A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0042

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Cranch, Lucy
Recipient: Greenleaf, Lucy Cranch
Date: 1785-05-05

Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch

I presume my dear Lucy would be dissapointed if her cousin does not deliver her a line from her Aunt. Yet it is hardly fair to take up { 121 } an exhausted pen to address a young Lady whose eager serch after knowledge entitles her to every communication in my power.
I was in hopes to have visited several curiosities before your cousin left us; that I might have been able to have related them to my friends; but several engagements in the company way, and some preparation for his voyage; together with the necessary arrangements for our own journey; have so fully occupied me that I fear I shall fail in my intentions. We are to dine to day with Mr. Jefferson. Should any thing occur there worthy of notice it shall be the subject of my Evening pen.
Well my dear Neice I have returnd from Mr. Jeffersons;2 when I got there I found a pretty large company: it consisted of the Marquis and Madam de la Fayette, the Count and Countess Douradou,3 a French Count who had been a General in America, but whose name I forget; Commodore Jones, Mr. Jarvis4 an American Gentleman lately arrived, the same who married Amelia Broom, who says there is so strong a likeness between your cousin, and his Lady that he is obliged to be upon his gaurd least he should think himself at Home and make some mistake. He appears a very sensible agreeable Gentleman. A Mr. Bowdoin,5 an American also. I ask the Chevalier de Luzerns pardon I like to have forgot him. Mr. Williamos of course as he always dines with Mr. Jefferson, and Mr. Short, the one of Mr. Jeffersons family. As he has been absent some time I name him; he took a resolution that he would go into a French family at St. Germains and acquire the language, and this is the only way for a foreigner to obtain it. I have often wisht that I could not hear a word of English spoken. I think I have mentiond Mr. Short before in some of my Letters. He is about the statue of Mr. Tudor a better figure, but much like him in looks and manners. Concequently a favorite of mine. They have some customs very curious here. When company are invited to dine, if 20 Gentlemen meet, they seldom or ever set down, but are standing or walking from one part of the room to the other, with their Swords on and their Chapeau de Bras, which is a very small silk hat, always worn under the Arm. These they lay asside whilst they dine, but reassume them immediately after. I wonder how this fashion of standing crept in, amongst a Nation who realy deserve the appellation of polite; for in winter it shuts out all the fire from the Ladies. I know I have sufferd from it many times. At dinner the Ladies and Gentleman are mixed, and you converse with him, who sets next you, rarely speaking to a person across the table; unless to ask, if they will be served with any thing from your side; conversation is never general { 122 } as with us; for when the company quit the table, they fall into tete a tetes of two, and two, when the conversation is in a low voice and a stranger unacquainted with the customs of the Country, would think that every body had private buisness to transact.
Last Evening6 as we returnd, the Weather being very soft, and pleasent, I proposed to your uncle to stop at the Tuiliries and walk the Garden: which we did for an hour: there was as usual a collection of four or 5 thousand persons in the Walks. This Garden is the most celebrated publick walk in Paris. It is situated just opposite to the River Seine, upon the left hand as you enter Paris from Auteuil. Suppose that upon Boston Neck one side flows the River Seine and on the other hand the Garden of the Tuiliries. There is a high Wall next the street, upon which there is a terace which is used as a winter walk. This Garden has six large Gates by which you may enter. It is adornd with noble rows of Trees straight, large, and tall, which form a most beautifull shade. The populace are not permitted to walk in this Garden, but upon the day of Saint Louis; when they have it all to themselves. Upon one side of this Garden is the Castle de Tuiliries, which is an immence pile of Building, very ancient. It is in one of these Chateaus that the concert spiritual7 is held. Upon the terrace which borders this Chateau, are six Statues and 2 vases. These vases are large circular spots of water, which are conveyed there from the Seine by leaden pipes under ground. Round the great vase which is in the midst of the parterre are four Groups of white Marble; one represents Lucretia, the story I know is familiar to you. The Parissians do well to erect a statue to her, for at this day there are many more Tarquins than Lucretias. She is represented as plunging the dagger into her Bosom in presence of her Husband. There is an other statue Anchises saved from the flames of Troy, by his son Aeneas who is carrying him out upon his shoulders, leading Ascanius his son by his hand. The 3d. is the Rape of Oryth'a [Oreithyia] the daughter of Erectheus king of Athens by Boreas, and the fourth the ravishment of Cybele by Saturn. The two last very pretty ornaments for a publick Garden. At the end of the Great Alley fronting the largest water peice, which is in the form of an octogone, are eight more marble statues. Upon the right is Hannible counting the rings which were taken from the Chevaliers who were kill'd in the battle of Cannes [Cannae]. Two Seasons Spring and Winter are upon the left hand, and a very beautifull figure of Scipio Africanus, near which are the two other { 123 } Seasons, Summer and Autumn, and a statue of the Empress Agripina. Over against these are four Rivers Collossus represented sleeping, viz. the Seine, the Loire, the Tiber and the Nile. At the end of the two terraces are two figures in Marble mounted upon winged Horses. One is Mercury and the other Fame, who as usual is blowing a Trumpet. In very hot weather the Alleys are waterd. Under the Trees are Seats and chairs which you may hire to set in for a Sou, or two. There are many plots of Grass intersperced.
Thus you see I have scribled you a long Letter. I hope my description will please you. This is my Eleventh Letter and I have yet several others to write. So adieu my dear Lucy and believe me most affectionately Yours
[signed] Abigail Adams
PS. I have sent by your cousin a peice of silk for your sister and you a Gown of which I ask your acceptance. There are 17 yard/2. I would have had a yard half more if I could, but it was all: being 3 quarters wide I believe it will answer.8
1. For the assigned dates of the sections of the text, see notes 2 and 6.
2. JQA places this dinner, with the guests named here, on 5 May (Diary, 1:262).
3. Comte de Doradour had recently lost much of his fortune in a lawsuit, and was planning to settle with his family in Virginia where, he thought, his modest means would be less of a burden than in polite French society. The count planned to sail with JQA in the May packet, but at the last minute he delayed his departure for a month, much to JQA's annoyance. Doradour was soon disappointed with Virginia, and returned to France in 1786 (JQA, Diary, 1:249, 262, 265–266; and see Jefferson, Papers).
4. James Jarvis of New York, who had married the daughter of the New York merchant Samuel Broome (JQA, Diary, 1:254, note 2, 307).
5. This was John Bowdoin of Virginia, a member of the House of Burgesses in 1774 (Jefferson, Papers, 1:108).
6. This “Evening” was either immediately following the dinner at Jefferson's on 5 May, or on 6 May when AA and AA2, at least, were in Paris quite late in the day (JQA, Diary, 1:262–263).
7. The concerts spirituels, begun in 1725 and held on Sundays and holidays, were originally devoted to sacred music, but the programs soon became thoroughly secular and included both vocal and instrumental compositions. Italian composers were especially favored, but certain French pieces and Haydn symphonies were also popular. Beginning in 1784 the concerts were held in the Salle des Machines, in the northern wing of the Tuileries. AA and AA2 attended one such concert on 2 or 3 April. See Rice, Jefferson's Paris, p. 30; AA2, Jour. and Corr., 1:68; JQA, Diary, 1:244; and Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel.
8. The postscript is omitted from AA, Letters, ed. CFA.

