To Nathan Webb
The Favour you granted me on aug. 123 was unluckily packeted with a number of Letters and carried to Leicester, but a certain kind Gentleman has just brought it to hand. I will not lessen the pleasure it gave by a Description. But one detestable quality that usually attends your Letters, I find has stain’d it. I think Phylosophers call it, brevity. But, on second reflection I am not surpriz’d. I suppose that agreable Lady “you had the happiness of being particularly acquainted with” has almost monoppolized your Reflections, and an half hours existence without her in your mind, is little preferable to non existence. But I’ll have you to know, that all the Ladys under heaven, however you esteem them, sha’nt deter me from writing. I have an indisputable, incontestable right to half an hour of your time now and then both to read my Letters, and write me returns. Nevertheless, continually, I felicitate you, upon your newly commenced acquaintance, with this Lady, and pray that the acquaintance may be refined into Connubial Beatitude. May the Charms of her Person exceed those of a Celebrated graecian Beauty, may the strength of her intelect and immagination, be rank’d in future times among the brightest Heroines of former ages, Sappho, Daicier,4 Row,5 may the firmness of her Virtue, equal Lucretia’s. What can I wish you more? I never was so plagued for thoughts in my life. No wonder—not a single Idea has coloured my mind this month. At Colledge gay, gorgeous, prospects, danc’d before my Eyes, and Hope, sanguine Hope, invigorated my Body, and exhilerated my soul. But now hope has left me, my organ’s rust and my Faculty’s decay. Every Week Day is sacrificed to [. . .]6 sunday to the Frigid performances [. . .] Frigid John Calvin. No matter, [. . .] be patient I have almost done!
Epistolising is what I am very little skill’d in, and I never keep Copys of my Letters. So that I cant say, but I tautologize. If you meet with the same in this, that you had in the former, candidly excuse it, and set me the example of some regular thinking upon another subject, and I’ll <
Coppy> follow it if I can. I am obliged to you, for your care Concerning the Book I wrote to you of. All the time I can get is spent, how? No astroleger can tell. Dr. Savel7 says cultivating and pruning the tender sproutings, of such plants as may hereafter be plants of renown.
I can not write to please you in the present state of my mind. Therefore I’ll write to please my self, which believe me I cannot do more thoroughly than by subscribing myself your faithfull Friend,
P.S. I’ll never write you such another Letter. I’m almost tempted to throw this to bottomless perdition.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For Mr. Nathan Webb At Braintree These”; a more or less legible monogram, apparently “JLC,” is written in the place where the bearer’s name usually appears. Cover also bears a few calligraphic exercises, and text is damaged by lower right-hand corner of first leaf’s being torn away; see note 6. Tr (Adams Papers); copied (by TBA?) into Lb/JA/26 (Microfilms, Reel No. 114); lacks the small portions of text missing in RC. RC may well have been returned to JA at the same time as his more celebrated letter to Webb, 12 Oct., below, was returned; see JA’s added comments with that letter.
1. At the Harvard Commencement on 16 July 1755, JA had been “somewhat remarked as a Respondent,” that is, noticed as a speaker, in “the publick Exercises,” and Rev. Thaddeus Maccarty of Worcester, with the authority of the selectmen of that town, engaged him as master “for their Grammar School.” Early in August a horse was sent for JA from Worcester to Braintree, and he rode over and undertook the post. Thus, at the time he wrote his first letter that now survives he had been in Worcester for three weeks, more or less. See JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:263.
2. Nathan Webb (1734–1760), Harvard 1754, “my Playfellow at the Grammar School in Braintree,” according to JA, as well as his contemporary at college, was also a relative. He practiced medicine at Weston before his early death. See JA’s added comments on the letter to Webb of 12 Oct., below; Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– . description ends , 13:500.
3. Not found.
4. Anne (Tanneguy-Lefèvre) Dacier (1654–1720), a celebrated French classical scholar and translator (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins J. C. F. Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographic générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends ).
5. Doubtless Elizabeth (Singer) Rowe (1674–1737), British author of edifying and popular works in verse and prose (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1900; 63 vols. plus supplements. description ends ; Allibone, Dict. of Authors description begins Samuel Austin Allibone, A Critical Dictionary of English Literature, and British and American Authors, Living and Deceased, from the Earliest Accounts to the Middle of the Nineteenth Century . . ., Philadelphia, 1858–1871; 3 vols. description ends ).
6. Here and below there are gaps of three or four words each in the text owing to the mutilation mentioned in the descriptive note.
7. Elisha Savil (1724–1768), Harvard 1743, a physician who had married Ann Adams, a niece by blood of both of JA’s parents, and who rented the more southerly of the two cottages on Deacon John Adams’ Braintree farm, that is, what is now known as the John Quincy Adams Birthplace. JA and both the Savils were close friends as well as close neighbors. See sketch of Savil in JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 1:15, and numerous allusions to both husband and wife in same, vols. 1 and 3; Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– . description ends , 11:302–304.