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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 7


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Docno: ADMS-04-07-02-0038

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Cranch, Lucy
Recipient: Greenleaf, Lucy Cranch
Date: 1786-04-02

Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch

Your kind Letter2 my dear Neice was received with much pleasure, these tokens of Love and regard which I know flow from the Heart, always find their way to mine, and give me a satisfaction and pleasure, beyond any thing, which the ceremony and pomp of Courts and kingdoms can afford. The social affections are, and may be made the truest channels for our pleasures and comforts to flow through. Heaven form'd us, not for ourselves, but others; []and bade self Love and social be the Same.”3
Prehaps there is no Country where there is a fuller excercise of those virtues than ours at present exhibits, which is in a great measure oweing to the equal distribution of Property, the Small Number of inhabitants in proportion to its teritory, the equal distribution of justice to the Poor as well as the rich, to a Government founded in justice, and excercised with impartiality, and to a Religion which teaches peace and good will to man, to knowledge and learning being so easily acquired and so universally distributed, and to that sense of Moral obligation which generally inclines our countrymen; to do to others as they would that others should do to them. Prehaps you will think that I allow to them more than they deserve, but you will consider that I am only speaking comparitively. Humane nature is much the same in all Countries, but it is the Government the Laws and Religion, which forms the Character of a Nation. Where ever Luxery abounds, there you will find corruption and degeneracy of manners. Wretches that we are thus to misuse the Bounties of Providence, to forget the hand that blesses us and even deny the source from whence we derived our being.
But I grow too serious, to amuse you then, my dear Neice I will give an account of the dress of the Ladies at the Ball of the Comte D'adhémar. As your cousin tells me that she sometime ago gave you a history of the Birth day and Ball at court,4 this may serve as a counter part, tho should I attempt to Compare the Appartments; Saint James's would fall as much short of the French Ambassadors; { 127 } as the Court of his Britanick Majesty does; of the splendour and magnificence of his most Christian Majesty. I am Sure I never saw an assembly Room in America which did not exceed that at St James, in point of Elegance and decoration, and as to its fair visitors, not all their blaze of diamonds, Set of with Parissian Rouge, Can match the blooming Health, the Sparkling Eye and modest deportment of the dear Girls of my native land. As to the dancing the space they had to move in, gave them no opportunity to display the Grace of a minuet, and the full dress of long court trains and enormous hoops, you well know were not favourable for Country dances, so that I saw them at every disadvantage. Not so the other evening they were much more properly clad. Silk waists Gauze or White or painted tiffiny coats decorated with ribbon Beads or flowers as fancy directed, were Chiefly worn by the Young Ladies. Hats turnd up at the side with diamond loops and buttons, or steel, large bows of ribbons and wreaths of flowers display'd themselves to much advantage upon the Heads of some of the prettyest Girls England can boast. The light from the Lustures is more favourable to Beauty than day light and the coulour acquir'd by dancing more becomeing than Rouge. As fancy dresses are more favourable to Youth, than the formality of an uniform, there was as great a variety of pretty dresses borrowd wholy from France as I have ever seen, and amongst the rest some with Saphire blew Sattin waists spangled with Silver and laced down the back and Seams with silver stripes, white sattin peticoats trimd with black and blew velvet ribbon, an odd kind of Headdress which they term the Helmet of minirva. I did not observe the Bird of wisdom5 however, nor do I know whether those who wore the dress, had suiteable pretensions to it. And pray say you how was my Aunt and cousin drest. If it will gratify you to know, you shall hear. Your Aunt then wore her full drest court cap, without the Lappets, in which was a wreath of white flowers and blew sheafs, 2 black and blew flat feathers (which cost her half a Guiney a peice but that you need not tell of) 3 pearl pins bought for Court and a pr of pearl Earings, the cost of them—no matter what—less than diamonds however.
A saphire blew demisaison with a Sattin stripe, Sack and peticoat, trimd with a broad black lace; Crape flounce &c leaves made of blew ribbon and trimd with white flose wreaths of black velvet ribbon Spotted with steel beads, which are much in fashion and brought to such perfection as to resemble diamonds, white ribbon also in the vandike stile made up the trimming which lookd very { 128 } Elegant, a full dress handkerchief and a Boquet of roses. Full Gay I think for my Aunt—thats true Lucy, but nobody is old in Europe. I was seated next to the Dutchess of Bedford6 who had a Scarlet Sattin sack and coat, with a cushing full of Diamonds, for hair she has none and is but 76 neither. Well now for your cousin, a small white Leghorn Hat bound with pink Sattin ribbon a steel buckle and band which turnd up at the side and confined a large pink bow, large bow of the same kind of ribbon behind, a wreath of full blown roses round the Crown, and an other of buds and roses withinside the Hat which being placed at the back of the Hair brought the roses to the Edge. You see it clearly 1 red and black feather with 2 white ones compleated the Head dress. A Gown and coat of chamberry Gauze with a red sattin stripe, over a pink waist and coat, flounced with crape trimmed with broad point and pink ribbon, wreaths of roses across the coat Gauze Sleaves and ruffels. But the poor Girl was so Sick of a cold that she could not enjoy herself, and we retir'd about one oclock without Waiting supper by which you have lost half a sheet of paper I dare say. But I cannot close without describing to you Lady North and her daughter.7 She is as large as Captain Clarks wife and much such a made woman, with a much fuller face, of the coulour and complexion of mrs cook who formerly lived with your uncle Palmer, and looks as if Porter and Beaf stood no chance before her. Add to this, that it is coverd with large red pimples over which to help the natural redness, a coat of Rouge is spread, and to assist her shape, she was drest in white sattin trimd with Scarlet ribbon. Miss North is not so large nor quite So red, but a very small Eye with the most impudent face you can possibly form an Idea of, joined to manners so Masculine that I was obliged frequently to recollect that line of Dr Youngs—

