Adams Papers

Elizabeth Smith Shaw Peabody to William Smith Shaw, 6 Nov. 1797

Atkinson November 6th 1797

My Dear Son—

You are a good Child to write so frequently to me, Letters afford a Balm to comfort us, in the necessary absence of our Friends—& as yours assured me of your health, & welfare they were peculiarly pleasing to me—I fully intended writing you a much longer letter than you found, by Mr Rogers—but a large Family to attend, <&> company, necessary avocations resulting, & my work running forward of me, occasioned by my time being for a month taken up, by going to Haverhill to comfort, sooth, & by my assiduities if possible to meliorate the pain & anguish of our dear amiable Charles, sick & dying Bed <that> [I] have found no Leisure for writing, no not to the friends I love the most—

I received your Letter, which you enclosed to mr Atwood, he was so good as to seal it, & send it to me, informing me that the contents were unknown to him—Mr Atwood is a person in whose honour I presume you might safely confide—but there were some things in that letter that ought not to have escaped you, nor been trusted to any one, espicially as you mentioned the source from whence you derived your knowledge—It was the advice of an experienced Father, when his son was going to Travel, into Spain, and Italy, to keep his “Countenance open, but his thoughts close”—And you my dear Son, in the department you are preparing for, will find Silence, secrecy, & circumspection; even to preciseness in your mode of conversation absolutely necessary—Be swift to hear, & slow to speak, will save remorse, & bitter reproach—It will secure you from shame, disgrace, & a thousand heart akes—As you enter into life you will be more, & more convinced of this melancholly truth, that artful disguises, specious shews of friendship falsehood, & deceit are prevalent in every circle, & in every community, its baneful breath is felt—

Yet my Son it will never answer any good purpose to fly out into a passion; & to call men knaves; & villains even if you see them such—No—the better way to gaurd against their machinations, is to retire, withdraw in a manner which should not occasion notice, & in a silent way undermine their plots—for if they find they are discovered, they will increase their strength, & be prepared for an attack—

I do not wonder that a benevolent heart, & a youthful mind should be *astonished to find the perfidy which exists, & is practiced among mankind, how often must they be grieved to find that all is not “gold that glitters”, & that false coin is palmed upon the innocent, & unthinking, for genuine—& nothing but sad experience will convince them, of the absolute necessity of the strictest caution, & the closest examination of persons, & things before they repose confidence in them—

*a better word than stare, you should covet the best words, to express yourself, as well as “covet the best gifts”, as I hope you do—

And now my Son, let me repeat to you the great necessity of caution, silence, & a prudent conversation—should any thing escape you of importance, it might ruin you—for the world I would not have you betray a secret, espicially from the head—Many people will be watching you, on purpose to gain information, of the opinion &cc—they know that the springs partake of the fountain, & send forth waters bitter, or sweet—

I have been dissappointed in geting your Shoe[s,] but hope, Mr William will be able to hand them to you—If you opened your woollen drawers, you found a hurried scrap, telling you to desire Dr Tufts to let you have money to defray your necessary expences, it is not worth while for him to be at the trouble to send it to me, & I return it to you—I have not received a Copper from him since last spring, & that I let you have you know—I am thankful you do not owe more, I feel myself, (& I hope you do) very grateful to the Government of the Colledge for their Favours—& pray you may conduct so as to do honour to your kind Benefactors—I wish it was in my power to send you now, what money you stand in need of—but I am in no way of getting mony—you may let Dr Tufts see this part of my Letter, & request him to let you have some of the principal if necessary, give receipts & pay it back again if you are able at some future period—I cannot bear to have you in debt—It makes one feel so small, that I fear you will not study well—your Father used to say if he owed a man, it made him unhappy, & he could not make that progress in his studies that he wished—If you inhail this spirit it will induce you to keep out of debt, & do as long as possible without a thing, rather than subject yourself to such feelings. Self denial I find requisete in these hard times, for getting money, indeed I never heard of such a scarcity—money—money is all the cry, & your Sister Mary has a call that cannot be put of long—Mr Webster wishes to keep house as soon as she can procure furniture, but I do not think she will go before the middle of winter—Your Sister Q. sends love, says she hope you will write by Mr Rogers, or Peabody—Our little Abby has had her Eye terribly hurt, a fortnight ago, it is better now, & I hope will not injure her sight, though at present it is very weak indeed. one of the boarders, a little Miss Harriet Livermore accidently run the Scissors into it—I have been very anxious, but my fears are greatly abated as to her sight—I feel quite encouraged about her now—What do you intend to do, as to keeping School? If you should think it best, I hope it will be in a good place, if not, you will come to me, perhaps it will be the last time we shall be [so] long together—I mentioned coming home next week to thansgiving but if you do not want anything, I believe you had better not—<Should> it is so expensive travelling—I will send on the remainder of your things the first Opportunity—Let me hear often from you—You may send a few things by Mr Peabody as well as not, do be more careful about your stockings—you always send odd ones when you take them off, you should slip them into each other, & then they would not catch round the things, & be so frequently missing—a white one is here but no mate—The Length of this Letter will make up for any former deficency if you can read it—Give my Love to all my friends when you see them, to Cousin Betsy’s &ccc—& accept yourself of the ardent maternal affection of

Elizabeth Peabody

I long to hear from your Aunts I would have written to them if I could have found time—

(DLC: Shaw Family Papers).

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