John Adams to Abigail Smith
April 20th. 1763
Love sweetens Life, and Life sometimes destroys Love. Beauty is desirable and Deformity detestible; Therefore Beauty is not Deformity nor Deformity, Beauty. Hope springs eternal in the human Breast, I hope to be happyer next Fall than I am at present, and this Hope makes me happyer now than I should be without it.—I am at Braintree but I wish I was at Weymouth! What strange Revolutions take Place in our Breasts, and what curious Vicissitudes in every Part of human Life. This summer I shall like Weymouth better than Braintree but something prompts me to believe I shall like Braintree next Winter better than Weymouth. Writers who procure Reputation by flattering human Nature, tell us that Mankind grows wiser and wiser: whether they lie, or speak the Truth, I know I like it, better and better.—I would feign make an original, an Exemplar, of this Letter but I fear I have not an original Genius.
Ned. Brooks is gone to Ordination, I know.1 I have not seen him, nor heard of him, but I am sure that nothing less than the Inspiration of his Daemon, that I suppose revolted from him somewhere, near the foot of Pens-Hill, could have given me Understanding to write this Letter. This is better Reasoning than any I learned at Colledge.
Patience my Dear! Learn to conquer your Appetites and Passions! Know thyself, came down from Heaven, and the Government of ones own soul requires greater Parts and Virtues than the Management of Kingdoms, and the Conquest of the disorderly rebellious Principles in our Nature, is more glorious than the Acquisition of Universal Dominion. Did you ever read Epictetus? He was a sensible Man. I advise you to read him: and indeed I should have given this Advice, before you undertook to read this.2
It is a silly Affectation for modern statesmen to Act or descant upon Ancient Principles of Morals and Civility. The Beauty of Virtue, The Love of ones Country, a sense of Liberty, a Feeling for our Fellow Men, are Ideas that the Brains of Men now a Days can not contemplate: It is a better Way to substitute in the Place of them, The Beauty of a <
Girl> Lady, the Love of Cards and Horse Races, a Taste in Dress, Musick, and Dancing, The Feeling of a pretty Girl or Fellow and a genteel Delicacy and Complaisance to all who have Power to abuse us.
I begin to find that an increasing Affection for a certain Lady, (you know who my Dear) quickens my Affections for every Body Else, that does not deserve my Hatred. A Wonder if the Fires of Patriotism, do not soon begin to burn! And now I think of it, there is no possible Way of diminishing the Misery of Man kind so effectually as by printing this Letter.
It is an intolerable Grievance and Oppression upon poor literary Mortals, to set wasting their Spirits And wearing out that great Gland the Brain, in the study of order and Connection, in f[ix]ing every Part of their Compositions to [. . .]3 a certain scope. This keeps them besides from the Joys of seeing their Productions in Print, several days longer than is needful, (not nine years indeed, according to those fools the Ancients): We are to our Honor grown a good deal wiser than they.
Now I can demonstrate that a Man [might?] write three score Years and ten, after the Model of this Letter, without the least Necessity of Revisal, Emendation or Correction, and all that he should write in that time would be worth Printing too.—I find the Torrent Hurries me down, but I will make a great Effort to swim ashore to the Name of
To the great Goddess Diana
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For Miss Nabby Smith Weymouth.”
1. According to Weis, Colonial Clergy of N.E. description begins Frederick Lewis Weis, comp., The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England, Lancaster, Mass., 1936. description ends , Edward Brooks (1732?–1781), Harvard 1757, of Medford, was not ordained until 1764, at North Yarmouth, where he was settled until his dismissal in 1769. But more significantly with relation to the Adamses, Brooks became the paternal grandfather of Abigail Brown Brooks (1808–1889), who in 1829 was to marry JA’s grandson, Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886). See Adams Genealogy.
2. For the editions of Epictetus owned by JA, in Greek, Latin, and English, see Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends , p. 84.
3. MS torn. The missing word may be “meet” or “fill.”