Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 8 May 1785 AA Cranch, Mary Smith Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 8 May 1785 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
My Dear Sister Auteuil May 8th ante 5 17851

Can my dear sister realize that tis near eleven Months since I left her. To me it seems incredible, more like a dream than a reality. Yet it ought to appear the longest ten Months of my Life if I was to measure the time by the variety of objects which have occupied my attention. But amidst them all my Heart returns like the Dove of Noah2 and rest only in my native land. I never thought myself so selfish a being as since I have become a traveller, for altho I see Nature arround me in a much higher State of cultivation than our own Country can boast, and elegance of taste and manners in a thousand forms, I cannot feel intrested in them. It is in vain for me, that here

“Kind Nature wakes her genial power Suckles each herb, & nurtures every flower”

Tis true the garden yeilds a rich profusision, but they are neither plants of my hand, or children of my care. I have bought a little Bird lately, and I realy think I feel more attached to that, than to any object out of my own family animate, or inanimate. Yet I do not consider myself in the predicament of a poor fellow who not having a house, in which to put his Head, took up his abode in the stable of a Gentleman; but tho so very poor he kept a Dog, with whom he daily divided the small portion of food which he earnd. Upon being ask'd 119why when he found it so difficult to live himself, he still kept a Dog, What Says the poor fellow part with my Dog! Why who should I have to Love me then? You can never feel the force of this replie unless you were to go into a foreign Country without being able to Speak the language of it. I could not have believed if I had not experienced it, how strong the Love of Country is in the humane mind. Strangers from all parts of America who visit us, feel more nearly allied than the most intimate acquaintance I have in Europe. Before this will reach you, you will have learnt our destination to England. Whether it will prove a more agreeable situation than the present, will depend much upon the state of politicks. We must first go to Holland to arrange our affairs there and to take leave of that Court.3 I shall wish to be moveing as soon as my family lessens, it will be so lonesome. We have as much company in a formal way as our Revenues will admit, and Mr. Jefferson with one or two Americans visits us in the Social friendly way. I shall realy regreet to leave Mr. Jefferson, he is one of the choice ones of the Earth. On Thursday I dine with him at his house, on Sunday he is to dine here, on Monday, we all dine with the Marquis, and on Thursday we dine with the Sweedish Ambassador, one of the most agreeable Men and the politest Gentleman I have met with, he lives like a prince.4 I know you Love to know all my movements which make me so particular to you.

I wrote to you by the last pacquet which sailed for New York5 in which letter I requested you to take upon you the care of Charles, after he shall have enterd Colledge, and let him make your House his Home in vacancies &c. Will you also give your Elder Nephew that leave too? At the same time we mean to pay their Board, and every other expence which they may occasion to you. I know however there are many for which you will not be pay'd only by the pleasure you take in doing good, and in sisterly kindness and affection. I hope Charles will be placed with a good Chamber mate, as much depends upon that. I do not desire that you should attend to having their washing done in your family, only be so good as to see that they have a good place at Cambridge for it, provided they should both be in colledge at the same time, which I scarcly expect will take place this year.6

I have many affairs upon me at present, what with my sons going away, my own adjustments for a final leave of this Country, many things must pass through my hands. But I am the less anxious to write as your Nephew will tell you all about us. You will think I ought to have written you more now, but I am almost sick of my pen, and 120I know you will see what I write to others. I will not however close untill the day before he quits this House.

May 10th.

Tomorrow morning, My son takes his departure for America, and we go next week to England. I have nothing further to add than my Regards to Mr. Cranch and a desire that you would let me hear from you by every opportunity. I shall lose part and the greatest part of American intelligence by quitting France, for no person is so well informd from all the states as the Marquis de la Fayette. He has Established a correspondence in all the states and has the News Papers from every quarter.

Adieu my dear sister and be assured I am most affectionately yours,

A Adams

My Regards to Madam Quincy and daughter to Mr. Wibird to Mr. Alleynes family, and my duty to unkle Quincy.7

RC (MWA: Abigail Adams Corr.); addressed by JQA: “Mrs. Mary Cranch. Braintree Massachusetts.”


The “8th” was added later (see notes 3 and 4). “No. 8” was written above the dateline, in a different hand.


Genesis 8:8–12.