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0043

Author: Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Recipient: Cranch, Elizabeth
Recipient: Norton, Elizabeth Cranch
Date: 1785-05-06

Abigail Adams 2d to Elizabeth Cranch

I have now before me your two last Letters by [my?] Dear Eliza1 received by Capt Calliham which I mean to answer before my Brother { 124 } departs, and this will be in a very few days. You cannot wonder that is an event that I am not at all gratified with. I think of it as little as possible for tis hard to [ . . . ] the [ . . . ]2 that he is to be with us by anticipating the lonesomeness of our situation when he Shall be gone. The hope that it is promoting his advantage renders it less Painfull and the idea that he is going home and to all our friends and relations is much less disagreeable than if he were going to a land of Strangers. You have promised to admit him as a fourth Brother.3 I doubt not that you will find him deserving your regard friendship and esteem.
If you could Eliza be transported into our garden at this time, I think you would enjoy much satisfaction, and I am sure you would confer upon me a great degree of pleasure. At the bottom of it there is a thicket of Lilacs and jasmines, planted to attract the Birds in the spring. They will in a few days be out in blossom, and there is already a Number of Nightingales who have taken their residence in the bushes and every Morning and evening when the weather is warm enough to admit, they Sing to us most beautifully. The scenes I am sure would enchant my Dear Cousin, I never go into the garden without thinking of her. My fancy often places her by my side, and I sometimes even Listen to her raptures upon the surrounding scenes.
But I am going to call your imagination from this rural and romantic picture to a description that will afford ample scope to your fancy. It is of an Opera which has lately appeard and which I have seen, the title is Panurge dans l'Isle des Lanternes.4 It appears that the Lovers in this Island cannot unite themselvs but under the good pleasure of the Goddess who they adore under the name of Lignobie. The actions begins the day consecrated to the fete of the Goddess. She is invoked by the whole People to consent to the Marriage of two of the principle inhabitants of the Island who are beloved by their Misstresses as much as they themselvs love them, and replys by the mouth of her Preist that she approves the double marriage, and that they shall be happy, if without ceasing to be faithfull to their Lovers the two Misstresses become equally beloved by a stranger which a tempest shall throw upon their shore. Dispair seizes the minds of every one, not only because it is a new delay but also because that Thunder was never known in their climate and the accomplishment of the oracle appears impossible.
Nevertheless in the midst of their universal discouragement, the Heavens become obscure and they hear at a distance the begining of { 125 } the tempest. From their particular situation hope springs in every heart, and the joy of the inhabitants augments more and more in proportion as the Storm increases. They discover an unhappy wretch tossing upon the Waves in a frail boat, but his crys only excite their curiossity. They determine finally to retire; he declares in arriving that his name is Panurge. The Lovers interested to bring about the accomplishment of the oracle, load him with caresses. Panurge natureally possessing a good opinion of himself attributes to his Personal attractions the flattery they bestow upon him. He appears in the 2d. act dresst in the fashion of the Country. Tenire one of the two Lovers interested to please him, receives him and makes him many compliments. Panurge not only takes them as serious but is persuaded that they are from the mouth of the young Lanternaise a true declaration of Love, and he begins himself to find them amiable. The tete a tete is interrupted by Agarenne the second Misstress sister to Tenire, who feigns to be jealous for a moment, and finishes by affecting a great share of indifferance and gaiety. Panurge attracted by the vivacity of Agarenne thinks that she may have more regard to become agreeable to him. Finally the two sisters agree between themselvs, to demand Panurge to explain himself and make a choice. Panurge cannot determine, and they quit him to return to the Ball.
