Saturday, January 16, 2010

jan. 17, 1810 (wed.)

Grandson Francis Eppes is staying at Monticello. He's the motherless son of Thomas Jefferson's younger daughter, Maria. She died six and a half years ago, when Francis was three. When Francis was five, his three-year old sister, named Maria after their mother, also died.

But he has cousins to play with here, since Aunt Martha Randolph and her children came to live at Monticello for good last year. The two eldest have their own grown-up lives -- Anne with her new husband and Jeff with his studies. Ellen, at thirteen, isn't always in the mood for children's games anymore, and James at three is a bit to young to be a true companion, and Benjamin is still a baby. But Virginia is eight, as Francis is -- they're very close and somewhat competitive -- and Cornelia just two years older and Mary just two years younger. And two of the slave housekeeper's children, Beverley and Harriet, are about the same age.

Francis is a rather sickly kid and sometimes has seizures. He likes to read children's books he and his cousins share, and he's beginning to learn the all-important skill of writing letters. Grandpapa, who loves to read and who writes a lot of letters every day, is, of course, very proud of him. Francis been writing to his papa, and his new stepmother, and his surviving grandmother, the one on his father's side. It's nice that he can write to her now, because these are the last few months he'll have with her.

A few weeks ago it was Christmas, and the kids went running through the house shouting, "Merry Christmas! A Christmas gift!" -- a thundering herd (and boy, could they be heard!) of little shoes on wooden floors, a blur of red heads (yes, even the slave kids -- their mother is very light). But now the household has begun to settle down from mad frenzy to merely bustling.

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