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My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams Hardcover – November 30, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1st edition (November 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674026063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674026063
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #784,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred 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 gushing 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. 27 b&w illus. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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)

My Dearest Friend is a refreshing tribute to a remarkable marriage and a reminder of the power of, and intimacy in, good old-fashioned correspondence...As remarkable for its literary eloquence as for its historical significance, My Dearest Friend provides insight into the complexities America faced during its founding years and into a marriage which made sacrifices for, and was sustained by, the commitment to securing a "more perfect union." (Ashley Brown Times Literary Supplement 2008-05-23)

In helping to found a country where their children (and ours) could grow up free, John and Abigail Adams bestowed an extraordinary blessing on all of us. Yet one of their greatest legacies was an unintended one, a consequence of their long separation and constant need for one another. They left behind marvelously detailed, literate, and loving letters to each other--1,016 survive--that add immeasurably to our understanding of this remarkable couple and their tumultuous times. Some 289 of them have been gathered into this new and fascinating collection, compiled by the editors of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society...The letters reveal a man who, for all his flaws, showed stupendous courage, creativity, stubborn devotion to duty, and keen insight into the nature of power. As great as he is, Abigail is easily his match. It is clear from these letters that, in addition to keeping the family's farm going in his absence (a difficult task calling for hard-headed business savvy), she often shows shrewder political instincts. Intensely curious about politics, she clamors for details and advises her husband about what steps to take. As he put it himself, she was his ballast, steadying the ship and keeping him moving forward, and he would not have become the great man he did without her...The crude stuff of life is here, illuminated with the lightning flashes of history. The letters remind us that these were two people who were groping in the darkness, unsure what would become of their lives and their new country...Their letters open a window to their age like few other documents. That alone makes them invaluable. But they are also fun reading, bubbling with the charm, intelligence, pungency, and passion of these two, who were compelling and entertaining writers, one as good as the other. (Edward Achorn Weekly Standard 2008-06-02)

In My Dearest Friend, I am on page thirty one, and I have not cried, but something more powerful has happened. I stop with the book open in my hands, and just think. There’s no way to describe. Certain lines make my entire body have goose bumps in awe of the beauty, the awareness of Abigail and John. I just sit on the couch, for maybe ten, twenty minutes, thinking. The world is somewhere else, far away, when I read this. I am transported to a land over two centuries old, but these humans, these revolutionaries, had the ideas that could change the world today. And these ideas were in normal, everyday letters. I’m astounded even now, and I’ve known this for quite some time. This book makes me want to be a historian. There’s no other way to put it. I want to spend the rest of my life learning about history, writing about history. I want to be able to read the real letters, to see the real documents...I would give this book to nearly anyone. It’s a love story, historical fiction, an adventure, almost anything but fantasy. Though their lives were fantastical. Please read this book. It is changing my life. Maybe it will change yours. (lookbooks.wordpress.com 2008-04-12)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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If you love American history, you will love reading this book.
mary - st. louis
The editor compiled the letters so that the story of their life flows smoothly.
Sarah B.
The letters exchanged between John and Abigail Adams are wonderful.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This finely-produced book is the successor volume to "The Book of Abigail and John" (1975), also published by Harvard University Press (also reviewed on Amazon). However, there are importance differences between the two volumes. The 1975 collection contained 226 letters, covering the period 1752-1784. The present edition contains 289 letters, and continues until 1801, including John's service as Vice President and President. The present volume editors have largely avoided making updating corrections to capitalization and spellings, so one gets a rather interesting insight into how New Englanders of the period employed English to suit their own purposes. Unlike the 1975 collection, which contained editorial notes, diary entries and letters from other correspondents, here the letters pretty much stand alone. This has advantages (since it is pure Adams coming through) and disadvantages (annotations are missing that might have helpfully explained terms and identified individuals). A number of helpful illustrations (some in beautiful color) are collected in the center of the book. But the treasure here is the letters themselves. What a love story. I defy anyone to read these letters and not emerge with boundless admiration for Abigail. Considering that John was absent for years at a time, it fell to her to keep the homefires burning, raise the children, and deal with various challenges. What emerges is a quite literate Abigail, though she never benefitted from higher education, who seems to have an apt bit of poetry to cite for any occasion. The letters contain frank comments about folks like Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and others. They also reveal exactly how thin skinned John was, which condition was perpetually getting him into difficulties. Helpful introductions by Joseph Ellis and the editors, as well as a comprehensive index, add to the value of the volume. It is hard to think of a book that better captures the spirit of this period for the reader.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ladyhawke on April 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a wonderful adjunct to the HBO series and David Mc Cullough's brilliant book.."John Adams". I have never been devoted to our American history, preferring instead Ancient cultures. I see what I have missed and vow to read more about the brave and devoted men and women who, indeed ,created our country. The love affair between John and Abigail seemed to provide the great man, as well as Thomas Jefferson, with the strength and comfort that spurred them on. Bravo!!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on December 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A significant collection of correspondence from the time of the founding of our nation. This decades long string of communication between the often-separated Mr. and Mrs. Adams is informative about those times on several planes: diplomatic, political, social, agricultural, and family. Winding throughout is the strong bond between a talented but thin-skinned politician, John, and his wise, supportive, and self-reliant wife, Abigail.

The book's editors did a nice job of keeping their explanatory comments to a useful, but minimal level. A clean text is thus provided, which keeps the focus on the letters as written.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you are a history buff or just a little interested in the history of our nation you will love this book. The letters exchanged between John and Abigail Adams are wonderful. Abigail was definitely John's rock. She kept him focused and steady. John was a very passionate man in his beliefs and at times would become a tyrant trying to convince people that his way of thnking was the only way to think. Thank goodness he had Abigail as he ran everything by her to see how she thought the people would react to his perception. Abigail would let him know when he needed to press an issue or just be quiet and let it happen on its own. Besides being lovers as husband and wife they were truly best friends. An inspirational read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Strawgold VINE VOICE on October 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
** page 186 - "About an hour ago I received a Letter from you beginning in this manner - 'My Dearest Friend'. That one single expression dwelt upon my mind and playd about my Heart.." (Abigail Adams)***

The union between Abigail and John Adams was one that all marriages are meant to accomplish, yet very few actually do. They were matched; as Life's partners, lovers, friends and equals in all areas of importance, including the politics of the day, politics and movements so immense that it was a miracle their marriage could survive it at all, much less thrive on the danger and anxiety inherent with their time. Abigail was of an intelligence par with her husband, they could converse with each other - no doubt that was the unshakable bond beyond all else between them; and these wonderful historical documents are proof without doubt of what happened in the turbulent times before, during and after the Revolution. Their pen was a weapon against adversity, a way of finding comfort and support in any situation.

Abigail, in my view, must be considered one of the first women (along with Mercy Otis) with enough courage to speak up about women's rights, and she had the right partner to speak up to because he chose to listen carefully if not entirely - the times not being ripe as yet for such a radical idea. John Adams brushed some of it off tongue-in-cheek as he responded to her statements about education and other essential human rights for women, but it is clear that he valued her opinions and could not deny the truth behind her thoughts. She could not vote, and I imagine such a forbearance rankled in the psyche of such a remarkable woman. and he probably, at one time or another thought: "Rats. One more vote might have done it for me.
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