Poor Panurge when left alone complains to Love for not having rendered him less amiable or less amoureux. Climéne Wife of Panurg, who the corsaires had taken in the voyage that she had made to meet her husband, and who they had sold as a slave and who served in this capacity the two sisters beloved by Panurge, had a Project to punish the vanity of her husband and at the same time to indeavour to remind him of his first attachment, disguised herself as the Master of the ceremonies, instructs him in what manner he must conduct himself at the Ball, and engages him to decide. Panurge allways uncertain when he sees the two Misstress[es] together cannot pronounce. He at last determines to follow the Consell of Climene and goes to consult the Sibylle. Climene agrees with the four Lovers to change herself with the character of the Sibylle. Panurge in the third act renders himself to the place appointed; he sees the little Lutins5 who reply to him only by ridiculous gestures from which he can comprehend nothing; he interrogates the Sibylle, she even, replys to him at first while concealed from his eyes only by pronouncing the last monosyllable of his demand. She appears finally and recalls to him his first engagements. Panurge cannot deny them, but declares that he determines to break them because that his Wife was Wicked { 126 } and ennuyeuse. The Sibylle takes the part of Climene, brings to the remembrance of Panurge his first promises, and tells him that she has no more those faults which he reproaches her with. She finally discovers herself to him, and Panurge embrases with avidity the occasion which so natureally presents, to dispence with his making a choise that he considered as impossible. The Oracle being accomplished in every point, the Goddess appears in a Great Lanterne and Consents to the marriage of the Lovers, which they celebrate by a general feast.
“The Plan of this peice and the situations are very comique. It has been received with great applause, and has had a great success. The Principle Parts are those of Panurge and of Climene his Wife; that of Panurge is much the most dificult as he is allways in a situation Comique, and as it is necessary to avoid rendering it low by addapting too much buffoonery. Mademoiselle St. Huberti a celebrated actress at the Opera, excelles in the two kinds, which seem to exclude each other. She is as natureally placed in the Part of the Wife of Panurge who amuses herself with the foolishness of her husband, as in that of the Queen of Carthage, in which she has been so generally crowned.”
Thus my Dear Cousin I have given you an account of a peice which is much admired, in Paris. I hope it will please you. The scenery and dresses were very curious, as you may suppose in the Island of Lanterns. When a celebrated peice appears at either of the Play houses, there is very soon some Hat or Cap, comes out named after it. Panurge appears in a very large hat as large as an umbrella, and it was not a week before the Milliners had made a hat, which is calld Chapeau à la Panurge; it is a straw hat striped with black.
The dansing was superior to any thing you can have an idea of, without having seen it. There were four of the best dansers, all dansing at a time, “each in their kind seemd to dispute the Palm of their art.” But I am very sure the Dansing upon the Stage here could not please you at first, for tho it is carried to the greatest Perfection, it is nevertheless divested of every idea of female delicacy and modesty. An American Lady who came to Paris with American ideas of delicacy, told me, and it was my own observation upon myself also, that when she first went to the Opera and saw the dansing, She wanted to conceal herself. But in a very little time she could see it with the rest of the World and admire it as they did.
Be so good my Dear Cousin as to Present my Duty and respects { 127 } to all my friends to whom they are due. Particularly to your Pappa and Mamma, and beleive me at all times your friend
[signed] Amelia
RC (MHi: C. P. Cranch Papers); docketed in an unknown hand: “Letter from Mis A Adams to Miss Eliz: Cranch. France. May 6th. 1785.”
1. Not found.
2. Two words on a badly worn fold are illegible.
3. That is, after William Cranch, CA, and TBA.
4. Panurge dans l'île des lantenes, an opera in three acts with libretto by Etienne Morel de Chedeville and the Comte de Provence and music by André Gréetry opened in Paris on 25 Jan. 1785. The hero was drawn from Rabelais' Pantagruel.JQA saw Panurge on 25 Feb., the “12th time” it was performed, and was impressed with the music and dancing, but thought the words “very bad” (Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel; JQA, Diary, 1:226–227).
5. Elves or goblins.
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.