“Believe her dress; shes not a Grenidier”8

to persuade myself that I was not mistaken.
Thus my dear Girl you have an account which prehaps may amuse you a little. You must excuse my not copying I fear now I shall not get near all my Letters ready—my pen very bad as you see—and I am engaged 3 days this week, to a Route at the Baroness de Nolkings the sweedish ministers;9 to a Ball on thursday evening and to a dinner on saturday. Do not fear that your Aunt will become dissapated or in Love with European manners, but as opportunity offers, I wish to See this European World in all its forms, that I can with decency. I still moralize with Yorick or with one more experi• { 129 } encied, and say Vanity of vanities—all is vanity.10 Adieu & believe me sincerely Yours
[signed] AA
RC (MWA: Abigail Adams Corr.).
1. The second “London” appears to have been written at a different time from the rest of the dateline, perhaps when AA finished the letter.
2. Of 8 Dec. 1785 (vol. 6:484–485).
3. Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, Epistle III, line 318.
4. AA2 to Lucy Cranch, 20 Feb. (MWA: Abigail Adams Corr.).
5. The owl is commonly associated with Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom.
6. Gertrude Russell, dowager duchess of Bedford, whose late husband John Russell, 4th duke of Bedford, was lord president of the privy council from 1764 to 1765 ( DNB ).
7. Lady Anne Speke North, wife of Frederick, Lord North, the former first lord of the treasury and prime minister. The Norths had three daughters: Catherine Anne (b. 1760), Anne (b. 1764), and Charlotte (b. 1770) ( DNB ).
8. Edward Young, Love of Fame, the Universal Passion. Satire V. On Women, London, 1727, line 464.
9. Gustaf Adam, Baron von Nolcken, the Swedish envoy ( Repertorium , 3:409).
10. Ecclesiastes, 1:2.

