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MARTHA JEFFERSON RANDOLPH.
MRs. JEFFERSON had been dead nineteen years when, in 1801, President Jefferson took possession of the White House, and there was strictly speaking no lady of the mansion during his term. His daughters were with him in Washington only twice during his eight years' stay, and he held no formal receptions as are customary now; and being of the French school of democratic politics, professed a dislike of all ceremonious visitors.
On the 1st day of January, 1772, Mr. Jefferson was married to Mrs. Martha Skelton, widow of Bathurst Skelton, and daughter of John Wayles, of “the Forest,” in Charles City County.
Mr. Lossing, in his very interesting book of the Revolution, gives a facsimile of Mr. Jefferson's marriage license bond, drawn up in his own handwriting, which the former found in a bundle of old papers in Charles City Court House while searching for records of Revolution events. “Mrs. Skelton was remarkable for her beauty, her accomplishments, and her solid merit. In person she was a little above medium height, slightly but exquisitely formed. Her complexion was brilliant—her large expressive eyes of the richest tinge of auburn. She walked, rode, and danced with admirable grace and spirits—sang and played the spinet and harpsichord [the musical instruments of
the Virginia ladies of that day] with uncommon skill. The more solid parts of her education had not been neglected.” She was also well read and intelligent, conversed agreeably, possessed excellent sense and a lively play of fancy, and had a frank, warm-hearted and somewhat impulsive disposition. She was twentythree years of age at the time of her second marriage, and had been a widow four years. Her only child she lost in infancy. Tradition, says Randall, has preserved one anecdote of the wooers who sought her hand. It has two render. ings, and the reader may choose between them. The first is that two of Mr. Jefferson's rivals happened to meet on Mrs. Skelton's doorstone. They were shown into a room from which they heard her harpsichord and voice, accompanied by Mr. Jefferson's violin and voice, in the passages of a touching song. They listened for a stanza or two. Whether something in the words, or in the tones of the singers appeared suggestive to them, tradition does not say, but it does aver that they took their hats and retired to return no more on the same errand 1 The other, and, we think, less probable version of the story is, that the three met on the door-stone, and agreed that they would “take turns” and that the inter. views should be made decisive; and that by lot or otherwise Mr. Jefferson led off, and that then during his trial they heard the music that they concluded settled the point. After the Bridal festivities at the Forest, Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson set out for Monticello, and they were destined to meet some not exactly amusing adventures by the way. A manuscript of
their eldest daughter [Mrs. Randolph] furnished Mr. Randall by one of her grand daughters and published in his “Life of Jefferson"—says: “They left the forest after a fall of snow, light then, but increasing in depth as they advanced up the country. They were finally obliged to quit the carriage and proceed on horseback. Having stopped for a short time at Blenheim (the residence of Colonel Carter) where an overseer only resided, they left it at sunset to pursue their way through a mountain track rather than a road, in which the snow lay from eighteen inches to two feet deep, having eight miles to go before reaching Monticello. “They arrived late at night, the fires all out and the servants retired to their own houses for the night. The horrible dreariness of such a house, at the end of such a journey, I have often heard them both relate.” “Part of a bottle of wine, found on a shelf behind some books, had to serve the new-married couple both for fire and supper. Tempers too sunny to be ruffled by many ten times as serious annoyances in after life, now found but sources of diversion in these ludicrous contre-temps and the “horrible dreariness was lit up with songs, and merriment and laughter.” Nine years afterward, Mrs. Jefferson, the mother of five children, was slowly declining, and her husband, refusing a mission to Europe on that account, determined to give up all other duties to soothe and sustain her. She had born her fifth child in November, and when it was two months old, she had fled with it in her arms as Arnold approached Richmond. “The