Adams Papers

James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 5 July 1784

James Lovell to Abigail Adams

[ 5 July 1784 ] 1

Suppose every proper Epithet to occupy these two upper Lines.

Under them all I most cordially salute you. Once upon the Arrival of a Ship from France “you was too happy to find Time for answering Letters.”2 I do not now want any Answer. All I wish is that you may steal from yourself and one other a Minute for reading this short Scrawl. Your Benevolence and your Curiosity secure my Wish; and, here you are, if there is a Providence protecting Virtue—Don’t let that if throw my Paper into the Fire, for it was not a mark of real Supposition. Here you are, I say, going to receive what you did not expect or even wish for five minutes ago.—an Addition to your Felicity.

You once wept at my confidential Communication of the veritable Cause of my seemingly obstinate and naughty long Seperation from my dear Wife and Children.3 To the Tears then shed, I owe the Gratitude of an Information that two days ago I was most unexpectedly appointed Naval Officer of this Port, instead of that Draft of small Beer which I have told you I should want, cannot fail to afford a very competent Support to a Family whose Wellfare you have proved to be one of your tender Concerns. I had often told my Confidents that I could not expect even a decent Sustinence till the Reign of Portia’s Husband here when an Application for Favo[r] would not involve the Sacrifice of manly Integrity. But the Imprudence of the late Naval Officer4 has not only rendered my Application to Man Woman or Child unnecessary but has even overruled the little Doings of a big one of the latter Class5 to prevent my Success.

Most respectfully yours Madam


RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. A Adams in England Holland or France”; docketed in an unknown hand: “Mr. Lovel.”

1James Lovell received his appointment as naval officer at Boston on 3 July (Richard Cranch to JA, 3 July, above), which, he says below, occurred “two days ago.” The 5th was also the day that Thomas Jefferson sailed for Europe, apparently taking this letter with him (Cotton Tufts to JA, 3 July, above). Lovell, AA’s closest correspondent outside her family, exchanged nearly one hundred letters with her between 1777 and 1782, the years of his service as a Massachusetts delegate in Congress. This is his only known letter to AA between May 1782 and 1789. See vols. 2 and 4:indexes; JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 1:288, note 1.

2Closing quotation mark supplied. The reference must be to JA’s return from France in 1779, but if AA did write something similar to the quoted passage, it is in a letter that has not been found.

3See AA to Lovell, 13 May 1781, and Lovell’s reply of 16 June 1781, especially his reference there to “small Beer,” which he uses again in this paragraph (vol. 4:112–113, 148–151).

4Lovell’s predecessor was Nathaniel Barber (“A Register for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” p. 28, in A Pocket Almanack. . . 1784, T. & J. Fleet, Boston).

5Perhaps a reference to Gov. John Hancock.

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