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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0097

Author: Thaxter, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1783-06-10

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams

It would give me great Satisfaction to have it in my power to reply to any Letter from you since October last. But that pleasure is denied me. I feel that I am deprived of one Source of Instruction and Entertainment, in being deprived of your excellent Letters. And I support the Privation with little Philosophy. I am thoroughly tired of this cold Consolation, “wait with Patience.” Tis oftentimes the Counsel of the deepest, tho' disguised, Impatience. With this opinion I quit it, or I shall soon fall into a violent fit of fretting, unless I go and pass an Hour with my fair Nun,1 whose Countenance and Language are Contentment. I have seen her several times of late. On my last Visit, She was doing Penance, and it was with the utmost difficulty I could obtain Leave to speak to her, as in that Season they are not allowed to speak to any Visitant but upon a very pressing Occasion. I was happy enough to succeed, and to introduce Mr. Codman2 who delivered her a Letter from her Mother, which was some kind of Atonement for withdrawing her even but for a Moment from the good work of Penance. Why She was in this State, I know not. I had concieved that the Life of a Nun was an eternal Series of Acts of Penance, and was much surprized to find that certain portions of time are allotted to this pious business. What offences the Spouses of Jesus Christ can be capable or guilty of, I am not enough in the Secrets of a Convent to determine. So that I am left to Conjectures, which perhaps may be ill founded and injurious, and therefore very proper to remain where they originated.
Two Nuns have lately taken the Veil. As I had an Invitation to the Ceremony, I conducted a married Lady of my Acquaintance to see it. The Ceremony was much the same as that I formerly gave you an Account of.3 The Sermon was decidedly in favor of that kind of life, as freest from the Evils, Vices and Embarrassments of the World; assuring that it was the only State of Happiness this side of Heaven. He really gave his Audience a severe Lecture, and represented them as in a doubtful State. He did not say, that they would all perish finally, but lashed them without Mercy in speaking of the World at { 172 } large. If he had been a little spare meagre Abby with one foot in the Grave, he might pardonably have painted the World in hideous Colours and bid it a sour Adieu. But the contrary was the fact. Our Orator was in the Bloom of Life and a Picture of Health, but an Abby, condemned by his State to Batchelorism. He made but few Proselytes, if even he himself gave full Credit to his own Doctrine. The married Ladies and Widows deny his System, and are angry enough with him to blanket him.4 And indeed I would inlist as a Volunteer in their Service in so laudable an Undertaking. But the World is full of Contradictions and Absurdities, and the Sermon was only a small Addition to the great Mass.
I have lately met with the Life of Eloise and Abeilard5 in French, as well as the Letters that passed between them. I have bought them, and read them through. 'Tis an interesting Story to Lovers I believe, and I think at 19. I should have read it with more Goût than at present. My Season is over. And for a Year past I have philosophized so much upon Love and Matrimony, that the Sentiment of the former is extinguished to its due degree, and an Inclination for the latter entirely lost. Therefore if I can now read the History of the unfortunate Pair without the ordinary Marks of Sensibility, it must be esteemed rather as a proof of Philosophy than a want of a proper feeling. No one is to be deemed callous whose Sensibility does not instantly melt into Tears on reading or hearing an affecting History or Anecdote. Passions operate differently on different Subjects—more or less violently. Who knows the Sufferings and convulsive Agitations of one who shews few external Marks of them? A Tear is often an equivocal proof of Sensibility.
However notwithstanding my smart Philosophy, I have a strange Inclination to go to Paraclete,6 the Convent built by Abeilard, and of which Eloise was the Superior. I feel a kind of Veneration for the Place, and I believe that kind of Curiosity which leads People to visit particular celebrated Spots of Earth will carry me there, with Pope's Translation of Eloise's Letter. As I have made up my Mind about Matrimony and am in no danger of becoming Love sick I may go in safety. If I should take the Journey, as it is only a day's ride, you may depend on a particular Description from me.
Please to remember me affectionately to your Family, particularly to Miss A. <at her nuptial Ceremony> as an old Acquaintance I may claim <an Invitation>. Respects to all Friends.

[salute] With the utmost Esteem and Respect, Madam yours

[signed] J T
{ 173 }
1. Miss Maroni.
2. Probably Stephen Codman of Boston; see vol. 4:218, and note 1, and John Jay to the president of Congress, 6 Feb. 1782 (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 5:150).
3. In Thaxter to AA, 21 Aug. 1780 (vol. 3:398–399).
4. Probably to toss him in the air, using a blanket; possibly to cover up (stifle) him (OED).
5. The twelfth-century theologian Pierre Abélard seduced his pupil Héloise, and when he learned that she was pregnant, secretly married her. But Héloise's uncle, upon discovering Abélard's deception, had him castrated. Héloise then retired to a convent, and Abélard entered a monastic order. This medieval love story, told in a long correspondence attributed to the two lovers, held a powerful appeal in the eighteenth century. Thaxter's interest in the tale may have been sparked by Pope's “Eloisa to Abelard,” a poem to which he refers, below, as “Pope's Translation of Eloise's Letter.”
6. Le Paraclet, which Thaxter locates, below, as “only a day's ride” from Paris, is near Nogent-sur-Seine, over sixty miles southeast of Paris.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0098

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1783-06-12

John Adams to John Quincy Adams

[salute] My dear Son

The Bearer of this Letter, Eliphalet Fitch Esqr., a Gentleman of large Fortune and high in office in Jamaica, is a Grandson of Dr. Boylston and consequently your Relation.1
You will wait upon him and his Lady, and do yourself the honor to shew them all the Attention and Respect in your Power, while they stay at the Hague.

