Letter from Robert E. Lee Jr. to Mary Randolph Custis Lee (December 12, 1870)


In this letter dated December 12, 1870, Robert E. Lee Jr. writes to his mother, Mary Randolph Custis Lee, mourning the death of his father, Robert E. Lee, and lamenting his own inability to live up to the example his father set.



Dec 12th 1870

My dear Mother

Your & Mildreds joint letter of the 5th inst reached me Friday. I was very glad to hear from it that you were nearly your self again & that you were so well suited in your svt Jane.

I would endeavor, since she is such a comfort to you, to make it an object with her to stay. I have not been to nor heard from the White House for two weeks. But F_ promised to write me as soon as any thing occurred. You must not think that I can not bear my slight burdens when I know of so many living cheerfully under ten times greater. It is all for the best I believe. I try to do my duty to myself & to my neighbor but am sure I do not try hard enough or I would succeed better. It is a great sorrow to me, & a cause of despising myself & my selfishness & weakness, when I find how much my father loved me how much he did for me & what an example of true manliness he set me all through his life; that I should have done so little for him, tried so little to follow in his footsteps & appreciated so slightly the blessing God gave me, in making me the son of such a father & such a mother.

I have tried & do try to do better, but it seems I always fail, preferring the world & the devil to all the blessings of belief & love in a Merciful God.

I will never give up attempting & striving for that peace the world can never give but I have never yet found it in the slightest degree.

I know in my reason what is right when I ought to do what I am besought to do. But my hard cold heart prefers its own wickedness & lusts. I don’t know what my plans are about building of course I would like to be married & fixed comfortably. But I hate to take others means to set me up, when I deserve it so little. I hav’nt any thing myself & am very much behind hand. Indeed it will take another year’s farming & a lucky one at that to put me straight. So perhaps I had better wait for if I can’t support myself & keep up my farm I don’t deserve a wife. Tell Mildred I’ll answer her letter this week. I am very well.

Miss Lottie writes me she has caught a terrible cold which delays all operations on her throat so she will not be back before Feb if then & that is terrible to me, but I suppose I can stand it, as many others have before me.

I wanted to come & see you all Xmas very much. But many reasons will prevent. I have to be here 1st of Jan & then it takes 3 days now you know to reach you all & the same to return which would not give me any time to stay hardly. I shall be here all the time as far as I know being the first Xmas I have ever spent in King William.

My best love to all & believe me Dearest Mim

Your devoted


APA Citation:
Lee Jr., Robert. Letter from Robert E. Lee Jr. to Mary Randolph Custis Lee (December 12, 1870). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Lee Jr., Robert. "Letter from Robert E. Lee Jr. to Mary Randolph Custis Lee (December 12, 1870)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 18 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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