Home > History of Wine > “I love old Wine old Cheese, old Tobacco and old Woman.” : Old wine in the correspondence of the Adams family

“I love old Wine old Cheese, old Tobacco and old Woman.” : Old wine in the correspondence of the Adams family


References to “old wine” in the Founders Online archive typically regard transactions such as George Washington’s order “from the best House in Madeira a Pipe of the best old Wine“.[0]  Though John Adams once corresponded about the old wines of Bordeaux, in both his letters and those of his wife Abigail Smith Adams, old wine is referred to in adages.  There is a particularly funny series of exchanges between John Adams and the Dutch emigre Francois Adriaan van der Kemp which you will find near the end of this post.

US_Navy_031029-N-6236G-001_A_painting_of_President_John_Adams_(1735-1826),_2nd_president_of_the_United_States,_by_Asher_B._Durand_(1767-1845)-crop

US Navy 031029-N-6236G-001 A painting of President John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd president of the United States, by Asher B. Durand (1767-1845). Image from Wikipedia.

“Our Acquaintance and I hope I may say Friendship is almost forty years old, and I am more attached, than the Adage to Old Friendships even than to old Wine.”
From John Adams to Henry Marchant, 16 January 1795 [1]

” old Friends and old wine are always valuable. they both tend to exhilirate the Spirits; and to enliven the declining part of Life: tho I am not particuliarly attachd to the latter, the first Stand foremost in my estimation.”
From Abigail Smith Adams to Mary Smith Gray Otis, 15 December 1801 [2]

“you Shall oblige your friend to instruct him the full Sense of the Proverb, which I cannot penetrate
‘Old fish at table’ &c
It is intended a Blessing, if it was a curse—I would read
‘cold fish at table, and old flesh in bed’—

I Should thus presume, without I am more enlightened, that Pope, and the rest of Such fellows are in the wrong—because theÿ were all waterdrinkers, and that the true and genuine reading is / Old wine at table, and young flesh in bed. yes Madam!”
To John Adams from François Adriaan Van der Kemp, 5 May 1813 [3]

“if the fragant odour of earthen ware—well Soaked with old wine—is not Soon lost—it is yet more difficult to leave of old Sins—more So, when we delight in the continuance of Such a habit.”
To John Adams from François Adriaan Van der Kemp, 1 March 1814 [4]

“What is the meaning of a Proverb by Pope
‘old fish at table but young flesh &
a Dutchman would correct old wine &c I knew not that the English prefered old fish above fresh—I knew the French did So—”
To John Adams from François Adriaan Van der Kemp, 12 September 1814 [5]

“Old Saltfish is the best fish in nature… I love old Wine old Cheese, old Tobacco and old Woman. How is it with you?”
From John Adams to François Adriaan Van der Kemp, 23 September 1814 [6]


 

[0] “Enclosure: Invoice to Robert Cary & Company, 1 May 1759,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-06-02-0166-0002 [last update: 2015-09-29]). Source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 6, 4 September 1758 – 26 December 1760, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988, pp. 317–318.
[1] “From John Adams to Henry Marchant, 16 January 1795,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-1624 [last update: 2015-09-29]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Adams Papers. It is not an authoritative final version.
[2] “From Abigail Smith Adams to Mary Smith Gray Otis, 15 December 1801,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-03-02-1034 [last update: 2015-09-29]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Adams Papers. It is not an authoritative final version.
[3] “To John Adams from François Adriaan Van der Kemp, 5 May 1813,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6022 [last update: 2015-09-29]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Adams Papers. It is not an authoritative final version.
[4] “To John Adams from François Adriaan Van der Kemp, 1 March 1814,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6259 [last update: 2015-09-29]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Adams Papers. It is not an authoritative final version.
[5] “To John Adams from François Adriaan Van der Kemp, 12 September 1814,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6330 [last update: 2015-09-29]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Adams Papers. It is not an authoritative final version.
[6] “From John Adams to François Adriaan Van der Kemp, 23 September 1814,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6332 [last update: 2015-09-29]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Adams Papers. It is not an authoritative final version.

Categories: History of Wine
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  1. December 10, 2015 at 9:14 am

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