Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 15 August 1785 AA Cranch, Mary Smith Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 15 August 1785 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
My dear sister London Grosvenor Square August 15 1785

When I wrote you by Captain Dashood,1 I was obliged for want of time to break of before I had noticed certain parts of your Letter,2 some of which gave me anxiety, particularly that which related to a certain Gentleman, of whose present affairs, or future intentions we know nothing of. I had written to you upon this Subject but not having time to transcribe more than half my Letter, that part was omitted. I am not now sorry that it was, as neither he or his affairs in future will be of any material importance to us, for when this reaches you it will accompany a final dismission of him.3 I have for sometime observed a more than common anxiety in the appearence of your Neice, which I sometimes attributed to the absence of her Brother, but several times she had dropt hints as if returning to America soon, was not an object near her Heart and I knew that nothing had taken place here to attach her.4 A few days since, something arose which led her in conversation to ask me, if I did not think a Gentleman of her acquaintance a Man of Honour? I replied yes a Man of strict honour, and I wisht I could say that of all her acquaintance. As she could not mistake my meaning, instead of being affected as I apprehended she said, a breach of honour in one party would not justify a want of it in the other. I thought this the very time to speak. I said if she was conscious of any want of honour on the part of the Gentleman, I and every Friend she had in the world, would rejoice if she could liberate herself.

Here ended the conversation, she retired to her Chamber and I to mine. About two hours after she sent me a Billet, with the copy of two Letters,5 which she desired me to communicate if I thought proper. In the Billet she asks if her Father was included in the Friends I mentioned. If he was, she should be deliverd from a state of anxiety she had long known. She adds that she dreads his displeasure, and will not in future take a step unapproved by him. Thanks Heaven that her mind is not in so weak a state as to feel a partiality which is not returnd. That no state of mind is so painfull as that which admits, of fear, suspicion, doubt, dread and apprehension. “I have too long” says she “known them all—and I am determined to know them no longer.” You may be sure I did not fail of communicating 277the whole to her Father, the result of which was a conversation with her. He told her that it was a serious matter, and that he hoped it was upon mature deliberation she acted, that he was a perfect stranger to the Gentleman, that his Character had been such as to induce him to give his consent not so freely as he could wish: but because he conceived her affections engaged. But if she had reason to question the strictest honour of the Gentleman, or supposed him capable of telling her that he had written Letters when he had not, he had rather follow her to her Grave, than see her united with him. She has not received but one Letter since last December, and that a short one, and by what I can learn only four since she left America.6 In that by Lyde7 he says that he had written to her and to her parents by way of Amsterdam. I doubted it when she told me, tho I kept silence, but I find now she is of the same opinion. She request that neither the Name or subject may ever be mentiond to her, and I hope none of her Friends will be so unwise as to solicit for him. The Palmers will be the most likely, but the die is cast.

It is not worth his while to make a Bustle. I dont think it will kill him. He would have been more solicitious to have kept his prize, if he had known the value of it. It is a maxim in a favorite Author of his, that a woman may forgive the man she loves an indiscretion, but never a neglect. But it is not merely a want of proper attention you well know my Dear sister which has been the source of anxiety to me, or to her either. I have always told him, that he was his own greatest enemy. Such he has proved. She appears much more cheerfull since she has unburthend her mind. There is however a degree of delicacy necessary to be preserved, between persons who have thought favourably of each other, even in their seperation. I do not wish that a syllable more may be said upon the subject, than just to vindicate her, and I believe very little will do that, in the Eye of the world.

