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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0017

Author: Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Recipient: Cranch, Elizabeth
Recipient: Norton, Elizabeth Cranch
Date: 1782-11-09

Abigail Adams 2d to Elizabeth Cranch

A constant succession of company, is all I have to offer in vindication of my appearant inattention, to my Eliza. Not a moment have I been able to devote, to writing since your absense till these few days past. I have sometime lamented, but solely upon self interested motives, that it has not been in my power to write you. My fancy paints your situation, as agreed. Mrs. Warren, as ever, instructive improveing and agreeable. She has most certainly gained that point, that whatever she does or says, is universally pleasing. I think I never saw the great, the amiable, and the agreeable so happyly blended as in her character. A gentleman once said he had heard instruction given, he had felt reproof, but he had ever received them in a disadvantageous light, till he saw Mrs. W. She possessed the happy tallent of conveying instruction under the pleasing mask of sentiment. Every sentance conveyed a reproof, without seeming pointed. When he beheld Mrs. Warren, he saw virtue in its most amiable light. With her endearing partner you are pleased. Mr. W. is sociable and agreeable, Harry2 sprightly, and I need not say engageing. He has done all in his power to render you happy, and has I dare say gained his intended purpose. When my imagination has placed you thus, I felt conscious that it is not in my power to add in aney degree to the happiness of my friend. Perhaps I might have wrote a sheet, but it would have shewed you my ill forebodings. I could have repeated to { 32 } you, what you have known, that your friend is not happy, but it might have damped the joy of a moment, and was better omited. If we do not receive pleasure from reflection, from what cause shall it arise. Only to enjoy the present moment, scarce deserves the name of pleasure. My reflections of this eve, have not given me one ideal pleasure. I have recalled, this evening three years past. My pappa was with us, we were then looking forward to a painfull moment that should seperate us, for a time, we knew not how long. I am now looking forward, with wishes, delusive hopes, and fond expectations that this night twelvemonths hence, the painfull ideas of seperation may not inhabit my mind. But alas Eliza I cannot say what may be. Your friend may now enjoy the happiest moments that are desinged her. Time can only determine, and confirm a painfull thought that will sometimes intrude, and wound my peace of mind. Can I banish it—no—shall I cherish it—every sentiment and affection forbids it. You may perhaps condemn me for calling your attention from some more important pursuit, to a perusal of my gloomy ideas. It is not I think quite like you. But I will quit the subject of self, and ask your opinion of Julia, De Reubigre. What think you of the unfortinate Girl. She claimed your compassion, I think I know. I do not like Montoubon, he appears to feel a superiority of situation as a man, that does not render him pleasing. I loved him for a moment—at one time.3
I took my pen a saturday eve and scribled so far and have not had opportunity since to continue. I wish I could have found time since your absence to have wrote, a journal. It would have diverted at least, if not have pleased. The disappointments of your friend have not been few, her pleasures many, rather a varied scene. I do not recollect to have been out but once since I saw you. We have had much company. Madam Paine has past too or three days with us. Mr. Tyler quite <an> her attentive squire.4 Their behavour would divert you. Tell me Eliza has your time been so fully employed that not one moment could have been given to your friend. I will wish you a good night. If the wether should be fine tomorow, possibly mamma, will pass the day at M[ilton]. If not I will—forward this. If you have aney love for me oblige me so much as not to permit aney person to read hear or see this scralle, from your friend.5
RC (MHi: C. P. Cranch Papers); addressed: “Miss Eliza Cranch Millton”; endorsed: “Nov 1782 AA ” and “83 Jan AA .”
{ 33 }
1. Since the first part of the letter was written on a Saturday evening shortly before the third anniversary of JA 's departure for Europe on 13 Nov. 1779, as AA2 explains below, a likely date would be 9 November.
2. Henry Warren, fourth son of James and Mercy Otis Warren.
3. Henry MacKenzie wrote Julia de Roubigné, an epistolary novel, in 1777 ( DNB ) .
4. Probably Eunice Paine, unmarried but old enough (two years older than JA ) to be called “madam” (see vol. 1:30, and note 1), and Royall Tyler. Tyler would soon figure prominently in AA 's letters, and in AA2 's life ( AA to JA , 23 Dec., note 4, below).
5. In a brief undated letter written to Elizabeth Cranch from Hingham, probably in 1782 (MHi: C. P. Cranch Papers), AA2 concluded with an even firmer command: “Do not let aney body see this but burn it as soon as read.”

