A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close
-
The Adams Papers Digital Edition is undergoing active maintenance while we work on improvements to the system. You may experience slow performance or the inability to access content. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will endeavor to return to full capabilities as soon as possible.

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0289

Author: Thaxter, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1780-08-21

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams

[salute] Madam

I have the pleasure of informing You, that Mr. Dana this day recieved a letter from Mr. A[dams] of the 17th. of this Month,1 who was well with his two Sons at Amsterdam. He thinks the Air of the Low Countries not so salubrious as that of France. They have too many Canals and too much stagnant Water there to make it the most healthy Spot in the World: The Air and Climate of this Country are exceedingly good. The farmers have blessed the Summer, for the Summer has blessed them in suffering 'em to enjoy the fruit of their labours. The Season has been most excellent indeed they say. I can answer for the Weather in the City that it has been in general very fine. The public walks of Course have been good. How happy should I be to traverse them with my young female Acquaintance on the other side the Atlantic, but this cannot be. My Acquaintance with young Ladies here is very contracted. The Customs of this Country are very different from ours—it is best they should be so. It is not the hardest task in Creation to form female Acquaintances here, but it is necessary previously to determine, whether they will not be such as { 398 } will lead one into that path, which is neither that of Wisdom or Riches, of Peace or of Pleasantness. I will not however undertake to form comparisons between the virtues or vices, the good or ill manners and Customs of one Country with another, or to run parallels—sufficient is it for a Resident to make the proper discriminations and to play the Roman in matters of indifference.
Tomorrow morning I have an Invitation to go and see a Nun take the Veil. I am told the Ceremony is singular. My Curiosity will lead me there to see it and I am persuaded my Inclination will induce me upon my return to give You an Account of it, for which purpose I leave the letter unfinished to night.
I have this moment returned from the Monastere des filles de Dieu, the Cloister of the Nuns where the Ceremony was performed. The Ceremony is as follows. The Lady who took the Veil was elegantly dressed and conducted forward to a grated Partition, which seperates the Nuns place of worship from the Chapel, by two of the Sisterhood, and seated in a Chair. When Mass begun, She left the Chair and kneeled—directly before her was standing a large Candle to which a Crucifix was affixed. After Mass, a discourse was addressed to her by a priest, in which he spoke perhaps more largely than learnedly upon the Advantages of a Cloister. The discourse being finished, She paid her Reverence to the Crucifix in the Chapel, and her devoirs to all the Sisterhood, and then retired with a Torch and Crucifix to put off her gaudy attire. Upon her return She was clad in Linen, carrying the lighted Candle that stood before her, and conducted by two of the Sisterhood to the Grate. After each of the Sisters had lighted up their Candles, they began to chant. After this two of them bound a piece of white linnen about her head. She then retired to a little Chapel adjoining, where the black Robe was put on and a white Veil. Upon her return the whole Nunnery chanted a te deum—after this She embraced most cheerfully the old and young of the Sisterhood and retired with them. I had forgot to mention that when She appeared clad in white linen She had a Crown or Garland upon her head.
I was invited to this Ceremony by one of the Sisterhood, about one or two [and] twenty years of age, whom I visit now and then. Her Name is Miss Maroni, a young Lady of Irish Extraction, has travelled much and is very sensible—speaks good English by the Way. I love to go to the Grate to chat with her, because She is cheerfull and full of { 399 } innocence tho' not very handsome. She would willingly convert me to the Catholic faith, but my heretical Notions I fear are too firmly established to be eradicated by her Importunities, which are always accompanied with a Sweetness of Expression and the Charms of Innocence. She is an amiable Girl indeed. The young lady, who took the Veil to day, is perhaps about the same Age. In this Nunnery are about four and twenty who have taken the Veil, and eight or ten probationers. The Veil is not taken immediately upon their Entrance. They rest one or two years there to make a Trial of the life. If in that time, they find themselves sufficiently detached from the World, they put on the Veil. If on the contrary, the Life is disagreeable to them, they have liberty to retire, but when they have once taken the Veil, they must continue there, 'till kind death releases them. This is the Regulation I am told. They go to prayers seven times a day—seven times a day I hope my amiable Nun prays for me. What an institution this? A voluntary and perpetual seclusion from the World, if humanity does not forbid, Religion does not require. It is a Species of devotion somewhat misterious to me, but as one is not obliged to “copy their humility,” let him take care not to “disturb their devotion.”
Much Respect and Duty where due. J'aime beaucoup les Mesdemoiselles de ma connoissance et je vous prie, Madame, pour leur dire mille choses que sont agréables de mon part.
I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect, your most obedient and most humble Servt.
1. ||Letter of 17 August, || LbC , Adams Papers; printed in JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot , p. 151–152.

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0290

Author: Thaxter, John
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1780-08-21

John Thaxter to John Quincy Adams

[salute] My dear young Friend

Your favor from Brussells1 was duly recieved, and ought to have been acknowledged before this. By the size of your Packet that came to hand this day, I concluded that it contained a particular description of your Travels, of the Curiosities you had met with &c., but upon opening it I found one line of request, and another (truly laconic) hinting at my neglect in writing. If You had been kind enough to have given me a short sketch of Amsterdam, the tartness of one line in this day's packet would have been much more palatable. However I have not taken it much in dudgeon, because You had a just claim to an answer.
{ 400 }
I have forwarded You a letter2 some days agone from America. It was inclosed with others to your Papa. I wrote your Papa but a day or two ago by Mr. McCreary.3 I hope he will recieve both packets. Possibly they may be at Brussells.
We were very happy to hear of your safe arrival at Amsterdam. You have travelled there at a good time of life, and under the Advantage of an excellent Instructor in your Papa. No doubt you have profited of both. As You are fond of keeping a Journal, be very particular in your description of the capital Towns you pass, of their Curiosities, their manners, Customs, Dress, but more particularly of their Religion and Governments.4 This will be of great Advantage hereafter.—Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci.5 I have only time to request You to present my best Respects to your Papa, and Love to your Brother Charles, and to subscribe myself in great haste your affectionate Friend,
[signed] J. Thaxter Junr.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr. J. Thaxter's letter dated August 21st 1780. Answered september the 3d 1780. No. 25”; docketed in JQA 's later hand. ( JQA 's answer has not been found.)
1. Not found.
2. Not identified.
3. Probably Thaxter's letter to JA of 18 Aug. (Adams Papers).
4. After beginning his diary with his voyage to Spain and continuing it during his journey across northern Spain and into France, Nov. 1779–Jan. 1780, JQA had given it up (so far as we know from the surviving MS ) until 25 July 1780, when, in anticipation of his journey to the Low Countries, he resumed his daily entries and kept them up through the end of September. Boyish as these are, they are so detailed as to be very valuable in tracing the Adamses' movements and stops during their first weeks in the Netherlands.
5. He has carried every point who has mingled the useful with the agreeable (Horace).