We are agreeably enough situated here in a fine open square, in the middle of which is a circle inclosed with a neat grated fence; around which are lighted every night about sixty Lamps. The border next the fence is grass, the circle is divided into five grass plots. One in the midle is a square upon which is a statue of Gorge 2d. on horse back. Between each of the plots are gravel walks and the plots are filld with clumps of low trees thick together which is calld Shrubbery, and these are surrounded with a low Hedge, all together a pretty effect. I have got a set of servants which I hope are good, but time 278must prove them. I shall lose a very agreeable companion in Mrs. Temple. She goes out this week. I have had more intimacy with her than with any other American, as she has been situated near to me, and has been very sociable. Mrs. Rogers is benevolence itself, it is impossible to know her without feeling a sisterly regard for her. I regret that she is 3 miles distant from me. Mrs. Atkinson too is agoing out in a few days, as well as Mr. Storer whom we shall greatly miss. Mrs. Hay resides at Hamstead about 4 miles out. Mrs. Copely is an agreeable woman whom I visit. Mrs. West also; wife to Mr. West the celebrated painter, is a friendly sensible Lady in whose company I expect a good deal of pleasure. Mr. Vassels family who reside at Clapham I have both visited, and received visits from. There is a Mrs. Johnson Lady to a Gentleman from Philadelphia who is setled here in Buisness that I have some acquaintance with. There are several others who have visited me, but almost everybody is out of Town. I am not however so solitary as at Auteuil. They tell me I shall get attached to England by and by, but I do not believe it—the people must Love my country and its inhabitants better first. They must discover a more amicable temper towards us. Yet there are worthy good individuals here whom I Esteem.

What you wrote with respect to my Mother gave me uneasiness.8 I am sorry she had not spoken her mind before I went away. I know Mr. Adams has written to her9 desireing her to call upon the dr for what she may want. As to Mr. Adams's having every thing which belong'd to her in his Hands, I know not the meaning of it. The estate which was left him by his Father which did not amount to more than 30 acres of land; I know she had her thirds in, and it was never divided; but the income of it could not amount to much deducting taxes. I will send by Mr. Storer 2 Guineys to be given to you for her, which you will take a receit for, and I will take some opportunity to mention it to Mr. Adams and take his orders about it. I should have done it before now, but he has been so engaged with publick buisness and private applications that I hated to worry him as I knew this would. And then there were at the time, other things in the Letter, that I did not wish to trouble him with.

I hope my son has arrived before now, tho the French Consul who calld yesterday upon us with Letters from some of Mr. Adams friends in Boston brought no news of the May pacquet tho he left Boston the fourth of july. I have not yet got a line by Capt. Callihan. I cannot but think I must have some letters from some of you.

279 August 16 1785

I have been to Mr. Elworthys in hopes to find Letters but not one can I hear of. From thence to the post office. Mr. Storer got his on Saturday, this is tuesday and I hear nothing of any. The servant came yesterday to me for two Guineys and half to pay the postage of a packet of Letters from America. Well now thought I we have got a fine Bugget. I ran and got the money, and down I went in full expectation, and when I came, behold it was a pacquet from New York for Col. Smith, who being gone a journey had orderd all his letters to be left here. One of the Bundles contains the New York papers up to 6 of july, but alass no mention of the arrival of the May pacquet, which makes me not a little anxious: for supposing all well it must have been at sea for more than six weeks.

I have sent by Captain Lyde a few Books amongst the children which you will see distributed as directed. What letters I cannot get ready to send by him Mr. Storer will take. Continue my dear sister to write me particularly tell me all, and every thing about my Friends my Neighbours, &c.

If an opportunity should offer I wish you to send me a doz. of Chocolate, it must be put in some captains chest.

Esther is well now tho she has been very sick since she came to England. I keep her intirely about my person so that she has no hard work of any kind to do. She sews and dresses my hair and Nabbys. She has not even to sweep a chamber, as that falls into the department of the House maid, and is considerd as beneath a Ladies Maid. I do not say this because she is not willing to do it, or any thing else, but as there was one person whom I must have in that capacity; I chose it should be she. They are more particular here I think than in France.10

Remember me to every body who inquires after me. Mrs. Temple is to visit me to day for the last time before she goes out.

I shall endeavour to write by every opportunity. Love to Mr. Cranch and my dear Neices to whom I shall write if I have time. Let me know how Charles succeeded! Adieu. We have company to dine to day, and I must quit my pen to dress.

