Original Source. Google Source: p 168, The Portable John Adams, by John Adams

AA to JA [Braintree, 12-23 November 1778]

I have taken up my pen again to relieve the anxiety of a Heart too susceptable for its own repose, nor can I help complaining to my Dearest Friend that his painfull absence is not as formerly alleiviated by the tender tokens of his Friendship, 3 very short Letters only have reachd my Hands during 9 months absence.
 I cannot be so unjust to his affection as to suppose he has nor wrote much oftener and more perticularly, but must sit down to the Score of misfortune that so few have reachd me.

I guess that Abigail Adams is tracking the delivery of letters and the number of successes? Yet why did she capitalise 'score'?

  • The link you supplied does not work for me, but I found an alternative one that also points to a scanned copy of the original letter. That scan confirms those spellings in the text you cited that are not standard today.
    – Erik Kowal
    Jan 10 '15 at 5:24
  • @ErikKowal Thank you for that link! I'll try to update my other questions with it.
    – NNOX Apps
    Jan 10 '15 at 5:38

The rules of capitalization in the 18th century were much more permissive; you'll note that she also capitalized Heart, Dearest Friend, Friendship, Letters, and Hands. Many nouns were capitalized, and even some of the adjectives attached to them. This practice died out over the next century or so, leaving us with only a few things to capitalize regularly.

As to the turn of phrase, yes, I think you have at least the basic gist of it. Abigail is not able to find out how many letters have actually been written vs. how many have been delivered, she only knows that only a few letters have made it to her so far. But she does not believe that her dearest friend has not actually written to her often (because it would be unjust to assume that this friend doesn't care enough to write frequently); she can only assume that it is because of misfortune that she has received only a couple of them so far, and the rest are still in transit (since mail service was also quite slow and irregular in those days, especially over longer distances).

The phrasing of "sit down to the score of misfortune that ..." is similar to the more current "put it down to X (that Y)", meaning that you believe X is the cause of Y. After your friend has done something bad, you might say, for instance, "I can't believe that John did that to me on purpose; I've gotta put it down to ignorance and bad timing."


Or, perhaps, she has to accommodate herself, or accept the fact of ("sit down to") the slicing pain ("score" , in the sense of cutting a groove) of misfortune, much as Hamlet considers resigning himself to suffering the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"

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