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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Abigail Adams on "Ostentatious Erudition"

We don't get HBO so my birthday present from my son was the DVD set of the John Adams mini-series with Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, which arrived today.  I loved this bit of dialogue in Part I.  John is defending the British soldiers who shot into the crowd in the Boston Massacre.  At night, he is working on his final speech to the jury, and has asked Abigail to read the draft.  She has not been immediately effusive with praise, as he would expect, and he suggests she did not like it.  There is a pause.

Abigail: 'Tis a fine summary for the defense.  There is, is much to be admired.  It is perhaps at times. . .

John: Yes?

Abigail:  John, there is not a person in Boston who doubts your education.  Your command of language.

John:  Oh no.  You are charming me, Abigail!  You never charm me.  What you are about to say is cutting.

Abigail:  John. . . .  Vanity.

John:  Vain?

Abigail: You have overburdened your argument with ostentatious erudition.  You do not need to quote great men to show you are one.

I don't know if this is wholly the product of the screenwriter's literary license, or if the dialogue is something culled from their voluminous correspondence.   The denouement of the scene is a wonderful and gentle popping of the strutting male ego (been there, had that done to me).  But I wondered:  what would she have thought of the modern law review pin cite?

An irresistible offer follows the jump.

The DVD came with a coupon for "buy one, get one free" on admission to Colonial Williamsburg.  It is good for up to two admissions, and must be redeemed at an official Colonial Williamsburg on-site ticket location.  It may not be redeemed for cash or sold, and, indeed, I have no intention of using it, redeeming it, or selling it.  But I'd be happy to send it as a gift (I will spring for the 42 cent stamp because I'm a sport) to one lucky reader (t0 be chosen by me in my sole discretion, but preferably somebody who could really use the "save as much as $118.*") who plans on going there some time soon.  For you Willistonians, note that as a gift and lacking consideration, this fails to support any theory of contract liability.  Those of you who think contract died, don't rely on anything I've said.

"*$118 savings estimate is based on 2008 regular retail price for two annual Freedom Passes."

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on June 24, 2008 at 03:40 PM in Culture | Permalink


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I found this post while searching for the origin of Abigail's quote. By the way, if you still have the Williamsburg coupon, I would be happy to take it. :)

Posted by: Allen | Feb 25, 2015 3:31:25 PM

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