Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch, 20 July 1786 AA Cranch, Lucy Greenleaf, Lucy Cranch


Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch, 20 July 1786 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Lucy Greenleaf, Lucy Cranch
Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch
My Dear Neice London july 20th 1786

My fourth Letter I begin to you.1 I dare not reckon the Number I have to write; least I should feel discouraged in the attempt. I must circumscribe myself to half a sheet of Paper. Raree Shows are so much the taste of this Country that they make one even of the corpse of great people, and the other Day a Gentleman presented me with a Card to go and see the corpse of the Duke of Northumberland, who died at his House in the Country but was brought here to be laid in state. It is said he, a senseless peice of Pagentry, but as such, I would advise you to see it. It is practised only with crownd Heads and some of the most ancient families of Dukes. The Late Duke was Father to Lord Peircy, whom the Americans well remember. His Lordship (who lives a few doors from us), being the elder son inherits the title and estate, and is now duke of Northumberland.2

Northumberland House is in the city, a great immence pile of Building to which one enters through massy Iron Gates.3 At this Gate stood four porters clad in Black, the court up to the house was hung in Black and divided by a temporary railing that the spectators 267might pass in, upon one side and out upon the other. From the Court we enterd a long Suit of rooms, 5 in Number through rows of servants on each side of us; all Sabled as well as the rooms. I never before understood that line of Pope's

“When Hopkins dies a thousand Lights attend.”4

I believe there were two thousand here, for Day light was totally excluded. Upon the walls were as many Eschutcheon as candles, these are formd so as to place a light in each. These plates are all washd with Silver, being put up upon the black Cloth and lighted in this manner gave the rooms a Tomb like appearence, for in this manner are the Tombs of the Dead enlightned in Catholick Countries, and it is not uncommon for the great to leave a large Sum of Money for lights to be kept constantly burning. Through these rooms we moved with a slow pace and a Solom Silence into that which containd the corps. Here upon a superb Bed of State, surrounded with 24 wax Lights upon enormous silver candle Sticks, lay the remains of his Grace, as I presume, but so buried amidst Stars and Garters, and the various insignias of the different offices he sustaind, that he might as well have been at Sion House;5 for all that one could see of him, for these ornaments are display'd like flags

The George and Garter dangling from the bed Where Gaudy Yellow strove with flameing red6

Upon the Bolster lay the Ducal coronet, and round the bed stood a dozen Men in black whom they call Mutes. It was said that the Corps was cloathd in a white satin tunick and cap richly trimd with Blond lace, but for this I cannot vouch, tho I do not think it more ridiculous than the other parts of the parade which I saw: and this farce was kept up ten Days. The Body was then deposited in westminster abbe, with as much Parade and shew as possible; but being out of Town, I did not see it.7 We made an excursion as far as Portsmouth, which lies about 75 miles from London. I was much dissapointed in the appearence of the Country, great part of it being only barren Heath. Within 18 mils of the Town it appears fruitfull and highly cultivated. We spent only one Day at Portsmouth, but returnd an other road which brought us back through windsor. Here we stoped a day and half, and I was Charmd and delighted with it, the most Luxurient fancy cannot exceed the Beauties of this place. I do not wonder that Pope Stiled it, the Seat of the Muses. Read his 268Windsor Forrest,8 and give full credit to his most poetic flights. The road by which we enterd the Town was from the Top of a very steep Hill. From this hill a lawn presents itself on each side, before you a broad straight road 3 miles in length, upon each side a double plantation of lofty Elms lift their Majestick Heads, which is exceeded only by a view of the still Grandeur Forest at a distance which is 30 miles in circumference. From this Hill you have a view of the castle and the Town. This place as in former Days, is the retreat of the monarck. The Royal family reside here nine Months of the Year, not in the Castle, as that would require the attendance of Ministers &c. The present Queen has a neat Lodge here close to the Castle and there is an other a few rods distant for the princessess. His Majesty is a visitor to the Queen and the family reside here with as little parade as that of a private Gentlemans. It is the Etiquette that none of his Majesties Ministers approach him upon buisness here, dispatches are sent by Messengers, and answers returnd in the same way. He holds his Levies twice a week in Town. The Castle is one of the strongest places in Europe as it is said, and a safe retreat for the family in case any more Revolutions should shake this kingdom. It was first built by Edward the 3d, Charles the 2d kept his Court here during the Summer Months, and spaird no expence to render it Worthy the Royal residence. He furnishd it richly and decorated it with paintings by the first Masters.9 It is situated upon a high Hill which rises by a gentle assent and enjoys a most delightfull prospect round it. In the front is a wide and extensive 10 vale, adornd with feilds and Medows, with Groves on either side, and the calm smooth water of the Thames running through them. Behind it are Hills coverd with fine Forests, as if designd by nature for Hunting. The Terrace round the Castle is a noble walk; coverd with fine Gravel it is raised on a steap declivity of a hill, and over looks the whole Town. Here the King and Royal family walk on sunday afternoons in order to shew themselves to those of their Subjects, who chuse to repair to windsor for that purpose. In fine weather the terrace is generally throngd. From the Top of this tower on the castle they shewd us 3 different Counties.11 To describe to you the appartments the Paintings and Decorations within this castle would require a volm instead of a Letter. I shall mention only two rooms and the first is that calld the Queens bed chamber, where upon the Top of the cealing is painted the Story of Diana and Endymion.12 The Bed of state was put up by her Majesty, the inside and counterpain are of white sattin the curtains of pea Green richly embrodered 269by a Mrs Wright embroderer to her Majesty. There is a full length Picture of the Queen with her 14 children in minature in the same peice, taken by mr West. It is a very handsome likeness of her.13 The next room is calld the room of Beauties, so named for the Portraits of the most celebrated Beauties in the Reign of Charles the 2d, they are 14 in Number. There is also Charles Queen a very handsome woman. The dress of many of them, is in the Stile of the present Day.14 Here is also Queen Carolinies China closet, filled with a great variety of curious china elegantly disposed.15

