Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

John Boylston to John Adams

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams 2d to Elizabeth Cranch, June 1782 AA2 Cranch, Elizabeth Norton, Elizabeth Cranch


Abigail Adams 2d to Elizabeth Cranch, June 1782 Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA) Cranch, Elizabeth Norton, Elizabeth Cranch
Abigail Adams 2d to Elizabeth Cranch
My Dear Eliza Wedensday June 1782

I have not heard a word from B—1 since Wedensday last. I want much to know how you all do. I wrote you last Saturday. Mrs. Quincy took my letter yesterday.2 Hope you have received it. You will not complain of my not writing you I bleive, my letters can give you little pleasure only as they are dictated by a heart that rearly3 loves you. My affection for you is an inducement for my writing you at this time more particularly. I have my friend been in company with many persons since I have been in town who were formerly acquainted with the gentleman that lately has resided in your family. Every one expresses great surprise at the event, these persons say that 4 he is practicing upon Chesterfeilds plan, that he is the essence and quintessence of artfulness and fear he will in some way or other ingratiate himself into the good opinion of your self. You are not acquainted with his character they say. I have told them I have not a fear about the matter, that I think you are too well gaurded against art in aney shape and that you would despise the attempt, and detest the action. But my friend I dont know but a word by way of caution is nesesary. Perhaps you will laugh at me as I have at others who have made the supposition but I know your heart is at present uncommonly softened by affliction and should he learn your disposition and find a way to sooth your sorrows I will not answer for you, that you will not at least esteem him. His character and his conduct are not deserving the least degree of your friendship and I dare say you will discover it soon if you have not at present. I was told the other day that I could not see him and not become acquainted with him. I am determined to avoid the least degree of acquaintance if anything short of affrontery will answer his whole study, his dissimulation; our sex cannot be too carefull of the characters of the acquaintance we form.5

I passed the day yesterday with Mrs. Mason. She was pleasing and he as agreable as ever. His pappas family dined with us, Mr. Ben Mason and a sister of his.6 He was very particular in his enquireyes about Miss Cranch, whether she was married or like to be. I liked him better than ever I asure you. Indeed my Dear I answer many about 336 you. “She is a lovely Girl, I was much pleased with her,”7 and the like questions from persons whose esteem is valluable. And those I have to answer you may suppose I ever join them in their opinion. Indeed I do. It would be at the expence of my sincerety was I to join otherwise. But I should not have said aney thing about these things as it is I beleive more agreable to persons to imajine these civil things said of them then to heare them, dont you think so. A lively imagination can embellish to their own satisfaction.—But your heart is too much affected to receive such a letter from aney one as this. I have wished much to hear from your pappa in the week past but the fates have denied me. I will hope he is better, may I not be disappointed. Adeiu till I hear of an opportunity of conveiyance to you.

Wedensday evevening. I have this moment perused your postscript.8 It rearly gave me pleasure as I have not heard one word from you this week. The time has seemed long indeed. I pitty you my Dear. Your benevolence was hurt by being the messenger of an event that gave pain to a friend. Do let me hear from you and answer both of my letters. I intend to write Miss Betsy. My Love ever attends her and every one deserving it. Beleive me your friend.

Thursday morning 9

Written lengthwise in margin of first page: Have you wrote to Mr. Thaxter if you have not there is a vessel going for Amsterdam soon so I was told.

RC (MHi:Cranch Papers); addressed: “Miss Eliza Cranch Braintree”; endorsed: “June—82 AA.” Punctuation has been minimally corrected for clarity, but some passages remain a little ambiguous.


Braintree must be meant. From AA2's allusions below, her own letter was unquestionably written from Boston; see note 6.


None of the letters here referred to has been found, and Mrs. Quincy is not further identifiable among the many bearing that name.


Thus in MS, doubtless for “really.”


Here and below, MS is torn.


This extraordinary passage, veiled though it is and without a name mentioned, introduces a figure who was to play an important and dramatic role— though in the eyes of the Adamses a discreditable one—in the domestic history of the Adamses over the next several years. “The gentleman that lately has resided in your family” and is said by AA2 to be “practicing upon Chesterfeilds plan” of artful “dissimulation” among the young ladies of Braintree and Boston, can only be Royall Tyler, who, according to AA's letter to JA, 23 Dec. 1782 (Adams Papers), had been lodging for the last nine months at the Cranches' home in Braintree.

Royall Tyler (1757–1826), author of The Contrast (1787), the first American comedy produced on an American stage, became a well-known figure in American letters and later the chief justice of Vermont. See DAB and G. Thomas Tanselle, Royall Tyler, Cambridge, 1967, which is the first book-length biography and which treats in detail the checkered ro-337mance between AA2 and Tyler. A summary treatment of that suppressed chapter in Adams family history, based largely on unpublished material in the Adams Papers, was furnished a year earlier by the Adams editors in the introduction to The Earliest Diary of John Adams, the MS of which was discovered in 1965 in the Royall Tyler Collection, long closed to researchers, in the Vermont Historical Society; see JA, Earliest Diary , p. 14, 16–32,.

Many letters to be included in the next volume of the Adams Family Correspondence develop this story and exhibit most of the major and some of the minor members of the Adams-Cranch circle in characteristic roles. Tyler's courtship of AA2 had a definite part in the Adams ladies' subsequent voyage to Europe. What is most remarkable in light of AA2's impressions of Tyler as given in the present letter is that six months or so later AA was warmly pressing Tyler's suit upon a daughter who overcame her own doubts very reluctantly.


Jonathan Mason Jr. of Boston, on whom see a sketch above, >vol. 1:280, and another in JA, Legal Papers , 1: civ. He had studied law and lived in JA's household in 1775–1776 and became a correspondent and admiring friend of both JA and AA. In 1779 he had married Susan Powell. His father, Jonathan Mason Sr., was a prominent Boston merchant, married to Miriam Clark; see DAB under Jonathan Jr. They had three daughters and also a younger son, Benjamin (Harvard 1779), who practiced medicine and became an honorary M.D. in 1800 ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ).


Initial and terminal quotation marks editorially supplied.


Not found.


Thus in MS, perhaps indicating that the letter was completed and sent off on the day after it was mainly written (Wednesday).