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John Adams to Abigail Adams 2d

29 Jan. 1796

my dear mrs. smith: Philadelphia, January 29, 1796.

I have just received the enclosed from your mother, and, for the soul of me, I could not resist the temptation of reading it; so I have nothing left, but to beg your pardon for this ungentlemanly licentiousness.

I have seen Mr. Langworthy and Dr. Bollman, who are both sensible men. I wrote to Colonel Smith this morning on their subject.

I have heard that Mr. Osgood has written a book upon the Prophecies and Revelations, and that he has lately been reading Homer, and has discovered that the Iliad and Odyssey were written by King Solomon, under inspiration: I should be very glad to get the book, if possible. I have just finished Dr. Styles’s History of Wholley, Goffe, Diewell, and Whale, the three first of whom were among the judges of King Charles the First; and I am determined to read all the wild things this country produces, that I may know what causes are at work, and what effects may be expected.

Governor Adams’s speech, too, I have just read. From the effect of old age upon such minds as Adams’s and Styles’s, I am led to deprecate a much longer continuance in public life. It is an awful reflection that every weakness, every folly, every resentful, vindictive, malignant passion of the heart, which, in the vigour of understanding, may be corrected or suppressed, must break out and show itself to the world and posterity, from the trembling lips and shaking hands of seventy or eighty years. May my farm and family only be witnesses of my dotages when they must arrive; may they forgive and veil them from public view. The worst of it is, a man is not conscious when they make their first approaches, nor perhaps in any stage of their progress.

My love, &c.

John Adams.

RC (MHi: Adams Papers).
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