John Adams to Abigail Adams
I have this day taken a long Ramble, with my son. The Weather is as delightfull as you can imagine. There is not in the Month of May, a softer Air, a warmer sun, or a more delicious Appearance of Things about Boston.
We walked all over the Gardens of the Royal Castle of Muet, at Passy.1 The Gardens are very spacious, on one Quarter looking to Mount Calvare,2 on another to the famous Castle of Madrid, built by Francis the 1st, whose History you will see in Robertson, C[harles] 5.,3 on another looking over the Plain de sablon, or sandy Plain to the Gate of Maillot.—The Rowes of Trees, and gravel Walks are very pretty, and the orangerie are very grand. But the whole is much neglected—the Trees are all mossy, and have a distempered Look.
We then walked in the Bois du Boulogne, rambling about in by Paths, a long Time, till we came to a Gate which We presumed to open and found ourselves in a noble Garden, the salads green and flourishing ready for the Table, long Rows of Wall Fruits, Trees of every species, Apples, Peaches, Appricots, Plumbs &c. and next to the Garden a fine extensive Farm, the Fields and Pastures already shining with Verdure. Upon Enquiry of the Gardiners I was told it belonged to Madame Le Comtess de Boufleure.4 We passed by the Castle, after having viewed all the Farm and Gardens, into the street of Auteuil, the Village where Boileau was born, lived and died5—it is the next Village to Passy. We then walked through the fields along the Castle and Seignoury of Passy which belongs to the Comte De Boulainvilliers6 and returned home, much pleased with our Walk and better for the Air and Exercise.
Now Madam dont you think I have spent my Time very wisely in writing all this important History to your Ladyship. Would it not have been as well spent in conjugating two or three french Verbs, which I could have done through all the Moods, Tenses and Persons, of the Active and passive Voice in this Time.
We expect the Honour of Mr. Turgot,7 the famous Financier, as well as learned and virtuous Man, to dine with Us. And if there should be some Ladies, at the feast, it will not be at my Invitation and therefore you need not be uneasy.
Suppose I should undertake to write the Description of every Castle and Garden I see as Richardson did in his Tour through Great Britain,8 would not you blush at such a Waste of my time.
Suppose I should describe the Persons and Manners of all the Company I see, and the fashions, the Plays, the Games, the sports, the spectacles, the Churches and religious Ceremonies—and all that—should not you think me turned fool in my old Age—have I not other Things to do of more importance?
Let me alone, and have my own Way. You know that I shall not injure you and you ought to believe that I have good Reasons, for what I do, and not treat me so roughly, as you have done.
RC (Adams Papers).
1. La Muette, a chateau or hunting lodge at the entrance of the Bois de Boulogne from Passy (Dezallier, Environs de Paris, 1779 description begins Antoine Nicolas Dezallier d’Argenville, Voyage pittoresque des environs de Paris, 46. édn., Paris, 1779. description ends , p. 18–20).
2. Mont Calvaire or Mont Valérien, across the Seine from the Bois de Boulogne. See a view of Mont Calvaire from the Bois in 1766 reproduced in Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd and others, Princeton, 1950– . description ends , vol. 12, facing p. 482, with descriptive notes at p. xxxv–xxxvi.
3. On the chateau called Madrid in the Bois de Boulogne, see Dezallier, Environs de Paris, 1779 description begins Antoine Nicolas Dezallier d’Argenville, Voyage pittoresque des environs de Paris, 46. édn., Paris, 1779. description ends , p. 21–22. For the “History” of Francis I, JA refers AA to William Robertson’s History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V, of which JA’s copy, 4 vols., London, 1777, is among his books in the Boston Public Library.
4. Marie Charlotte Hippolyte de Camps de Saujon, Comtesse de Boufflers-Rouverel, whose gardens at Auteuil, “begotten on her by an English gardener,” according to Horace Walpole, were celebrated. See Walpole’s description of them in 1775 (Walpole, Corr., ed. W. S. Lewis description begins The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, ed. W. S. Lewis and others, New Haven, 1937– . description ends , 28:222–223) and frequent mentions of the Comtesse and her country seat at Auteuil in his correspondence with Mme. du Deffand, same, vols. 3–8.
5. And also where JA and his family were to live a few years later; see his Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:120, 143–146. In the latter passage JA describes the topography and some of the sites of this part of (present) Paris more fully than he does in this letter, including the home of the French poet and critic Boileau.
6. The Marquis de Boulainvilliers, “who is a kind of Lord of the Manor of Passi,” was a close neighbor and friend of the American Commissioners (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:303 and passim).
8. JA doubtless meant Daniel Defoe’s well-known Tour through Great Britain, first published 1724–1726 and frequently revised and reprinted throughout the century. Samuel Richardson contributed to the edition published in 1769; and surviving among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library is a copy of the Defoe-Richardson compilation called the 8th edition, 4 vols., London, 1778 (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. 71).