A Pretty, Tall, Genteel, Fair Faced Young Gentleman

in about Warren

Date: April 13, 1764

Author: John Adams

“My dearest

We arrived at Captn. Cunninghams, about Twelve O’Clock and sent our Compliments to Dr. Perkins. The Courrier returned with Answer that the Dr. was determined to inoculate no more without a Preparation preevious to Inoculation. That We should have written to him and have received Directions from him, and Medicine, before We came into Town. I was surprized and chagrined. I wrote, instantly, a Letter to him, and informed him we had been under a Preparation of his prescribing, and that I presumed Dr. Tufts had informed him, that We depended on him, in Preference to any other Gentleman. The Dr. came, immediately with Dr. Warren , in a Chaise — And after an Apology, for his not Recollecting-(I am obliged to break off my Narration, in order to swallow a Porringer of Hasty Pudding and Milk. I have done my Dinner) — for not recollecting what Dr. Tufts had told him, Dr. Perkins demanded my left Arm and Dr. Warren my Brothers. They took their Launcetts and with their Points divided the skin for about a Quarter of an Inch and just suffering the Blood to appear, buried a Thread about (half) a Quarter of an Inch long in the Channell….

Warren is a pretty, tall, Genteel, fair faced young Gentleman. Not quite so much Assurance in his Address, as Perkins, (perhaps because Perkins was present) Yet shewing fully that he knows the Utility thereof, and that he will soon, practice it in full Perfection…”

Source: Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. MS original resides at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Commentary: A young John Adams describes to his fiancee the arduous smallpox inoculation procedure. This unlikely encounter was the beginning of a close friendship between Joseph Warren and John Adams, and in due course extending to Abigail Smith Adams. The Adamses admired Warren  for their entire lives. John Adams purchased, possibly in 1784 when in London and having his own portrait painted in John Singleton Copley’s studio, an unfinished portrait of Warren. Back in the United States he hung it prominently among pictures of beloved family members at the Adams homestead in Braintree, Massachusetts, where it remains on display in the Old House. It is the painting of Joseph Warren featured on this website by permission of the Adams National Historic Site.

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