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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


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Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0211

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1780-02-12

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

On Wednesday, the 9th. of this Month, We all arrived in tolerable Health at the Hotel De Valois, in Paris where We now are.1 On Thursday the 10th We waited on Dr. F[ranklin] and dined with him at Passy. On Fryday the 11, the Dr. accompanied Us to Versailles, where We waited on Mr. De Vergennes, Mr. De Sartine and Comte Maurepas, from all of whom We had a polite Reception.2 To day We stay at home.
I put my three Children to Mr. Pichini's Accademy the next day after my Arrival, where they are all well pleased.3
We had a tedious Journey by Land, from Ferrol in Spain, of not much short of four hundred Leagues. My dear Charles bears travelling { 272 } by Land and Sea as well as his Brother. He is much beloved wherever he goes.
Since my Arrival here I had the Joy to find a Letter from you which came by your Unkles ship to Cadiz.4 It gives me more Pain than I can express to see your Anxiety, but I hope your fears will be happily disappointed.
I wrote you, from Cape Anne, from the Banks of Newfoundland, from Corrunna and from Bilbao, from whence I ordered you some Things by a Vessell to Mr. Corbet [Cabot] of Beverly, and another to Mr. Tracy of Newbury Port. These are a few necessaries for the Family. I will send Mr. W. and Mr. S. Things and my Brothers and Dr. T.s and his Sons, by the first Safe Conveyance that I can hear of.5

[salute] Yours, Yours, Yours, ever, ever, ever yours.

1. The Adams party had remained in Bilbao until 20 Jan., when they left and proceeded to Bayonne in France, arriving on the 23d. From there JA addressed a letter of thanks to the Messrs. Gardoqui, remarking on the improved roads and tavern accommodations in Biscay and Guipuzcoa and adding that “We discovered two or three fine Chimneys besides that which you mentioned to Us, which contributed not a little to our Health and Comfort” (24 Jan., LbC , Adams Papers). At Bayonne, JA later recalled, “We paid off our Spanish Guide with all his Train of Horses, Calashes, Waggon, Mules, and Servants,” and “purchased a Post Chaise and hired some others” for the journey to Paris ( Diary and Autobiography , 4:238). They were on the road from Bayonne to Bordeaux from 25 to 29 Jan., paused at the latter until 2 Feb., and spent a week on frozen roads before arriving in Paris on the afternoon of the 9th (same, 2:433–434; 4:239–241). They followed the same route that JA and JQA had traveled in the preceding April, namely through Coué, Angoulême, Poitiers, Châtellerault, Tours, Orléans, and Toury. Much the most detailed record of this last part of the long journey that had begun in December is in Francis Dana's Journal, or what he called his “Memo, made While in Spain” (MHi:Dana Papers). JA 's Accounts as printed in his Diary and Autobiography , 2:435 ff., furnish glimpses of his personal and domestic activity during his early weeks in Paris.
2. Jean Frédéric Phélypeaux, Comte de Maurepas (1701–1781), French minister of state, is elsewhere described by JA as “the Prime Minister or the Kings Mentor,” which appears to be something of an overestimation of his powers and role (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 4:48; see Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ). Antoine Raymond Jean Gualbert Gabriel de Sartine, Comte d'Alby (1729–1801), was currently minister of marine (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:295 and passim; Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ).
On this day JA addressed a letter to Vergennes, as suggested by Vergennes during their meeting at Versailles, asking whether JA should assume “any Public Character” or whether he should remain for the present “upon the Reserve.” This letter and Vergennes' reply of 15 Feb., which JA found irritating and humiliating, are given in full in JA's Diary and Autobiography , 4:243–245.
3. The “three Children” were of course JQA , CA , and Samuel Cooper Johonnot. Pechigny and his wife conducted a pension academy in Passy favored by Americans who had children in France. It was sometimes called the Pension or Ecole de Mathématiques. Apparently JQA had attended this school at least briefly during his first stay in Europe. { 273 } See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:434, 439–440, 442; Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 5:55, 75, 88, 507; several letters under date of 16 and 17 March, below; and JA to Pechigny, 16 May, also below.
4. AA to JA , 10 Dec. 1779, above.
5. The initials in this sentence stand for Rev. Anthony Wibird, the Adamses' minister at Braintree; Rev. Daniel Shute, minister at Hingham; and Dr. Cotton Tufts, AA 's uncle. On 22 Feb. JA wrote to James Moylan at Lorient:
“As the Alliance is bound to America, and probably will go to Boston, I wish to avail myself of the opportunity to send a few Necessaries to my Family, and a black Coat or two to a few Parsons in my Neighbourhood, whose Salaries are so reduced by the Depreciation of our Paper Currency that they cannot afford to buy a black Coat nor a Band at home. . . . I should be glad if you could distinguish the Parcels—for Mr. Wibirt—for Mr. Shute—and for Mr. P. B. Adams, for Mr. Cranch and for me. Let each be separated from the other but all packed up in one Chest or Box, and I suppose a very small one will contain the whole” ( LbC , Adams Papers; see also Moylan's reply, 28 Feb., Adams Papers).

