West Point       26 May 1854

I recd to day dearest Markie the guard you sent me. I feel very deeply your great kindness & thoughtfulness. Immediately on reading your note I attached it to my watch, where it now feels the beatings of a grateful heart for your consideration & remembrance. So long as that heart beats it will be full of affection & gratitude for you. But what makes you sad Markie? That I do not like to hear. You who give so much pleasure to others, ought yourself to be happy & joyous at the benefits you bestow. The world is full of pleasure for you, & a blessed immortality I trust laid up for you in heaven. We are all prone I think to undervalue the gifts of a merciful God, & to make our own unhappiness. I am conscious of my faults in this respect & make many resolutions & attempts to do better, but fail. I will continue my efforts & am resolved to improve. You who know my weakness will I fear have little confidence in my success. Before I get too far from the guard I must ask whether your Cousin M. thought of giving you the Silk you requested me to get in New York; & will also state that I did not discover until too late to count, that I had only expended half the money you gave me to make the purchase I asked for eight twists, & found they were charged on the bill at 50 ₵. I still therefore have another half dollar to expend for you. This comes from your insisting on my taking the money. I am so poor an accountant that I always make mistakes under such circumstances. The curious & scientific are assembling in the observatory above me to witness the Eclipse of the Sun. The Cadets & boys are scattered over the plain with pieces of smoked glass, each his own astronomer, begrimming his face & hands. The glorious Sunlight is sensibly diminishing, & a blueish twilight covering the mountains. How unerring is the course & periods of the Heavenly bodies & how sure are the calculations of science. I would that our course were as true & our calculations as sure. I promised Profr Bartlett to witness the observations & have recd admonition that the time of greatest obscuration was approaching. I must therefore leave you Markie, but will always carry you in my thoughts & prayers. Love to all.

Truly your Cousin

R E Lee





Source: Digital scan of original letter, Letters of Robert E. Lee to Martha Custis Williams, 1844-1870, Huntington Library, San Marino, California

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 September 15