Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 30 December 1786 AA JA Abigail Adams to John Adams, 30 December 1786 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
My dearest Friend december 30th 1786 Bath

I yesterday received your kind favour by mr Murry and the day before; yours by mr Bridgen. Mr and Mrs Rucker left us this morn-414ing, but I did not write by them knowing that the post would be much Spedier. You tell me to keep a journal, but you do not think what a task you impose or how every Hour is occupied at this place by those who stay only ten or twleve Days, and run the circle of amusement, or rather dissapation. The Young are delighted here, because they feel less restraint in their amusements and pleasures than in the city. The excercise they take, together with the clear sun shine and fine air of Bath tends to exhilirate the spirits. The aged and the infirm receive Health and Spirits from the Bethsadian pools and not a little satisfaction is derived to all parties from visiting a place of fashionable resort. As it may be more amusement to you in my absence to read a little detail of my excursion than if I brought home a journal to you, I will endeavour to recollect the events of the past week. You know I had but one acquaintance who resided here, and him I determined to find out and leave a card at his Lodgings. But on Sunday last, before I had made any inquiry for him, he heard of my arrival and came immediately to see me. He was wonderfully polite and civil to us, offerd us every attention in his power. We invited him to dine with us the next day, and the old Gentleman came. He told us that he had not for 3 years past been a Subscriber to any of the publick amusements the concert excepted, and to that he would have the honour of conducting us.1 This he did the next Evening and procured us Seats to much advantage. The next Day he invited us to a Breakfast with him and entertaind us with great Elegance and Hospitality. He has taken such a prodigious fancy to col Smith that he has made him a confident in his private affairs. Col Smith brought a letter of introduction to mr Fairfax who is mr Boylstones most intimate Friend.2 Mr Fairfax was Sick confined to his Chamber and his Lady quite an invalide but they have been very obliging to us, Sent us cards for the benifit Ball and yesterday we dinned with them. Tho mr Fairfax was not able to set at table, he deputed mr Boylstone to do the Honours of it, and the old gentleman appeard as happy as if he had, had so many of his children about him and mrs Fairfax said she had never Seen him in such Spirits in her Life. In the Evening we went to a party at Miss Hartlys, a musical Route I believe I must call it, as we had both vocal and instrumental, we had Stars and Garters Lords and Ladies present. Miss Hartly is quite a criple having lost one of her feet by a mortification, very infirm, and delicate but quite well bred polite and soft in her manners. Her mind seems much more cultivated 415than most of the Ladies we meet with. She is very fond of Musick and a performer.3 She is moved about in a chair set upon wheels, quite helpless her hands excepted. She reads or hears a young companion whom she keeps with her, is very pleasent and cheerfull and was once a very handsome woman. I drank tea with her once before without company and it was then I made my observations. We have been to three Balls one concert one play, two private parties, to the publick walks &c and all this in one week is enough to surfeit one. The Ball to morrow Evening will conclude our amusements at Bath. We then propose a visit to the Hot well of Bristol.4 That accomplished we set out for Grosvenour Square which we mean to reach on saturday next, perhaps on fryday, but as it is not convenient for all of us to travel fast; I rather think we shall make 3 or four Days of our return. I have lost my bed fellow to Day, but as the weather is so much moderated I think I shall do without an Abbe the remainder of my stay. You recollect in France that they are so polite to the Ladies as to accomodate them with an Abbe, when they give the Gentleman a Nun—even the Chaste and immaculate Dr, used to take a Nun to his Bed.

I am happy at the intelligence received from Boston, and hope all will be well.

Mr and Mrs Smith present their duty; Mr Cutting writes that he had dinned with you 3 times out of 8 Days. I wish I Could Send you some of the fine fish of Bath in which they greatly excell any part of England that I have visited. Small Bear Bread Mutton and fish are excellent here, but I begin to wish myself at Home notwithstanding. Having visited Bath once I am satisfied, as you have no fancy for that which makes it so delightfull to most people. I do not wonder that you preferd building up Republicks, and establishing Governments. Be so good as to let john and Esther know, that we Shall be at Home on Saturday next.

Ever yours.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Portia. Decr. 30. 1786.”


