March 1 1816: Abigail on Modern Writers

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On  March 1 1816, Abigail Smith Adams writes to her daughter-in-law Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, who is in London with her husband John Quincy Adams. Abigail writes an interesting letter where she discusses the “modern writes” by which she means “Scott & Lord Byron”.  She describes Byron as follows:

“he has a wild excentrick imagination—Some touching & pathetic strokes of oration & genius—but he is sarcistic gloomy malicious envious & unprincipled a Man neither capable of love or friendship—his genius is abortive and his talents misapplied—such is my opinion of his Lordship & his writings—”

She  favours Scott:

“for Mr. Scott I have much more respect, and a much higher opinion—in His Letters to his kinfellow, there is much of Benevolence & the niche of humane kindness—His other writings are all pure & chast, and as a picture of the manners of the periods to which he introduces his readers—may be considered in the light of true History, embellished by fancy,—.”

The full letter reads:

My dear daughter – I always like to send to every one some token of remembrance by writing to each, altho, I á derth of Subjects at the present day will not afford matter for amusement; a Letter upon Literary subjects, is not wanted in a country which abounds in every work of the kind, but as I do not consider, myself capable of being a reviewer—I shall only speak my private opinion, many of the modern writers have been much read and admired in America—none more than the writings of Scott & Lord Byron—of the last—he has a wild excentrick imagination—Some touching & pathetic strokes of oration & genius—but he is sarcistic gloomy malicious envious & unprincipled a Man neither capable of love or friendship—his genius is abortive and his tallents misapplied—such is my opinion of his Lordship & his writings—

for mr. Scott I have much more respect, and a much higher opinion—in His Letters to his kinfellow, there is much of Benevolence & the niche of humane kindness—His other writings are all pure & chast, and as a picture of the manners of the periods to which he introduces his readers—may be considerd in the light of true History, embelished by fancy,—.

We have a letter publishd as coming from the mediteranian descriptive of the manners & dress of the princess of Wales, which would do for a chapture sîc Romance as well as any we meet with & upon what principle is a devorce sought for by—according to her own account—and the English critics I presume will not question it. she might request a devorce as to any future Heirs from the P. th —I beleive he has long ago put it out of his power to produce one—

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