Docno: ADMS-04-07-02-0039

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1786-04-02

John Quincy Adams to John Adams

[salute] Honoured Sir

After having suffered so long an interval of Time to pass, since I wrote you last,2 it is absolutely necessary, for my own justification, to give you, an account of my Studies, since my return home, and if it is not sufficient, to exculpate me intirely, I hope, at least it will induce you to forgive me. When I arrived here, I found, that I had far more to go through, than I had an Idea of before I left France. For such is the Institution of this College, that if a Person, has studied certain books, he may be admitted; but those, I had not studied, and although my Vanity might have lead me, to suppose, I was as well prepared as many of the Class into which I was to enter, yet as I had not acquired knowledge from the Same Sources, the Government of the College, could not admit me, untill I had in some degree become acquainted, with those particular Authors, which had been studied by the junior Sophister Class. I went to Haverhill the 30th: of last September. The Class had then gone through 4 books of Homers Iliad, 2 of Xenophon's Cyropaedia, the Greek Testament. In Latin they had gone thro' the Odes, and Satires of Horace, and were in the Epistles. In English, they had finished the Study of Geography, and that of Logic, and had entered, upon Locke on the understanding.3 It so happened, that when I was examined, the only book, which, I was tried in, that I had studied, before, I came to America was Horace.4
{ 130 }
Immediately upon going to Mr: Shaw's I began, upon the Greek Grammer, which I learnt through, by heart. I then undertook the Greek Testament, in which I went before, I came here, as far, as the Epistle to Titus. In this I was not so far as the Class. I went through 6 Books of the Iliad, and four of the Cyropaedia; 1 book in each further than the Class. I also finished Horace, and the Andria, of Terence. In Logic, I was equal with the Class and in Locke, about 70 Pages behind them. Guthrie's Geography I had also finished. On the 15th: of last Month, I was examined before, the President, 3 Professors, and four Tutors.5 3 Stanza's, in the Carmen, Saeculare, of Horace, 6 Lines in the 4th: Book of the Iliad, a number of Questions in Logic, and in Locke, and several in Geography, were given to me. After which, I had, the following Piece of English to turn into Latin. “There cannot certainly be an higher ridicule, than to give an air of Importance, to Amusements, if they are in themselves contemptible, and void, of taste. But if they are the object, and care of the judicious and polite, and really deserve that distinction, the conduct of them is, certainly of Consequence.”6—I rendered it thus. “Nihil profectó, risu dignior potest esse, quam magni aestimare delectamenta; si per se, despicienda sunt atque sine sapore. At si res oblatae atque cura sunt sagacibus, et artibus excultis, et reverà hanc distinctionem merent, administratio eorum, haud dubié, utilitatis est.” The President soon after informed me, that I was admitted; and, what I had not expected, that I might Live in the College, as there was one Vacant Place; the Chamber is one of the best in College, and is one of those that are reserved for the resident Batchelors. Johonnot, had left College, a few weeks before,7 and I now Live with his Chum; Mr: Ware, who graduated last year, and was one of the best moral, and Literary Characters in his Class. He spoke the English Oration, when he took his Degree, and that is considered as the most honourable Part, that is given. I shall remain with him till Commencement, and next year, I believe; I shall Live, with my brother.—I went to Braintree, to get some furniture, and returned here the 22d: of last Month. On Tuesday last, the 28th: Mr: Williams, gave the 1st: Lecture of his Course of Experimental Philosophy. He did not begin Last Year till 6 weeks after this: and that has hurried me, at Haverhill more than any thing; for till within these 2 months I did not expect to enter till the Latter part of this Month.
Our Studies are, at present, one week in Latin to Mr James, Caesar, and Terence, the next to Mr: Read in Euclid; but we finish that this week, and go into Gravesande's Philosophy, the next Quarter. If { 131 } you could make it Convenient to send me, the 8vo: Edition, of Desagulier's translation of Gravesande I should be happy; as I believe it is not in your Library at present, and there are none to be bought in Boston, there are two Volumes of it.8 I should wish to have it by next August if Possible. The third week, we recite to Mr Jennison, in Homer, and the Greek Testament; and, the fourth to Mr: Hale, in Locke on the understanding. This is as particular an Account of our Studies, as I can give, and perhaps it will be, so much so, as to become tedious. There are many great advantages derived, from being a member of this Society; but I have already seen many, things which, I think might be altered for the better. One is, that there is not sufficient Communication between the Classes: they appear to form four distinct orders of beings, and seldom associate together. I have already become acquainted, with every one of my own Class; and I do not, know four Persons in any one of the other Classes. Another is, that the Tutors, are so very young, they are often chosen among batchelors, that have not been out of College, more than two years, so that their acquirements are not such, as an Instructor at this University ought to be possess'd of: another disadvantage of their being chosen so young; is that they were the fellow scholars of those they are placed over, and consequently do not command so much Respect, as they seem to demand. However take it all in all, I am strongly confirmed, in your Opinion, that this University is upon a much better plan, than any I have seen in Europe.9
I believe you have with you, four or five New Testaments in Greek and Latin.10 Could you spare a couple of them? I wish to have one for the use of my brothers and myself, and to present another to Mr: Shaw who has none.

