Cock Spur Island [Georgia]

Nov. 19th 1830



Oh, how glad I am that it has come at last. I know it was the fault of the Post Masters, but now it is all past. Did I even hint at “unkindness” or “forgetfulness”? And as to “want of time” you know it is Smith that accuses you of that and not me. Indeed I did not complain, but, as I thought, was explaining why the letter had not arrived. It will no doubt reach here eventually, as Carter, Tom and Joe, were each severally enjoined to forward whatever might arrive at N.Y. for me. But cousin are we to indulge no wish that is vain? See then what piles and heaps of sin you cause me daily to commit. For I am sure there is not an hour in the day, that one, though I know too well it is vain, and even more than vain, is not present to my thoughts, and is only dismissed to be again recalled. I thought it was hard enough to be obliged to come away, but to come to Cock-spur and yet not be allowed to wish to return, is too hard. Is it not Sweet Cousin? Now don’t be looking grave and think that I am entirely lost, for I don’t think that even Cousin Molly will think it wrong. As you seem to think that the pain of parting would almost destroy the pleasure that would be derived from making use of the magic carpet, suppose you substitute instead the Sympathetic needles? I could then this very night learn what you are doing at Arlington. Could almost hear you speak and read, and laugh. And in return, without having these lamps reflected from this white paper, could detail the whole conversation of the Miss Mackays. How I laughed at Miss Margaret (Mrs E) on account of the Doctor’s following her from one room to another, then into the Portico, then the garden. How readily Miss Eliza consented to come down, and comfort me this winter. And how Miss Kate blushed, and said that her mother could not spare her, for she was the last she had left. All these things and more I could tell you. And you could tell me of Tom and Miss Eleanor’s sock; for which I hope cousin M. will not give her 12-1/2 cts. for it is not worth it; and Kidder; I would shake hands with Kidder this minute if I could see him. Do get a pair of them and let me explain to you how to use them. I was delighted at finding at Savannah John Mackay one of my class at W.P. who for the last year has been stationed among the Indians to keep off the Gold diggers. He told me much about the country and the people that was interesting, and I would prefer being out there than here. He obtained a furlough for a month in order to see his family and will return on the 25th. If the wind is fair to morrow I believe I will sail up to see him and will then deliver your message to his sisters. But indeed I will not to his mother, for I don’t think I could, if would moreover she will have enough to do to make her own sons good without troubling herself about other persons. I am sure no one could have a greater inducement than I have; to be as good as she or you could make me, and if it is practicable, I may hope of one day becoming so. But Sweetheart don’t expect miracles in my case, leave something to time, and more to opportunity. I don’t mean chance, or leisure but circumstances, which may make me feel what I desire, and so seek that I may find. As much as I admire Cowper’s letters, which I think better than any I ever read, and as much pleasure as I ever took in reading them, if the whole was put together, it would not compare what I feel in reading yours, you need not then ask me which I prefer. Will Miss Frazer take such a dull scholar as I am, and give him a seat next to Ellen Davis? Perhaps then you might extend your care over us both, and I might then acquire what you are so anxious for me to learn. Give my love to Cousins Molly and Anna, and tell Miss E. that I know she would not touch my picture for all the chickens of the Education Society.[1] Remember me to Miss R. and explain to her how wrong it was for her to get sick when I was there. Ask Miss M. G. & Smith if they are not going to write me. I have a great many other things to say but not room, so good night my dear dear Cousin, and always remember your devoted.



R E Lee




Source: Robert E. E. deButts, Jr., “Lee in Love: Courtship and Correspondence in Antebellum Virginia,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 115, No. 4 (2007), pp. 521-523.


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 February 25




[1] Eleanor was raising chickens on behalf of the African Education Society of the United States. The aim was to provide training in farming and mechanical crafts for slaves freed and sent to Liberia.