‘read such parts as you think proper to , , , our Friends”

To end this tale of ABIGAIL ADAMS’s journey by ship from America to London in 1788, here are some of the observations she made upon her arrival. Her husband and son were not there to greet her but friends helped her get settled. She describes her lodgings in the Adelphi Hotel and comments on aspects of life in London. And she finally sends the journal she has been keeping to her sister MARY CRANCH.

Here we have a handsome drawing room Genteely furnished, and a large Lodging room. We are furnished with a cook, chamber maid waiter &c. for 3 Guineys per week—but in this is not included a mouthfull of vituals or drink all of which is to be paid seperately for.
fryday july 24 [23]I have little time for writing now, I have so many visitors. I hardly know how to think myself out of my own Country I see so many Americans about me. . . .
I am not a Little surprized to find dress unless upon publick occasions, so little regarded here. The Gentlemen are very plainly dresst and the Ladies much less so than with us. Tis true you must put a hoop on and have your hair dresst, but a common straw hat, no Cap, with only a ribbon upon the crown, is thought dress sufficient to go into company. Muslins are much in taste, no silks but Lutestrings [light glossy silk] worn but send not to London for any article you want, you may purchase any thing you can Name much lower in Boston. I went yesterday into Cheepside to purchase a few articles, but found every thing higher than in Boston. Silks are in a particular manner so. They say when they are exported there is a draw back* upon them which makes them lower with us. . . .
The city of London is pleasenter than I expected, the Buildings more regular the streets much wider and more Sun shine than I thought to have found, but this they tell me is the pleasentest season to be in the city. At my lodgings I am as quiet as any place in Boston, nor do I feel as if it could be any other place than Boston. . . .
[The women] paint here, near as much as in France, but with more art, the head dress disfigures them in the Eye of an American. I have seen many Ladies; but not one Elegant one since I came; there is not to me that neatness in their appearence which you see in our Ladies.
The American Ladies are much admired here by the Gentlemen, I am told, and in truth I wonder not at it. O my Country; my Country; preserve; preserve the little purity and simplicity of manners you yet possess. Believe me, they are jewells of inestimable value.
The softness peculiarly characteristick of our sex and which is so pleasing to the Gentlemen, is Wholy laid asside here; for the Masculine attire and Manners of Amazonians. . . .
Our ship is not yet got up the Channel. What a time we should have had of it, if we had not landed. . . .
Mr. Smith expects to sail on Monday or twesday, I shall keep open this Letter untill he goes. Let Sister Shaw see it, and read such parts as you think proper to the rest of our Friends, but do not let it go out of your hands. I shall not have time to write to the rest of my Friends, they must not think hardly of me. I could only repeat what I have here written. . . .

* A British import duty on silk that was refunded, in part, for goods that were re-exported to America (OED). Drawbacks had been a standard feature of certain import duties just before the Revolution, notably upon tea.

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed September 29, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted November 9th, 2019 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail, Cranch, Mary (Smith), Fashion, London


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