On 19 November 2007, the Massachusetts Historical Society and Harvard University Press will launch a new edition of the letters of John and Abigail Adams with an unusual public event at Faneuil Hall. Apparently taking a cue from performances of A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters, the event will feature three modern political couples reading from the book:
- Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Victoria Kennedy
- Governor Deval Patrick and Diane Patrick
- Governor Michael Dukakis and Kitty Dukakis
There have been previous editions of the Adams letters, but My Dearest Friend is said to be “the first collection of their letters that is selected from the entire forty years span of their correspondence,” and to contain “several letters never before published.”
These letters provide an especially revealing look at the two Adamses, making their relationship more vivid and approachable, for a variety of reasons:
- John Adams seems to have been unusually frank in expressing his emotions, judging by how his diary compares to those of other men. His private letters can be equally open—which occasionally got him in trouble.
- Abigail Adams was unusually smart, knowledgeable, and politically minded for a woman of the time—though even she felt inadequate when she compared herself to Mercy Warren.
- The Adamses happened to live apart in some momentous periods: during the Continental Congresses, when John was first a diplomat in Europe, and at times during his Presidency. That means issues and news they would have normally discussed over the dinner table got put down on paper for us to read.
- Unlike other families, the Adamses rarely threw anything away. Martha and George Washington’s private papers seem to have gone into the fire. In contrast, John and Abigail’s descendants actually started the process of publishing their letters.