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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0045

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Cranch, Elizabeth
Recipient: Norton, Elizabeth Cranch
Date: 1785-05-08

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch

No 6
Yes my dear Neice, it was a Ceremony2 that one must study Some time to find out either utility or pleasure in it. I own tho I made one in the procession I could not help feeling foolish as I was parading first up one side of a very wide road, for a mile and half and then turning, and following down a vast number of Carriages upon the other as slow as if you was attending a funeral. By this adjustment you see, one row of Carriages are constantly going up, whilst the others are comeing down, so that each calvicade have a fair view of each other, and this is call'd going to Long Champs.
About the 3d of Feb'ry the Carnival begins. During this time there is great festivity amongst the Parissians, the operas are more frequent, and Mask'd Balls succeed them.3 The Theaters are crowded, and every place is gay. But upon the 27 of March,4 or the Sunday upon which the celebration of the passion of our Saviour commences, the Theaters are closed, and continue so during 3 weeks. Lent lasts six weeks, all of which is fill'd up with Church ceremonies, one of which is the Kings washing the feet of a dozen poor Boys, and the Queen as many Girls, after which they give them a dinner in the Palace at which their Majesties and the princiss of the Blood, attend them at table, the princes and Lords carrying the plates.5 There is an other ceremony which is call'd the day of Branches. The people go very early to mass, before day light and continue a long time at it, after which the Priests go forth preceeded by some Church officer, with a large picture of our Saviour, and an other with a silver cross. The people follow two, and two, Men Women and Children with Branches in their hands, and Book[s] chanting their prayers. They go to kneel and pray before the crusifix one of which is placed upon the Road in every villiage. There are 3 days also when a peice of the Real and true Cross, as they say is shewn in the holy Chapel of Paris, { 131 } and every good Catholick kisses it. Then comes holy Sunday when every body goes to Church and the Night it begins the Clergy make a solemn procession into the Halls of the palace at 3 oclock in the morning, and as nothing is performed here without the assistance of the Military, the Commandant of the Watch sends two Companies to escort this procession. But neither the Concert Spiritual which is held three times a week in the Château des Tuileries, nor all the ceremonies of the Church can compensate with the sad Parissians for the absence of the Plays. To fill up the time and vary the Amusement, this parade at Long Champs was invented. It continues 3 days. The place is about one mile from hence. It is a fine plain upon each side of which are rows of trees, like Germantown Woods. Here the Parissians appear with their Superb equipages drawn by six fleet Coursers, their Horses and servants gayly drest. All kinds of Carriages are to be seen here, from the clumsy fiacre to the gilded Chariot, as well as many Gentleman on horse Back and swarms of people on foot. The city Gaurds make no small part of the shew, for the Maré Chaussee6 as they are call'd are placed along in rows between the Carriages, and are as despotick as their Master. Not a Coach dares go an inch from its rank, nor one carriage force it self before an other, so that notwithstanding there are many thousands collected upon this occasion, you see no disorder. But after all it is a senseless foolish parade, at which I believe I shall never again assist.
Your Cousin who I hope will have the happiness to deliver you this will tell you so much about us, that less writing will be necessary for me than on many other occasions. He cannot however say, that I feel myself happier here than I used to, at the Humble Cottage at the foot of the Hill. I wish the dimensions of that was enlarged, because I see no prospect of a more convenient one; and I hope to rejoice there with my Friends in some future Day. I think I am not unlike the Nun who used once a year to be permitted to make an excursion into the World, half of the Year she diverted herself in recounting the pleasures she had met with and the other half in those which she expected.
I shall have some regret I assure you in quitting Auteuil, since I must leave it for London instead of America, that being the destination which Congress has assignd us. The trees in the Garden are putting on their verdure, and the flowers springing into Life. The Song of the Nightingale too regales me as I walk under the trees whose thick branches intwin'd, form a shade which secures you from the rays of the Sun. I shall mourn my garden more than any other { 132 } object which I leave. In many respects I think I shall feel myself happier in London, but that will depend much upon our reception there, and the Course which politicks take. If that is not agreable we shall return so much the sooner to America.
It is a long time Since I had a line from you, and I believe I have brought you very deep in debt.
I have sent you some flower seeds. You will not get them early enough for the present Season, but plant and preserve them next year that I may find them blooming when I return, and be so good as to give some of them to Mrs. Warren. Believe me my dear Girl most affectionately Yours
[signed] A Adams
RC (MHi: Jacob Norton Papers); addressed by JQA: “Miss Eliza Cranch. Braintree”; docketed in an unknown hand: “L[et]ter from Mrs. A. Adams to Miss Eliz. Cranch. France, May 8. 1785 (No. 6.).”
1. The “8 1785” is written in a different ink; it was probably added upon the completion of the text.
2. Betsy had apparently inquired, in a letter now lost, about the parade out of Paris and along the Allée de Longchamp through the Bois de Boulogne, which was held on three days each year during Holy Week. JA, AA, and AA2 briefly witnessed this affair on 24 March, and AA, AA2, and JQA joined the procession on 25 March, Good Friday, the last and most crowded day of the event. Both JQA and AA2 left vivid descriptions of Longchamp (Diary, 1:238, 239; Jour. and Corr., 1:55–56, 62–63). Two years earlier, John Thaxter had devoted an entire letter to AA to this festive occasion (18 April 1783, above). See also the Descriptive List of Illustrations, vol. 5.
3. JQA saw masked revellers in the streets of Paris on 7 and 8 Feb. (Diary, 1:220, 221 ); carnival week ended on 8 Feb., Shrove Tuesday (AA2, Jour. and Corr., 1:46–47).
4. AA is in error here. In 1785, Easter fell on 27 March; the week of Semaine Sainte (Holy Week) began on Palm Sunday, 20 March (JQA, Diary, 1:238–239).
5. In 1785 this event occurred on 24 March. JQA noted it briefly (JQA, Diary, 1:238); AA2, after mentioning the royal ceremony, gave a highly critical description of a similar washing ceremony at St. Sulpice (Jour. and Corr., 1:61–62).
6. Maréchaussée, or mounted constabulary.

