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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6


Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0061

Author: Shaw, Elizabeth Smith
Author: Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1785-06-12

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams

I have but just returned, my much loved Sister, from my Southern Excursion. You know how agreeable these always were to me. To see, and to visit my Friends constitutes a great part of my Happiness. To behold the Smile of Benevolence and Friendship, heightened by the Ties of Relationship is a rich ingredient in the Cup of Life. The pleasure it gives cannot be described, but we find, that indeed it “doth good like a Medicine.”1
I will pass over what I suffered, for want of your charming Society in the dear rural Cottage, and only tell you that as necessity led me to go with Eliza, to look for some things you left there for your Sons, I felt strangely upon entering your Chamber—I steped back for a moment—the Chamber Stairs was the last place I saw you. It felt like hallowed Ground, and as if I was going to commit sacrilege.
Upon looking after something in a Trunk, we came across Brother Adams Green velvet Cap. Look Eliza said I, we have heard of a Fools Cap, but here is the Cap of Wisdom—for how much have I seen contained in this little Cavity—and how much <are we> is our Country indebted to its good and excellent Owner. We fell into as moralizing a strain as the Son of Henery the 4th., when he took up the Crown of his dying Parent.2 I folded it at last with great veneration, and pressed it with an ardent petition to Heaven, that I might live to see him return, whom his Country “delighteth to Honour.”3 The Journals and the Letters I met with at Braintree, afforded me a most agreeable Repast.4 Knowing Your Taste for Literature, I am not at all surprized that you should prefer Theatrical Amusements to any-other. To find the Soul alive to all the finer feelings, can be no unpleasing Sensation to the humane Breast, and the frequent Exercise must give them strength and greatly conduce to refine the moral Taste, and strengthen the virtuous Temper, for a very slight inspection into human Nature must convince us, that no Objects have so powerful an impresslion on us, as those which are immediately impressed on our Senses—and therefore those things which have not a tendency to { 175 } mend the Heart, and improve the Genius, ought never to be exhibited.

“To make Mankind in conscious Virtue bold,

Live o'er each Scene, and be what they behold.”

