished to accomplish as much as I could within myself, particularly the transportation of the various materials without infringing on the operations of the farm; or hiring foreign aid. This, & the protracted sickness of my head Carpenter who is still absent, has kept me back; And Could I have foreseen the early frost & his long indisposition it would have been better to have accelerated my pace at the expense of the Cost. It is however too late now to profit by my after knowledge.

But I fear you have deprived yourself, of what I know you can use more advantageously than I can, & may have contracted some of your own plans to advance mine. I will therefore retain your check till I see you, & as I assure you in all candour that it is not necessary for my present operations & can only be applied by me hereafter. I hope you will add to your kindness & my obligations by fixing its presentation at bank to suit your perfect convenience or witholding it till necessary. This will double the value of your gift dear cousin Anna; for us there is no one from whom I would sooner receive aid when necessary, so is there no one, whom I would rather not inconvenience when unnecessary, than yourself. From my heart I thank you for this, & the many kindnesses you have always bestowed upon me. I feel them most sensibly, & appreciate them most highly. Too sensibly & too highly for my limited language to express.

Mary returned yesterday to dinner & has apparently enjoyed her visit. She left all well & sends their regards she brought for you. Mary childe particularly regretted she Could not get to see you during her recent visit, but hopes to do so in the spring. I will leave her to give you the rest of her messages.

If we do not meet you tomorrow at church, we hope to see you during the week. I regret very much my inability to move about as my desires would lead me but when you get to Alexa. my opportunities of seeing you will be greater.

Although I wished to return to my Regt this winter & feel that I ought to be there, yet I Cannot do so without sacrificing interests I am compelled to consider, & therefore have postponed it till spring. I find the circuit court has adjourned without giving the construction of Mr Custis’ will, or me the directions for my government for which I petitioned. One of the objects for which I stayed I am therefore disappd. in ___

I never proceeded so slowly before in anything I have undertaken as the arrangement of this business. And there seems so much to be done that I am the more anxious to advance it.

Mary sends much love in which she is joined by all the household. She called at Washington Peters & Mrs starkes on her way home.

During her absence I had a visit from a near relative, who was very desirous that I should send her to Ravensworth. But I was churlish enough positively to decline. Do not tell, but I think you will excuse me when you hear my story. She was very anxious to see “my brother & his wife.”

With much love I am always my dear cousin Anna, truly & affy yours

R E Lee




Source: Digital scan of original letter, Robert E. Lee Papers, 1749-1975, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 April 19


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