By Jeremy Dibbell
John Quincy Adams’ busy social season, ministerial duties, and illnesses in St. Petersburg have continued to keep him away from the books, but he’s mentioned a few of his recent reads. For previous reading lists, see the August, September, October, and November/December posts.
1/28/1810: “Read a sermon of Massillon.” See entry for 8/6. In his long diary entry, JQA adds that the Massillon sermon was “on the immutability of the divine Law.” He adds that he “resumed also the Russian Grammar, and learnt something further of the Characters of the Alphabet.”
2/4/1810: “Read a sermon of Massilon, use of time.” See entry for 8/6. In his long diary entry, JQA adds that the sermon “suggested to me some reflections, and ought to have suggested more.”
2/18/1810: “Read 2 sermons of Massilon.” See entry for 8/6. In his long diary entry, JQA adds that the two sermons were “upon the mortifications of the righteous in this life; and the other upon the character of the Woman which was a sinner. The former of which is one of the most instructive I have yet read. With its principal doctrines I fully agree.”
3/2/1810: JQA writes in his long diary entry that he had planned to go to the “Book Store of the Academy of Sciences” today, but was feeling too ill to go.
3/3/1810: “Mysteries of Udolpho.” We learn more about this in Adams’ long diary entry: being ill in bed, JQA had his sister-in-law Catherine read him “the remainder of the Mysteries of Udolpho, the fourth volume of which I had left unfinished.” Obviously he’d been reading it before, but had not mentioned it in his diary. This is the gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, first published at London in 1794. We don’t know which edition JQA was reading, but an 1806 edition is available via Google Books (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4).
3/10/1810: In his long diary entry, JQA notes “I read a small astronomical treatise in German by Bode, lent me by Mr. Six. I read also some pages in the first volume of Robison’s Elements of mechanical philosophy.” There are several possible titles for the astronomical tract; the Robison is John Robison’s Elements of mechanical philosophy (Edinburgh: Printed for Archibald Constable & Co., 1804). The first volume is available online via the Internet Archive, here.
3/14/1810: While he doesn’t mention it in his short diary, JQA reports in his long diary entry “… employed the whole day in reading.”
3/18/1810: “Read Massillon.” See entry for 8/6. In his long diary entry, JQA adds “I read in Coxe’s travels, and also the Sermon and the fragment of Massillon, upon Communion.” William Coxe wrote several travel books, but the one JQA’s reading is almost certainly Travels into Poland, Russia, Sweden and Denmark, first published in 1784, with several editions following. A five-volume edition is available via the Internet Archive (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5).
3/19/1810: “Read Coxe’s Travels, Vol. 3”. See entry for 3/18. In his long diary entry, JQA notes “I read part of the third volume of Coxe’s travels, which are a sort of Salmagundi – a dish of dissertations upon subjects relating to Russia.
3/25/1810: In his long diary entry, JQA writes “I read Massillon’s sermon upon the Passion; and part of a Volume of Coxe’s travels in Russia.” See entry for 8/6 (Massillon) and 3/18 (Coxe).
3/27/1810: In his long diary entry, JQA reports “I read Coxe’s account of the Russian Historians and Poets.” See entry for 3/18.