To Richard Cranch
Worcester, Sept. 2, 1755
I promised to write you an account of the scituation of my mind. The natural strength of my facultys is quite insufficient for the task. Attend therefore to the invocation. Oh! thou goddess, Muse, or Whatever is thy name who inspired immortal Miltons pen with a confusion ten thousand times confounded, when describing Satan’s Voyage thro’ Chaos, help me in the same cragged strains, to sing things unattempted yet in prose or Rhime. When the nimble Hours have tack’led Apollo’s Coursers, and the gay Deity mounts the eastern sky, the gloomy Paedagogue arises, frowning and lowring, like a black Cloud begrimm’d with uncommon wrath to blast a devoted Land. When the destin’d time arrives, he enters upon action and as a haughty Monarch, ascends his Throne, The Paedagogue mounts his awful great Chair and dispenses right and Justice thro’ his whole empire. His obsequious subjects execute the imperial Mandates with chearfullness, and think it their high happiness to be employ’d in the service of the Emperor. Sometimes Paper, sometimes his penknife, now Birch, now Arithmetick, now a ferril, then A.B.C., then scolding, then flattering, then thwacking, calls for the Paedagogues attention. At length, his spirits all exhausted, down comes Paedagogue from his Throne and walks out in awful solemnity, thro’ a cringing multitude. In the afternoon he passes thro’ the same dreadful scenes, smokes his Pipe and goes to bed.
The scituation of the Town is quite pleasant, and the inhabitants (as far as I have had opportunity to know their Character) are a sociable, generous and hospitable people. But the school is indeed a school of affliction, a large number of little runtlings, just capable of lisping A.B.C. and troubling the Master. But Dr. Savil tells me for my comfort, “by Cultivating and pruning these tender Plants in the garden of Worcester, I shall make some of them, Plants of Renown and Cedars of Lebanon.” However this be, I am certain that keeping this school any length of Time would make a base weed and ignoble shrub of me.
Pray write me, the first time you are at Leisure. A Letter from you sir would ballance the inquietude of schoolkeeping. Dr. Savil will packet it with his and convey it to me. When you see Friend Quincy,2 Conjure him by all the Muses to write me a Letter. Tell him that all the Conversation, I have had since I left Braintree, is dry disputes upon Politicks, and rural obscene witt. That therefore a Letter wrote with that Elegance of style, and delicacy of Humour, which Characterize all his performances, would come recommended with the additional Charms of Rarity and contribute more than any thing (except one from you) towards making a happy Being of me once more.—To tell you a secret, I dont know how to conclude neatly without invoking assistance but as truth has an higher place in your esteem than any ingenious conceit, I shall please you, as well as my self, most by subscribing myself your affectionate Friend,
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For Mr: Richard Cranch att Weimouth These”; endorsed: “Lettr. from Mr. John Adams Sep 2d 1755.” Tr (Adams Papers); copied by Thomas Boylston Adams Jr. into Lb/JA/26 (Microfilms, Reel No. 114).
On the provenance of RC, see JQA’s Diary, 30 Aug. 1829, when JQA, retired from the presidency, was at Quincy putting together materials for his (never-completed) memoir of JA: “I spent the Evening at Mr. Daniel Greenleaf’s. . . . Mr. Greenleaf gave me three Original Letters from my father, written to my Uncle Cranch; the first dated 2. September 1755—The earliest of my fathers writing that I have yet found—the two others in 1756.... Mr. Greenleaf came in possession... as Administrator upon the Estate of my uncle Cranch.”
1. Richard Cranch (1726–1811), a native of Kingsbridge, Devon, came to Massachusetts in 1746, and in Nov. 1762 married Mary (1741–1811), elder sister of Abigail Smith (AA). From 1764, after JA’s marriage to Abigail, he was, therefore, in the familiar usage of the time, JA’s “brother,” but the two had long been intimate, conducting their courtships of the Smith sisters more or less simultaneously and becoming lifelong correspondents. The founder of a prolific and gifted family in America, Cranch had an exceedingly diverse and checkered career, throughout which he remained an inveterate optimist. From Oct. 1764 onward, all surviving Adams-Cranch correspondence appears in the Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963– . description ends (Series II of The Adams Papers).
2. Samuel Quincy (1735–1789), Harvard 1754, currently studying law in Boston, later a prominent lawyer, officer of the crown, and loyalist. See numerous allusions to him in JA’s Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends and Legal Papers description begins Legal Papers of John Adams, ed. L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel, Cambridge, 1965; 3 vols. description ends (sketch at 1:cvii–cviii) and in Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963– . description ends ; see also Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– . description ends , 13:478–488.