was the Purpose for which the Comic Muse first trod the Stage.
We have had a Cold Winter, and Spring. There was good passing over Merimac upon the Ice till the 14th. of April which is much longer than has been known for a great number of Years. Months after you told me of your going into your Garden, to give directions about your Flower-Pots, we in the Latitude of forty two were shivering by our fire sides.—But you can hardly conceive of a more rapid Vegetation, than we have had for these three Weeks past, or of a richer Verdure upon the Earth, “the Vallies are covered over with Grass, and the little Hills rejoice on every side.”5 Though I sometimes long to be with you in your beautiful Gardens, viewing the Curiosities and Embelishments of Art, yet I imagine the Mind may be as much delighted with the rough, and august strokes of Nature. Here, in her wild Scenes, the sight wanders up and down without confinement and is charmed with an infinite variety of Images, without limitation or controul.
Upon our Journey we called at General Warren's, found all well but poor Charles, he is still in a bad way. The Doctor thinks will not continue through the Summer. We kept Sabbath at Hingham, Mr. Shaw preached for Mr. Gay, our Fathers venerable old Friend. We drank Tea there with the Widow Derby. She seems as alert as ever. Some of the Company observed Ralph Inman had very lately buried his Wife, and he was expected in Town soon, to pay his Compliments to Madam. Upon which she simpering6 told us that her Son in Law Derby advised her last Week, that if Mr. Inman, or any one else solicited her hand in Marriage, to crook her elbow, and swear by the living—that she would never enter into Wedlock again.
Uncle and Aunt Thaxter are well. Cousins are well, rather lean, as well as I. Cousin Lucy Thaxter was married to Mr. Cushing three Weeks before I was there,7 and was going to housekeeping in about a fortnight. Cousin Nancy has made us a Visit, since my return, with one of Mr. Benjamin Thaxters Sons, who will be married to her next Fall I suppose.8 Mrs. Lorring9 is well. She has two Daughters. We returned a Sabbath Evening to our hospitable and kind-hearted Aunt Tufts's. Weymouth can never be to me what it once was. Yet dear is the place of my Nativity. Every Hill, and every Vally, and every Tree { 176 } I recognize as my former Friends. On the brow of this Hill, how often have I sat, encircled by the little social band, and talked down the Summers Sun. How have I set delighted beneath the Shade of yonder Tree, while every Grove was Melody, and every Gale was Peace. All, all speak of pleasures past. For my life I cannot look upon the Mansion which was once the beloved Habitation of our dear Parents without bursting into Tears. And there is nothing but a firm belief that they are gone to a House, not made with Hands, that calms and sooths my Mind.
I received your kind Letter dated March 30th.10 at Braintree. Uncle and Aunt Smith came and made a friendly Visit, and handed me your Letter which gave us the agreeable intelligence of your Health and welfare. I do not wonder that you feel the greatest reluctance at parting with your Son. But it is their Children's good, and not merely their own pleasure, and satisfaction, that the wise Parent regards.
I pity Cousin Nabby the most, as it must deprive her of her most intimate Friend, and Companion. We at this distance cannot be competent judges of the Qualifications of your Son. But Mr. Shaw, Mr. Thaxter, Judge Dana and all his Friends here suppose it would be more advantageous for Mr. JQA to tarry at Colledge 2 years, On account of the phylosophical Lectures, and the excellent Library. But what his Fathers chuses must determine the Matter. Mr. Charles has been here so long and behaved so well, that it is with grief I think of parting with him, (and his Chum that is to be) Samuel Walker. They mean to live together at Colledge. They are very fond of each-other. Samuel Walker is determined to find knowledge, if it is to be acquired by hard Study. He is a steady virtuous Youth. His Father modestly objected against their living together, as Mr. Charles was one of the first Families, he supposed he would look higher for a companion. But we told him we knew his Parents did not wish for any such distinction, Merit alone, in your Minds was the Test of Rank.
The Trunk you mentioned11 is not yet arrived. I have taken 2 yards of red Cloth, and that Camblet for Coats, for Cousin Charles. I purchased black Sattin for Waistcoat and small Cloaths, and I have got 2 good Taylors into the House, and have made him 2 Suits of Cloaths. But I cannot perswade him to honour us, with the wear of them, till after his return from Cambridge.
I find you are anxious about your American Friends, even in your Dreams. Indeed my Sister, when I went into Boston I was upon the point of beleiving that if he was there, it would be wholly verified. For I found Cousin B. Relations greatly incensed against Mr. <. . .>12 { 177 } Conduct. Cousin herself was troubled, and knew not what to make of all his speeches, though I thought she was much disposed to put the best constructions, upon every-thing he said. It was evident to me that Love covered a multitude of Faults. Nothing can be more emblematical than to portray the little Deity as blind. And they are certainly so, who are under his Dominion.
Both my Cousins are in good Health. Tommy is a nice Child. He went the week before we went our Journey to Braintree, because I thought it would be best for him to be absent at the same time we were. We got Mr. Williams who is School-master to stay here, and gave him his board for taking Care of the Others in Mr. Shaws absence. I must bid you adieu, assuring the best of Sisters, of the tenderest, and most affectionate Love of her
[signed] Eliza Shaw
Mr. Shaw presents his best regards, hopes soon to assure you of your sons acceptance at Cambridge.
Excuse the writing. I cannot Copy.13
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by AA2: “Mrs Shaw june 12th 1785.”
1. Proverbs 17:22.
2. Shakespeare, 2 Henry IV, IV, v, 20–47.
3. Esther 6:6–11.
4. Shaw refers to letters from AA to the Cranches, and to herself, mailed in March, particularly those to Mary Cranch, 20 Feb. [– 13 March] , and to Elizabeth Cranch, 8 March, both above.
5. Psalms 65:12, 13 (quoted in reverse order).
6. Shaw added “simpering” in the margin.
7. Lucy Thaxter married John Cushing on 8 March (History of Hingham, 3:233).
8. Anna Thaxter married her first cousin, Thomas Thaxter, on 27 Aug. 1786 (same).
9. Undoubtedly Joanna Quincy Thaxter, who had married Thomas Loring Jr. in 1780, is meant (same; vol. 4:296, and note 11).
10. Not found.
11. JQA's trunk sent from The Hague to Boston; see the Inventory of JQA's Clothes and Books, 6 Nov. 1784 (Adams Papers), and AA to Elizabeth Shaw, 14 Dec. 1784, and note 7, above.
12. A character is struck out here. Shaw may refer to a passage in AA's lost letter of 30 March; AA does not record a dream expressing such anxiety in any extant letters written from France. The editors have not been able to identify “Cousin B.” or her suitor, but on 6 June, in a letter to Mary Cranch, Elizabeth Shaw wrote: “When I got to Boston I imagined Sisters Dream, was near to be realized, for I found Cousins friends very much incensed against Mr. A—. Four years have elapsed since the Courtship commenced. From Spring to Fall, and from Fall to Spring has been the Line; Winter nor Summer, it seems, are no Friends to the hymenial Torch. However he talked to the Col. who called to see him a Saturday about keeping House—having a family &c. This looked well did it not?” (DLC: Shaw Family Papers).
13. This line was written in the left margin.

