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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0124

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1779-01-19

Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Adams

I Intended writing my Friend Mrs. Adams when Mr. Thaxter Returned but dare say he Gave you a satisfactory Reason why I did not, since which many matters have taken up my time. The Bussy and the Gloomy scenes have Alternately played before me and Commanded my Attention almost Ever since I left your house with a Heart full of anxiety.
I saw my Father no more as my Foreboding Heart presaged. He Breathed his Last sigh And bid Adieu to mortality before I Reached His now Desolate Mansion.
Why was this such a painful Circumstance to me. How Inconsistent, how Irrational are our Wishes. When the saint is on the Threshold of Eternity And His Lord has Commissioned a Messenger to Release him from his Labour, and Bestow the Reward shall we wish a Moments Detention, that we may be permited the painful, the Terefying satisfaction of standing by His Couch, while the trembling Soul is taking Leave of Its shattered tenement, and is looking abroad, amidst the Dark, profound, Etheriel oeconimy, for a New and more permenent Habitation.
My Excellent parent had Long done his Work, and was patiently waiting this important Change. He longed to Depart and to be with Christ, and to unite his song of praise with the seperate spirit of one whose Life was such that her Children Could not be forgiven if they did not Arise and Call her Blessed, so long as Memory is lent them.
Forgive the Fond overflowings of Fillial affection, and I will lead { 153 } you from a subject so unpolite to a more Fashionable theme, to the Disputes of polititions and statsmen. There if any where is Developed the Dark Windings of the Human Heart. How often when they have involved themselves in Guilt, do they send a Hue and Cry for justice to overtake such as are about to Detect them. Perhaps we may soon see the Methods taken to Exculpate the knave1 were the best Means of Bringing to Light the knavery: and had the Former been silent, the odium of the Latter might have been fixed where it was not due, but by opening a Door for a strict scrutiny I hope truth will be Discovered And punishment and Disgrace will Rest where it ought.
If your Little Good Girl is unhappy she Conceals it from me, for she smiles as if she Enjoyed herself and says plimouth is as pleasant as Either Boston or Braintree. I shall Endeavour to keep her in that sentiment as Long as I Can.
If you hear anything from France we are not so immersed in our own Happiness but what she and I Can Listen with pleasure. Nor would Inteligence from any other quarter be unentertaining handed forward by your pen.
Make my Regards to Mr. Thaxter and to all other Braintree Friends. I will not write what I think of this young Gentleman, but when I see you I will tell you.
It gives me pleasure in such a day as this when Vice is strengthened by Fashion, and Crimes are softned by the appelation of Taste to see any Coming on the stage of action who have understanding and Virtue sufficient to Dare to be Good. But this may be one of the Antiquated Whims of Your undisguized Friend,
[signed] Marcia Warren
RC (Adams Papers). Early Tr (MHi:Mercy Warren Letterbook); in an unidentified hand and dated: “Plymouth January 2d. 1779.” Tr was based on a Dft, which may have been dated but is not now to be found. Variations between RC and Tr, though numerous, are disregarded here.
1. In Tr an asterisk is inserted here and a note appears at the bottom of the page: “Silas Dean's address to the public when under censure of Congress.”

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0125

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Warren, Mercy Otis
Date: 1779-01-22

