by Charles Ackers Little, Brown and Company 207 pages, $9.95
In reviewing this new biography of Abigail Adams—the first written since the Adams-family manuscripts were opened to scholars—it is tempting simply to quote that pungent and original lady. “My pen is always freer than my tongue,” she wrote her husband in one of the two thousand surviving letters on which this book is based, and indeed she was a candid correspondent.
Her much-quoted admonition to John to “Remember the Ladies” was accompanied by the sharper statement: “Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.” In their long, loving marriage she always made it clear, in private if not in public, that she considered herself John’s equal. “If man is Lord,” she wrote, “woman is Lordess.” Her political judgments could be equally pointed. She wrote that John Hancock, whom she considered an untrustworthy lightweight, was a “tinkleling cymball,” and she noted that “Patriotism in the female Sex is the most disinterested of all virtues.”
John and Abigail were forced to live apart for many years of their married life, and their letters poured forth, affirming their reliance on each other and discussing in minute detail the affairs of their newly emerging country. This delightful biography of the woman who was to become our second First Lady plunges us into the center of Revolutionary America.