Dolley Madison's beloved niece writes that the former first lady's "death - like her life, it was calm & beautiful."[Dolley Madison] Mary [Cutts] Autograph Letter Signed Regarding the Death of Dolley Madison. Three and one-half pages, 8.25" x 10.5", August 29, 1849, Washington, to "My dear Annie", reporting on the final days, death, and burial of "my beloved Aunt." This letter is on blue paper, with fold, and signed "Mary". Fine.
This letter, written over a month after Mrs. Madison's death on July 12, reads in part as written: "I was very glad to receive your last 'tho it came at a very unfortunate time - a week after the departure of my beloved Aunt to a better world! - You have doubtly seen accounts of her death - like her life, it was calm & beautiful - she sank into a quiet sleep Sunday afternoon while I was by her and as it was the hour she usually sleeps in the hot summer days - nothing was thought of it - until it was prolonged until the next morning when she woke - smiling sweetly on those round her when she was too feeble to speak, putting her arms around the necks of those she loved - she lingered until Thursday with occasional waking up - and all her thoughts were holy - she muttered prayers and gently clasped her hands. . . . Her remains were deposited in a metallic coffin cemented so closly that decomposition was prevented, - and kept 5 days - at first, we allowed no one to see her, but afterwards as she looked so beautiful, we thought it best to have her removed to the drawing room. . . . On Monday Morning it was removed to St. John's Church . . . the pallbearers were the highest in the land - but as the coffin was very heavy Genl. [Archibald] Henderson, (who was one,) brought from the navy yard 10 marines dressed in white - who conveyed it from the hearse to the vault at the Congressional burying ground. - where it was deposited previous to its being taken to Montpelier - where Uncle Madison is laid."
The letter's recipient, known only as "Annie", was from Germany (". . . Germany, do you ever intend returning to that your native world?"). Annie Payne, Mrs. Madison's closest niece, is mentioned later in the letter: "Annie Payne has been quite sick since with the return of her old complaint. . . . [She] has gone to a friend of hers in the country." Ms. Cutts ends the letter with news of Washington society ("the new people [President Zachary Taylor's administration] are most uninteresting") and the new presidential family ("Genl. Taylor is taking his popularity tour to the Eastern Northern states - so ill he has to be lifted from one car to the other - I much fear he will not live to get home -Mrs. Taylor is a very nice motherly woman - plain as a pipestove - her daughters, both married & uninteresting").
Mary Cutts was a favorite niece of Dolley Madison who assigned her two nieces, Ms. Cutts and Annie Payne, the task of burning several of her letters after her death, which they did. Prior to her own death seven years later, Ms. Cutts used Mrs. Madison's remaining letters to write two biographies of the first lady.
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