A book certain to disarm any Bicentennial cynic, this collection of letters begins with the courtship of John and Abigail Adams and ends with their reunion after years of ambassadorial absence on John's part. Earlier publication of selected letters had bowdlerized, for example, references to the stillbirth of a daughter, as well as Abigail's business dealings and household inventories (""2 yd. of green velvet proper for a pulpit cushing with fring and tossels""). John, unlike Abigail, habitually censored his own intimate and political messages because letters were often intercepted. The correspondence provides a remarkably fresh picture of the austerities and consolations of American life during the Revolutionary War, as well as court intrigues on the Continent as seen through the eyes of a consummate Yankee. Both Adamses invoke Roman discipline and civic virtue; if John is often prone to pomposity, love and irony also emanate, while Abigail's political astuteness has not been exaggerated. John permits himself aspersions on Benjamin Franklin and relief that the 1777 victories did not encourage ""Idolatry and Adulation"" for Washington. Abigail, having met the French allies, writes ""If I ever had any national prejudices I am ashamed to own I was ever possessed of so narrow a spirit."" Years of separation--with as much as twelve letterless months for Abigail--elicit unfeigned tenderness from each ""My dearest Friend"" to the other; though Abigail is given to reproaches, she habitually recovers with something like ""May future Generations rise up and call you Blessed, and I shall have less reason to regreat the deprivation of my own perticuliar felicity."" Certainly reviewers will hasten to express gratitude for the inability of pirates and warships to scuttle all mail pouches. The unaffected virtue and strength of this couple (the childrens' letters are dim by comparison), and the generous, independent spirit of Abigail in particular, make an exceptionally tangible monument to the Founders.