I have come now to the bottom of the last page. If I have amused my dear Neice it will give great pleasure to her affectionate

A. Adams 16

PS I send you the fashionable Magizine.17

RC (MHi: Misc. Bound Coll.). Printed in AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840, p. 338–343.


AA's previous letters to Lucy Cranch written from London are dated 27 Aug. 1785 (vol. 6:312–314), 2 April, and 22 May (addressed to both Elizabeth and Lucy Cranch), both above.


Hugh Percy, né Smithson, Duke of Northumberland, died 6 June. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Hugh, Earl Percy, who, as an officer in the 5th Regiment of Fusiliers, commanded the British camp at Boston and covered the British retreat from Lexington and Concord. The elder duke is again linked to the Adams family history, when in the 1830s and 1840s, JQA spearheaded the congressional effort to accept a $500,000 bequest from the duke's illegitimate son, James Smithson, and establish the Smithsonian Institution ( DNB ; The Great Design: Two Lectures on the Smithson Bequest by John Quincy Adams, ed. Wilcomb E. Washburn, Washington, D.C., 1965, p. 13–14).


Northumberland House, Charing Cross, was built in the early seventeenth century in the shape of a “U,” the opening of which led out to the gardens and river and was later enclosed. Additions in the mid-eighteenth century included an art gallery and a statue of the Percy lion above the arched entrance along the Strand. The house was demolished in 1874 ( London Past and Present , 2:603–605; London Encyclopaedia ).


Alexander Pope, Moral Essays, Epistle III, line 291.


For AA's visit to the Duke of Northumberland's country seat, Sion Syon House, see AA to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 24 April, above.


A paraphrase of Pope, Moral Essays, Epistle III, lines 303–304.


The remains of the Duke of Northumberland were brought to London on 8 June for embalming. His funeral took place on the 21st (London Daily Universal Register, 9, 22 June).


Line 2 of Pope's poem describes Windsor as “At once the Monarch's and the Muse's seats” (Pope, The Complete Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, N.Y., 1903, p. 28–34). He praises the rural delights of the town near which he grew up for nearly 300 lines.


William the Conqueror was the first to build on the site of Windsor Castle, which occupies a naturally defensive position along the Thames, and his successors made many improvements and additions. Between 1359 and 1368, Edward III reconstructed and added to the castle to house both the private apartments of the king and queen and the state apartments used for official and ceremonial business. The palace was looted during the English Civil War and allowed to fall into disrepair. Upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II commissioned architect Hugh May to rebuild and restore the grandeur of Windsor Castle (Robin Mackworth-Young, The History and Treasures of Windsor Castle, N.Y., 1982, p. 6–7, 16–19, 33–45).


The text in brackets is supplied from AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840, p. 341. For its subsequent loss, see note 16.


While three counties may have been 270pointed out to AA, twelve were visible from Windsor Castle's Round Tower: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex, and Wiltshire (W. H. Pyne, The History of the Royal Residences of Windsor Castle, St. James's Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckingham House, and Frogmore, 3 vols., London, 1819, 1:187–188).


Italian-born artist Antonio Verrio was commissioned by Charles II to decorate the ceilings and walls of the royal apartments at Windsor Castle with scenes illustrating classical mythology and glorifying the monarchy. Verrio's materials proved fragile, and paintings in the queen's bedchamber and other rooms deteriorated and were removed in later renovations. Three rooms by Verrio survive (Mackworth-Young, The History and Treasures of Windsor Castle, p. 40–42).


