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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


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.
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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).

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0143

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1779-02-27

John Adams to Abigail Adams

The Weather continuing fine, I went to Saint Denis a little Village about Eight Miles from this Place, where are the Tombs of all the Kings and Queens. The statues of all lie in state in Marble.
The Church which is called the Royal Church of Saint Denis is magnificent, and there is an Appartment in a Chamber where the Crowns and many other Curiosities are preserved.
It is curious to see such a Collection of Gold, Ivory and precious stones, as there is every Species I suppose that is mentioned in the Revelations. The Diamonds and Rubies glitter.—But I confess I have so much of the savage sachem in me, that these Things make no great Impression upon me.
There are several little Crucifixes here, which the Ecclesiastic, who showed them told Us, were made of Bits of the true Cross.—This may be for any Thing that I know.
In my Return, I took a Circuit round by Mont Martre and dined at Home, with the Dr. who has a fit of the Gout but is getting better.
The situation in which my Masters have left me, puzzles me very much. They have said nothing to me, but one sett of Gentlemen write that I am to go to Spain, another to Holland, a third to Vienna. But upon the whole I believe they dont intend to send me to either, but leave me, to stay here in a ridiculous situation or return home, if I can get there.
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I shall return, unless I should receive before the Time arrives for the Vessell to sail, orders which I can execute with Honour, and a Prospect of rendering some service to the public. But of these two last Points I will judge for myself.1
1. In a letter of this date addressed to John Jay, president of Congress, JA expressed his feelings about his situation and intentions in language that was officially correct but not without barbs below the surface:
“By the new Arrangement, which was brought by the Marquis de la Fayette, I find myself restored to the Character of a private Citizen.
“The Appointment of a single Minister, at the Court of Versailles, was not unexpected to me, because I had not been two Months in Europe, before I was convinced of the Policy, and indeed of the Necessity of such a Measure. But I ever entertained Hopes that when the News of such an Alteration should arrive, the Path of my own Duty, would have been made plain to me by the Directions of Congress either to return home or go elsewhere. But as no Information we have received from Congress has expressed their Intentions concerning me, I am obliged to collect them by Implication, according to the best of my Understanding: and as the Election of the new Minister Plenipotentiary, was on the fourteenth of September, and the Alliance sailed from Boston the fourteenth of January, and in this Space of four Months no Notice appears to have been taken of me, I think the only Inference that can be made is, that Congress have no farther Service for me on this Side the Water, and that all my Duties are on the other. I have accordingly given Notice to his Excellency M. De Sartine, and to his Excellency the Minister Plenipotentiary here, of my Intentions to return, which I shall do by the first Frigate which sails for any Port of the united States, unless I should receive Counter orders in the mean time. In a Matter of so much Uncertainty, I hope I shall not incur the Disapprobation of Congress, even if I should not judge aright of their Intentions, which it is my Desire as well as my Duty to observe, as far as I can know them.” (PCC, No. 84, I; LbC, Adams Papers.)
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/