Arlington 23rd Jany 1836


[to Eliza Stiles (Mrs. William Stiles)]


I hope Miss Eliza will not think that I require assistance to write to her at any time, still less to reply to the sentiments contained in her very kind letter, which after so long an interval, afforded me more than the greatest pleasure. My mornings being entirely engaged, and not being willing to devote the fagend of my time, as well as of my services, to those, to whom I am not satisfied in offering my best, I have been watching for some uninterrupted hour, in which I might shew that I truly appreciate your kind feelings. Much time has already elapsed, and I do not find that I am any nearer attaining my wish than I was the first moment of the arrival of your letter. Its perusal recalled so vividly passed events, that in my haste to be off, I was afraid I should arrive before the return of Mr. Stiles from Charleston, and the picture of your struggles against the scolding Father, feeble Mother and squalling children, first brought me to a pause. How distressing was the reality of the case, and the impossibility of the inroad was equally as striking. Never mind we shall remember you when the French War is over, and sessions of Congress are abolished. Till then adieu, but recollect I have not declined your invitation. The good accounts from all your family, over whom time seems but to have passed the shadow of his hand, and that merely for the purpose of putting forth some tender shoots, on which the elder branches may display their pride and pleasure, and the parent tree find her reward, are very gratifying, and if my friend John had only contributed his share I do not know that either I or the family stock would have any thing to complain of. You will probably see some of our Friends from this quarter. Genl Scott, Maj Van Buren, Canfield, Johnston and others started last night for the Enemy’s Country (Seminoles). They are to pick up the two Companies in N. Carolina & those at Charleston and Savannah, unless they have previously departed on their way to [Fort] Picolata. The recruits now at N. York will proceed to the same place and it was reported this morg. I do not know with what truth that in consequence of the advance of Genl. Santa Anna into Texas, it has been thought advisable to order Genl. Gaines with six Regiments on the Texas Frontier to keep in subjection the Indians and Negroes in that quarter. This will at least serve to keep our hand in and if Monsieur Krappo will only come to the point where we are ready to receive him we shall be happy to see him. We at Hd. Qrs are indulging ourselves in dinners and Parties, where we display much valour. Remember me very particularly to every one, and do tell Misses G and Mary to send me their messages themselves. Tell Miss Slate that the Ladies about here are in the utmost astonishment that anything impudent is ascribed to me, and are certain that there is some mistake. Saturday night is a bad time for writing letters, especially when a room full is talking and laughing around you, so I will choose some other, until then believe me

As ever


R. E. Lee


So many & various are the duties which occupy mio caso my dear Mrs. Styles that he has delegated to me the pleasure of replying in part to your kind invitation. Nothing I am sure would contribute more to my health & happiness than to pass a few months in your delightful southern climate among those who have always expressed for us so much interest that I cannot feel towards them as strangers. But Mr. Lee is so closely confined to his office that he is scarcely allowed the leisure of the Sabbath. I hope the fate of war may some day bring us near to you. I should love to see your children & to shew you mine particularly my little Mary Custis who is something very uncommon & has grown finely notwithstanding her Mother’s long continued illness which prevented her from affording the usual nourishment. She has a pair of eyes that would even shine among the bright ones of the South & bright roses on her cheek. She received the respects of the young gentlemen with a very complacent smile & coquettish toss of her head & is never content unless she encounters the admiring gaze of all around her. I am pleased to hear you liked our little cousin Nancy she has always been a favourite among her friends & all who had an opportunity of estimating her fine qualities. When you see her remember me affectionately to her & tell her I think it quite time she had written to congratulate me on my recovery & inform us somewhat of her proceedings as we have only heard of her through others. I wish indeed that you could have made your contemplated trip to Washington. Why cannot you come in the spring & see us & bring your little ones. We should be delighted to welcome you & your husband would find much to interest him in Congress which will probably sit this year until July & as you I suppose care as little as myself about the beau monde we might be very happy here in the country & hear from you again soon that we may hope to see you. Indeed I cannot rest satisfied to remain unknown to one of Mr. Lee’s most valued friends. My brats are squalling around me so that I cannot write more. You know how such musick puts all ones ideas to flight. Adieu.


Yrs very sincerely,

M. C. Lee


Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 3, M2009.190, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 September 3