Page images



We have now to view Mr. Randolph in a new aspect. After an active, uninterrupted, and eventful career of fourteen years in the public service, in one of the most remarkable epochs of human history, we have now to follow him into retirement. The triumph of his enemies at the recent election had no power to shake the firmness of his purpose, or to disturb the serenity of his mind. 6 It relieves me from an odious thraldom,” says he, “and, I assure you, my dear sir, I have thought and yet think, much more of the charming Mrs. G. than of the election. The low and base arts to which my adversaries have resorted, have not raised them or sunk me in my own estimation."

At home he lived in the utmost seclusion and solitude. Up to 1810 he made Bizarre his principal place of residence. Here he enjoyed the best of female society, for which no man had a higher relish--found employment in the education of his young nephews, the future heirs of his name and fortune, and on whom he doted with the fondness of a father; and solace for his leisure hours in a large miscellaneous library, and the society and conversation of old neighbors and well-tried friends. In 1810 he removed to Roanoke, his estate in Charlotte county, on the Roanoke river, some thirtyfive or forty miles south of Bizarre; "a savage solitude," says he, “ into which I have been driven to seek shelter.” Shortly before the recent election, on Sunday, March 21, 1813, the house at Bizarre took fire—the family were at church-very little saved. “I lost," says he, “ a valuable collection of books. In it was a whole body of infidelity, the Encyclopedia of Diderot and D'Alembert, Voltaire's works,


seventy volumes, Rousseau, thirteen quartos, Hume, &c., &c." By this calamity, if calamity it may be called (some of his friends congratulated him on the event), he was deprived of the chief source of pleasure and amusement in his comfortless home. The only companion of his solitude was Theodore Bland Dudley, a young relation he had taken to live with him in 1800. He educated this young man with much care and at great expense. He manifested towards him the solicitude and affection of a fond father—his letters are models of parental instruction. Dudley had recently graduated in medicine at Philadelphia, and returned to console the solitary hours of his best and most constant friend. “ Consider yourself," said Randolph to him, “as not less entitled to command here, than if you were the child of my loins, as you are the son of my affections." Apart from the society of this young man, which he valued above all price, his only real enjoyment was in the correspondence of some two or three of his most intimate friends, to whom he unbosomed himself with a fulness and a freedom that showed in a remarkable degree the strength and constancy of his attachment, and the unbounded confidence he had in the fidelity and integrity of those men.

To none did he speak or write more unreservedly than to Dr. John Brockenbrough, the President of the Bank of Virginia. No wonder, for his superior is not to be found—a man of rare talents, varied learning, large experience in the business of life, refined manners, delicate sensibility, a perfect gentleman and a faithful friend. "Cherish the acquaintance of that man," he exhorts Dudley; “he is not as other men are.” In writing to this gentleman he says: “ Your two letters, the last of which I received this evening by my servant, have given me a degree of satisfaction that I find it difficult to express. Let me beg a continuance of these marks of your remembrance and friendship. At all times they would be highly acceptable; but in my present isolated state-a state of almost total dereliction—they are beyond price. I should have thanked you for your letter by the post, through the same channel, but I was induced from its contents to suppose that you would have left Richmond before my answer could reach it; and I wish that you had, because I may be debarred the pleasure of seeing you and Mrs. B. at my lonely and (as it will probably appear to you both) savage habitation. It is therefore that this letter is written. You will not wonder, when you




see how I live, at my reluctance to leave you, and I was going to say my other friends in Richmond. It is indeed a life of seclusion that I live here, unchequered by a single ray of enjoyment. I try to forget myself in books; but that pliability of man's spirit which yields him up to the illusions of the ideal world, is


from me for The mind stiffened by age and habit refuses to change its ca

It spurns the speculative notions which hard experience has exploded; it looks with contempt or pity, in sorrow or in anger, upon the visionary plans of the youthful and sanguine. My dear sir,' there is another and a better world,' and to it alone can we look without a certainty of disappointment, for consolation, for mercy, for justice.” On another occasion he says: " I passed but an in

: different night, occasioned, in a great measure, by the regret I feel at leaving such friends as yourself and Mrs. Brockenbrough, and at the prospect of passing my time in that utter solitude of my comfortless habitation, where I have prepared for myself, by my own folly, many causes of uneasiness. If I had followed old Polonius's advice, and been “to mine own self true,' I might have escaped the lot which seems to be in reserve for me."

To another friend, Francis S. Key, of Washington City, he writes more cheerfully. His letters to that gentleman about this time were very frequent and copious; they show more fully the workings of his mind. We shall draw largely on the correspondence for the instruction of the reader.

In one of his letters he gives a description of his habitation, the log cabins, and the boundless primeval forest by which they were surrounded. In reply, Key says, “ I could not help smiling at the painting you have given me of Roanoke-laudat diversa sequentes. To me it seemed just such a shelter as I should wish to creep under,

A boundless contiguity of shade,

Where rumor of oppression and deceit
Might never reach me more.”

In reference to the recent election he thus writes ·

ROANOKE, May 10, 1813. Dear FRANK :—For so, without ceremony, permit me to call you. Among the few causes that I find for regret at my dismissal from public life, there is none in comparison with the reflection that it has

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »