Western Suburbs of Paris (Including Auteuil and Passy) in the Eighteenth Century 4
Molière, Boileau, and Rousseau were but a few of the famous authors, artists, and political figures who made their homes in the elegant western suburbs of Paris during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Both in Passy, in daily working sessions with Jefferson and Franklin at the Hôtel de Valentinois, and in Auteuil, where he resided reunited with his family, John Adams finally escaped “the putrid streets of Paris” and found his situation “the best I could wish for” (
Diary and Autobiography of John Adams
, vol. 3:171
). Abigail Adams reiterated her husband's sentiment in a letter to her sister Mary Cranch. “The house we have taken is large, commodious, and agreeably situated, near the Woods of Bolign, which belong to the King, and which Mr. Adams calls his park, for he walks an hour or two every day in them” (5 September 1784, vol. 5).
The vast Bois de Boulogne of approximately 2,200 acres is on the western border of Passy and Auteuil, which are now part of the 16th arrondissement of Paris. The forest was enclosed in 1556, and in the seventeenth century Colbert converted it into a Royal Hunt. Louis XIV opened the park to the public, but it was not until the Regency that great houses like Bagatelle and La Muette were built. The Bois de Boulogne was at its height of fashion during the Adamses residence at the Hôtel Rouhault in Auteuil (René Sédillot, Paris, Paris, 1962, p. 174, 208-209).
This illustration is a detail from Plan of Paris and its Environs, by Jean Rocque, London, 1792, based on earlier surveys of Abbé Delagrive.
Courtesy of the Bilbliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.
Vue du Théâtre Français 37
Le Théâtre Français, also known as La Comédie-Française, was founded in 1680, during the reign of Louis XIV, and made its newest home in 1782 on the former site of the Hôtel de Condé, near the Palais du Luxembourg. This majestic theater-temple, with eight doric columns adorning the facade and porticos creating arcades or galleries along its sides, was the design of royal architects Charles de Wailly and M.-J. Peyre. Although far from the center of Paris, the new structure was quite an improvement on the cramped quarters occupied by the royal troupe at the Palais des Tuileries in the 1770s. Abigail Adams, impressed by the theater after attending
many performances there with her family, described the building in detail to her niece Elizabeth Cranch and exclaimed: “Fancy, my dear Betsey, this house filled with two thousand well-dressed gentlemen and ladies! The house is large enough to hold double the number. Suppose some tragedy to be represented which requires the grandest scenery and the most superb habits of kings and queens, the parts well performed, and the passions all excited, until you imagine yourself living at the very period.” Fire destroyed the theater in 1807, but it was rebuilt in the same neoclassical style and survives today as Le Théâtre de l'Odéon. (Luc Vincent Thiéry, Almanach du Voyageur à Paris
, Paris, 1784, p. 584–588; Howard C. Rice Jr., Thomas Jefferson's Paris
, Princeton, 1976, p. 68–70; Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, 3 January 1785
The illustration, a Née engraving after the work of Jean Baptiste Lallemand, is from Jean Benjamin de Laborde and others, Description générale et particulière de la France . . ., 12 vols. [called Voyage pittoresque de la France . . .,after vol. 4], Paris, 1781-, vol. 10, Monuments de Paris et des environs, plate no. 74.
Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum.
The Lafayette Children with a Bust of Their Father, about 1786 68
The editors are aware of two likenesses of Adrienne Françoise de Noailles (1759–1807), who married the sixteen-year-old Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), in April 1774, when she was fourteen. Both, unfortunately, appear to be at least a decade removed from 1784–1785, when the Adamses knew the Marquise in Paris. The first likeness, an ivory miniature by an unknown artist made about the time of Adrienne's marriage, is reproduced here. The second, a portrait of unknown date, shows a rather pensive woman who looks to be at least in her mid-thirties, and had perhaps already experienced the strain of seeing her husband flee from revolutionary France, only to be imprisoned by the Austrians for several years in the 1790s (this is reproduced in André Maurois' Adrienne, The Life of the Marquise de La Fayette, N.Y., 1961, following p. 284).
The ivory miniature of the Lafayette children reproduced here is also by an unknown artist. It shows Anastasie (1777–1863), Georges Washington (1779–1849), and Virginie (1782–1849), with a bust of their father on a pedestal inscribed: “Dans tous les coeurs son mérite le place.” It is thought to date from about 1786, when the children were about eight, six, and three years of age (Howard C. Rice Jr., Thomas Jefferson's Paris
, Princeton, 1976, p. 63, 144).