Believe me most tenderly & affectionately Yours

A Adams

Mr. Bulfinch was well a few days since when he calld here. He has been here several times. I met Master George Apthorp in Kensington Gardens the other day, he was so grown that I did not know him at first. My compliment to his Mamma and sisters.11


RC (MWA: Abigail Adams Corr.)


On 24 June, above.


Of 25 April, above.


Neither any rough draft of AA to Mary Cranch, 24 June, containing AA's remarks about Royall Tyler, nor any MS version of AA2's “final dismission” of Tyler has been found. The only text of AA2's letter to Tyler appears, undated, in Grandmother Tyler's Book , p. 76, and is printed above, at ca. 11 August.


This remark ignores William Stephens Smith's recent interest in AA2, which may not yet have been reciprocated by her. AA's purpose here is to declare to her American friends that AA2 broke off her engagement with Tyler only because he did not correspond regularly with her, and because she believed that he was not being truthful with her. Whatever AA2 thought of Smith in August, however, AA was most aware that he was attracted to AA2. AA later wrote to JQA that when she saw Smith's interest in AA2, she told him that AA2 was still “under engagements” with Royall Tyler. Smith then thought it prudent to take his trip to Prussia. See notes 6 and 7; William Stephens Smith to AA, 5 Sept., below; and AA to JQA, 16 Feb. 1786 (Adams Papers).


Neither the billet nor “the copy of two Letters,” probably AA2 to Tyler, and perhaps AA2 to Cotton Tufts (see AA to Tufts, 18 Aug., below), or possibly to Richard Cranch, have been found.


AA2 returned these letters to Tyler about this time (see AA2 to Tyler, ca. 11 Aug. , above); none have been found.


This letter, not found, was probably written in late April, the date of several other letters sent from Braintree and Boston to the Adamses by Capt. Lyde that are printed above. Tyler's reference to his writing the Adamses by way of Amsterdam may be to Col. Beriah Norton, who carried Cotton Tufts' 11 April letter to AA, above. See Mary Cranch to AA, 25 April, above.


See Mary Cranch to AA, 25 April, and notes 7–9.


No letters from JA to his mother have been found.


That is, AA's English servants were even more particular than her French servants in performing only those duties traditionally associated with their positions. See AA to Mary Cranch, 5 Sept. 1784, above.


Probably George Henry Apthorp, son of James Apthorp, one of nine Braintree loyalists who were declared “Inimical to the United States” on 9 June 1777 (John Wentworth, The Wentworth Genealogy, 1870, 1:300–301, 305; Braintree Town Records , p. 481–482). On the Apthorps of Braintree, see JQA to AA2, 19 Sept., below.

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 15 August 1785 AA Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 15 August 1785 Adams, Abigail Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw
Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw
My dear sister ca. 15 Aug. 1785 1

I have been situated here for near six weeks. It is one of the finest squares in London. The air is as pure as it can be so near a Great city. It is but a small distance from Hide Park, round which I sometimes walk, but oftner ride. It resembles Boston Common, much larger and more beautified with Trees. On one side of it is a fine river. St. James Park and Kensington Gardens are two other fashonable walks which I am very sensible I ought to improve oftner than I do. One wants society in these places. Mrs. Temple is the only person near me with whom I can use the freedom of calling upon to ride or walk with me, and she to my no small regret I am going to lose. Mrs. Rogers is an American and one of the most Benevolent women in the world: but is 3 miles distant from me. A sister of hers is like to be setled near you I hear. Visit her my sister, she is the counterpart of 281the amiable Mrs. Rogers. I have some acquaintance with her, she is the Friend and correspondent of your Neice. Mrs. Rogers and she too, have too much of “the tremblingly alive all over”2 to be calculated for the rough Scenes of Life. Mrs. Hay resides out at Hamstead about 4 miles from London. We visit, but they have such a paltry custom of dinning here at night, that it ruins that true American Sociability which only I delight in. Polite circles are much alike throughout Europe. Swift's journal of a modern fine Lady3 tho written 60 years ago is perfectly applicable to the present day, and tho noted as the changeable sex; in this Scene of dissapation they have been steady.