On 2 May, when JA received his commission to the British court, he also learned that Congress had resolved to appoint a seperate minister to The Hague, but had yet to make the appointment or to recall him. For several days JA considered traveling first to The Hague to take formal leave of the Dutch court before going to England, but on 7 May he decided to go to London at once, and not to visit The Hague until he was formally recalled from that court. See JA to the secretary for foreign affairs (John Jay), 4 and 7 May (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 389–392, 397–400; Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, 1:485–487, 489–490); and JA to C. W. F. Dumas, 11 May (LbC, Adams Papers; JA, Works , 8:246–248). AA's statement here that the Adamses would first go to Holland suggests that this letter was begun on or before 7 May, and perhaps as early as 4 May (see note 4).


If AA began this letter as early as 4 May, the first two engagements would have been on Thursday, 5 May, and Sunday, 8 May (see JQA, Diary , 1:262, 264). The third, dinner at the Lafayette's, occurred on Monday, 9 May (same, 1:264). The last engagement, dinner with the Swedish ambassador, the Baron de Staël Holstein, was certainly that which occurred on Wednesday, 11 May, attended by JA, AA, and AA2 (AA to Elizabeth Cranch, 12 May, below; JQA, Diary , 1:265; AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 1:71–72).


AA to Mary Cranch, 15 April, above.


This paragraph is omitted from AA, Letters, ed. CFA.


This sentence is omitted from AA, Letters, ed. CFA.

Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch, 5 May 1785 AA Cranch, Lucy Greenleaf, Lucy Cranch Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch, 5 May 1785 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Lucy Greenleaf, Lucy Cranch
Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch
May 7 5 18785 Auteuil1

I presume my dear Lucy would be dissapointed if her cousin does not deliver her a line from her Aunt. Yet it is hardly fair to take up 121an exhausted pen to address a young Lady whose eager serch after knowledge entitles her to every communication in my power.

I was in hopes to have visited several curiosities before your cousin left us; that I might have been able to have related them to my friends; but several engagements in the company way, and some preparation for his voyage; together with the necessary arrangements for our own journey; have so fully occupied me that I fear I shall fail in my intentions. We are to dine to day with Mr. Jefferson. Should any thing occur there worthy of notice it shall be the subject of my Evening pen.

Well my dear Neice I have returnd from Mr. Jeffersons;2 when I got there I found a pretty large company: it consisted of the Marquis and Madam de la Fayette, the Count and Countess Douradou,3 a French Count who had been a General in America, but whose name I forget; Commodore Jones, Mr. Jarvis4 an American Gentleman lately arrived, the same who married Amelia Broom, who says there is so strong a likeness between your cousin, and his Lady that he is obliged to be upon his gaurd least he should think himself at Home and make some mistake. He appears a very sensible agreeable Gentleman. A Mr. Bowdoin,5 an American also. I ask the Chevalier de Luzerns pardon I like to have forgot him. Mr. Williamos of course as he always dines with Mr. Jefferson, and Mr. Short, the one of Mr. Jeffersons family. As he has been absent some time I name him; he took a resolution that he would go into a French family at St. Germains and acquire the language, and this is the only way for a foreigner to obtain it. I have often wisht that I could not hear a word of English spoken. I think I have mentiond Mr. Short before in some of my Letters. He is about the statue of Mr. Tudor a better figure, but much like him in looks and manners. Concequently a favorite of mine. They have some customs very curious here. When company are invited to dine, if 20 Gentlemen meet, they seldom or ever set down, but are standing or walking from one part of the room to the other, with their Swords on and their Chapeau de Bras, which is a very small silk hat, always worn under the Arm. These they lay asside whilst they dine, but reassume them immediately after. I wonder how this fashion of standing crept in, amongst a Nation who realy deserve the appellation of polite; for in winter it shuts out all the fire from the Ladies. I know I have sufferd from it many times. At dinner the Ladies and Gentleman are mixed, and you converse with him, who sets next you, rarely speaking to a person across the table; unless to ask, if they will be served with any thing from your side; conversation is never general 122as with us; for when the company quit the table, they fall into tete a tetes of two, and two, when the conversation is in a low voice and a stranger unacquainted with the customs of the Country, would think that every body had private buisness to transact.