The Benjamin West painting of Queen Charlotte was completed in 1779. It required several revisions to incorporate additional children as they were born. In the end, it showed the queen full-length with thirteen children around her and was considered to be the king's favorite royal portrait (Robert C. Alberts, Benjamin West: A Biography, Boston, 1978, p. 131).


Sir Peter Lely painted ten of the portraits of the ladies of the court of Charles II, William Wissing three, and Jacob Huysman one. Another of Lely's portraits was of Catherine of Braganza, consort of Charles II (Pyne, History of the Royal Residences of Windsor Castle, 1:116–117, 154).


Queen Caroline, wife of George II and a noted supporter of the arts, owned a substantial quantity of Japanese ware that had originally been a gift from the East India Company (John Van der Kiste, King George II and Queen Caroline, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 1997, p. 123).


Supplied from AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840, p. 343. The signature, which was probably “A. Adams,” has been neatly cut out of the RC resulting in the loss of five words on the reverse. In 1839, when CFA began gathering together his grandmother's letters for publication, Lucy Cranch, who married John Greenleaf in 1795, let him copy AA's letters to both her and her mother, Mary Cranch (CFA, Diary , 8:278, 297).


The Fashionable Magazine; or, Lady's and Gentleman's Monthly Recorder of New Fashions, etc., vol. 1, London, 1786.

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 20 July 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw AA


Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 20 July 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Adams, Abigail
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams
My Dear Sister Haverhill July 20 1786 The Day after Commencment—Noon

Here I am, all alone for a great rarity. There is nothing more agreeable to me for a little while, than what the world calls Solatude. I have but one Servant maid in the House, and one Scholar in the Study. So that we are quite still. I hear nothing but the busy hum of Flies, and the warbling of a Wren, and spring-Bird in the Orchard, that set and swell their little throats as if the kind things knew how much I am delighted with their melody.

Cousin Sally Tufts (who has been here this fortnight) Polly Harrod,1 Betsy Smith, are gone early this PM. to see Mrs Allen, and William S Shaw to wait upon them, as their happy Gallant. William reads, and speaks very plain, and begins to write cleverly. Seperating my Children the Summer you left us, was of very eminent Service to them both.2 In three Months time you would have been surprized to have heard them. I thought William gained in plainess of speech, 271rather more than his Sister. But I have not the least fear of either of them now. Betsy Quincy had an Abcess formed just below her Bowells, upon the right side last September, and I think, though she is not in the lest lame, that she has never been so well in health nor so fat since. She has more Spirits now than strength, grows very tall, and is full of talk, and good humour. She is so livly, that I think sometimes she will fly off in air. I carried her the last week in May to Braintree, for the benefit of the change of Air, and Sister would not let me bring her back. I expect Mr Shaw and Thomas will bring her this Week or next home. They both went in a Chaise a Tuesday for Commencement. Mr Shaw thinks upon the whole, not to offer Thomas this year. He is full young, and not so well fitted in Greek as yet, as either of his Brothers. Mr Thaxter says, it would rather be a damage to him. Mr Shaw would not have thought of his going till the next year, only on account of his Brother JQA being there with him, but the freshman and the Seignor Class have but little connection with each other, and perhaps when he has himself, received the honours of the University, he will be better qualified to recommend, and advise his Brother how to acquire and preserve them, than he would now.

Last week he sent his Brother a kind, affectionate parental Letter.3 It was worthy his Father, I am sure you would have been charmed with it.

I expect cousin Lucy Cranch to tarry with me, and all my Children, next week.

Mr Nathaniel Sparhawk of whom you have formerly heard me speak, called here, to take his leave of me, he is to embark for Europe in about a week. He has kindly offered to take a Letter for you. He wishes to be introduced to Mr and Mrs Adams. What his views in the mercantile way may be, I cannot tell. He has met with the same misfortune which few of our Merchants have escaped. Madam Hayly comeing to America, has sunk the Spirits of Many, as well as their Purses.4

Mr Sparhawk resided in Haverhill when I first came into the Town, and during his first wives Life, I was treated by them with the greatest politeness, and affection, and there was no place in the town where I was happier. Our Souls were in Unison. She was a Woman of reading, and sentiment, and those seldom fail of pleasing.5 Such are the Salt of the World. How soon must Society grow insipid, and conversation wearisome unless it is enlivened by a Taste for Literature.


You will not fail my Sister of noticing this Gentleman—as an American.

I must go—adieu for the present my charming Sister—you must have more by and by. Last Week I received two Letters from you, dated 24th of April, and 25th of May.6 Mr Shaw has received Dr Clarks Sermons, and begs his kindest Regards may be presented to Dr Adams, and his warmest Thanks. I think the Dimity you sent B Quincy is the nicest I ever saw. I hope the little creature will live to see you, and thank you herself. She is really a comical child. I said to her one Day, “B Q be very careful of your Cloaths, you must not hurt them, I shall not make any more for you if you do.”—“No matter Mamma if you don't, Aunt Adams will send me enough.”

