I was a little disappointed at myself when I looked at my “currently-reading” list and saw 7 titles listed before finishing this one: Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams by Lynne Withey. Guess I just can’t resist bogging myself down. I love a challenge! Despite the amount of time it took me to finished this book (2 months) I did enjoy it very much. The title of this biography refers to how they addressed one another in their letters. I had a desire to know more of the Adams’ since their marriage is known historically as one of the most romantic of its time. Romantic not only in the sense that theirs was a marriage of love, but that they were so like-minded, equally yoked you might say.
John Adams looked to his wife for political advice and honored her opinion, but was not without his grievances at her sometimes more emotional pleadings. Once he admonished her for accusing him of a lack of feeling in his letters during their separations writing, “For Heaven’s Sake, my dear dont indulge a Thought that it is possible for me to neglect, or forget all that is dear to me in his world,” (Withey 110). Nice to see that husbands and wives don’t change much over time.
Withey’s style was easy to follow and not as dry as biographies are on occasion. I found her engaging and easy to follow. She emphasized throughout Abigail dedication to her family and her conflicting interest in politics and the dichotomy of both the Adams’ passion for politics and the desire for a quiet home life. Themes to which she refers up until the very end of the book. If one could say anything of Abigail Adams it was that she was consistent. Both a very emotional and intelligent woman, though not as educated as she would have liked. Her letters, from which Whithey quotes, are chalk-full of misspellings and improper punctuation not strictly due to the period in which she was writing.
Personally, I loved the excerpts where we see Abigail struggle with both her sense of duty and her own “womanly” emotions. In one of my favorite excerpts from a letter to John, Withey summarizes Abigail’s feelings, “It was a woman’s lot, she thought, ‘to experience more exquisite Sensations than is the Lot of your Sex. . . . I never wonderd at the philosopher who thanked the Gods that he was created a Man rather than a Woman'” (134). Abigail was also very well-traveled too having lived in Europe during John time as an ambassador. Quite a lady of the world. On the whole, it’s just over 300 pages. Not a substantial read and good just if you want to learn more about a rather interesting woman of the era.