The Magazine

Epistolary Marriage

An intimate glimpse of the Adams household.

Jun 2, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 36 • By EDWARD ACHORN
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"I don't like your Word 'Dissipation' at all," he sputters, working himself into an Adams lather. "My Child .  .  . is not to be the Prise, I hope of any, even reformed Rake. A Lawyer would be my Choice, but it must be a Lawyer who spends his Midnights as well as Evenings at his Age over his Books not at any Ladys Fire side. .  .  . A Youth who has been giddy enough to Spend his Fortune or half his Fortune in Gaieties, is not the Youth for me, Let his Person Family, Connections and Taste for Poetry be what they will. I am not looking for a Poet, nor a Professor of belle Letters." Poor Abigail, too, comes under fire: "I dont like this Method of Courting Mothers," John grumbles.

Many of their letters are suffused with a darker mood. "Stern Winter is making hasty strides towards me," Abigail writes, "and chills the warm fountain of my Blood by the Gloomy prospect of passing it alone, for what is the rest of the World to me?" They suffered this way because they wanted to preserve freedom, something that can only be earned through sacrifice. I wonder if Adams, looking down on the America of 2008, ever does "repent .  .  . the Pains" that he and his dearest friend took?

Edward Achorn is deputy editor of the
editorial pages at the Providence Journal.