John Adams to Abigail Adams
Passy Feb 19. 1779
My dearest Friend
I have written three Answers to yours of January 4. This is the fourth. The Three first I have burned. In one I was melancholly, in another angry, and in the third merry—but either would have given you more Pain than Pleasure. I have gone through with several others of your Letters in the same manner. They are Admirably written, but there is such a Strain of Unhappiness and Complaint in them, as has made me very uneasy.—This last goes farther than any other, and contains an Expression which allarms me indeed, and convinces me, either that some infernal has whispered in your Ear Insinuations, or that you have forgotten the unalterable Tenderness of my Heart.1
This Letter is an Additional Motive with me to come home. It is Time.—I have written as often as I could. I want to write you every day but I cannot—I have too much to say: but have good Reasons for saying nothing. Is it necessary that I should make Protestations that I am, with an Heart as pure as Gold or Aether,2 forever yours.
RC (Adams Papers).
1. At the close of her letter of 2 Jan., above, AA twitted JA on the infrequency and brevity of his letters to her and threatened to follow his example; at the same time she expressed the hope that Captain Ober, momentarily expected in “the publick packet” from France, would bring letters that would assuage her disappointment. This, however, did not happen, and on 4 Jan. she addressed JA “in a Strain of Unhappiness and Complaint” stronger than anything she had said earlier on his seeming neglect of her. Her letter has not survived, although it is acknowledged here, again in JA’s first letter of 20 Feb., following, and is mentioned in JQA’s letter to his mother of 20 Feb., below.
2. Thus apparently in MS, though partly overwritten. Early meanings of the word ether (commonly spelled aether) included: “The clear sky; the upper regions of space beyond the clouds”; and “the element breathed by the gods” (OED description begins The Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, 1933; 12 vols. and supplement. description ends ).