I shall never have much society with these kind of people, for they would not like me, any more than I do them. They think much more of their titles here than in France. It is not unusual to find people of the highest rank there, the best bred and the politest people. If they have an equal share of pride, they know better how to hide it. Until I came here, I had no idea what a National and illiberal inveteracy the English have against their better behaved Neighbours, and I feel a much greater partiality for them than I did whilst I resided amongst them. I would recommend to this Nation a little more liberality and discernment. Their contracted sentiments leads them to despise all other Nations: perhaps I should be chargable with the same narrow sentiments if I give America the preference over these old European Nations. In the cultivation of the arts and improvement in manufactories they greatly excell us, but we have native Genious capacity and ingenuity equal to all their improvements, and much more general knowledge diffused amongst us. You can scarcly form an Idea how much superiour our common people as they are termd, are to those of the same rank in this country. Neither have we that servility of Manners which the distinction between nobility and citizens gives to the people of this Country. We tremble not, neither at the sight or Name of Majesty. I own that I never felt myself in a more contemptable situation than when I stood four hours together for a gracious smile from Majesty. Witness to the anxious solicitude of those around me for the same mighty Boon. I however had a more dignified honour as his Majesty deigned to salute me.4

I have not been since to the drawing room, but propose going to the next. As the company are chiefly out of Town the ceremony will not be so tedious.

As to politicks, the English continue to publish the most abusive bare faced falshoods against America that you can conceive of. Yet glaring as they are, they gain credit here, and shut their Eyes against 282a friendly and liberal intercourse. Yet their very existance depends upon a friendly union with us. How the pulse of the Ministry beat, time will unfold, but I do not promise or wish to myself a long continuance here. Such is the temper of the two Nations towards each other, that if we have not peace we must have war. We cannot resign the intercourse and quit each other. I hope however that it will not come to that alternative.5

Captain Callihan arrived last week from Boston which place he left 4 of july. I was not a little mortified in not receiving a single Letter by him. I sought for them in every place where I thought it probable they might be. I am not without hope that the Captain himself may yet have some in his private care as the letters in the bag generally are landed at Dover and sent by land several days before the ship gets up, but as Captain Lyde sails directly I must finish my Letters and send them this afternoon.

I am not a little anxious for my son, as we have the News papers from New York up to july 6th and he was not then arrived. He sailed the 21 of May, and must have a very tedious passage. I shall wait very impatiently for the next packet. I had hoped that he was in Boston by that time.

How did Charles succeed, I want very much to know? And how Tommy comes on. I have sent him a Book and one to each of my neices and Nephews. I wish it was in my power to do more for my Friends, but thus it is. We did not bring the last year about upon our anual allowence, and very far were we from being extravagent.

Remember me kindly to Mr. Shaw, Mr. Thaxter and all our Friends and believe me most affectionately

Your sister

RC (DLC: Shaw Family Papers); notation on the first sheet: “London 15 August 1785.” Printed: AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840, p. 304–306. Some of the MS has been obscured by opaque tape, and is supplied from the printed edition, in brackets.


The “near six weeks” in AA's opening sentence, counting from the date of the Adamses moving to Grosvenor Square on 4 July, supplies the dateline.


The editors have supplied the closing quotation mark. Abigail Bromfield Rogers and Daniel Denison Rogers left Boston for Europe in 1782, and returned in 1786. Abigail Rogers' sister Sarah married Eliphalet Pearson, who spent part of his career in Andover, near Haverhill. JQA came to know this couple well at Harvard in 1786. See vol. 4:343, and note 1; JQA, Diary , 2:96, and note 1. This paragraph, from “Mrs. Rogers is an American” to “rough Scenes of Life,” is omitted from AA, Letters, ed. CFA.


Jonathan Swift's “Journal of a Modern Lady” was published in 1729.


See AA to Mary Cranch, 24 June, above.


All the text from this point to the signature in omitted from AA, Letters, ed. CFA.