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0062

Author: Jefferson, Thomas
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1785-06-21

Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams

[salute] Dear Madam

I have received duly the honor of your letter,2 and am now to return you thanks for your condescension in having taken the first step for { 178 } settling a correspondence which I so much desired; for I now consider it as settled and proceed accordingly. I have always found it best to remove obstacles first. I will do so therefore in the present case by telling you that I consider your boasts of the splendour of your city and of it's superb hackney coaches as a flout, and declaring that I would not give the polite, self-denying, feeling, hospitable, good humoured, people of this country and their amability in every point of view, (tho' it must be confessed our streets are somewhat dirty, and our fiacres rather indifferent,) for ten such races of rich, proud, hectoring, swearing, squibbing, carnivorous animals as those among whom you are; and that I do love this people with all my heart, and think that with a better religion a better form of government and their present governors their condition and country would be most enviable. I pray you to observe that I have used the term people and that this is a noun of the masculine as well as feminine gender. I must add too that we are about reforming our fiacres, and that I expect soon an Ordonance that all their drivers shall wear breeches unless any difficulty should arise whether this is a subject for the police or for the general legislation of the country, to take care of.
We have lately had an incident of some consequence, as it shews a spirit of treason, and audaciousness which was hardly thought to exist in this country. Some eight or ten years ago a Chevalr.3 was sent on a message of state to <demand> the princess of—of—of (before I proceed an inch further I must confess my profound stupidity; for tho' I have heard this story told fifty times in all it's circumstances, I declare I am unable to recollect the name of the ambassador, the name of the princess, and the nation he was sent to; I must therefore proceed to tell you the naked story, shorn of all those precious circumstances). Some chevalier or other was sent on some business or other to some princess or other. Not succeeding in his negociation, he wrote on his return the following song.

Ennivré du brillant poste

Que j'occupe récemment

Dans une chaise de poste

Je me campe fierement:

Et je vais en ambassade

Au nom de mon souverain,

Dire que je suis malade,

Et que lui se porte bien.

{ 179 }

Avec une joue enflée,

Je debarque tout honteux:

La princesse boursoufflée,

Au lieu d'une, en avoit deux;

Et son altesse sauvage

Sans doute a trouvé mauvais

Que j'eusse sur mon visage

La moitié de ses attraits.

Princesse, le roi mon maitre

M'a pris pour Ambassadeur;

Je viens vous faire connoitre

Quelle est pour vous son ardeur.

Quand vous seriez sous le chaume,

Il donneroit, m'a-t-il dit,

La moitié de son royaume

Pour celle de votre lit.

