HANNAH ADAMS, one of the first professional writers in the United States, who has been the subject of the last several posts, had concerns about providing for her declining years, especially since her eyes were failing. Her fears were alleviated by the largesse of friends who settled an annuity on her. She was also gratified by the opportunity, afforded her by a friend, to use the library at the Boston Athenaeum.
Amidst that large and valuable collection of books, I found an inexhaustible source of information and entertainment: and among other advantages, I found a few literary friends, in whose conversation I enjoyed ‘the feast of reason and the flow of soul.’
Hannah Adams’ short memoir is followed by “Additional Notices by a Friend,” that friend being Mrs. H.F.S. Lee. It was noted by Mrs. Lee that Hannah had the “very uncommon faculty . . . of comprehending, and making her own, the information a book contained. . . ” Another person noted this ability. Hannah received an invitation
to pass a week or two at . . . President Adams’s. at Quincy, with the offer of his library as an inducement to accept the invitation. He was much struck with the rapidity with which she went through folios of the venerable Fathers; and made some pleasant remarks in consequence, which induced her to speak of their contents. He then found, that, while she had been turning over leaf after leaf, she had been culling all that could be useful in her labors.
Hannah Adams dedicated her book View of Religions to John Adams. The two corresponded; in one of Adams’ letters to her he remarked:
You and I are undoubtedly related by birth; and although we were both “born in humble obscurity,” yet I presume neither of us have any cause to regret that circumstance. If I could ever suppose that family pride was in any case excusable, I should think a descent from a line of virtuous, independent New England farmers, for one hundred and sixty years, was a better foundation for it, than a descent through royal or titled scoundrels ever since the flood.
Hannah Adams died in November 1831 at the age of seventy-six.