[salute] Your affectionate Father

[signed] John Adams
LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers).
1. Eliphalet Fitch was receiver general and a judge of the supreme court of Jamaica. He was born in Boston in 1740, the son of Benjamin Fitch and Jerusha Boylston, the daughter of Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, who introduced innoculation for smallpox into America. Dr. Zabdiel Boylston was the brother of JA's grandfather, Peter Boylston; thus Fitch and JA were second cousins. See JA to C. W. F. Dumas, 12 June (Adams Papers); Sibley's Harvard Graduates, 7:335–336; DAB (Zabdiel Boylston).

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0099

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Tyler, Royall
Date: 1783-06-14

Abigail Adams to Royall Tyler

I had thoughts of writing to you before I received my last Letters from abroad, because you have frequently flatterd me with an assurance that my advise is not unacceptable to you.1 I thought I had some hints to drop to you which might Serve your interest. I feel an additional motive to take my pen, and communicate to you a passage from my Last Letter.2
“My dear daughters happiness employs my Thoughts Night and { 174 } day. Do not let her form any connection with any one who is not devoted intirely to Study and to Buisness—To honour and to virtue. If there is a Trait of Frivolity and dissapation left I pray that She may renounce it forever; I ask not Fortune nor favour for mine, But prudence Talents and Labour—She may go with my consent whereever She can find enough of these.”
You have before you sentiments and principals which your Reason must assent to, and your judgment approve, as the only solid foundation upon which a youth can Build: who is entering into Life, with satisfaction to his own mind, or a prospect of happiness for his connections. Talants are not wanting, shall they lack Labour for improvement, or industery for cultivation?
Honour and virtue, are they not inmates and companions? Is their a Trait of Frivolity and dissapation left? Examine your own Heart with candour, let it not deceive you. These are the Rocks and quick Sands. Dissapation enervates the Man, dissolves every good purpose and resolution, it excuses a thousand ways his deviations from the path of Rectitude, and in the end becomes his distroyer. It puts on like a mere Proteous a thousand different forms, and too frequently calls itself Relaxation. The one is necessary the other ruinous. To draw the line requires both skill and judgment; perhaps there is no more certain cure for dissapation, than method, and order, and were I to advise any one liable to this infirmity, it would be to portion out the Day, and appropriate a certain Number of Hours to Study, or to Buisness. With a determined Resolution to be inflexable against every temptation which might allure them from their purpose; untill fixed habits were formed which could not be easily shaken.
Perhaps more industery and application, are necessary, in the profession of the Law, in order to become Eminent; than in either phisick, or divinity; if it is, as I realy believe, in the power of my young Friend, to become so; it is also a duty incumbent upon him. Doubling the Talant of him, who possesst but one, would have obtaind him the Eulogy of a Faithfull Servant, but if he to whom ten was committed had gained only one, how neglegent and Sothfull would he have been deemed?3
Have you not Ambition, let it warm you to Emulation, let it fire you to rise to a Superiour height; to be well accomplished in your profession, I have heard a Friend of mine4 observe that it was indispensably necessary to have a perfect knowledge of the Theory of Goverment, and foundations of society, to study Humane Nature not { 175 } to disguise, but to present Truth in her Native Loveliness. Shall I not See you become an honour to your profession in the excersise of a generous candour; an inflexable integrity; strict punctuality, and exact decision, virtues which are by no means incompatable with your profession, notwithstanding the Sarcastick reflexions it is daily liable to. If you can find within your own breast any additional motives, let them serve to enforce my Recommendations. I have so far interested myself in your advancement in Life, as to feel a peculiar satisfaction in your increasing Buisness. I shall rejoice in your success, and in the consistancy of your Character. Much depends upon a uniformity of conduct. There is a strenght of mind, a firmness and intrepidity which we look for in a masculine character—an April countanance, now Sunshine and then cloudy, can only be excused in a Baby faced girl—in your sex, it has not the appearence of Nature, who is our best guide.——Be assured you have my best wishes that you may merit and obtain whatever may conduce to your happiness, for I am most Sincerely a Friend to Your Fame; and a Lover of your Virtues. Adieu—
RC (VtHi: Royall Tyler Coll.); addressed: “To Mr Royal Tyler Braintree”; docketed, in an unknown hand: “From Mrs John Adams to R. Tyler Esq. June 1783.”
1. The period is supplied.
2. That is, JA to AA, 28 March, above; see note 5.
3. See Matthew 25:14–30.
4. Probably JA.
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/