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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6


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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.

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0045

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Cranch, Elizabeth
Recipient: Norton, Elizabeth Cranch
Date: 1785-05-08

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch

No 6
Yes my dear Neice, it was a Ceremony2 that one must study Some time to find out either utility or pleasure in it. I own tho I made one in the procession I could not help feeling foolish as I was parading first up one side of a very wide road, for a mile and half and then turning, and following down a vast number of Carriages upon the other as slow as if you was attending a funeral. By this adjustment you see, one row of Carriages are constantly going up, whilst the others are comeing down, so that each calvicade have a fair view of each other, and this is call'd going to Long Champs.
About the 3d of Feb'ry the Carnival begins. During this time there is great festivity amongst the Parissians, the operas are more frequent, and Mask'd Balls succeed them.3 The Theaters are crowded, and every place is gay. But upon the 27 of March,4 or the Sunday upon which the celebration of the passion of our Saviour commences, the Theaters are closed, and continue so during 3 weeks. Lent lasts six weeks, all of which is fill'd up with Church ceremonies, one of which is the Kings washing the feet of a dozen poor Boys, and the Queen as many Girls, after which they give them a dinner in the Palace at which their Majesties and the princiss of the Blood, attend them at table, the princes and Lords carrying the plates.5 There is an other ceremony which is call'd the day of Branches. The people go very early to mass, before day light and continue a long time at it, after which the Priests go forth preceeded by some Church officer, with a large picture of our Saviour, and an other with a silver cross. The people follow two, and two, Men Women and Children with Branches in their hands, and Book[s] chanting their prayers. They go to kneel and pray before the crusifix one of which is placed upon the Road in every villiage. There are 3 days also when a peice of the Real and true Cross, as they say is shewn in the holy Chapel of Paris, { 131 } and every good Catholick kisses it. Then comes holy Sunday when every body goes to Church and the Night it begins the Clergy make a solemn procession into the Halls of the palace at 3 oclock in the morning, and as nothing is performed here without the assistance of the Military, the Commandant of the Watch sends two Companies to escort this procession. But neither the Concert Spiritual which is held three times a week in the Château des Tuileries, nor all the ceremonies of the Church can compensate with the sad Parissians for the absence of the Plays. To fill up the time and vary the Amusement, this parade at Long Champs was invented. It continues 3 days. The place is about one mile from hence. It is a fine plain upon each side of which are rows of trees, like Germantown Woods. Here the Parissians appear with their Superb equipages drawn by six fleet Coursers, their Horses and servants gayly drest. All kinds of Carriages are to be seen here, from the clumsy fiacre to the gilded Chariot, as well as many Gentleman on horse Back and swarms of people on foot. The city Gaurds make no small part of the shew, for the Maré Chaussee6 as they are call'd are placed along in rows between the Carriages, and are as despotick as their Master. Not a Coach dares go an inch from its rank, nor one carriage force it self before an other, so that notwithstanding there are many thousands collected upon this occasion, you see no disorder. But after all it is a senseless foolish parade, at which I believe I shall never again assist.
Your Cousin who I hope will have the happiness to deliver you this will tell you so much about us, that less writing will be necessary for me than on many other occasions. He cannot however say, that I feel myself happier here than I used to, at the Humble Cottage at the foot of the Hill. I wish the dimensions of that was enlarged, because I see no prospect of a more convenient one; and I hope to rejoice there with my Friends in some future Day. I think I am not unlike the Nun who used once a year to be permitted to make an excursion into the World, half of the Year she diverted herself in recounting the pleasures she had met with and the other half in those which she expected.
I shall have some regret I assure you in quitting Auteuil, since I must leave it for London instead of America, that being the destination which Congress has assignd us. The trees in the Garden are putting on their verdure, and the flowers springing into Life. The Song of the Nightingale too regales me as I walk under the trees whose thick branches intwin'd, form a shade which secures you from the rays of the Sun. I shall mourn my garden more than any other { 132 } object which I leave. In many respects I think I shall feel myself happier in London, but that will depend much upon our reception there, and the Course which politicks take. If that is not agreable we shall return so much the sooner to America.
It is a long time Since I had a line from you, and I believe I have brought you very deep in debt.
I have sent you some flower seeds. You will not get them early enough for the present Season, but plant and preserve them next year that I may find them blooming when I return, and be so good as to give some of them to Mrs. Warren. Believe me my dear Girl most affectionately Yours
[signed] A Adams
RC (MHi: Jacob Norton Papers); addressed by JQA : “Miss Eliza Cranch. Braintree”; docketed in an unknown hand: “L[et]ter from Mrs. A. Adams to Miss Eliz. Cranch. France, May 8. 1785 (No. 6.).”
1. The “8 1785” is written in a different ink; it was probably added upon the completion of the text.
2. Betsy had apparently inquired, in a letter now lost, about the parade out of Paris and along the Allée de Longchamp through the Bois de Boulogne, which was held on three days each year during Holy Week. JA , AA , and AA2 briefly witnessed this affair on 24 March, and AA , AA2 , and JQA joined the procession on 25 March, Good Friday, the last and most crowded day of the event. Both JQA and AA2 left vivid descriptions of Longchamp ( Diary , 1:238, 239; Jour. and Corr. , 1:55–56, 62–63). Two years earlier, John Thaxter had devoted an entire letter to AA to this festive occasion (18 April 1783, above). See also the Descriptive List of Illustrations, vol. 5.
3. JQA saw masked revellers in the streets of Paris on 7 and 8 Feb. ( Diary , 1:220, 221 ); carnival week ended on 8 Feb., Shrove Tuesday (AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 1:46–47).
4. AA is in error here. In 1785, Easter fell on 27 March; the week of Semaine Sainte (Holy Week) began on Palm Sunday, 20 March (JQA, Diary , 1:238–239).
5. In 1785 this event occurred on 24 March. JQA noted it briefly (JQA, Diary , 1:238); AA2 , after mentioning the royal ceremony, gave a highly critical description of a similar washing ceremony at St. Sulpice ( Jour. and Corr. , 1:61–62).
6. Maréchaussée, or mounted constabulary.