Robert King Carter's Correspondence and Diary

   A Collection Transcribed
        and Digitized
   by Edmund Berkeley, Jr.

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Electronic Text Center , University of Virginia Library


Letter from Robert Carter to Lewis Burwell, August 12, 1731

     Robert Carter writes to his grandson Lewis Burwell, a student at Cambridge, August 12, 1731, to chide him for having someone else draft his last letter, and to point out that if Burwell remains at the university for another two years, he will spend nearly all of his inheritance from his father.

Letter from Robert Carter to Lewis Burwell, August 12, 1731

-1 -

Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

Augst. 12. 1731

Mr. Lewis Burwell

     I receiv'd your letter of the 25th of January from Cains
by the difference in the Style [illegible]
from all the rest of the Epistles I have had from you I lookt upon
it as the [illegible] effects of anothers invention and not the product
of your own brain and therefore Shall not run into the particulars
of such a Conceited ps of Stuff, it tells me you are under close applyca=
tion after the Serch of knowledge I pray god send amongst your
great gettings you promise yourself where you are that you may get
Wisdom and such that will be your guide in a Virginia Life
which must be your doom if you do not Fall into Courses that will
threaten your ruin in the end As for Scholarship your head seems
not to be turn'd to make any large improvements that Way what
good the conversation of the University will do you I shall not
prognosticate but I think I may fairly suppose you will come
into your own country very indifferently equ'pt with talents
proper to govern your affairs here.

     You have broke [n] thro' my orders and 'tis in vain for
me to lay any more upon you Mr. Perry tells me that you intend in the
next Shipping you talk of staying two years where you are which
will reduce to A low Ebb the money that you will have to Claim out
of your fathers Estate and you will be put to the refuge of living upon
the produce of Yr. crops which you may be informd by Mr. Perry
will do very little in these dead times If you are Capable of serious
thoughts the consideration of this melancholly cloud over us will
stick close to you and put you upon thinking that money does not
grow out of the tops of Our trees

-2 -

     Your mother is Now here with your Sister Betty
and a son by her last husband she writes to you her Self Your uncle
& Aunt Mary send their loves to you. I am tho disoblig'd

              Yr. Loving Grand father


Source copy consulted: Letter book, 1731 July 9-1732 July 13 , Robert Carter Papers (acc. no. 3807), Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. There is a 19th-century transcript of the letter in the Minor-Blackford Papers, James Monroe Law Office and Museum, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Robert Carter generally used a return address of "Rappahannock" for the river on which he lived rather than "Corotoman," the name of his home, on his correspondence, especially to persons abroad. The county and colony have been added for clarity.

[1] Lewis Burwell (1711 or 1712-1756), Carter's grandson by Elizabeth Carter Burwell and her first husband, Nathaniel Burwell (1680-1721); Carter was his guardian. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge, and inherited considerable property, living at "Fairfield," Gloucester County. He would be president of the Council in 1750-1751. (Kneebone et al. , Dictionary of Virginia Biography. 2:434-5. and Carleton. A Genealogy. . . of Robert Carter. . . . p. 114. )

[2] Burwell was attending Gonville and Caius College, one of the oldest of the several that make up the University of Cambridge. (John and J.A. Venn. Alumni Cantabrigienses from the Earliest Times to 1900. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922-54]. 10 volumes, cited in an email to the editor from Jaqueline Cox, archivist, University of Cambridge, 5/10/06.)

[3] Elizabeth Burwell (1718-?) was Carter's grandaughter by his daughter, Elizabeth, and her first husband, Nathaniel Burwell. She married in 1738 William Nelson of Yorktown. (Carleton. A Genealogy . . . of Robert Carter. . . . p. 143. )

[4] Landon Carter (1710-1778) was Carter's seventh child by his second wife, Elizabeth (Landon) Willis. Landon would live at "Sabine Hall," Richmond County, and marry three times, leaving many descendants, some of whom own "Sabine Hall" today. As an adult, he would keep a very interesting and useful diary. A reproduction of a portrait of him may be found on the website of the Foundation of Historic Christ Church. (Greene. The Diary of Colonel Landon Carter. . . . )

This text, originally posted in 2006, was revised February 23, 2016, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.