Elizabeth Smith Shaw Peabody to Abigail Adams
Atkinson July 23d 1796
My Dear Sister—
Your kind invitations would have induced Mr Peabody to have visited you at Quincy had it not now been in the midst of making hay, & the expectation he has of finding his Son in Boston, & taking him home with him in the Chaise— He thinks it will be making a toil of what he should esteem a pleasure, for he could not get back with any comfort a commencement week— If I am well we hope to make you a visit in the Fall, our Boarders term will then be out, & several of them will leave us— It is not convenient, nor expedient to leave a very large Family you well know, I did not intend to have had one again—but they are so solicitous to come into this family that it is hard denying them— Mr Peabody is so much the patron of this accademy, that he will take boarders I fear to his prejudice— He has no house, nor maid extraordinary to hire, if he had he could not board them so low— When I feel tired of the work, I compose myself, with thinking we must all do something for a living, that we were not born for ourselves, that the accademy is of real utillity, & that my Family had all rather toil, than spin—though I think Betsy had better learn, & to cook, & do all kinds of business— Our knowledge of house hold affairs never injured us— I know it is pleasanter to set & sew, than to bustle in the cares of a family—but what would become of yours if you were not to rise out of your chair only at meal times—or what would become of our Children if they did not have our constant care, & attention—
We have got two very pretty young Ladies—from Exeter, Judge Peabody’s & Mr Deans daughter1—they are company for Betsy Quincy, They go to the accademy, & to dancing— William I fear will not be able to reap much advantage from a dancing master— He must endeavour to derive all he can from observation of those who are esteemed the easiest, & most polite in their manners— I have written to him respecting his hand writing. I think he is too careless It is a very necessary & useful accomplishment.— Youth should always covet the best gifts, & strive to excell—
I hope William will behave well—there are so many temptations to lead the thoughtless & unwary astray, that I tremble for him—many a lovely youth has been ruined— But all are not safe at maturer years— His Cousin J. S. conduct is too attrocious to admit of an excuse.2 I do not wonder that milton says, when Sin was introduced, into the world, that all nature gave a groan— What havock does it make—
“O! Virtue peace is all thy own”3
I intended to have written to Sister Cranch & Cousin Betsy but I have not time— We have no boy, & I am obliged to keep about house. Lydia is not very strong & Miss Polly is gone a great deal, & Betsy must go to School, for I do not mean to cheat her of her learning— It discourages them if they are absent—
Betsy desires her uncle, & you would accept of her duty & most grateful acknowledgments for all your kindness— Full of the same sentiments of gratitude, I subscribe myself your affectionate / Sister
RC (Adams Papers); docketed by JA: “Mrs Peabody.”
1. Judge Oliver Peabody (1753–1831), Harvard 1773, who had been a probate judge for Rockingham County before becoming the New Hampshire state treasurer in 1794, had two daughters close to Betsy Quincy Shaw in age, Sarah Hazard (b. 1783) and Frances (b. 1784). The second student was possibly Elizabeth Dean (b. 1782), the second daughter of Ward Clark Dean (1747–1828), an Exeter merchant (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, description begins John Langdon Sibley, Clifford K. Shipton, Conrad Edick Wright, Edward W. Hanson, and others, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– . description ends 18:275–283; Selim Hobart Peabody, comp., and Charles Henry Pope, ed., Peabody Genealogy, Boston, 1909, p. 68–69; John Ward Dean, “Descendants of Thomas Deane of Boston and Salisbury, Mass., and Hampton, N.H.,” NEHGR, description begins New England Historical and Genealogical Register. description ends 37:290, 291–292 [July 1883]).
2. Elizabeth Smith Shaw Peabody is likely referring to her nephew Josiah Crocker Shaw (1767–1847), Harvard 1789, who was the son of William Shaw, the brother of her first husband, John Shaw. Josiah Shaw had been ordained a minister at Cohasset, Mass., in Oct. 1792 but was dismissed in June 1796 over what may have been questionable personal behavior. Shaw had married Ruth Stockbridge Winslow in 1793, but both married other people, in 1798 and 1801, respectively (Nahum Mitchell, History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater: in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Including an Extensive Family Register, Boston, 1840, p. 291; D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Phila., 1884, p. 233; Newport, R.I., Companion, 6 Oct. 1798; John H. Sheppard, “Genealogy of the Winslow Family,” NEHGR, description begins New England Historical and Genealogical Register. description ends 17:161 [April 1863]).
3. Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistle IV, line 82.