Category Archives: Biography

Dearest Friend

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.

Auto vs. Bio

ImageCheck another one off! I’m determined to widdle my reading list down to three. I think I am at four or five now with The Days I Knew: The Autobiography of Lilly Langtry finished at last. This one I had been reading since May. I enjoyed it except for the last couple chapters in which she mostly chatted about her ventures in horse racing. Conflict of interest, I suppose. I would have like to know a lot more about her personal life. Then again, I am sure she had many things in that area which she would not have wished to disclose. There has been enough written about Lilly Langtry out there, having been a celebrity in her own day (The Victorian Age), for me to find should I wish to know more.

Reading her own telling of her life reminded me of something (a weakness) I think of autobiography. People who writes about themselves, unless brutally honest, are likely a paint of picture of themselves which they wish the reader to see. Whereas a biography, especially if written posthumously and written well, may give a person a clearer picture of who the subject actually was or is. I’m finishing up a biography on Abigail Adams at the moment which I will be delighted to speak about here in the near future. In the meantime, I may have to save looking more into Lilly for a later date.