Madame Lafayette was of an old and wealthy noble family, the daughter of Jean de Noailles, Duc d'Ayen, and Henriette d'Aguesseau. Members of the Noailles family had been prominent courtiers and military officers for over a century, and Henriette's grandfather had been a chancellor. The five Noailles daughters were
raised in the heart of Paris by an intensely religious mother, and Adrienne, the second oldest, seems never to have gone out much in society, either before her early marriage or after it. To the end of her life it was her family, first her mother and her sisters, then her husband and children, who defined her social world. Making allowances for large differences in cultural background and social standing, Madame Lafayette's youth, adult life, and attitudes toward family and society resembled those of Abigail Adams in several important respects.
It is therefore not surprising that Madame Lafayette made a most favorable impression upon both Abigail Adams and her daughter from their first meeting in the fall of 1784. On this occasion and every other in which they mention her, the Adamses saw exactly those virtues in the Marquise which they found lacking in many European ladies, and in many of their countrywomen living in Paris: an easy amiability, a devotion to her mother and sisters, her husband and children, a dislike of gambling, large social gatherings, and all manner of show, and a remarkable simplicity in dress.
When Abigail Adams first invited Madame Lafayette to a large dinner at Auteuil, given mostly for Americans, the Marquise attended, and Abigail observed that: “there is not a Lady in our Country who would have gone abroad to have dined so little drest.” Several American ladies, “Glittering with diamond watch Chains girdle Buckles &c.,” were shocked at her plain attire, but Madame Lafayette “was no ways ruffled by her own different appearence” (to Mary Cranch, 9 December 1784
, below; and see Abigail Adams 2d,
Journal and Correspondence
, 1:30–31, 32, 33). Each meeting thereafter convinced Abigail and her daughter that in Madame Lafayette they had found a friend of real virtue, who ignored the profligate manners and material show that so disturbed them in France, and later in England. By the time of their departure from Auteuil, Adrienne de Noailles de Lafayette was the Adams women's closest female friend in France.
The two older Lafayette children, Anastasie and Georges Washington, also delighted Abigail Adams when she met them in February 1785: “Madam la Marquise . . . has two very pretty children. . . . The Eldest daughter is 7 years old and Gorge Washington about 5. After dinner miss and master are always introduced to the company, both of them Speak English, and behave very pretty” (to Mary Cranch, 20 February 1785
, below). On the same occasion, Abigail Adams 2d observed: “The fondness that Madame la Marquise discovers for her children, is very amiable; and the more remarkable in a country where the least trait of such a disposition is scarce known. She seems to adore them, and to live but in them. She has two that were presented to us; they both speak English, and sing it; the Marquis appeared very fond of them likewise” (
Journal and Correspondence
An extensive correspondence survives, primarily in the Adams Papers, between the Marquis de Lafayette and John Adams (from 1778 to 1825), and John Quincy Adams (from 1785 to 1834), as well as a more modest exchange between Georges Washington Lafayette
and John Quincy Adams (from 1834 to 1839). The only extant correspondence between an Adams and Madame Lafayette, however, is that with John Quincy Adams, 1795–1796, and 1802, again in the Adams Papers.
Courtesy of private owners.
Auteuil and Passy, from the Isle Des Cygnes, ca. 1785 110
From August 1784 to May 1785, John and Abigail Adams and their children John Quincy and Abigail took up residence in Auteuil, just four miles from Paris, at the Hôtel Rouhault. The spacious new home with its beautiful sprawling gardens delighted the Adams family. Its opulence is described in great detail in Abigail Adams' letters in these volumes. Writing to her niece Elizabeth Cranch, she incredulously described one of the rooms: “Why my dear you cannot turn yourself in it without being multiplied 20 times. Now that I do not like; for being rather clumsy and by no means an elegant figure, I hate to have it so often repeated to me. This room is about ten or 12 foot large, is 8 cornerd and panneld with looking Glasses . . . festoons of flowers are round all the Glasses, a Lusture hangs from the cealing adornd with flowers, a Beautiful! Soffa is placed in a kind of alcove with pillows and cushings in abundance the use of which I have not investigated. In the top of this alcove over the Soffa in the cealing is an other Glass . . . The looking Glasses in this house I have been informd cost 300 thousand liveres” (Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, 5 September 1784, vol. 5; for a full and colorful account by Abigail Adams of the Adams household at Auteuil, see Howard C. Rice Jr., The Adams Family in Auteuil
, 1784–1785, Boston, 1956).
