Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch, 5 January 1785 AA Cranch, Lucy Greenleaf, Lucy Cranch Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch, 5 January 1785 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Lucy Greenleaf, Lucy Cranch
Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch
My dear Lucy Auteuil, 245January, 17851

I Hope you have before now received my letter, which was ordered on board with Captain Lyde, but put on board another vessel, because it was said she would sail first.2 By that you will see that I did not wait to receive a letter from you first. I thank you for yours of November 6th,3 which reached me last evening; and here I am, seated 51by your cousin J.Q.A.'s fireside, where, by his invitation, I usually write.

And in the first place, my dear Lucy, shall I find a little fault with you? A fault, from which neither your good sister, nor cousin Abby, is free. It is, that all of you so much neglect your handwriting. I know that a sentiment is equally wise and just, written in a good or bad hand; but then there is certainly a more pleasing appearance, when the lines are regular, and the letters distinct and well cut. A sensible woman is so, whether she be handsome or ugly; but who looks not with most pleasure upon the sensible beauty? “Why, my dear aunt,” methinks I hear you say, “only look at your own handwriting.” Acknowledged; I am very sensible of it, and it is from feeling the disadvantages of it myself, that I am the more solicitous that my young acquaintance should excel me, whilst they have leisure, and their fingers are young and flexible. Your cousin, J.Q.A., copied a letter for me the other day, and, upon my word, I thought there was some value in it, from the new appearance it acquired.4

I have written several times largely to your sister, and, as I know you participate with her, I have not been so particular in scribbling to every one of the family; for an imagination must be more inventive than mine, to supply materials with sufficient variety to afford you all entertainment. Through want of a better subject, I will relate to you a custom of this country. You must know that the religion of this country requires abundance of feasting and fasting, and each person has his particular saint, as well as each calling and occupation. To-morrow is to be celebrated, le jour des rois. The day before this feast it is customary to make a large paste pie, into which one bean is put. Each person at table cuts his slice, and the one who is so lucky as to obtain the bean, is dubbed king or queen. Accordingly, to-day, when I went in to dinner, I found one upon our table. Your cousin Abby began by taking the first slice; but alas! poor girl, no bean, and no queen. In the next place, your cousin John seconded her by taking a larger cut, and as cautious as cousin T——5 when he inspects merchandise, bisected his paste with mathematical circumspection; but to him it pertained not. By this time, I was ready for my part; but first I declared that I had no cravings for royalty. I accordingly separated my piece with much firmness, nowise disappointed that it fell not to me. Your uncle, who was all this time picking his chicken bone, saw us divert ourselves without saying any thing; but presently he seized the remaining half, and to crumbs went the poor paste, cut 52here and slash there; when, behold the bean! “And thus,” said he, “are kingdoms obtained;” but the servant, who stood by and saw the havoc, declared solemnly that he could not retain the title, as the laws decreed it to chance, and not to force.

How is General Warren's family? Well, I hope, or I should have heard of it. I am sorry Mrs. Warren is so scrupulous about writing to me. I forwarded a long letter to her some time since. Where is Miss Nancy Quincy? Well, I hope. We often laugh at your cousin John about her. He says her stature would be a great recommendation to him, as he is determined never to marry a tall woman, lest her height should give her a superiority over him.6 He is generally thought older than your cousin Abby; and partly, I believe, because his company is with those much older than himself.

As to the Germantown family, my soul is grieved for them. Many are the afflictions of the righteous.7 Would to Heaven that the clouds would disperse, and give them a brighter day. My best respects to them. Let Mrs. Field know, that Esther is quite recovered, and as gay as a lark. She went to Paris the other day with Pauline, to see a play, which is called “Figaro.”8 It is a piece much celebrated, and has had sixty-eight representations; and every thing was so new to her, that Pauline says, “Est is crazed.”

Affectionately yours, A.A.

MS not found. Printed from (AA, Letters, ed., CFA, 1840, p. 275–278.)


The supplied date is derived from AA's statement, below, that “to-morrow is to be celebrated, le jour des rois” or ephiphany, the 6th of January. The current location of the recipient's copy, which was privately owned earlier in this century, is unknown. The dateline probably read “Jany 4,” with a superscript “y” that was misread as a “2.” The “4,” which is validated in several auction catalogues (Adams Papers Editorial Files), is probably AA's error. It may, however, be the correct date, because the arrival of the letters from America and AA2's and JQA's evening at the theater may have occurred on 3 Jan. (see AA to Mary Cranch, 7 Jan., below; JQA, Diary, 1:214, note 1, to the first entry for 4 Jan.; AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 1:39–40).


The letter is that of 5 Sept. 1784, above.


Not found.


This may be AA to Mercy Warren, 5 Sept. 1784, above, completed only on 12 Dec.; this is the only extant AA letter of the period in JQA's hand.


Probably JA's cousin, the merchant Thomas Boylston.


Ann (Nancy) Quincy was nearly four years JQA's senior. When she married the Rev. Asa Packard of Marlborough, Mass., in 1790, JQA wrote to AA: “thus you will perceive your darling project for the advancement of your Son blasted even before the bud. Indeed Madam I hope you will not think the worse of your Son, if he assures you that he never will be indebted to his wife for his property” (14 Aug. 1790, Adams Papers). AA replied on 20 Aug.: “I approve your spirit, I should be ashamed to own him for a son who could be so devoted to avarice as to marry a woman for her fortune. . . . I always loved Nancy Quincy from a native good humour and honesty of heart which she appeared to possess, but I never was in earnest in ralying railying you about it” (Adams Papers).


