J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Visiting Carisbrooke Castle with Abigail Adams

Earlier this year author Jaime Mormann sent me an email noting a passage from Abigail Adams’s account of her travels in Great Britain while she was wife of the U.S. Minister.

In the spring of 1788 Adams went to the Isle of Wight off England’s southern coast:
On tuesday we went to Newport in order to visit Carisbrook Castle. This is a very ancient Ruins. The first account of it in English History is in the year 1513. This is the castle where Charles the first was kept a prisoner and they shew you the window from whence he attempted to escape.

In this castle is a well of such a depth that the water is drawn from it by an ass walking in a wheel like a turn spit dog. The woman who shew it to us told us it was 300 feet deep. It is Beautifully stoned and in as good order as if finishd but yesterday. She lighted paper and threw [it] down to shew us its depth and dropping in a pin, it resounded as tho a large stone had been thrown in. We went to the Top of the citidal which commands a most extensive prospect.
Mormann added:
Out of curiosity, I checked to see if the castle still holds tours as it did in 1788. Sure enough (’cause England is awesome like that), they still do. Their website even features many of the things Abigail mentions in her journal entry.
Including the asses! (Now carefully called donkeys.)

TOMORROW: More of Abigail Adams’s experience of Newport, England.


Roger Fuller said...

Interesting, that Abigail Adams was familiar with the concept of a "turn spit dog". I wonder if she'd seen them in Boston before she went to England.

J. L. Bell said...

I see a bunch of references to “turnspit dogs” in English publications from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, often without explanation, suggesting that people knew what they were. But were there many examples in America?