Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, 22 January 1779

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren

[Braintree, post 22 January 1779] 1

Your favour by Col. Henly was deliverd me by the Hand of that gentleman. I had been some time expecting to hear from you by your own worthy partner and not seeing him this way gave me some anxiety least he was unwell. But as you did not mention it, and by inquiry of Col. H——I could not find that any thing was the Mater so I set it down to the miserly disposition of my Friend who having got intire possession of her treasure was for securing it wholy to herself, unwilling to impart it to an ungratefull world who tho they had formerly reapd advantages and benifits from the improvement of it, had turnd their attention and Applause to the empty vain Bauble which glitters for a while but is destitute of that intrinsick value which defies the tooth of time.

Forgive me if I sometimes am envious—envious I will not call it since I am sure I do not wish the diminution of any ones happiness—only that I possessd an eaquel share of domestick felicity. My Ideas do not coincide with those who recommend a seperation as necessary to revive the Langour of the most intimate of unions. Those who feel that langour may willingly apply the remedy and find a substitute, but no substitute can fill up the vacancy in my happiness, or supply to me the absence of him who has all my Heart.

I ask not excuse for such sentiments as I know you can join in, nor need my Friend have apoligised for the overflowings of Filial affections to one who has experienced the last sad farewell of one of the best of parents. How much more painfull would the retrospect appear had crimes embitterd their remembrance. May their virtues desend and adorn their children even unto the 3 and fourth generation.

My daughter I dare say is happy and content, was she otherways I should have no opinion of her judgment or taste. When I sent her to you I supposed you would have been for the most part alone and did not know but her company might in some measure elude2 the lonely hour. In return I knew she would reap advantages from residing with a Lady she could not fail of loving and respecting, but as you are determined to keep more valuable company, I suppose I may call for her in a few weeks.

The conduct of a certain gentleman has roused the attention of the publick. He has stired up a nest which will sting him till he bleads. Tis unhappy that in the Infancy of our republicks such unworthy characters should stain our Anals and Lessen us in the Eyes of foreign powers. Yet this will ever be the case where self Interest is more powerfull than publick virtue. When the path of rectitude is forsaken, the mind is soon bewilderd in error and when men leave honesty wisdom forsakes them.

I hope the dark scene will be develloped and the indignation of an abused people fall where it ought.

You call for News from France. With pleasure I would give you any intelligance I could obtain, but alass there is a wide ocean betwen, and my Heart sickens when I recollect what a long period has elapsed since I received the least consolation from thence. May I ask the ready pen of my Friend to indulge me with a few lines from Parnassus upon the Anniversary of a very Melancholy day to me, which will always be more peculiarly devoted to my absent Friend, till the happy one arrives which shall give him back to me again.

I sympathize with my Friend that she is again and so soon call’d to mourn a departed relative cut of in the midst of her days, witherd in her Bloom at a time when the young charge require the maternal watchfulness and precepts.3 This is a much more trying Dispensation than resigning those who according to the course of Nature have done the work assignd them and like a shock of corn are gathered.

As those we love decay, we dye in part

String after string is sever’d from the Heart

Till loosen’d life, at last but breathing clay

Without one pang is glad to fall away,

Unhappy those, who latest feel the blow

Whose Eyes have wept o’er every Friend laid low,

Drag’d ling’ring on from partial Death to Death

Till, dying, all they can resign is Breath.

At a late hour I must bid a good Night to Marcia and close her affectionate


Dft (Adams Papers); at head of text in CFA’s hand: “Mrs. Warren Jan 1779.” At the beginning of the third page of this four-page MS, AA had begun, and later scratched out, an undated draft letter to an unnamed correspondent: “Sir As you are determined to return to your native land again permit me Sir to address you tho personally unknown to you [sentence unfinished].” One may guess that she was addressing a loyalist, but the editors cannot identify him, and presumably she never finished or sent the letter.

1The death of Elizabeth (Gray) Otis, spoken of in this letter, occurred on 22 Jan. 1779 (see note 3). AA is obviously answering Mrs. Warren’s letter of 19 Jan., preceding, but her answer may have been written at any time between 22 Jan. and 13 Feb., “the Anniversary of a very Melancholy day,” also mentioned in this letter.

2Thus in MS. Possibly AA meant to write: “in some measure help you elude the lonely hour.”

3Elizabeth (Gray) Otis, 1st wife of Mrs. Warren’s youngest brother, Samuel Allyne Otis (see Adams Genealogy), died on 22 Jan. at the age of 33 (Boston Gazette, 25 Jan. 1779). She left five children, the eldest of whom was Harrison Gray Otis (1765–1848), later famous as a Federalist political leader (Morison, H. G. Otis description begins Samuel Eliot Morison, The Life and Letters of Harrison Gray Otis, Federalist, 1765–1848, Boston and New York, 1913; 2 vols. description ends , vol. 1, ch. 1–2).

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