Psalms 34:19.


Beaumarchais' Le mariage de Figaro received its first public performance at the Théâtre Français in April 1784, after strong royal opposition to its production. JQA, and 53probably other Adamses, had seen it on 3 September. The play's potentially revolutionary theme, centering on the triumph of clever and virtuous servants over their slow-witted and venal aristocratic masters, made it an instant sensation in Paris, and soon thereafter throughout much of Europe, especially after Mozart and Da Ponte transformed it into an Italian opera buffa in 1786. See Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ; JQA, Diary , 1:210, 233–234.

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 7 January 1785 AA Cranch, Mary Smith Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 7 January 1785 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
No. 5. My Dear Sister Auteuil Janry 7 1785

Your kind Letter of November 6, I received the 4 of Jan'ry. I hope you have received my September Letters which were so unfortunate as to be put on Board a vessel which Mr. Tracy thought would convey them sooner than Lyde, but which I find had not reach'd you when you wrote me; by Mr. Jackson who left Paris in December I wrote 12 Letters1 which were to be put on Board Captain Young, one of the packets addresst to Mr. Cranch, in which was a peice of sattin for you; and Some Money which I requested you to dispose of, I desired Captain Young by a card, which I wrote to him; to put that into his trunk and to deliver it himself: which I hope he has done. Mr. John Appleton has ben here for 3 weeks, and I expect him with other Company to dine with us to day: he will go on twesday to London2 and I am very desirious of getting my letters ready to send by him.

I wrote you so lately that I have nothing material to entertain you with: even the common topick of conversation, the Weather, were I to discribe it as I find it, would rather Serve to make you gloomy than Cheerful, yet the present Beautifull Sunshine which invigorates my Heart, almost tempts me to pass over, the last ten days of fog and clouds and rain, and the ten which will probabily succeed according to the custom of the present Winter, this one Days clear Sky. I think I had rather feel our severe frosts, and see our hills and Feilds glittering and sparkling with Snow; in the clear Sun beams; and the delightfull azure which paints our Sky; than this more temperate climate; which has so much more Shade than light. The parisians have certainly a better excuse for continually seeking amusements; than our Country will be ever able to produce. The suicide which is so frequent in London I have heard attributed to the everlasting fogs of that Island. There is no object in nature so exhilarating to the Spirits, or so invigorating to the animal as well as the Natural World, as that Glorious Luminary which was worshiped by the Heathens as 54a deity, and is truly one of the most magnificent productions of the Great architect.

I am sorry to find that there is such a prodigious Dearth of Clerical Genius in our Country as to tempt, one church to rob an other. I have no personal acquaintance with the Gentleman who is called to set in the seat of the late Dr. Cooper, to supply his place will be no easy matter. There are some stars which shine best in their own Hemisphere, and I rather think from the Character I have heard of that Gentleman, that his wisest course would be to imitate those stars which are fixed.3 The Church over which our dear parent so happily presided, have my good wishes for their prosperity, and I feel an affection towards them, not for having my birth amongst them but because they are the Sheep of a Shepherd who was every way dear to me.

With those Letters which went by Captain Young was one to Mr. Cranch; from the Dutch Merchants; which they enclosed to Mr. Adams with bitter complaints; that they had not received any letters from Mr. Cranch for a long time: they had received remittances; but they know not the state of their affairs: what goods remained unsold, nor what best suited the American Market. Mr. Cranch will look into these matters and satisfy them; as soon as possible.4 There is such a crumbling to pieces of the merchants every where, that I suppose they feel allarmed. Unless the price of goods rise with you, they that have the least to do with trade are the best off. I should think myself very well off to purchase goods here as I could in America. Every article which goes into Paris pays a heavy Duty. From thence I am obliged to supply myself. In the Seaports and the manufacturing towns I suppose they are more reasonable. The few articles I left at home, I am very glad I did not part with.

Mr. Adams desires to be rememberd both, to Mr. Cranch and the rest of the family. Continue to write to me by every opportunity, and believe me most tenderly and affectionately Your Sister

Abigail Adams

RC (MWA: Abigail Adams Corr.); addressed in JQA's hand: “Mrs. Mary Cranch Braintree near Boston Massachusetts.”


Six Adams letters carried by Jonathan Jackson to London, dated from 3 to 14 Dec., appear above; three were by AA. All other extant Adams letters of December sent from France were by JA, except JQA to Charles Storer, 16 Dec. (Adams Papers).


John Appleton did not leave Paris on Tuesday, 11 Jan., but on 19 Jan. (JQA, Diary , 1:216), giving AA until that date to complete her letters to America.


On Rev. Peter Thacher, see Mary Cranch to AA, 6 Nov. 1784, note 5, above.


JA's letter to Cranch of 13 Dec., which forwarded the van Heukeloms' letter has not 55been found; but see Messrs. van Heukelom to JA, 27 Oct. (Adams Papers), JA's reply of 11 Dec. (LbC, Adams Papers), Richard Cranch to JA, 3 June 1785, below, and Mary Cranch to AA, 19 July, note 14, also below.