John Quincy Adams to John Adams
As a young boy can not apply himself to all those Things and keep a remembrance of them all I should desire that you would let me know what of those I must begin upon at first. I am your Dutiful Son,
John Quincy Adams
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “A Monsieur Monsieur Adams Hotel de Valois Richlieu A Paris,” with sender’s address written in JQA’s hand across one corner of the cover: “Ecole de Mathematiques.” Postmarked: “16 4e. Lvee. K/EI BANL E/P.D 3S,” the very last element being handwritten, the others stamped; see facsimile of cover reproduced as an illustration in this volume, and the Descriptive List of Illustrations, p. xvii–xviii, above, which attempts an elucidation of these markings of the Petite Poste de Paris prior to its attachment to the Grande Poste in July 1780; compare also the postal markings on JQA’s letter of 21 March, below. Endorsed: “My Son.” The name “Bethune” appears in John Thaxter’s hand on the cover sheet, but this must have been written later for a purpose not now apparent.
2. Probably a Latin edition of Erasmus’ Colloquia, of which there were many prepared for French students’ use from the early 16th century on. Among the many works by Erasmus at MQA, most of them no doubt acquired by JQA, are two editions of the Colloquia, an Elzevir published at Amsterdam, 1679, and a Colloquia selecta familiaris, Paris, 1767, which may have been the copy used by JQA at Passy.
3. JA, who was evidently keeping close track of his sons’ studies, gives a fuller title for this work in his reply of the next day. According to JA this was an “Appendix de Diis et Heroibus ethnicis,” or Supplement on the Pagan Gods and Heroes, that is, an account of classical mythology, presumably for young readers. This was a common type of work, but the particular one being studied by JQA, whether a separate publication or part of a Latin reader, has not been identified.
4. That is, “Parse Phaedrus.” The OED description begins The Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, 1933; 12 vols. and supplement. description ends records the spellings peirse, parce, and pearce in the 16th and 17th centuries, and there was evidently great variation in pronunciation. The Fables in verse of Phaedrus were a favorite book for beginners in Latin at the end of the 18th century. At MQA is a Latin edition, Paris, 1742; among JQA’s books at the Boston Athenaeum are two others, London, 1750, and Paris, 1783, both with JQA’s bookplate, but the latter ineligible by date for JQA’s use at Passy.
5. “Racines” is the French word for “roots.” Hence: Learn Greek roots.
6. In the MS there follows a crude ornamental design spread across the whole page; see the facsimile illustration in this volume.