The view shown in this illustration is from the Isle des Cygnes, now called the Allée des Cygnes (Swan's Walk), with Auteuil on the left and Passy on the right. This islet divides the Seine just west of Chaillot and the Ecole Militaire. During the Restoration it was built up on the riverbed and is now, as it was in the eighteenth century, enjoyed as a popular promenade (Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel
). The engraving by Jean-Jacques Le Veau is from Jean Benjamin de Laborde and others, Description générale et particulière de la France
. . ., 12 vols. [called Voyage pittoresque de la France
. . ., after vol. 4], Paris, 1781-, vol. 7, plate no. 37.
Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum.
“Both of Them Were Killed by Their Fall, and There Limbs Exceedingly Broken”
Abigail Adams 2D to Lucy Cranch, 23 June 1785 184
During the early 1780s, the nascent science of ballooning captured public attention in Europe and America. In August 1783, John Quincy Adams attended the first public launching in Paris of a gas balloon (
), and his Diary in August and September contains numerous articles on ballooning copied from the Journal de Paris.
John Adams, writing to Abigail Adams on 7 September 1783
(above), contemplated useful transportation by balloon: “The moment I hear of [your arrival in Europe]
, I will fly with Post Horses to receive you at least, and if the Ballon, Should be carried to such Perfection in the mean time as to give Mankind the safe navigation of the Air, I will fly in one of them at the Rate of thirty Knots an hour.”
In November 1783, the popular young scientific lecturer Jean François Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes made the first free flight, rising from the Château de la Muette at Passy and traveling about six miles over Paris in about twenty-five minutes. And in September 1784, Abigail Adams 2d recorded the family and “eight or ten thousand” others viewing a balloon ascend from the Tuileries. Rising sometime after eleven in the morning, it traveled to “Bevre [Bruay?
, fifty leagues from Paris,” by six in the evening (Abigail Adams 2d,
Journal and Correspondence
, 1:18–19; see also John Adams, Diary and Autobiography
, illustration facing p. 289).
The enthusiasm for ballooning diminished after its first fatal accident, in June 1785. Pilâtre de Rozier and Dr. Pierre Ange Romain crashed on the French shore while attempting to cross the English Channel. The gas balloon of their aéro-montgolfier
, a two-balloon hot air and gas contraption, exploded, and they fell over a thousand feet to their deaths. Thomas Jefferson commented, “This will damp for a while the ardor of the Phaetons of our race who are endeavoring to learn us the way to heaven on wings of our own” (to Abigail Adams, 21 June 1785
, below). Abigail Adams 2d described the accident in a letter to her cousin Lucy Cranch: “There has lately [been]
a most terible accident taken place by a Balloons taking fire in the Air in which were two Men. Both of them were killed by their fall, and there limbs exceedingly Broken. Indeed the account is dreadfull. I confess I have no partiallity for them in any
way” (23 June 
This illustration is from Jean Paul Marat's Lettres de l'observateur Bon-Sens, a m. de
* * *, sur la fatale catastrophe des infortunes Pilâtre de Rosier
& Romain, les aéronautes
, London, 1785. Marat, prior to attaining fame and martyrdom in the French Revolution, studied medicine and wrote on various branches of the sciences without much success. See also Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale
Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel
Courtesy of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Princesses Charlotte, Augusta, and Elizabeth, about 1784, by Thomas Gainsborough 191
This portrait shows King George III and Queen Charlotte's three eldest daughters, the Princess Royal, Charlotte (1766–1828), Princess Augusta (1768–1840), and Princess Elizabeth (1770–1840). Thomas Gainsborough painted the portrait at the request of the princesses' brother George, Prince of Wales (later George IV). The portrait was completed in time to be shown, along with seventeen other works by the artist, at the 1784 exhibition of the Royal
Academy. A dispute arose when Gainsborough requested that the Academy depart from custom (where full-length portraits were hung above the height of doorways), and not hang the picture of the princesses above five and a half feet. He wrote that he had “painted . . . in so tender a light . . . the likenesses and work of the picture will not be seen” at the higher level. If the Academy did not consent, he would “beg the rest of his pictures back.” The Hanging Committee refused the request and had his other pictures removed. Gainsborough did not exhibit again at the Royal Academy. (Jack Lindsay, Thomas Gainsborough, His Life and Art
, N.Y., 1980, p. 162–163;; Christopher Hibbert, George IV, Prince of Wales
, 1762–1811, N.Y., 1972, p. 41, 259; Mary Woodall, Thomas Gainsborough, His Life and Work
, N.Y., 1949, p. 80–81.)
