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By G. J. Barker-Benfield

During the various years that they have been separated via the perils of the yankee Revolution, John and Abigail Adams exchanged 1000s of letters. Writing to one another of public occasions and personal emotions, loyalty and love, revolution and parenting, they wove a tapestry of correspondence that has develop into a loved a part of American heritage and literature.

With Abigail and John Adams, historian G. J. Barker-Benfield mines these wide-spread letters to a brand new goal: teasing out the ways that they reflected—and helped transform—a language of sensibility, inherited from Britain yet, amid the progressive fervor, changing into Americanized. Sensibility—a heightened ethical awareness of feeling, rooted within the theories of such thinkers as Descartes, Locke, and Adam Smith and together with a “moral feel” reminiscent of the actual senses—threads all through those letters. As Barker-Benfield makes transparent, sensibility was once the fertile, humanizing floor on which the Adamses not just based their marriage, but in addition the “abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity” they and their contemporaries was hoping to plant on the middle of the hot kingdom. Bringing jointly their correspondence with a wealth of attention-grabbing aspect approximately existence and idea, courtship and intercourse, gender and parenting, and sophistication and politics within the innovative new release and past, Abigail and John Adams attracts a full of life, convincing portrait of a wedding endangered via separation, but surviving through a similar rules and idealism that drove the revolution itself.

A banquet of rules that by no means neglects the genuine lives of the guy and lady at its middle, Abigail and John Adams takes readers into the center of an unforgettable union with the intention to light up the 1st days of our nation—and discover our earliest understandings of what it will possibly suggest to be an American.

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Extra info for Abigail and John Adams. The Americanization of Sensibility

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And he copied out ten lines, including: In lazy apathy let stoics boast, Their virtue fixed, ’tis fixed in a frost. ” He then went on to ask her: “Did you ever read Epictetus? He was a sensible Man. ” This might seem an endorsement of Stoicism, but John’s phrasing in that adjuration referred to the highly modified version of Epictetus that Abigail was to read, the bluestocking Elizabeth Carter’s translation All of the Works of Epictetus (1759), the only English translation that John had in his library.

Carter’s predecessor in translating this Roman Stoic had been George Stanhope, another of Crane’s divines, who made clear his disagreement with the thinker he translated. It was Stanhope’s 1694 translation to which Addison referred in no. ” (actually Hester Chapone) addressed to Carter. At first it parodied Stoicism: Oh teach my trembling Heart To Scorn Afflictious Dart; .................... Oh! Seal my Ears against the Piteous Cry Of innocence distrest, But then it depicted Christ the same way that Carter’s contemporary Fordyce did in his Sermons to Young Women.

46 As Abigail Adams recognized, and as her son John Quincy, along with the Jeffersons, illustrated, persons of sensibility could be racists, too, whatever their views of slavery. 47 Sancho, Allen, and Jones were exceptional in their relative freedom, their literacy, and their location in leading eighteenth-century commercial entrepôts. The same was true of the poet Phillis Wheatley. 48 Brenda E. 49 If in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries poor white families did not enjoy the material and psychological luxury on which bourgeois families could capitalize in their cultivation of sensibility, how much more was that the case for the vast majority of enslaved African American families?

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Abigail and John Adams. The Americanization of Sensibility by G. J. Barker-Benfield


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