6 or 7 May

Last Evening6 as we returnd, the Weather being very soft, and pleasent, I proposed to your uncle to stop at the Tuiliries and walk the Garden: which we did for an hour: there was as usual a collection of four or 5 thousand persons in the Walks. This Garden is the most celebrated publick walk in Paris. It is situated just opposite to the River Seine, upon the left hand as you enter Paris from Auteuil. Suppose that upon Boston Neck one side flows the River Seine and on the other hand the Garden of the Tuiliries. There is a high Wall next the street, upon which there is a terace which is used as a winter walk. This Garden has six large Gates by which you may enter. It is adornd with noble rows of Trees straight, large, and tall, which form a most beautifull shade. The populace are not permitted to walk in this Garden, but upon the day of Saint Louis; when they have it all to themselves. Upon one side of this Garden is the Castle de Tuiliries, which is an immence pile of Building, very ancient. It is in one of these Chateaus that the concert spiritual7 is held. Upon the terrace which borders this Chateau, are six Statues and 2 vases. These vases are large circular spots of water, which are conveyed there from the Seine by leaden pipes under ground. Round the great vase which is in the midst of the parterre are four Groups of white Marble; one represents Lucretia, the story I know is familiar to you. The Parissians do well to erect a statue to her, for at this day there are many more Tarquins than Lucretias. She is represented as plunging the dagger into her Bosom in presence of her Husband. There is an other statue Anchises saved from the flames of Troy, by his son Aeneas who is carrying him out upon his shoulders, leading Ascanius his son by his hand. The 3d. is the Rape of Oryth'a Oreithyia the daughter of Erectheus king of Athens by Boreas, and the fourth the ravishment of Cybele by Saturn. The two last very pretty ornaments for a publick Garden. At the end of the Great Alley fronting the largest water peice, which is in the form of an octogone, are eight more marble statues. Upon the right is Hannible counting the rings which were taken from the Chevaliers who were kill'd in the battle of Cannes Cannae. Two Seasons Spring and Winter are upon the left hand, and a very beautifull figure of Scipio Africanus, near which are the two other 123Seasons, Summer and Autumn, and a statue of the Empress Agripina. Over against these are four Rivers Collossus represented sleeping, viz. the Seine, the Loire, the Tiber and the Nile. At the end of the two terraces are two figures in Marble mounted upon winged Horses. One is Mercury and the other Fame, who as usual is blowing a Trumpet. In very hot weather the Alleys are waterd. Under the Trees are Seats and chairs which you may hire to set in for a Sou, or two. There are many plots of Grass intersperced.

Thus you see I have scribled you a long Letter. I hope my description will please you. This is my Eleventh Letter and I have yet several others to write. So adieu my dear Lucy and believe me most affectionately Yours

Abigail Adams

PS. I have sent by your cousin a peice of silk for your sister and you a Gown of which I ask your acceptance. There are 17 yard/2. I would have had a yard half more if I could, but it was all: being 3 quarters wide I believe it will answer.8

RC (Adams Papers Editorial Files)


For the assigned dates of the sections of the text, see notes 2 and 6.


JQA places this dinner, with the guests named here, on 5 May ( Diary , 1:262).


Comte de Doradour had recently lost much of his fortune in a lawsuit, and was planning to settle with his family in Virginia where, he thought, his modest means would be less of a burden than in polite French society. The count planned to sail with JQA in the May packet, but at the last minute he delayed his departure for a month, much to JQA's annoyance. Doradour was soon disappointed with Virginia, and returned to France in 1786 (JQA, Diary , 1:249, 262, 265–266; and see Jefferson, Papers ).


James Jarvis of New York, who had married the daughter of the New York merchant Samuel Broome (JQA, Diary , 1:254, note 2, 307).


This was John Bowdoin of Virginia, a member of the House of Burgesses in 1774 (Jefferson, Papers , 1:108).


This “Evening” was either immediately following the dinner at Jefferson's on 5 May, or on 6 May when AA and AA2, at least, were in Paris quite late in the day (JQA, Diary , 1:262–263).


The concerts spirituels, begun in 1725 and held on Sundays and holidays, were originally devoted to sacred music, but the programs soon became thoroughly secular and included both vocal and instrumental compositions. Italian composers were especially favored, but certain French pieces and Haydn symphonies were also popular. Beginning in 1784 the concerts were held in the Salle des Machines, in the northern wing of the Tuileries. AA and AA2 attended one such concert on 2 or 3 April. See Rice, Jefferson's Paris , p. 30; AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 1:68; JQA, Diary , 1:244; and Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel .


The postscript is omitted from AA, Letters, ed. CFA.