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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0141

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1779-02-21

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dear

Yours by Mr. Williams have received.1 The little Bill must be paid, but I confess it allarms me a little. The Expence of my Son here is greater than I ever imagined. Altho his Company is almost all the Pleasure I have, in Life, yet I should not have brought him, if I had known the Expence. His Expences, together with what you have drawn for, and a little Collection of Books I have bought, will amount to more than will ever be allowed me.2 My Accounts must not be drawn into Intricacy nor Obscurity. I must not be involved in Suspicions of medling in Trade, nor any Thing else but my proper Business.
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You complain that I dont write often enough, and that when I do, my Letters are too short. If I were to tell you all the Tenderness of my Heart, I should do nothing but write to you. I beg of you not to be uneasy. I write you as often and as much as I ought.
If I had an Heart at Ease and Leisure enough, I could write you, several sheets a day, of the Curiosities of this Country. But it is as much impossible for me to think of such subjects as to work Miracles.
Let me entreat you to consider, if some of your Letters had by any Accident been taken, what a figure would they have made in a Newspaper to be read by the whole World. Some of them it is true would have done Honour to the most virtuous and most accomplished Roman Matron: but others of them, would have made you and me, very ridiculous.
In one of yours you hint that I am to go to Holland. But I think you must be misinformed. By all that I can learn, some Gentlemen intend to vote for me to H[olland] vs. Mr. D[eane], others to Spain vs. Mr. Lee. Neither I think will succeed, and therefore I think I have but one Course to steer, and that is homewards. But I can determine nothing absolutely. I must govern myself, according to the Intelligence, which may hereafter arise, the orders of Congress, and the best Judgment I can form of my own Duty and the Public Good.
I am advised to take a ride to Geneva, or to Amsterdam: and I have been so confined from Exercise, having never been farther from Paris than Versailles since my arrival here, that some such Excursion seems necessary for my Health, yet I cannot well bear the Thought of putting the public to an Expence merely for the Sake of my Pleasure, Health or Convenience.
Yet my situation here is painfull. I never was in such a situation before as I am now, and my present Feelings are new to me. If I should return, and in my Absence, any orders should arrive here for me to execute, in that Case nobody would be here to execute them, and they might possibly fail of success for Want of Somebody with Power to perform them. At least this may be suspected and said and believed.—However, upon the whole, as Congress have said nothing to me good or bad, I have no right to presume that they mean to say any Thing and therefore, on the whole it is my duty to return, by the first good Opportunity, unless I should receive counter orders, before that occurs.
If ever the Time should occur, when I could have a little Leisure and a quiet Mind, I could entertain you with Accounts of Things, which would amuse you and your Children. There are an Infinity of { 178 } Curiosities here, but so far from having Leisure to describe them I have found none even to see them, except a very few.
The Clymate here is charming. The Weather is every day, pleasant as the Month of May—soft mild Air,—some foggy days, and about 10 or twelve days in January, were cold and icy. But we have had scarce 3 Inches of snow the whole Winter. The Climate is more favourable to my Constitution than ours. The Cookery, and manner of living here, which you know, Americans were taught by their former absurd Masters to dislike is more agreable to me, than you can imagine. The Manners of the People have an Affection in them that is very amiable. Their is such a Choice of elegant Entertainments in the theatric Way, of good Company and excellent Books, that nothing would be wanting to me in this Country, but my family and Peace to my Country, to make me, one of the happyest of Men.—John Bull would growl and bellow at this Description—let him bellow if he will, for he is but a Brute.
1. AA to JA, 2 Jan., above, which JA had in fact acknowledged in his first letter to AA of 20 Feb., also above.
2. For some of JA's expenditures on books see the payments to the Paris bookseller Hochereau recorded in JA's Accounts for 1778–1779, Diary and Autobiography, 2:325–343, and especially note 10 there. See also JQA to CA and TBA, 3 Oct. 1778, above; and the note on JA's accounts in Europe, under Lovell to AA, 9 Aug. 1779, below.

