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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6


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Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0043

Author: Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Recipient: Cranch, Elizabeth
Recipient: Norton, Elizabeth Cranch
Date: 1785-05-06

Abigail Adams 2d to Elizabeth Cranch

I have now before me your two last Letters by [my?] Dear Eliza1 received by Capt Calliham which I mean to answer before my Brother { 124 } departs, and this will be in a very few days. You cannot wonder that is an event that I am not at all gratified with. I think of it as little as possible for tis hard to [ . . . ] the [ . . . ] 2 that he is to be with us by anticipating the lonesomeness of our situation when he Shall be gone. The hope that it is promoting his advantage renders it less Painfull and the idea that he is going home and to all our friends and relations is much less disagreeable than if he were going to a land of Strangers. You have promised to admit him as a fourth Brother.3 I doubt not that you will find him deserving your regard friendship and esteem.
If you could Eliza be transported into our garden at this time, I think you would enjoy much satisfaction, and I am sure you would confer upon me a great degree of pleasure. At the bottom of it there is a thicket of Lilacs and jasmines, planted to attract the Birds in the spring. They will in a few days be out in blossom, and there is already a Number of Nightingales who have taken their residence in the bushes and every Morning and evening when the weather is warm enough to admit, they Sing to us most beautifully. The scenes I am sure would enchant my Dear Cousin, I never go into the garden without thinking of her. My fancy often places her by my side, and I sometimes even Listen to her raptures upon the surrounding scenes.
But I am going to call your imagination from this rural and romantic picture to a description that will afford ample scope to your fancy. It is of an Opera which has lately appeard and which I have seen, the title is Panurge dans l'Isle des Lanternes. 4 It appears that the Lovers in this Island cannot unite themselvs but under the good pleasure of the Goddess who they adore under the name of Lignobie. The actions begins the day consecrated to the fete of the Goddess. She is invoked by the whole People to consent to the Marriage of two of the principle inhabitants of the Island who are beloved by their Misstresses as much as they themselvs love them, and replys by the mouth of her Preist that she approves the double marriage, and that they shall be happy, if without ceasing to be faithfull to their Lovers the two Misstresses become equally beloved by a stranger which a tempest shall throw upon their shore. Dispair seizes the minds of every one, not only because it is a new delay but also because that Thunder was never known in their climate and the accomplishment of the oracle appears impossible.
Nevertheless in the midst of their universal discouragement, the Heavens become obscure and they hear at a distance the begining of { 125 } the tempest. From their particular situation hope springs in every heart, and the joy of the inhabitants augments more and more in proportion as the Storm increases. They discover an unhappy wretch tossing upon the Waves in a frail boat, but his crys only excite their curiossity. They determine finally to retire; he declares in arriving that his name is Panurge. The Lovers interested to bring about the accomplishment of the oracle, load him with caresses. Panurge natureally possessing a good opinion of himself attributes to his Personal attractions the flattery they bestow upon him. He appears in the 2d. act dresst in the fashion of the Country. Tenire one of the two Lovers interested to please him, receives him and makes him many compliments. Panurge not only takes them as serious but is persuaded that they are from the mouth of the young Lanternaise a true declaration of Love, and he begins himself to find them amiable. The tete a tete is interrupted by Agarenne the second Misstress sister to Tenire, who feigns to be jealous for a moment, and finishes by affecting a great share of indifferance and gaiety. Panurge attracted by the vivacity of Agarenne thinks that she may have more regard to become agreeable to him. Finally the two sisters agree between themselvs, to demand Panurge to explain himself and make a choice. Panurge cannot determine, and they quit him to return to the Ball.