The three sisters were quite close to each other, deeply loyal to their father through all his difficulties to the end of his life, and strongly sympathetic to their eldest brother, George, who was permanently estranged from his father by the mid-1780s. Despite their strong family feelings, they sometimes chaffed under the demands of royal etiquette. Augusta objected at an early age to being so often on display to the British public, the very duty that elicited Abigail Adams' sympathy for Queen Charlotte and her daughters upon her first presentation to them (Stanley Ayling, George III
, N.Y., 1972, p. 222; Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 24 June
, and to Charles Williamos, 1 July 1785
, both below).
By the 1790s, the princesses looked to the Prince of Wales for support in achieving a difficult objective: marriage. Their father apparently felt that no British suitor was good enough for them, and he was so attached to them that he resisted the suit of any foreign prince who would take them away. George III did consent to Charlotte's marriage to Frederick I, Duke (and later King) of Würtemberg, in 1797, and his fear of losing a daughter proved justified. Charlotte never saw her father again, and her husband's alliance with Napoleon after 1805 placed her in the camp of Britain's enemies for a decade. Elizabeth did not marry until 1818, after her father had lost his reason. Augusta, along with two of the three younger princesses, remained unmarried.
This portrait and others, along with literary testimony, give a highly favorable impression of the appearance of the three princesses and of their many siblings. Gainsborough was said to be “all but raving mad with ecstacy in beholding such a constellation of youthful beauty” (Ayling, George III
, p. 221; Hibbert, George IV
, p. 259). Abigail Adams was more restrained in her praise of Princesses Charlotte and Augusta upon first meeting them, in June 1785: “They are pretty rather than Beautifull, well shaped with fair complexions and a tincture of the kings countanance. The two sisters look much alike.” But she found both princesses affable, relaxed, and even “compassionate” (to Mary Cranch, 24 June 1785
, below). Abigail Adams 2d also was not greatly impressed with the royal family on this first visit to Court (to John Quincy Adams, 4 July 1785
, below), but by her third visit to St. James's, she came to admire Charlotte, the Princess Royal, finding a “dignity, grace, and
affability, with a certain degree of steadiness which I like, in her manners” (
Journal and Correspondence
, 1:81 [3 November 1785]).
All the Adamses soon liked George III as well. Queen Charlotte was another matter. Both Abigail and Abigail 2d felt that she, alone among the royal family, was embarrassed to meet them, and was hostile to their presence at Court (Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 24 June
; Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 4 July
, both below). But when Abigail Adams judged the Queen “not well shaped or handsome” (same), she was simply echoing a view common to many English observers, from the day of Charlotte Sophia's arrival in England for her marriage to George III in 1761, to twentieth-century historians of the Hanoverian monarchy (see Ayling, George III
, p. 83–84).
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Abigail Adams 2D, July 1785, by Mather Brown 217
This large portrait, long in the possession of members of the Adams family, is now owned by the Adams National Historic Site in Quincy, where it hangs in the large parlor. Its artist was the popular young portrait painter Mather Brown (1761–1832), a native of Boston and a student of Gilbert Stuart in America and of Benjamin West in London. Its date and place of execution are given by its sitter, in a letter of 4 July 1785
(below) to her brother John Quincy Adams: “By the way, I must not omit to tell you, what a rage for Painting has taken Possession of the Whole family. One of our rooms has been occupied by a Gentleman of this profession, for near a forghtnight. . . . [Mr. Brown]
was very sollicitous to have a likeness of Pappa, thinking it would be an advantage to him, and Pappa Consented. He has taken the best likeness I have yet seen of him, and you may suppose is very Proud, when so many have failed before him. Mama has set for hers, and I, followed, the example. It is said he has taken an admirable likeness of my Ladyship, the Honble. Miss Adams you know. It is a very tasty picture I can assure you, whether a likeness or not. Pappa is much pleased with it, and says he has got my character, a Mixture of Drolery and Modesty.”