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0212

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Lovell, James
Date: 1780-02-13

Abigail Adams to James Lovell

With fingers so soar that I can scarcly guide a pen tho it cost me ever so much pain I must I will call you—wicked Man. I told you that I had discoverd in your character, a similitude to that of Sterns and Yorick, but I never was before tempted to add that of Shandy.
From your own Authority I quote him as a wicked creature—What demon prompted you to carry the character through.
I have read Sterns Sermons and Yoricks Sentimental journey [and] his Letters to Eliza, but I never read Shandy and I never will.1 I know it would lessen my opinion of him, I know it would sink him in my Esteem. It is not in humane Nature, to regard those we dispise.
What I have read are the purest of his works, even in these there are exceptionable passages, but so intermixed with a rich Stream of Benevolence flowing like milk and Honey, that in an insensible heart, he creates the sensations he discribes—in a feeling one, he softens, he melts, he moulds it into all his own.
Possessd of an exquisite Sensibility, a universal phylanthropy, what a perverse Genius must he have to hazard those fine powers and talents for a wicked wit, that admits of no defence, and almost calls in Question the stability of his understanding. Shandy should have considerd that true wit

“Was not a tale, was not a jest

Admir'd with Laughter at a feast

Much less could that have any place

At which a Virgin hides her face.”

{ 274 }
What a figure would some passages of a Letter Dated Janry. 6th and an other of Janry. 13th have made in a publick Newspaper? For a Senator too? Did they not run the hazard of a 300 miles travel? I trembled with the Idea when I read them.—For Decencys sake Sir, return to the Humanizer, the polisher and the Softner of Man. I have charity Enough for the Writer to believe that his associates have been wholy of his own sex for 3 years past, or he could not have so offended.—

“Tis just—the Author Blush there,

Where the reader must.'”

By this post I return a duplicate journal or two. Your Letter in which you mention a probability of your going abroad did not reach me till after the matter was published in the publick News papers to my no small surprize.2
This day 3 months I was misirable indeed. Some mitigation I received in about ten days afterwards by a Letter wrote at sea from my Friend near the Banks of Newfoundland, which they reached in 5 days after they saild from this harbour, which gives me pleasing hopes that he had a short and safe passage. He has indeed excaped a view of the sublimest winter I ever knew. Since the Storms we have had 30 days without either snow, rain or the least thaw. But Sol is returning to us with his all enlivening influence and will I hope soon make a passage by conquering Boreas for the arrival of happy tidings to your Friend.
If I ever wrote well it would be worth while to excuse the present Scrawl by saying that my fingers are coverd with Whitlows.3 I would however advise you to distroy it when read that it may never appear in judgment against you. I assure you yours shall pass the ordeal as an atonement to
[signed] Portia
LbC (Adams Papers); without indication of addressee, but internal evidence makes clear that AA is answering Lovell's letters of 6 and 13 Jan., above. Enclosed journals not identified.
1. The works by Laurence Sterne mentioned by AA are The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 1760–1767; The Sermons of Mr. Yorick, 1760–1769; A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. By Mr. Yorick, 1768; and the posthumous Letters from Yorick to Eliza, 1775.
2. Lovell's letter in question was dated 22 Dec. 1779 (Adams Papers). On that day he was nominated in Congress as secretary to Franklin's mission in Paris ( JCC , 15:1391), but he did not go. No newspaper mention of the nomination has been found.
3. Whitlow: “A suppurative inflammatory sore or swelling in a finger or thumb, usually in the terminal joint” ( OED ).