Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw
London April 24th 1786
My Dear sister
Mr jenks is suddenly obliged to return to America and I have only time to write you a few lines, to inform you of my Health. I yesterday heard that Captain Davis is arrived at Plimouth. By him I hope to hear again from all my Dear Friends. I have written you lately by mrs Hay who went to Newyork and by Captains Cushing and Lyde, all of whom I hope will arrive Safe.
In the political World Matters remain much as they were. I expect to spend this summer chiefly in making excursions into the Country, which will afford me an ample fund to entertain my Friends with. We went out last week to visit a Seat of the Duke of Northumberlands calld Sion House. It was formerly a Monastry, and was the first which was surpressed by Henry 8th.1 As we had not tickets we could not see the House, but were admitted to the Gardens and pleasure grounds which are very extensive and beautifull. The pleasure Grounds in this Country contain from 2 hundred to a thousand acres and are ornamented and kept up at a vast expence. We askd the Gardner how many hands were employ’d in this Seat at Sion which is about 2 hundred acres. He told us 15. We have since received tickets and shall visit it again. Woods grottos meandering waters templs Statues are the ornaments of these places—one would almost think themselves in Fairy land. Mr Adams and mr Jefferson made an excursion of 3 hundred miles and visited Several of the most celebrated Seats. They returnd charmd with the beauties of them, and as soon as the spring is a little further advanced, I shall begin upon them. Amongst the places they visited was the house and Spot upon which Shakspear was born. They Sat in the chair in which he used to Study, and cut a relict from it.2
Is my son admitted colledge, I am anxious to know? My Tommy will be left quite alone. Mr Adams some times wishes him here, but I never can join him in that wish. I am more satisfied with his present situation, tho it would give me pleasure to have him here if I thought it for his benifit. The Young Gentleman here is so very Zealous to be married that I Suppose it will take place in the course of a few months, and they chuse to keep House. I Shall be much engaged very soon in preparations for this matter.
Mr Adams bought a few days ago at second Hand; dr Clarks Sermons,3 which he desires me to present to mr shaw in his Name: and I have requested mr Jenks to take Charge of them for him. Remember me to all Friends & believe me Dear Sister most affectionatly Yours
RC (DLC: Shaw Papers); addressed by WSS: “Mrs. Eliza. Shaw Haverhill Boston Hon’d by Mr. Jenks”; endorsed: “April 24th. 1786 Received July 16th.”
1. The Adamses and Thomas Jefferson visited Syon (Sion) House in Brentford, about seven miles west of London, on 20 April. This monastery had been established by Henry V in 1415 as a convent for Bridgettines. It was one of the first to be suppressed, in 1539, by Henry VIII, who used it in 1541 as a prison for his fifth wife Catherine Howard just prior to her execution (JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:190; George James Aungier, The History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery, London, 1840, p. 21, 83–85, 90–91).
2. For JA and Jefferson’s visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, see D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:185.
3. Probably a volume by Samuel Clarke (1675–1729), rector of St. James’, Westminster (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, repr. ed., London, 1959–1960; 22 vols. plus supplements. description ends ). There are several compilations of Clarke’s sermons. JA’s library at MB contains A Discourse Concerning the Unchangeable Obligations of Natural Religion . . . Being Eight Sermons Preached in the Year 1705 (in Richard Watson, ed., A Collection of Theological Tracts, 5 vols., London, 1785, 4:109–295).