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0142

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1779-02-26

John Adams to Abigail Adams

I have this day taken a long Ramble, with my son. The Weather is as delightfull as you can imagine. There is not in the Month of May, a softer Air, a warmer sun, or a more delicious Appearance of Things about Boston.
We walked all over the Gardens of the Royal Castle of Muet, at Passy.1 The Gardens are very spacious, on one Quarter looking to Mount Calvare,2 on another to the famous Castle of Madrid, built by Francis the 1st, whose History you will see in Robertson, C[harles] 5.,3 on another looking over the Plain de sablon, or sandy Plain to the Gate of Maillot.—The Rowes of Trees, and gravel Walks are very pretty, and the orangerie are very grand. But the whole is much neglected—the Trees are all mossy, and have a distempered Look.
We then walked in the Bois du Boulogne, rambling about in by Paths, a long Time, till we came to a Gate which We presumed to open and found ourselves in a noble Garden, the salads green and { 179 } flourishing ready for the Table, long Rows of Wall Fruits, Trees of every species, Apples, Peaches, Appricots, Plumbs &c. and next to the Garden a fine extensive Farm, the Fields and Pastures already shining with Verdure. Upon Enquiry of the Gardiners I was told it belonged to Madame Le Comtess de Boufleure.4 We passed by the Castle, after having viewed all the Farm and Gardens, into the street of Auteuil, the Village where Boileau was born, lived and died5—it is the next Village to Passy. We then walked through the fields along the Castle and Seignoury of Passy which belongs to the Comte De Boulainvilliers6 and returned home, much pleased with our Walk and better for the Air and Exercise.
Now Madam dont you think I have spent my Time very wisely in writing all this important History to your Ladyship. Would it not have been as well spent in conjugating two or three french Verbs, which I could have done through all the Moods, Tenses and Persons, of the Active and passive Voice in this Time.
We expect the Honour of Mr. Turgot,7 the famous Financier, as well as learned and virtuous Man, to dine with Us. And if there should be some Ladies, at the feast, it will not be at my Invitation and therefore you need not be uneasy.
Suppose I should undertake to write the Description of every Castle and Garden I see as Richardson did in his Tour through Great Britain,8 would not you blush at such a Waste of my time.
Suppose I should describe the Persons and Manners of all the Company I see, and the fashions, the Plays, the Games, the sports, the spectacles, the Churches and religious Ceremonies—and all that—should not you think me turned fool in my old Age—have I not other Things to do of more importance?
Let me alone, and have my own Way. You know that I shall not injure you and you ought to believe that I have good Reasons, for what I do, and not treat me so roughly, as you have done.

[salute] Adieu.

1. La Muette, a chateau or hunting lodge at the entrance of the Bois de Boulogne from Passy (Dezallier, Environs de Paris, 1779, p. 18–20).
2. Mont Calvaire or Mont Valérien, across the Seine from the Bois de Boulogne. See a view of Mont Calvaire from the Bois in 1766 reproduced in Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, vol. 12, facing p. 482, with descriptive notes at p. xxxv–xxxvi.
3. On the chateau called Madrid in the Bois de Boulogne, see Dezallier, Environs de Paris, 1779, p. 21–22. For the “History” of Francis I, JA refers AA to William Robertson's History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V, of which JA's copy, 4 vols., London, 1777, is among his books in the Boston Public Library.
{ 180 }
4. Marie Charlotte Hippolyte de Camps de Saujon, Comtesse de Boufflers-Rouverel, whose gardens at Auteuil, “begotten on her by an English gardener,” according to Horace Walpole, were celebrated. See Walpole's description of them in 1775 (Walpole, Corr., ed. W. S. Lewis, 28:222–223) and frequent mentions of the Comtesse and her country seat at Auteuil in his correspondence with Mme. du Deffand, same, vols. 3–8.
5. And also where JA and his family were to live a few years later; see his Diary and Autobiography, 3:120, 143–146. In the latter passage JA describes the topography and some of the sites of this part of (present) Paris more fully than he does in this letter, including the home of the French poet and critic Boileau.
6. The Marquis de Boulainvilliers, “who is a kind of Lord of the Manor of Passi,” was a close neighbor and friend of the American Commissioners (JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:303 and passim).
7. Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de l'Aulne (1727–1781). For a fuller note, with references, on Turgot and on JA's relations with him, see same, 2:297.
8. JA doubtless meant Daniel Defoe's well-known Tour through Great Britain, first published 1724–1726 and frequently revised and reprinted throughout the century. Samuel Richardson contributed to the edition published in 1769; and surviving among JA's books in the Boston Public Library is a copy of the Defoe-Richardson compilation called the 8th edition, 4 vols., London, 1778 (Catalogue of JA's Library, p. 71).
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, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/