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0018

Author: Thaxter, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1782-11-10

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams

We arrived here the 26th. last Month after a tedious Journey in a crazy Carriage, with the additional Circumstances and Douceurs of constant Rains and bad Roads. Nothing however [compared] to Spain.1 At Valenciennes, the first City of France in coming from Holland, we stopped half a day. The greatest Curiosity we saw there was in a Church, where we found the Virgin Mary encirling the City with a Cord to preserve the City from Plague. She had commissioned a parcel of little Angels to hold the Ends of the Cord. A pretty Representation enough—help thou my Unbelief. At Cambray, another City, we saw in the Cathedral the Monument of Monsieur de Fenelon, the Author of Telamachus,2 and the Portrait of the same Gentleman together with those of all the Archbishops of Cambray: that of Mr. de Fenelon is well executed. In saying this, You may well suppose I found that Delicacy, Benignity, Tenderness and equisite Sense in the features, that shine with so distinguished a Lustre in his Writings. There is that certain something in the Portrait that is more easily concieved than described. There is a Je ne scais quoi in some features that Language cannot reach in Expression. I saw this in the Archbishop's Portrait. By way of digression, Madam, tis this same Je ne scais quoi, that determines the Partiality of a young Lover for his Mistress, and old Lovers too. This is my Idea of the Matter. The Observation is just as far as it respects me—for it has started my Phlegm into clear sheer Love two, three or four Times. In the same Cathedral, we saw a Representation of the Passion of our Saviour by Clock Work. At every Hour one may see this curious operation. The whole Representation is conducted by wooden Images fastened by Wires, and so connected with the Clock of the Church that as soon as the Chime begins, this Machine is set in Motion, and finishes with { 34 } the Hour. It is a pretty Ornament in the Church, and an Amusement for the Eye. But it means something more than to gratify the external Senses. A Mind uninformed and superstitious is affected and impressed by it, and believes that there is something sacred in this Wood and Wire. At Notre Dame de Halle3 in the Emperor's Dominions, we saw our Saviour in Petticoats, the Virgin Mary in a handsome Chintz— in other Places in Rags and tattered Garments, in Agonies &ca &c. There is a vast deal of Imagination and Contrivance in some of these Representations, and for what Purposes, it is unnecessary to mention to You, Madam, whose Penetration will readily discover their Ends and point out their Uses.
Your dearest Friend has at length wrote for You to come over with Miss Nabby, upon certain Conditions mentioned in his Letter, which is dated the 7th. or 8th of this Month. The Letter will go by the Way of Philadelphia, and a Copy, which Mr. Storer has made of it, will go by another Conveyance: so that I hope one or the other will come safely to hand. I am rejoiced on his as well as your Account, and could have wished the same Letter had been written two Years ago. You have a Right to come after such repeated and long Seperations, or to insist upon his returning. A Spring Passage is not dangerous—there is little to fear at any time with a good Ship. Having made the Voyage once, I cannot but wish myself back to have the honor of conducting You across the Rivulet—for I am good Sailor, if not a civil one. However, whenever You embark God grant You a short and an agreable Passage. 'Tis most probable, I shall return in the Spring to my own Country, unless there shall be a great deal of Business on hand, but I hope to have the pleasure of welcoming You and Daughter on this side the Atlantic, before my Departure. I begin to think 'tis time to go home, and try to do something to enable me to keep Batchelor's Hall. As to a Partner, that's out of the Question. I have philosophized myself out of that Notion—the Destinies are against me, and I am resolved to set down in Life a single Man. I am very happy that Mr. Storer happened to be [in] Europe, and that a Successor, who I am persuaded is very agreable to Mr. A., is disposed to continue with him. I could not think of leaving him alone, nor would I have done it upon any Consideration.
As to News, there is very little. How the Peace Negotiation goes on, You will learn from another Quarter. You are sensible, Madam, that my Situation imposes silence. Gibralter has been relieved,4 as many expected.
A Trip to Paris after two Years Residence in Holland has not a bad { 35 } Effect upon the Constitution. It don't answer to live under Water too long. I always consider myself at Sea there. If that Country was overflown, I would not undertake to count the Noah's or Arks—so much I know, that I would not trust to such a kind of Salvation if I could help it. Remember respectfully and affectionately as due, particularly to your Family.

[salute] I have the honor to be, with the greatest Respect, Madam, your most obed. and very hble Servt.

1. JA describes the troubles with the carriage in his Diary, and recounts the entire journey from Amsterdam to Paris, including his impressions of each town that Thaxter mentions below ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:29–37). The arduous journey of Thaxter and the Adamses through Spain, Dec. 1779–Jan. 1780, is given vivid treatment in same, 2:403– 433, 4:193–238; JQA, Diary , 1:11–31; and JA, Papers , 8:292–305, 309–313.
2. Both JA (Diary and Autobiography , 3:34) and JQA (Diary, 1:178) record their visits to the tomb of Cambrai's celebrated archbishop, and JQA also mentions Fenelon's Les aventures de Télémaque (1699).
3. Ten miles southwest of Brussels, in the Austrian Netherlands.
4. In October, Adm. Richard Howe eluded the French and Spanish fleets and managed to bring enough supplies to Gibraltar to ensure its defense, to the great disappointment of the Spanish, for whom reconquest was an important war aim (Morris, Peacemakers , p. 342).