[salute] With my Duty to Mamma, and Love to Sister, I remain, your affectionate Son.

[signed] J.Q. Adams
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “J.Q. Adams. Ap. 2. Ansd. June. 3. 1786.”
1. This letter was probably completed on 9 April (JQA, Diary , 2:15–16).
2. On 3 Aug. 1785 (vol. 6:248–250).
3. These included William Guthrie, A New Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar; and Present State of the Several Kingdoms of the World, London, 1770; Isaac Watts, Logick; or, The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth, London, 1725; and John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, London, 1690.
4. JQA first studied Horace in 1783 under the direction of C. W. F. Dumas at The Hague ( Diary , 1:175).
5. JQA describes the examination in more detail in his Diary (same, 2:1).
6. Adam Fitz-Adam, The World, No. 171.
7. Samuel Cooper Johonnot, sent as a boy to study in Europe, was a fellow passenger with JA , JQA , and CA on their 1779 voyage to France aboard La Sensible. Johonnot was educated in Passy with the Adams boys and { 132 } later in Geneva. He returned to the United States in 1784 and earned an A.M. from Harvard in 1786, having been granted an A.B. in absentia in 1783. Johonnot studied law in Boston under James Sullivan and practiced in Portland, Maine, from 1789 to 1791 (JQA, Diary , 1:2–3; Charles W. Akers, The Divine Politician: Samuel Cooper and the American Revolution in Boston, Boston, 1982, p. 356, 426 note 34).
8. JA 's library at MB has the quarto sixth edition of Gravesande's Mathematical Elements, trans. J. T. Desaguliers, London, 1747.
9. JA praised Harvard's attention to the “Morals and Studies of the Youth” compared to its European counterparts in a letter to Harvard president Joseph Willard dated 8 Sept. 1784 (MH-H: Corporation Papers).
10. Among the Adamses' books are many copies of the Bible in either Latin or Greek published before 1786. JA 's books at MB include Selectae è Veteri Testamento historiae, ad usum eorum qui linguae Latinae rudimentis imbuuntur, new edn., Paris, 2 vols. in 1, 1777, and Novi Jesu Christi Testamenti Graeco Latino Germanicae, 2 vols. in 1, Rostock, Germany, 1614 ( Catalogue of JA 's Library ). The collections at MQA include Vetus Testamentum Graecum ex versione Septuaginta interpretum, Amsterdam, 1683; Biblia Sacra Vulgatae Editionis Sixti Quinti Pont, Antwerp, 1628, with JQA 's bookplate and the draft of a prayer, in JQA 's hand, for the restoration of George III and for the regent, the Prince of Wales; La Biblia, cum concordantus veteris et Novi Testamenti et sacrorum corronum, [Nuremberg], [1521]; Novum testamentum, cum versione Latina Aliae Montani (Greek), Amsterdam, 1741, inscribed “Charles Amsterdam Adams. 1780” and “Charles Francis Adams from his father. August 5, 1832.”; Biblia polyglotta, London, n.d., with the signature of CFA ; and New Testament (Greek), 2 vols., n.p., n.d., with CFA 's bookplate.