Adams Papers

Elizabeth Smith Shaw Peabody to William Smith Shaw, 24 Sep. 1797

Haverhill Sept. 24th. 1797—

My Dear Son,

For these three weeks your Sisters, & I have been attending the pillow of our sick Cousin Charles whom I presume you never [will] see again in this world, but hope you may meet in an happier—It is the melancholly assignment of near relations to sit by & watch the fleating moments of departing Life. It makes my heart ake to see this dear amiable youth strugling so hard for breath—Had he squandered it away in blaspheming his maker, in taking his sacred name in vain, or by lewd conversation what cause he might now have for the keenest remorse—I am thankful I have not this reflection to cut either him, or me to the heart—for his conversation, & deportment has been such, as to endear him to all his connections, & acquaintance & I trust he has the testimony of a good conscience, void of offence, to soften the bed of Death—depending upon the merits, & intercession of the Saviour for acceptance of his imperfect, very imperfect services—His Sister Betsy, I hear hopes to be well enough to come here tomorrow, I fear he is so altered that it will shock her tender forme—The day the last harbinger in this disorder has appeared upon his mouth—it is growing sore, but dear creature he is loth to believe it—It is not probable he will live the week out—but here I sit waiting all the days of his appointed time, till his change come, & O! may it be an happy one—May he enter into “that rest which remaineth for the people of God—” & may we make a wise improvment of these repeated deaths of our young Friends, trim our Lamps, & be [ourselves] ready for an exchange of temporary scenes; for immortal, eternal realities—

I have not written to you but a line, since you left me, I received a letter from you by your Aunts—You have now felt the necessity of being a good writer—I hope this unexpected call will excite you, to turn your attention more upon this art—I fear you could not do the President much service—I want to hear from you. Let me know exactly how much you are now in the arrears as to your Bills—the whole of them—I am anxious for you——If you do right—everything will (I trust) be favourable, but if wrong, you must [expect] your life will be lost in bogs, and shallows—

Your Aunt Adams has commited to Mr Peabody & my care, her two little Grand sons—they are fine likely Children—but want the greatest attention, the ever watchful eye, of a wife, & good parent—They have with other youths, many improprieties of behaviour, which want a check & to be reclaimed—But to what purpose my Son shall I trouble myself, if (as I think I heard you say,) that youths degenerated, & lost that elegance of manners, those polite attentions which are of so much importance in life, when they had been some time in a collegiate state—If the Observation is just, I think <you>, the amiable, part of your society, should immediately determine, & begin a reformation—They should be polite to each other, preserve a delicacy of manners, cautio[us?] how they wantonly injure each others feelings—be decent, & neat in their Chambers, and properly respectful to every one—thus virtue, & benevolence shall be ripened into a confirmed habit—If there are persons of either Sex, who have not been blessed with the advantages of education which many have been favoured with, & are awkard, not handsome, singular in their manners, yet wish to please, surely they have some merit & ought not to be ridiculed. The scornful lip, the sneer of ridicule, the meaning, pointed whisper to those who sit near, evinces unpoliteness & incivillity in a most hateful form, or at least discovers an unfeeling heart, little acquainted with their own improprieties of behaviour—Their is nothing which would sour my temper more, than to be shuned by my mates, satirized & ridiculed—when I had never designedly given offence—The gentle remonstrance, the kind admonition, the fraternal suggestion woud have a much better effect upon me, & I think must have upon every good mind—& I am sure it is much more agreeable [to my feelings] to reprove, & reform in this way, than by Costicks, the tart remark, or the sarcastick smile & It is a just observation, that people are much easier led, than driven—

You may wonder why I should write thus; I confess those thoughts have occured to my mind, by the conduct of some of my Family this Summer—


Your poor Cousin has had a distressing night—he cannot have many more sands to run—may heaven grant him an easy passport, to regions of immortal Joys—The Christian religion [is the rock] upon which I sit, otherways the waves which have rolled over my head, would have sunk me in dispair. But a firm belief of the goodness, & righteous government of the sovereign of the universe, has been as an anchor to my Soul in times of great anxiety, & bitter trouble—and is now my only support—

I pray you to put your flannel on, & let me know if you do not want more—take a wise & judicious care of your health—it cannot easily be regained—exercise properly, or you [will] not be well—I know not whether you can read this, I sit by your cousin, & every moment have to brush the flies from him—If badly written do not throw them away as your Cousin John used to his Mothers Letters, but lay them up, every word is, at last dictated by the tenderest affection of a kind Mother

Elizabeth Peabody

(DLC: Shaw Family Papers).

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