My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams

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9780674057050: My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams
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Listen to a ten-minute interview with Margaret HoganHost: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

Read Margaret Hogan's HUP blog posting: "The Romance of John and Abigail Adams"

Watch the video of The Massachusetts Historical Society's November 2007 event at which Deval and Diane Patrick, Edward and Victoria Kennedy, and Michael and Kitty Dukakis read selected letters from My Dearest Friend

Visit the Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive

Watch the March 2008 HBO miniseries--"John Adams"--based on David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography

In 1762, John Adams penned a flirtatious note to "Miss Adorable," the 17-year-old Abigail Smith. In 1801, Abigail wrote to wish her husband John a safe journey as he headed home to Quincy after serving as president of the nation he helped create. The letters that span these nearly forty years form the most significant correspondence--and reveal one of the most intriguing and inspiring partnerships--in American history.

As a pivotal player in the American Revolution and the early republic, John had a front-row seat at critical moments in the creation of the United States, from the drafting of the Declaration of Independence to negotiating peace with Great Britain to serving as the first vice president and second president under the U.S. Constitution. Separated more often than they were together during this founding era, John and Abigail shared their lives through letters that each addressed to "My Dearest Friend," debating ideas and commenting on current events while attending to the concerns of raising their children (including a future president).

Full of keen observations and articulate commentary on world events, these letters are also remarkably intimate. This new collection--including some letters never before published--invites readers to experience the founding of a nation and the partnership of two strong individuals, in their own words. This is history at its most authentic and most engaging.

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About the Author:

Margaret A. Hogan is an independent scholar and former editor of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Review:

Hogan and Taylor, editors of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, have given history buffs a treat--the most comprehensive edition of letters between two extremely lively writers, America's second president and his wife. This edition contains 289 letters covering a longer period of time than the two earlier editions of selected letters. Here are trenchant political exchanges, such as Abigail's famous plea to her husband and the Continental Congress to "Remember the Ladies," and Adams's less famous, revealing reply: he noted that while it was well known that the Revolution had prompted children, slaves and apprentices to rebel, "your Letter was the first Intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerfull than all the rest were grown discontented. Many of the letters are personal, from coquettish courtship epistles to Abigail's moving premonition that the baby she was carrying would be stillborn. The letters shine a light on such aspects of daily life as illness, Sunday sermons and cuisine. Ellis's ... foreword explains the rarity of such intimate correspondence--Martha Washington, for instance, destroyed most of the letters she and George wrote. Readers will agree that this book is a treasure. (Publishers Weekly (starred review) 2007-08-06)

Both Abigail and John Adams decried long separations during their marriage (while acknowledging them as necessary for the greater public good), but the unintended legacy of such trials were the thoughtful, loving, and literate letters exchanged by the couple that open a window on the birth and early years of our republic ... This is a treasure, for general readers and scholars alike. (Michele Leber Booklist 2007-09-15)

[The letters] provide valuable insights into the early days of partisan politics...The Adamses' correspondence gives modern Americans an extraordinarily personal view of our country's founding. Intermingled with comments on the great events of the day--the Battle of Bunker Hill, the vote for independence, the inauguration of Washington as president--are discussions of daily life, stories of neighbors and relatives, complaints about the high cost of living and laments over such family tragedies as a stillborn daughter and the deaths of parents. Their courtship letters are especially delightful. (Mary Beth Norton New York Times Book Review 2007-11-04)

Their loving partnership in service to our country is a remarkable story and one that merits retelling over and over again. (Senator Ted Kennedy, as quoted in the Boston Globe 2007-11-19)

My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams is an extraordinary set of 289 of their personal letters...There are many books on these two that provide context and background; this one, in which John and Abigail's voices soar unencumbered over the pages, is a lovely addition to the Adams shelf. You can't help but feel a little guilty reading these rich exchanges, since they were borne of long separations, with mail delivery that was slow at best, and during wartime, unreliable. Even the act of writing could be difficult: in one letter, Abigail talks about a winter so cold, the ink freezes in her pen...While they are apart, they endure the deaths of parents, friends, and, most heartbreaking, an infant daughter. Their elegiac letters carry an almost unbearable beauty. (Carol Iaciofano Boston Globe 2007-11-20)

Because John Adams's work as a critical player in the War of Independence frequently took him away from home, his correspondence with Abigail (some 1,160 letters between them have survived) provides a wonderfully vivid account of the momentous era they lived through, underscoring the chaotic, often improvisatory circumstances that attended the birth of the fledgling nation and the hardships of daily life--from smallpox to wartime shortages--in that "Age of Tryal." (Michiko Kakutani New York Times 2007-12-11)

The letters reveal the making of the American nation, in all its chaos and passion, from the inside...Both John and Abigail's letters are packed with evocative details that throw the reader into the epicenter of American revolutionary life. They recount the developments that led to the Declaration of Independence and the emergence of opposing political parties, the Federalists and Republicans. But, equally fascinating, they open a window on to a private world...My Dearest Friend deserves a special place in the literary canon of the founding fathers, not only for recording the amazing relationship between John and Abigail, but also because of the rarity of the survival of such a correspondence...The Adamses' letters are so enjoyable because they offer a wonderful breadth of topics, breathlessly jumping between flirtatious teasing, gossip about friends and family, and philosophical and political argument. (Andrea Wulf The Guardian 2007-12-08)

This new edition of the John and Abigail Adams letters, including some never before published, refreshes what many observers consider the paradigmatic correspondence in American history. It also showed Abigail Adams as a woman of prodigious talents and shrewd insights on matters small and large. (Robert Birnbaum The Morning News 2007-12-03)

John and Abigail Adams wrote to each other throughout separations caused by war and presidential duties. This comprehensive collection of their letters shows them to be affectionate, playful at times, concerned about both national and personal matters, and literate...The letters provide a unique perspective on people and events and allow us to appreciate the great sacrifice they made in service to the country. (Susan Olasky World 2008-02-09)

An extraordinary series of letters...Most 18th Century letters make for dry reading. Abigail and John's are entirely different. They pour their hearts onto the page, expressing their raw feelings as flesh-and-blood humans, not the marble statues we associate with the Founders...The letters are priceless historic artifacts, not only for what they say about these two people, and about the world-changing events in which they played a role, but also because of the way they transport us back to the time...The letters are much more than rich veins to be mined with an historian's pickaxe. They are fun reading, bubbling with the charm, intelligence and passion of these two, who were both compelling and entertaining writers. (Edward Achorn Providence Journal 2008-03-04)

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