Of the three portraits which Abigail Adams 2d refers to here, only that of herself survives. It is the first of two known likenesses. The second, a portrait by John Singleton Copley executed sometime between 1785 and 1788, owned first by John Quincy Adams, then by Abigail and John Adams, and after John's death by Abigail Adams 2d's daughter, Caroline Smith de Windt, was perhaps destroyed in the 1862 fire that consumed the de Windt home, and so many of the letters written to Abigail Adams 2d. Caroline de Windt had an engraving of the Copley portrait made for the frontispiece of her first volume of her mother's
Journal and Correspondence
Compared with the engraving of Copley's work, Mather Brown's portrait is the more revealing likeness, conveying the poignancy of a sensitive and reserved young woman who had, as her father observed, an element of “Drolery” mixed with her modesty. Brown also conveys a certain wistfulness, perhaps partly a reflection of
Abigail 2d's difficult decision, which she was making just at this time, to terminate her relationship with Royall Tyler. A loyalist merchant from Boston living in London grudgingly described young Abigail as having “an agreeable look,” though he did not “like the breed or name” (Thomas Aston Coffin to Mary Aston Coffin, 3 August 1785, Coffin Papers, MHi
Mather Brown's portrait of Abigail Adams was thought for several years to be the “Portrait of a Lady” now owned by the New York State Historical Association, in Cooperstown, N.Y., but recent scholarship has cast grave doubt on the attribution of both the artist and the subject of that painting (Andrew Oliver, Portraits of John and Abigail Adams
, Cambridge, 1967, p. 47, illustration on p. 51, 53–54, 244; Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 4 July 1785, note 29
, below; Dorinda Evans
, Mather Brown, Early American Artist in England
, Middletown, Conn., 1982, p. 195).
Brown's 1785 portrait of John Adams is also lost, but a second one survives, completed in March 1788 for Thomas Jefferson, and now owned by the Boston Athenaeum (Portraits of John and Abigail Adams, p. 47–53, 244, illustration on p. 50). Brown also made a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, in the spring of 1786, for John Adams. John Adams' opinion of Brown's 1785 portraits, particularly that of himself, may have been more complex than Abigail 2d allows in the passage quoted above. Writing in her journal, evidently in early September, and referring to paintings that were almost certainly those by Brown, she records: “we had some conversation upon the pictures below. Papa said they were spoiled; he was not at all content with his own, yet thought it the best that had ever been taken of him. No one had yet caught his character. The ruling principles in his moral character, were candour, probity, and decision. I think he discovered more knowledge of himself than usually falls to the lot of man; for, from my own observation, I think these are characteristic of him; and I add another, which is sensibility. I have never discovered a greater portion of candour in any character. I hope if I inherit any of his virtues it may be this; it is a necessary attendant through life. . . . and in the mind of a woman, I esteem it particularly valuable” (Journal and Correspondence, 1:80–81).
At some time in the late 1780s, Mather Brown also made a portrait of Col. William Stephens Smith, who would marry Abigail Adams 2d in June 1786 (Katherine Metcalf Roof, Colonel William Smith and Lady, Boston, 1929, p. 334–336, and illustration facing p. 336).
Courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Adams National Historic Site, Quincy, Massachusetts.