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren

Your favour by Col. Henly was deliverd me by the Hand of that gentleman. I had been some time expecting to hear from you by your own worthy partner and not seeing him this way gave me some anxiety least he was unwell. But as you did not mention it, and by inquiry of Col. H——I could not find that any thing was the Mater so I set it { 154 } down to the miserly disposition of my Friend who having got intire possession of her treasure was for securing it wholy to herself, unwilling to impart it to an ungratefull world who tho they had formerly reapd advantages and benifits from the improvement of it, had turnd their attention and Applause to the empty vain Bauble which glitters for a while but is destitute of that intrinsick value which defies the tooth of time.
Forgive me if I sometimes am envious—envious I will not call it since I am sure I do not wish the diminution of any ones happiness—only that I possessd an eaquel share of domestick felicity. My Ideas do not coincide with those who recommend a seperation as necessary to revive the Langour of the most intimate of unions. Those who feel that langour may willingly apply the remedy and find a substitute, but no substitute can fill up the vacancy in my happiness, or supply to me the absence of him who has all my Heart.
I ask not excuse for such sentiments as I know you can join in, nor need my Friend have apoligised for the overflowings of Filial affections to one who has experienced the last sad farewell of one of the best of parents. How much more painfull would the retrospect appear had crimes embitterd their remembrance. May their virtues desend and adorn their children even unto the 3 and fourth generation.
My daughter I dare say is happy and content, was she otherways I should have no opinion of her judgment or taste. When I sent her to you I supposed you would have been for the most part alone and did not know but her company might in some measure elude2 the lonely hour. In return I knew she would reap advantages from residing with a Lady she could not fail of loving and respecting, but as you are determined to keep more valuable company, I suppose I may call for her in a few weeks.
The conduct of a certain gentleman has roused the attention of the publick. He has stired up a nest which will sting him till he bleads. Tis unhappy that in the Infancy of our republicks such unworthy characters should stain our Anals and Lessen us in the Eyes of foreign powers. Yet this will ever be the case where self Interest is more powerfull than publick virtue. When the path of rectitude is forsaken, the mind is soon bewilderd in error and when men leave honesty wisdom forsakes them.
I hope the dark scene will be develloped and the indignation of an abused people fall where it ought.
You call for News from France. With pleasure I would give you any intelligance I could obtain, but alass there is a wide ocean betwen, { 155 } and my Heart sickens when I recollect what a long period has elapsed since I received the least consolation from thence. May I ask the ready pen of my Friend to indulge me with a few lines from Parnassus upon the Anniversary of a very Melancholy day to me, which will always be more peculiarly devoted to my absent Friend, till the happy one arrives which shall give him back to me again.
I sympathize with my Friend that she is again and so soon call'd to mourn a departed relative cut of in the midst of her days, witherd in her Bloom at a time when the young charge require the maternal watchfulness and precepts.3 This is a much more trying Dispensation than resigning those who according to the course of Nature have done the work assignd them and like a shock of corn are gathered.

As those we love decay, we dye in part

String after string is sever'd from the Heart

Till loosen'd life, at last but breathing clay

Without one pang is glad to fall away,

Unhappy those, who latest feel the blow

Whose Eyes have wept o'er every Friend laid low,

Drag'd ling'ring on from partial Death to Death

Till, dying, all they can resign is Breath.

At a late hour I must bid a good Night to Marcia and close her affectionate
[signed] Portia
Dft (Adams Papers); at head of text in CFA's hand: “Mrs. Warren Jan 1779.” At the beginning of the third page of this four-page MS, AA had begun, and later scratched out, an undated draft letter to an unnamed correspondent: “Sir As you are determined to return to your native land again permit me Sir to address you tho personally unknown to you [sentence unfinished].” One may guess that she was addressing a loyalist, but the editors cannot identify him, and presumably she never finished or sent the letter.
1. The death of Elizabeth (Gray) Otis, spoken of in this letter, occurred on 22 Jan. 1779 (see note 3). AA is obviously answering Mrs. Warren's letter of 19 Jan., preceding, but her answer may have been written at any time between 22 Jan. and 13 Feb., “the Anniversary of a very Melancholy day,” also mentioned in this letter.
2. Thus in MS. Possibly AA meant to write: “in some measure help you elude the lonely hour.”
3. Elizabeth (Gray) Otis, 1st wife of Mrs. Warren's youngest brother, Samuel Allyne Otis (see Adams Genealogy), died on 22 Jan. at the age of 33 (Boston Gazette, 25 Jan. 1779). She left five children, the eldest of whom was Harrison Gray Otis (1765–1848), later famous as a Federalist political leader (Morison, H. G. Otis, vol. 1, ch. 1–2).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.