Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5



Promenade A Longchamp 128[unavailable]

In the spring of 1783, John Thaxter wrote Abigail Adams a vivid description of the annual parade to Longchamp. Two years later, Abigail herself wrote a description of the event, to her niece Elizabeth Cranch. Both of these are printed below at 18 April 1783 and 8 May 1785 (vol. 6).

Longchamp was a Franciscan abbey founded in the mid-thirteenth century by Isabelle, sister of Louis IX (Saint Louis) in the Bois de Boulogne. By the first half of the eighteenth century, austerity had disappeared from the nunnery, and it was at this time that the parade of the Parisian beau monde to attend concerts during Holy Week began. The public concerts were stopped by Archbishop of Paris Beaumont, but the tradition of the parade continued.

At its height from about 1750 until it was suppressed in 1789, the parade attracted the gamut of society: servants of the royal household, chorus girls from l'Opéra, the wealthy and the penurious. xivThose with means competed in ostentatious displays of carriages and costumes, those without gawked. After describing this concentration of pomp and grandeur, Thaxter defers judgment to Abigail Adams. “Your own Reflections will be infinitely more judicious than any I can make, and therefore I will be silent as to the Impressions this Entertainment has made on my mind” (to Abigail Adams, 18 April 1783, below).

Adams' conclusion, from her own observations, is censorious. “It was a Ceremony 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. . . . it is a senseless foolish parade, at which I believe I shall never again assist” (to John Thaxter, 8 May 1785, vol. 6).

The engraving is by Dambrun, from Etrennes galantes des Promenades et Amusemens de Paris et de ses environs, Paris, 1781. See Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ; Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel ; under both Longchamp and Boulogne.

Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.