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0046

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Shaw, Elizabeth Smith
Recipient: Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw
Date: 1785-05-08

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw

[salute] My Dear Sister

I do not expect to date you any more letters from this place. Delighfull and blooming Garden, how much shall I regreet your loss. The fish pond and the fountain is just put in order, the trees are in blossom, and the flowers are comeing on in succession. The forest Trees are new clad in Green, several beautifull rows of which form arched bowers, at the bottom of our Garden, the tops being cut, so that they look like one continued plain. Their leaves and branches entwine and shade you intirely from the Rays of the sun. It will not be easy to find in the midst of a city so charming a scene.2 I shall quit it however with less reluctance on account of my sons absence { 133 } which would be more urksome to me here, than in a Country the language of which I shall be able to speak without an interpreter, or so much twisting and twirling of my tongue, and then pronouncing badly at last.3 I expect to be more Scrutinized in England than here.4 I said I will take heed to my ways5 is a text of holy writ fruitful! of instruction in all Situations of Life, but speaks more loudly to those who sustain publick Characters.
Your Nephew returns with some expectation, if you give him leave; of becomeing an inhabitant in your family for six months, or more: I hope he will render himself agreable to you and all his Friends. Charles I suppose will have left you before his Brothers return. Tho absent from your family I trust he will not be so from your care, but that both his uncle and you will advise him as you find necessary.6 I feel myself happy that I have Friends so kind and attentive to my Children that I am not anxious but what they will find good care either in Sickness or Health.7
It is so long since I heard from my American Friends that I begin to grow impatient. I had hopes that an other Years wandering would have put an end to our pilgrimage. You can hardly form an Idea how difficult, and expensive it is, to be house keeping, a few Months at a time in so many different Countries. It has been Mr. Adams's fortune ever since he came abroad, not to live a year at a time in one place. At the Hague he has a House and furniture, but they could not be removed 500 miles. Therefore it was necessary to hire a house and furniture here, to buy table linnen; bed linnen, China Glass and plate. Here we have resided 8 months and now we must quit this for England; removals in these Countries is not so easy a matter as in ours, for however well you may pack up your things for the purpose they must undergo so many Scrutinizes, besides paying heavy Duties for passing from one Country, to an other, of which I can give you one instanc which happended a few moments ago. A Gentleman in one of the provinces8 sent Mr. Adams a present of 5 bottle[s] of wine which he wisht recommended in America, and this was to serve as a sample. The duties which we had to pay upon only those five bottles mounted them up to 3 livres a peice, and the real value of the wine might be nine or ten coppers a bottle, be sure not more. The injury which cloathing sustains in such long journeys upon paved roads is incredible. I fancy I never related to you a droll adventure which happen'd to me on my journey here. My Friends advised me when I came abroad to take my money in Crowns and Dollors, as being the most advantageous for me, but when arrived; I found I could not part { 134 } with them without much loss, so I concluded to take them with me to France. There were about 200 which I had put into a strong bag and at the bottom of my travelling trunk, they were placed, in the middle of which I had put a large Band Box in which I had packd a very nice Gauze Bonnet 4 Caps hankerchiefs &c. to the amount of about 5 Guineys, which I had made for me, whilst I was in London. The 3d day of our journey I had occasion to open the trunk. I found a prodigious black Dust upon the top. I directed it to be taken out, when o! terible to behold, Dust to Dust, and ashes to ashes, nothing was left of all my riging but a few black rags,9 so that when I got to Paris, I could not bee seen untill I had sent to the Millinars and bought me a cap. You can carry nothing with any safety but what is upon the top of the carriage.10