Poor Panurge when left alone complains to Love for not having rendered him less amiable or less amoureux. Climéne Wife of Panurg, who the corsaires had taken in the voyage that she had made to meet her husband, and who they had sold as a slave and who served in this capacity the two sisters beloved by Panurge, had a Project to punish the vanity of her husband and at the same time to indeavour to remind him of his first attachment, disguised herself as the Master of the ceremonies, instructs him in what manner he must conduct himself at the Ball, and engages him to decide. Panurge allways uncertain when he sees the two Misstress[es] together cannot pronounce. He at last determines to follow the Consell of Climene and goes to consult the Sibylle. Climene agrees with the four Lovers to change herself with the character of the Sibylle. Panurge in the third act renders himself to the place appointed; he sees the little Lutins 5 who reply to him only by ridiculous gestures from which he can comprehend nothing; he interrogates the Sibylle, she even, replys to him at first while concealed from his eyes only by pronouncing the last monosyllable of his demand. She appears finally and recalls to him his first engagements. Panurge cannot deny them, but declares that he determines to break them because that his Wife was Wicked { 126 } and ennuyeuse. The Sibylle takes the part of Climene, brings to the remembrance of Panurge his first promises, and tells him that she has no more those faults which he reproaches her with. She finally discovers herself to him, and Panurge embrases with avidity the occasion which so natureally presents, to dispence with his making a choise that he considered as impossible. The Oracle being accomplished in every point, the Goddess appears in a Great Lanterne and Consents to the marriage of the Lovers, which they celebrate by a general feast.
“The Plan of this peice and the situations are very comique. It has been received with great applause, and has had a great success. The Principle Parts are those of Panurge and of Climene his Wife; that of Panurge is much the most dificult as he is allways in a situation Comique, and as it is necessary to avoid rendering it low by addapting too much buffoonery. Mademoiselle St. Huberti a celebrated actress at the Opera, excelles in the two kinds, which seem to exclude each other. She is as natureally placed in the Part of the Wife of Panurge who amuses herself with the foolishness of her husband, as in that of the Queen of Carthage, in which she has been so generally crowned.”
Thus my Dear Cousin I have given you an account of a peice which is much admired, in Paris. I hope it will please you. The scenery and dresses were very curious, as you may suppose in the Island of Lanterns. When a celebrated peice appears at either of the Play houses, there is very soon some Hat or Cap, comes out named after it. Panurge appears in a very large hat as large as an umbrella, and it was not a week before the Milliners had made a hat, which is calld Chapeau à la Panurge; it is a straw hat striped with black.
The dansing was superior to any thing you can have an idea of, without having seen it. There were four of the best dansers, all dansing at a time, “each in their kind seemd to dispute the Palm of their art.” But I am very sure the Dansing upon the Stage here could not please you at first, for tho it is carried to the greatest Perfection, it is nevertheless divested of every idea of female delicacy and modesty. An American Lady who came to Paris with American ideas of delicacy, told me, and it was my own observation upon myself also, that when she first went to the Opera and saw the dansing, She wanted to conceal herself. But in a very little time she could see it with the rest of the World and admire it as they did.
Be so good my Dear Cousin as to Present my Duty and respects { 127 } to all my friends to whom they are due. Particularly to your Pappa and Mamma, and beleive me at all times your friend
[signed] Amelia
RC (MHi: C. P. Cranch Papers); docketed in an unknown hand: “Letter from Mis A Adams to Miss Eliz: Cranch. France. May 6th. 1785.”
1. Not found.
2. Two words on a badly worn fold are illegible.
3. That is, after William Cranch, CA , and TBA .
4. Panurge dans l'île des lantenes, an opera in three acts with libretto by Etienne Morel de Chedeville and the Comte de Provence and music by André Gréetry opened in Paris on 25 Jan. 1785. The hero was drawn from Rabelais' Pantagruel. JQA saw Panurge on 25 Feb., the “12th time” it was performed, and was impressed with the music and dancing, but thought the words “very bad” (Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel ; JQA, Diary , 1:226–227).
5. Elves or goblins.