Among the entertainments at Bath were a regular concert series, held in the Assembly Rooms on Wednesdays during the winter and outside at the Spring Garden in the summer, and twice-weekly subscription balls. These formal balls were regulated by strict rules, separating participants by social rank for part of the evening, and ended promptly at 11:00 p.m. (The New Bath Guide; or, Useful Pocket Companion for All Persons Residing at or Resorting to This Ancient City, Bath, 1791, p. 23–24; Trevor Fawcett and Stephen Bird, Bath: History and Guide, Dover, N.H., 1994, p. 62; Graham Davis and Penny Bonsall, Bath: A New History, Staffordshire, Eng., 1996, p. 41–42).


George William Fairfax (1724–1787) and his wife Sarah Cary, both originally from 416Virginia, had moved to England in the early 1770s and eventually settled in Bath (Edward D. Neill, The Fairfaxes of England and America, Albany, N.Y., 1868, p. 135, 153–154, ante 209).


Mary Hartley (1736–1803) was the half-sister of the British MP David Hartley, who had long corresponded with JA. Despite her continuing ill health, she managed his household and was also a noted linguist and artist (George Herbert Guttridge, David Hartley, M.P.: An Advocate of Conciliation 1774–1783, Berkeley, Calif., 1926, p. 234–235, 323–325).


The Hot Wells was a resort spa in the village of Clifton, about a mile from Bristol, on the banks of the Avon River (Leigh's New Pocket Road-Book of England and Wales, 2d edn., London, 1826, p. 82).

Abigail Adams to Isaac Smith Jr., 30 December 1786 AA Smith, Isaac Jr. Abigail Adams to Isaac Smith Jr., 30 December 1786 Adams, Abigail Smith, Isaac Jr.
Abigail Adams to Isaac Smith Jr.
My Dear sir London1 December 30th 1786

Your Letter to me informing me of the Death of your dear Parent, and my much Loved Aunt, awakened in my Bosom all those tender and Sympathetick emotions, which my own and your loss united.

Twice in my Life it hath pleased Heaven that I should taste of a Similar affliction in the loss of a Father and a Mother. Time which has meliorated the poignant anguish; which attends a recent seperation, presents to my recollection, their numerous virtues, and their endearing characters; which are a constant Solace to me, and excite in my Heart the warmest gratitude to Heaven for having blest me with Such parents, and continued their Lives to me for so many years. And Such my Dear sir must be your consolation when your thoughts employ themselves upon a Parent, who fullfilld every Duty and every Relation in Life with a conscientious punctuality with a tenderness and benevolence that constantly testified the strict unison which Subsisted between her Duty, and her inclination. Next to my own Parents, was your Dear Mother in my affection and regard. The Law of kindness was always upon her Lips,2 and it was from the abundance of her Heart, that her Mouth Spake.

Tho it hath pleased Heaven to take from me the flattering Idea of being welcomed by her, upon a return to my native Land and I now view with pain, that hospitable Mansion, once the Seat of pleasure, shorn of half its glory, and that Seat deserted; which was once filld with Smiles and with courtesy. I wipe the selfish tear from my Eye, “and look through nature up to Natures God”3 and in that Mansion not made with Hands I view the Departed Spirit, disencumberd from the Clogs of Mortality, earnestly desirious of receiving and welcoming her Friends into those happy Regions of Security and Bliss where She is safely landed, and there perfecting all those virtuous Friendships which were but commenced on Earth.

417 “Angles from Friendship, gather half their joy”4

These are consolations which Christianity offers to the afflicted mind. You sir who have for a course of years made those sacred doctrines your study and delight cannot fail to find them a Support under your present affliction. Those doctrines do not call for a Stoical insensibily or forbid us to feel as Humane Creatures, but so to regulate and watch over our passion, as not to permit them to lead us into any excesses that would discover an impotence of mind, and a diffidence of providence.

Excuse me Sir that I have not written you before, my mind was too much agitated to write with that calmness which I wished for.

Present me in affectionate terms to your Worthy Father, and to your Brother and Sisters.

My dear Betsy, alass she knows not how much I have felt for her, but she is a child trained up in the way in which she should go.5

Mr Adams joins me in affectionate Regards to your family. Believe me dear Sir most Sincerely your Friend A. Adams

RC (MHi: Smith-Carter Papers); addressed: “To The Rev'd Isaac Smith Chaplain at Castle William Boston.”


This letter may have been written at Bath but was probably mailed from London following AA's return on 6 Jan. 1787.


Proverbs, 31:26.


Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistle IV, line 332.


Young, Night Thoughts , Night II, line 574.


Elizabeth Smith (1770–1849), the youngest child of Isaac Sr. and Elizabeth Storer Smith. The characterization of her upbringing is from Proverbs, 22:6.