I hope my Nephew and Niece are well, when I get to England I will send them some Books.11 I hope I shall be able to suit you in your lace, but fear you will think you could have done better in Boston. You will not fail writing by every good opportunity.
Tomorrow morning my son sets out for L'orient from whence he will embark on Board a French pacquet for his Native Land, where I hope he will happily arrive. And next week we commence our journey for England. I mourn more and more leaving this place, for it is daily more Beautifull, and I find too that six months more would make me tolerably expert in the Language. But all things must Yeald to Buisness. The weather continues very dry, and not the least symptom of a change. We hear it is still worse in England where the provisions have risen to an enormus price.
I received a Letter from uncle Smith last week dated 25 of Febry12 and was happy to find by it, that my Friends were all well. About this season of the Year you used to visit your Braintree Friends. When You meet be sure to talk about us, and that Idea will give me no small pleasure. I send Your lace and hope it will be agreeable to you. There are 10 yard/4. I gave Eight Dollors for it, for which if you please you may give credit. I hope the little peice of blew silk came safe to your hand which I sent by Capt. Young. If you wish me to get you any shoes in England write me word. There are none good under 2 dollors.
Remember me to Mr. Shaw and all my Haverhill Friends, Good Madam Marsh if she is still living,13 and be assured of the affectionate Regards of Your Sister
[signed] Abigail Adams
{ 135 }
RC (DLC: Shaw Family Papers) Dft (Adams Papers); incomplete and undated, with the material arranged quite differently from the RC (dated and filmed under [May 1785], Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 364). The editors have noted a few instances of interesting additional material in the Dft.
1. The “8th” and “1785” appear to have been added later; see AA to Mary Cranch, [ante 5] May, note 1, above.
2. In the draft AA concludes her description of Auteuil with the sentence: “I must not expect for 5000 a Year to be so well situated in London. I hope our Country will think that without any extravagance our expenses are necessarily very great.”
3. At the beginning of the draft, well before giving this same reason for regretting JQA's departure, AA remarks: “A few day[s] more will Seperate my Son from us. On that account I shall less reluctantly quit Paris, for we should find a vacuity in his absence which will call for much amusement to supply his place.”
4. In the draft AA writes more forcefully: “Yet I shall never feel a real freedom of speach whilst I am an Appendage of a publick Character, and I expect to be more scrutinized in England than here.”
5. Psalms 39:1: “I said, I will take heed of my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.”
6. The draft adds here: “I hope Tommy is attentive to his Books. Tis probable he will remain with you for several years.”
7. This paragraph is omitted from AA, Letters, ed. CFA.
8. Gazaigner de Boyer, who wrote to JA about wine on 7 and 21 April (Adams Papers). De Boyer lived in Gaillac, probably the town on the river Tarn, about thirty miles northeast of Toulouse.
9. In the draft AA explains the misfortune more fully: “the Silver had worn through the bag and into the side of the Box and then had mortised to rags every attorn of my Gauze.”
10. All the text from this point to the signature is omitted from AA, Letters, ed. CFA.
11. The draft has AA inquiring after her sister's health in the next sentence, and then briefly after her friends, before closing. The material under “May 10th,” below, does not appear in the draft.
12. Not found.
13. Mrs. Mary Marsh was still alive; JQA would visit her on 3 Feb. 1786 (JQA, Diary, 1:397).
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.