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A Mother’s Grief

July 23, 2012

September 20, 1813

I thought this letter deserved to stand by itself.

Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson:

“Your kind and Friendly Letter found me in great affliction for the loss of my dear and only daughter, Mrs. Smith. She had been with me only three weeks having undertaken a journey from the State of N. York, desirious once more to see her parents, and to close her days under the paternal roof. . .

“You sir, who have been called to seperations of a similar kind, can sympathize with your bereaved Friend. I have the consolation of knowing that the Life of my dear daughter was pure, her conduct in prosperity and adversity, exemplary, her patience and resignation becomeing her religion. You will pardon by [i.e. my] being so minute, the full Heart loves to pour out its sorrows, into the Bosom of a sympathizing Friendship.

“A lively only daughter of her Mother, lives to console me. . .

“You called upon me to talk of myself, and I have obeyed the summons from the assurance you gave me, that you took an interest in what ever affected my happiness.

“Greif has changed me since you saw me last,
“And carefull hours with times deformed hand”
“hath written strange defections o’er my face”

Adams includes a line from Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. The play was already about 220 years old at that time. William Shakespeare speaking to Abigail Adams speaking to you and me. A string of human connection leap-frogging 200 years at a time. I’m not sure why that is comforting, but it is. The written word is something else, isn’t it?

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One Response to “A Mother’s Grief”


  1. […] Since I first read that, I’ve been wondering about Caroline Amelia. How old was she when her mother died? What happened to her? The romantic side of me imagined her as a little girl literally consoling AA—and vice versa—by staying with her grandparents and growing up there as a second daughter to Mr. and Mrs. Adams. In reality, she was 18 years old and she married a year later. Not much as been written about her. Despite being the granddaughter and niece of two U.S. presidents, she has—like most of us will—slowly dissipated into the foggy history of ordinary, unknown people. […]


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