The Callico you mention, I have not seen, I suppose it is with sister. My Lutestring has been much admired. I had it made, and honoured Mr and Mrs Porter with it upon the Celebration of thier Marriage. They are now gone upon a visit to Bridgewater, and next Week they are to go to Rye, and She to take her Residence for Life.7 Rye is a Town 5 miles from Portsmouth, pleasantly situated they say. People here give me the credit of making the Match, but be that as it may, I heartily wish them happiness. They are both worthy. I have not heard that Mr and Mrs Evans have as yet returned from their Southern Journey. I know not how these 2 social sensible Creatures, will be able to content themselves in the—town of Weymouth.

It is to Me, like a Tree, stripped of its Fruit, and herbage.

Alas! (my Sister) we have many links in our Chain of Relationship, broken off, since you left us. I have met with another very great Loss, even as to my temporal Interest in our dear Aunt Smith. As I hear Cushing did not sail, till a week after my Aunts Burial, I suppose you will by him have had particular accounts, of the melancholly Scene. Her Death you may well think, is universally lamented. Such a Wife, Mother, Mistress and Friend, grow not every Tree. And such a Loss is not easily repaired. This my good Uncle and Cousins; especially Isaac, deeply feel.

You knew a part of her Virtues, and I need not expaciate. May they live in our Memory, and in our Lives.

When I was at Boston she had scurvy spots upon her Arms, as you and I have seen upon our selves, and her blood seemed in a lethargick, poor state, and had lost a great deal of her Flesh. But my uncle and she came to Braintree, upon a Saturday, and over to Weymouth a Monday, with our Brother Cranch, and Sister. It was 273the first Time that any of us had been there since my Aunts Tufts Burial. It was painful you may sure. There was her easy Chair—But no kind Aunt to sweetly smile, and bid me welcome. A Tear would steal across my Cheek, in spite of all my Resolution, and care to suppress, and twinkle it away. The good Dr behaved excellently, he acts from the best of Principles, and by his kindness and attention endeavoured to make us feel as little as possible the want of our amiable Aunt. My Uncle and Aunt returned with us to Boston, and she seemed much better, which encouraged her, and she told me that riding did her so much good that she should keep on visiting her Friends and would come and spend some time with me, after she had attended an Ordination at Prince-Town, where my Uncle was going as Delagate. But the Night before she was to set out, she was taken in Convulsions and never seemed to have her senses more than a moment or two after-wards. And instead of joining any longer here below in the Society of Mortals, she has taken a sweeter Journey to the heavenly Canan.

I have many things more to say, but Mr Sparhawk is now waiting.

Believe me my Dear Sister, with the deepest sense of Gratitude for your kindness, your truly affectionate Sister Eliza Shaw

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs Shaw july 20 1786.”


Sally Tufts, age fourteen, was the daughter of AA's cousin Samuel Tufts, a Newburyport merchant, and Sarah Moody ( NEHGR , 51:303 [July 1897]; Vital Records of Newburyport Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849, 2 vols., Salem, Mass., 1911, 1:399). Mary (Polly) Harrod of Haverhill, age fifteen, was the elder sister of Ann Harrod, whom TBA married in 1805 (Boston, 24th Report, p. 322; CFA, Diary , 5:82–83).


Elizabeth Quincy Shaw spent the summer of 1784 with the Cranch family (vol. 5:337, 352–353, 424, 475).


Probably JQA to TBA, 2 July, above.


Mary Wilkes Storke Hayley, the sister of English politician and American sympathizer John Wilkes, came to Boston in 1784 to collect the debts owed her late husband, George Hayley, a London merchant and alderman, a sum totaling nearly £80,000 (Thwing Catalogue, MHi; Boston Gazette, 31 May 1784; Katharine A. Kellock, “London Merchants and the pre-1776 American Debts,” Guildhall Studies in London History, 1:129 [Oct. 1974]).


Nathaniel Sparhawk Jr., Harvard 1765, a Salem merchant, married Catherine Sparhawk, his cousin, in Kittery, Mass. (now Maine), in 1766; she died in 1778. Sparhawk's second wife was Elizabeth Bartlett of Haverhill, whom he married in 1780. Following Elizabeth's death in 1782, Sparhawk married a third time, in 1783, to Deborah Adams of Portsmouth, N.H., but the couple soon separated ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 16:235–237).


AA's letter of 25 May has not been found.


Rev. Huntington Porter, minister of the Congregational church in Rye, N.H., and Susannah Sargeant of Haverhill married on 28 June (Vital Records of Haverhill Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849, 2 vols., Topsfield, Mass., 1910–1911, 2:261; Langdon B. Parsons, History of the Town of Rye, New Hampshire, from Its Discovery and Settlement to December 31, 1903, Concord, N.H., 1905, p. 149–150, 156–157).