John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, 11 August 1777

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Philadelphia, 11 August, 1777.

MY DEAREST FRIEND,

I THINK I have sometimes observed to you in conversation, that upon examining the biography of illustrious men, you will generally find some female about them, in the relation of mother, or wife, or sister, to whose instigation a great part of their merit is to be ascribed. You will find a curious example of this in the case of Aspasia, the wife of Pericles. She was a woman of the greatest beauty and the first genius. She taught him, it is said, his refined maxims of policy, his lofty imperial eloquence, nay, even composed the speeches on which so great a share of his reputation was founded. The best men in Athens frequented her house and brought their wives to receive lessons from her of economy and right deportment. Socrates himself was her pupil in eloquence, and gives her the honor of that funeral oration, which he delivers in the Menexenus of Plato. Aristophanes, in deed, abuses this famous lady, but Socrates does her honor.

I wish some of our great men had such wives. By the account in your last letter, it seems the women in Boston begin to think themselves able to serve their country. What a pity it is, that our generals in the northern districts had not Aspasias to their wives !

I believe the two Howes have not very great women for wives. If they had, we should suffer more from their exertions than we do. This is our good fortune. A woman of good sense would not let her husband spend five weeks at sea in such a season of the year. A smart wife would have put Howe in possession of Philadelphia, a long time ago.

Author:
John Adams

Source:
Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife. Edited by His Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume I, 1841