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0044

Author: Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Recipient: Cranch, Lucy
Recipient: Greenleaf, Lucy Cranch
Date: 1785-05-06

Abigail Adams 2d to Lucy Cranch

N 2.
Your agreeable favour1 my Dear Cousin was received by me some time since. I have defered answering it till my Brother should go, that he should have the pleasure of delivering it to your own hand. He leaves us in less than a week, and tho he is going to many friends and will soon form many acquaintance, he feels himself allmost a stranger to them from having been so long absent and at a Period of Life when a few years makes more alteration in People than any other. You will all tell him Perhaps as the Chavalier de la Luzerne did the other day, he speaks English, but pronounces it as most People who Learn a Language at so advanced an age, “You was little boa when you went to America last but now you are great Man.”2
Do not in future make me so many apology's for your Letters least they should not compensate for my own, &c &c &c.
You wonder whether I am more pleased with the Gentlemen than the Ladies of this Country. Those Ladies with whom I am acquainted are very amiable and pleasing. I am not a judge of the Gentlemen for I have seen but very few who have not been in America, and those who have resided any time with us, have most certainly imbibed a degree of the manners of our Country, which must consequently flatter and please an American, and lead me to a favourable opinion of them. You know I had not the happiness to please the French Gentleman who I have ever seen in America,3 they thought me reserved and haughty, a character so totally unknown to the Ladies of their own Country that I do not wonder at their disapprobation of { 128 } those qualities in any other. I am not fond of drawing General characters of People because I think they are seldom just, and I am not qualified I am very sure to form a General opinion of the French, for I have neither Knowledge sufficient of their Language, Country, People, manners or customs. But I beleive one may without danger of deceiving say that Sprightliness vivacity and affability are characteristic of the French Women.
You suppose by the date of your Letter that I had gained a knowledge of the French Language sufficient to enable me to read and speak it fluently. This is more you know than I ever could do in my own Language. And I am told that I am more silent, if Possible, than ever. I wish however that you was not egregiously mistaken, it is not so easy a Matter to acquire a Language Perfectly I assure you. Yet I feel very much ashaimed that I have been in this Country eight Months and have not made a greater Proficiency, till I see People who have been in America or England for several years and can scarce speak enough to make themselves understood. There is nothing easier than to learn to read French, so as to understand it Perfectly, by translating a Page every day from French to English with looking every word in the dictionary, and in three months any Person may insure to themselvs knowledge enough to read the Language. If you have an inclination to Learn it provided you do not understand the Language already, I advise you to this method. It is the same I pursued. At first I found it very tedious but perseverance for some time conquered every obstacle. I can now read with facility to myself any French Book. Mr. Short who came over from America as Private secretary to Mr. Jefferson was so well convinced of the impossibility of acquiring the Language while he lived in a family where he heard nothing but English that he has been for two Months in a French family at St. Germains about twelve miles from <Boston> Paris, and I am told he makes great proficiency. Mr. Jefferson says the French Language Spoken by Ladies or Children is very pleasing, but by Men, it is wretched. It has often been said that there is more softness in the French than English Language, so far as I can judge I am of this opinion.
Tis probable that you know ere this time, that we expect to Leave France soon for England. A residence there will be upon many accounts more agreeable to your Aunt and to me than here, because we know the Language, and shall have many acquaintance. There are some very agreeable American Ladies there from whose society we anticipate much pleasure and satisfaction, and we Shall have an { 129 } opportunity of hearing from our friends in America much oftener and sooner than we have here. The manner of Life of most of the People of rank and consideration in Europe, is so very different from our own or what would be agreeable to us, that an acquaintance with them is rather to be avoided than solicited. There is indeed but one alternative, you must either give into their manners and customs, you must be of their card parties in the Winter and of their retirements in the Country in the summer, you must frequent the Plays Opera's Balls and all their amusements, which are necessary for them to pass away, their time and absolutely essential to their happiness, every thing in short must be sacrifised to pleasure amusement dress and etiquet, or you must live perfectly retired, and form but few acquaintance. People who have been educated in a manner very different from theirs will be induced from Principle and inclination to pursue the latter path, for they would find themselvs wretched beyond description if obliged to follow such a Life. You will naturally judge from this account my Dear Lucy, that your Cousins acquaintance in the European World is like to be very contracted.
There are some it is true from our Country with educations truly American who have derived pleasure and happiness in the acquaintance they have formed here, and I have know[n] a most amiable American Lady this Winter so absorbed in the pleasures and amusements of Paris as to quit it with tears. Yet this Woman, my Cousin, was possessd of every qualification requisite to have formd as amiable a character as I have ever known, if her attention had been directed to the improvement of her mind instead of Dansing dress and amusements. If she was a friend of mine I should regret exceedingly the sacrifice she has made to European Manners.4 Mr. Jefferson says no Gentleman or Lady should ever come to Europe under five and thirty years oold, unless they are under very good Gaurdianship—and he is a Man of great Judgement.
Be so good as to Present my Duty respects and remembrance where due, particularly to My Grand Mamma and My Aunt Tufts. To the latter I expect it will be peculiarly acceptable by being presented by my Dear Cousin.5 Write often to your friend,
[signed] Amelia
RC (MWA: AbigaiI Adams Corr.)
1. Not found.
2. Anne César, Chevalier de La Luzerne, the French minister to the United States, 1779–1784, had first met JQA and JA in 1779, when the three sailed to America aboard La Sensible. On that voyage, JQA had helped La Luzerne learn English. La Luzerne may have made this remark to JQA on 2 May, when JA and JQA dined with several Frenchmen in Paris; JQA had also seen La Luzerne at the Lafayettes', and at Auteuil, in March. JQA, Diary , 1:230, note 1, 235, 241, 259.
{ 130 }
3. See the Chevalier de Ronnay to AA , 2 Oct. 1782, and note 3, above. AA2 's awkward construction, “who I have ever seen,” replaces an illegible erased word or phrase.
4. AA2 probably intends Anne Willing Bingham, whom the Adamses saw often with her husband, William, from Sept. 1784 until the Binghams' departure from Paris in April. She appears frequently in AA2 's journal as “Mrs. B.”, and by Feb.–March in much the same character as the unnamed woman here. The Adamses would see the Binghams again in London. AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 1:19, 28–29, 47, 52, 56, 59; JQA, Diary , 1:230, 250.
5. Both Lucy and Elizabeth Cranch spent much time with their ailing great aunt in Weymouth, Lucy Quincy Tufts, and Lucy was her namesake.