Sarah Kemble Siddons as Desdemona 367
Sarah Siddons (1755–1831), considered to be Britain's finest tragic actress, enraptured the public and critics in London and smaller cities through the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Abigail Adams, though initially unimpressed with English theater, became an enthusiastic fan. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson (12 August 1785
, below), she wrote, “after having been accustomed to [the theater]
of France, one can have little realish for the cold, heavy action, and uncouth appearence of the English stage. . . . I know not how a Siddons may reconcile me to English action but as yet I have seen nothing that equals Parissian ease and grace.” The Adamses saw Sarah Siddons play Desdemona in Othello
on 17 September 1785
, and the following day Adams wrote to William Stephens Smith (below), quoting Milton: “I was last Evening . . . at Drury Lane and Saw for the first time Mrs. Siddons. Grace was in all her steps heaven in her Eye/ And every Gesture dignity and love.” Abigail Adams 2d was equally enthusiastic: “Altho I saw her under many disadvantages, the part not being such as I shold have chosen, and her present situation [Siddons was six months pregnant]
renders it impossible for her to Play so well, as formerly, yet I think She answered my expectations. I did not go into fits, nor swoon, but I never was so much pleased with any person I ever saw upon any theatre” (to John Quincy Adams, 24 September 1785
, below; see also Abigail Adams 2d,
Journal and Correspondence
The engraving, by C. Sherwin, was done in 1785 for the publisher John Bell. It appeared in the 1788 edition of Bell's Edition of Shakspere
, London, 20 vols. John Bell (1745–1831) produced inexpensive, attractive volumes of broad appeal. Abigail Adams 2d owned Bell's Edition: The Poets of Great Britain complete from Chaucer to Churchill
, London, 1777–1782, 109 vols. (see Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 4 July 1785
On Sarah Siddons and John Bell, see
Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
“Never Was There a Young Man Who Deserved More a Severe Punishment Than Yourself”
Abigail Adams 2D to John Quincy Adams, 27 November 1785 468
Thus begins one of the liveliest letters by Abigail Adams 2d, begun on 27 November 1785
to the young man who had recently become her favorite correspondent, her brother John Quincy Adams. The correspondence began in May 1785, with John Quincy's departure from France for America to complete his education, and young Abigail's nearly simultaneous departure for London with her parents. Saddened by their separation after a most enjoyable year spent together in Auteuil and Paris, sister and brother faithfully wrote one another long and vivid accounts of their activities, filled with incisive portraits of the people they met, for the remainder of the year. But delays in transatlantic communication and difficulties in routing their first letters through France at times caused them nearly as much frustration as their parents had known during the war years.
When Abigail 2d began this letter, it had been almost three months since she last received letters from John Quincy bringing her news of his arrival and stay in New York. Later in the course of this letter Abigail 2d acknowledged the receipt on 29 November of her brother's letters of 1 and 8 August, the last finished on 19 August in New Haven. As December began she had not yet heard from him of his arrival in Boston at the end of August, although the Adamses
had received other letters from Boston, coming on different ships, dated from as late as October. Thus she could write, on the page illustrated here: “a few weeks have elapsd since, without my writing a word [her last letter, of 18 October]
, to you, but you have not any shawdow of complaint to make, and I do not even think it proper to make any apology to you.”
Complaints to one another for being poor correspondents, and then apologies when letters did arrive, particularly by John Quincy Adams, appear in many of their letters, from May to December 1785 (all of which are printed below), but neither brother nor sister remained bothered for long. John Quincy would soon turn to a fairly sober, unfailingly articulate and perceptive description of the several communities through which he passed, from northern France to eastern Massachusetts. Abigail 2d did the same, less incisively, but with many interesting observations, for the one large community in which she lived, London.
As this letter shows, young Abigail often engaged in jesting humor, and even outright teasing. Beginning with the last lines on the page reproduced here: “I met a Lady . . . who knew you in Stockholm. Now what think you young Man. Does not your heart go pitepat, now bounce, as if it would break your rib,” she continued: “Nor do you know how many of yours adventures She confided to me. No matter what they were, I well remembered with how much pleasure you used to speak of Sweeden, and how many encomioums you passed upon some Ladies there.”
The passage is young Abigail at her best, displaying that playful humor found in some measure in most of her letters to her cousin Elizabeth Cranch, beginning in 1779 (appearing throughout vols. 3–6), and later to her brother John Quincy. This letter gives us an enticing hint of whatever John Quincy Adams may have been thinking and doing during the five weeks he spent in Stockholm, November—December 1781, beyond the few names of officials and merchants that he met (JQA, Diary
; John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 1 February 1783, printed in vol. 5). For a striking confirmation of her hint, see John Quincy Adams to Alexander H. Everett, 19 Aug. 1811 (Everett-Peabody Papers, MHi
), quoted at illustration no. 8, vol. 5.
In all her letters to John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams 2d showed the same keen interest in her family's more private life in London during the summer and fall of 1785. Many of her letters convey information found nowhere else in the Adams Papers. In 1785, Abigail Adams 2d played a role that she had never played before— and after her marriage, in June 1786, would never play again—that of principal chronicler of the daily life of the Adams family.
From the original in the Adams Papers.