Jan 9th 1871

My dear Mother

Your last letter I recd before Xmas & would have answered it before, but I found the state of my feelings so strong that I was compelled to go on to Phil to relieve them. From my letter to Mildred last week you will hear how I enjoyed myself & what I saw & did.

It gave me great pleasure to see Miss Lottie once more after so long a separation [sic], & I was glad to find her so well with the exception of her throat & so good & sweet & bearing up so well under the painful operations she is compelled to undergo. But the terrible charge from there & with her to here & by myself has been so hard on me that I have almost regreted the visit. But in the main I think it has done me good and I do not regret going except that I had to spend money on my own pleasure that rightly did not belong to me. I mean that I owed it to other parties. But I presume that any one who goes in debt has to experience such unpleasant feelings & the only course is never to lay yourself open to such self condemnation by strictly staying free from debt.

But I have found it impossible almost to go on with my farm with out incurring that unfortunate portion to a certain extent. All your counsel & advice in your letter is very true & very good & no one my dear mother is better able, after the life you have led, or has a better right to give it to me, & I assure you I appreciate it & treasure it & believe in it.

My only hope is that I may endure until the end & find in God’s good time that which alone can make me happy. You know yourself how very hard it is to conquer our own wickedness—how difficult to trust & believe like a little child That we all can & that we all may I am sure of & with out that conviction I would be miserable indeed.

I know I don’t try in the way I should nor with the earnestness I should. But I pray all the time that I may be led to desire to please Our Father & to believe entirely in the merits of His Son.

You must pray for me dear Mother & help me on to do what is in right, to be an honor to his name & to that of my dear earthly father. I have just come down from the White House where I have been since Sat morning. Tabb came down yesterday for the first time looking very well & very pretty. Robin is becoming to be a fine little fellow, a little short; but I presume will get over that when he gets older & his father gets him in hand The little girl is so very small that an old bachelor like myself can’t form much of an idea as to her merits. She has beautiful grey eyes, a Lee mouth & a Lee nose[,] large hands & feet, & crys remarkably well for one so young. The Judge is about the same & does’nt seem alarmed at his rapidly increasing family.1

I have talked over my prospects with him, & have come to the conclusion that I will accept the help that you may be able to extend to me & try & build me a cage for my bird so that she may make glad the fields of Romancoke this fall. But I can’t do anything very much to help myself this year, for it will take all I make with the best of luck to get me straight again. I I can’t determine on the extent of my house until I know how much you can do & when I can have the money. Some of it I would want among the spring & the rest towards the last of the summer. So if you will let me know as soon as possible the exact amount you can spare me & when I can get it, I’ll go to work at once & make my plans. I propose to build a small plain house, suitable for this farm whether I leave here or not in years to come, I don’t think it would be wise in me considering my prospects to start out with an establishment above my means. And the young woman who has done me the honor to promise to share it with me for better or for worse, is content with anything I am satisfied with & really to come down as soon as her throat is well, just when I am ready.    

So my precious Mim just what you can spare me I will thankfully accept, & hope that I may never do any thing in my life hereafter to make you regret your great kindness.

I am very anxious to be married & settled. The life I am leading now besides being very uncomfortable is doing me a great deal of harm & I long to have the support & ennobling influence of a sweet good woman. And the more I see & know of my intended the more convinced am I that she will be all that to me & & much more. So please write me soon & tell me what you can do & how I am so particular because you see I can’t possibly tell how to cut my coat until I know how much cloth there is & where I can get it.

My best love to all & congratulations to Custis on his decision & best wishes & hopes for his happiness & success.

Your devoted son






Source: Transcribed from original letter, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 g 16-23, Section 6, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 July 23



1. Rob is talking about his brother Rooney and his family. Rooney was by then married to his second wife, Mary Tabb Bolling (1846-1924). Their children were Mary (1867-1871), William (1867-1875), Robert Edward Lee (1869-1922), George (1872-1948), and Annie Agnes (1874-1874).