La princesse à son pupitre

Compose un remerciment:

Elle me donne une epitre

Que j'emporte lestement,

Et je m'en vais dans la rue

Fort satisfait d'ajouter

A l'honneur de l'avoir vue

Le plaisir de la quitter.4

This song ran thro all companies and was known to every body. A book was afterwards printed, with a regular license, called “Les quartres saisons litteraires” which being a collection of little things, contained this also, and all the world bought it or might buy it if they would, the government taking no notice of it. It being the office of the Journal de Paris to give an account and criticism of new publications, this book came in turn to be criticised by the redacteur, and he happened to select and print in his journal this song as a specimen of what the collection contained. He was seised in his bed that night and has been never since heard of. Our excellent journel de Paris then is suppressed and this bold traitor has been in jail now three weeks, and for ought any body knows will end his days there. Thus you see, madam, the value of energy in government; our feeble republic would in such a case have probably been wrapt in the flames { 180 } of war and desolation for want of a power lodged in a single hand to punish summarily those who write songs.
The fate of poor Pilatre de Rosiere5 will have reached you before this does, and with more certainty than we yet know it. This will damp for a while the ardor of the Phaetons of our race who are endeavoring to learn us the way to heaven on wings of our own.
I took a trip yesterday to Sannois and commenced an acquaintance with the old Countess d'Hocquetout.6 I received much pleasure from it and hope it has opened a door of admission for me to the circle of literati with which she is environed. I heard there the Nightingale in all it's perfection: and I do not hesitate to pronounce that in America it would be deemed a bird of the third rank only, our mockingbird, and fox-coloured thrush being unquestionably superior to it.
The squibs against Mr. Adams are such as I expected from the polished, mild tempered, truth speaking people he is sent to. It would be ill policy to attempt to answer or refute them. But counter-squibs I think would be good policy. Be pleased to tell him that as I had before ordered his Madeira and Frontignac to be forwarded, and had asked his orders to Mr. Garvey7 as to the residue, which I doubt not he has given, I was afraid to send another order about the Bourdeaux lest it should produce confusion. In stating my accounts with the United states, I am at a loss whether to charge house rent or not. It has always been allowed to Dr. Franklin. Does Mr. Adams mean to charge this for Auteuil and London? Because if he does, I certainly will, being convinced by experience that my expences here will otherwise exceed my allowance. I ask this information of you, Madam, because I think you know better than Mr. Adams what may be necessary and right for him to do in occasions of this class. I will beg the favor of you to present my respects to Miss Adams. I have no secrets to communicate to her in cypher at this moment,8 what I write to Mr. Adams being mere commonplace stuff, not meriting a communication to the Secretary. I have the honour to be with the most perfect esteem Dear Madam

[salute] Your most obedient & most humble sert

[signed] Th: Jefferson
1. This letter was sent with Jefferson to AA, 7 July, below.
2. Of 6 June, above.
3. Blank in MS. The editors of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson identify the envoy as the Chevalier de Boufflers, and the princess as Maria Christina of Saxony, sister of Joseph II of Austria, and of Marie Antoinette, and they argue persuasively that Jefferson's “inability to recollect the name of the ambassador and other circumstances was obviously feigned” (Jefferson, Papers, 8:242; Cambridge Modern Hist., 13:genealogical table 33).
4. Journal de Paris, 31 May 1785.
{ 181 }
5. On 15 June, Jean François Pilatre de Rozier and a companion, Pierre Ange Romain, plummeted over one thousand feet to their deaths near Boulogne when the double balloon in which they were attempting to cross the English Channel caught fire and partially collapsed. Pilâtre de Rozier and another companion had been the first men to achieve free flight in a balloon, in Nov. 1783. See Jefferson to Joseph Jones, 19 June, and to Charles Thomson, 21 June, Papers, 8:237, 245; London Magazine Enlarged and Improved, June 1785, p. 462–465; Gentleman's Magazine, July 1785, p. 565–566; and Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale.
6. Elisabeth Françoise Sophie, the Comtesse de Houdetot, a poet, held a literary and philosophical salon at Sannois, about ten miles northwest of Paris (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale).
7. On 27 May, JA had asked Jefferson to direct his wine merchant, Anthony Garvey, to stop the shipment of all of his wine “except one Case of Madeira and Frontenac together” because of the high duties he would have to pay to bring the wine into England. He repeated this request with even greater urgency on 7 June. Jefferson had reported his initial difficulty in executing this order in his letter of 2 June. Jefferson, Papers, 8:166, 172–173, 175, 183–184.
8. AA2 had decoded two paragraphs of Jefferson to JA, 2 June (Adams Papers), and in that letter Jefferson remarked that JA had “transferred to [AA2] the commission of Secretary” upon JQA's departure for America (Jefferson, Papers, 8:173).
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/