<br /> Lee Letter: a056

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee

At least dearest Mary I have had the pleasure to hear from you. My joy has however been largely mixed with sadness. I am grieved to find that you are still labouring under that painful affliction. I have not ceased to hope during the long cessation of intelligence, that I should at least hear that you were much improved if not entirely recovered. That hope so fondly cherished is now destroyed, & I fear there is little amendment of your disease, or improvement in your comfort. I can well imagine how irksome your indisposition must be to you. With much to do, & a great deal depending on you, the inability to accomplish it naturally increases the anxiety of mind & aggravates the disease of the body. You must be particular to guard against both. Do nothing to excite the first, or promote the last. Try to be patient, & systematically pursue the best course to recover your lost health. God helps those who helps themselves, & in his own good time I pray & trust, your efforts & the prayers of those who love you may be favourably answered. Do not worry yourself about things you cannot help or change, but be content to do what you can for the well being of what belongs properly to you. Commit the rest to those who are responsible, & though it is the part of benevolence to aid all whom we can, & sympathize with all who are in need, it is the part of wisdom to attend to your own affairs. Lay nothing therefore too much to heart. Desire nothing too eagerly. Nor think that all things can be perfectly accomplished, according to our own notions. I wish indeed I could be with you, not that I know anything I could do for your relief, except by attending to some matters, to relieve you from anxiety concerning them, & thus give you more peace of mind, which might produce more ease of body. But as this cannot be, I must endeavour to be satisfied, & hope you will omit nothing on your part to accomplish all that is important. The most important now is the recovery of your health. I am glad to find that you are able to ride with comfort & advantage, & if you would be content to ride for your benefit, I should have more hope in deriving good from it. But I fear you distress yourself in the effort to extract from it every advantage, & annoy yourself in paying visits, performing errands &c instead of consulting your personal convenience & the object of your ride, & allowing other things to yield to that. Suppose you get a single one horse carriage, that can shut up close, & a quiet horse for yourself. & ride regularly & independently of others? There are plenty of these vehicles in Washington or Marshall could easily send you one from B[altimore]. Austin Bingham could be your charicteer for an hour or two every day without interfering with his other duties. At all events I wish you to consult the Dr & your own feelings, & make arrangements to go to such of the mineral springs, as may reasonably promise most relief. I wish you also to go early in the season, take Mary or such of the children as may be of the most assistance to you, & give the waters a fair trial. Perhaps it would be better to take none of the children, but a regular nurse. Ladies very often go thus, I think you could do the same, & would be more comfortable & independent. Your attack may have proceeded from cold, over exertion, or exposure, or it may be the residuum or one of the forms, of bilious fevers incident to the climate. But from whatever source it has proceeded, it is too serious to trifle with longer. I hope therefore you will seriously consider the matter & make your plans accordingly. Do all in your power & leave the rest to a merciful & kind father who doeth all things well. In a former letter I wrote to you, provided the bank paid the bond due this Jany, I wished the amount invested in a state bond of Virga, Missouri, N. Carolina (as might be most advantageous) & that you must add to it enough of the amount derived from the Jany coupons as might be necessary to purchase one bond of $1,000. If after paying the school fees of the children, you should not have enough left from the Jany dividends & coupons, you must sell the Alexa & Orange R.R. bond, you purchased last Fall, & use the amount for the purpose. Last night I recd from San Antonio, a package of over 30 letters. I have only had time to give them a hurried perusal. Among them were nine from you, for 21st Sept to 7 Dec inclusive – viz 21 Sept, 5th 21st & 31st Oct 5th 11th 15th & 30 Nov & 7 Decr. In addition there was a letter from Mary, Custis, Anne, Agnes, Rob & Mildred (the latter enclosed yours). I thus had the pleasure of hearing from all except Fitzhugh. Of him I heard indirectly – in Boston & well. I also heard form Childe & Smith. I have only time to mention their reception. The mail goes down this mng to the mouth of the river, for the steamer to New Orleans, of which I wish to take advantage. You will see by former letters that I remitted Fitzhugh on the 26 Nov his allowance of $200. for the 2nd Qr in plenty of time for it to reach him before the end of the year. Indeed it is only necessary to reach him before the end of Jany. Your remittance was in anticipation. He has thus recd his 3rd Qr allowance. He seems poor fellow to be always anxious for money & never tells what becomes of it. As regards Mr Radziminski I can tell nothing more than what I have said. I only traveled up to Camp Cooper with him from San Antonio & was with him while at that Post. He was always very gentlemanly, polite & attentive to his duties. He seemed to be cheerful & as happy as the rest of the officers. He made me no confidences, or disclosed of his sorrow, & I had no other opportunity of judging of him more than the others. He complained of a cough, which seemed to be light; to proceed more from his throat than lungs; & though he took some palliatives (which I rather discouraged) he never exempted himself from duty, but on the contrary was always prompt in their discharge. I did not look upon it as serious, & when I saw him at Ft. Inge on my way here he told me it was better, & seemed as cheerful as usual. Men you know do not often wail or complain to each other, & I thought nothing of it. I have heard nothing of him since I parted with him at Ft. Inge, & am very sorry to hear he is in such a bad way. From what I know of him I like him very much, & think he will make an excellent officer. The service of a Cavy officer in Texas is unfavourable to matrimony, & unless he could quit the Army, I should think it would be unpleasant to Ella. I am very sorry for the state of things, but you know Mrs Stiles says, “young people are really very curious.”

As before stated I think the employment of Mr Winston as manager at the White House, was the best arrangement I could see in the circumstances. It certainly would be better if a reliable man could have been found, that he should be permanently located at the spot. But where to find him I did not know. I infer from your letters, your father has engaged him, but I did not see that he had accepted. If he has, & the matter is settled, & he wished me to do any thing let me know. I have recd nothing from Mr W[inston] & do not know what has been done in the way of settling Mr Nelsons accounts. I will read over the letters attentively & answer any points in them that may require it by the regular mail. I have no time for more at present. Give much love to your father, Markie, Mary & all the children. I pray God to guard & keep you & all with you.

Very affy & faithfully Yours

R E Lee


Ely-De-Butts PapersLibrary of Congress

Transcribed in Francis Raymond Adams, Jr., An Annotated Edition of the Personal Letters of Robert E. Lee, April, 1855 – April, 1861, pp. 256 – 61.