JQA's Shipboard Reading List: September Edition
As September dawns, we find John Quincy Adams and our other intrepid travellers mid-voyage; two hundred years ago at the start of this month they were about halfway between the southeast coast of Iceland and the northwest coast of Scotland (map). Mr. Adams' reading continues apace, mostly with more Plutarch and Massillon as begun in August (see the August post for a full rundown of that month's reading and some background on the reading lists). As I did for August, I'll update this post every few days to provide links (where possible) to digital copies of the works JQA's reading, for any who wish to follow along.
Following the entry for 31 August in his long diary, JQA made some notes about how he tended to spend his time aboard ship, and his feelings about life at sea. The entry reads: "I rise about six o'clock, often earlier. Read ten or fifteen chapters in the bible. We breakfast about 9. Spend half an hour afterwards upon deck. At noon sometimes take the observation by the Quadrant, read or write in the Cabin untill 2. Dine. After dinner read or write again; occasionally visiting the deck for a walk untill 7 in the Evening. Sup. Read or play at cards untill 11 or 12, when we all retire to bed. There is much time for study and for meditation at sea, and when the weather is as moderate as we have generally had it hitherto upon this passage, a person capable of useful application may employ his time to as great advantage as on shore. The objects which excite attention are concentrated without the bounds of the vessel; the rest of mankind for the time seem to be inhabitants of another planet. The prosperity of the voyage consists in the paucity of incident, and the less there is to be told the more there is to be enjoyed. This life is not tedious to those who can make for themselves occupation. Buts its uncertainties, its perpetual changes, its anxieties, and its concentration of interest upon the fluctuations of wind and wave constitute its principal hardships."
9/2/1809: Sertorius and Eumenes. See entry for 8/8. Scanned copies of Plutarch's biographies of Sertorius and Eumenes. The Eumenes sketch concluded the third volume of Plutarch, as JQA noted in his long diary entry.
9/3/1809: Prayers, and two Sermons of Massillon: Prayer, and Confession. See entry for 8/6. Scanned copy of the Confession sermon. In his long diary entry (manuscript image, partial transcription), JQA adds "I read the second sermon of Massillon upon prayer, and that upon Confession, which finishes the first volume of the Lent sermons. That upon Confession is one of the best in the volume - the figurative application of Scripture very ingenious. The divisions drawn with excellent discrimination, the sources of inadequate confession traced with keen satirical severity, and very close inspection of human nature and its operations. But it might be termed a sermon against Confession. He repeatedly expresses at least a doubt whether the institution does not produce more evil than good in the Church, and a Protestant might turn the whole of the Bishop's Artillery against the catholic cause. There is a passage upon the baseness of the mere terror of Hell, corresponding much with sentiments which I have expressed before I had read this sermon."
9/4/1809: Agesilaus and Pompey. See entry for 8/8. Scanned copies of Plutarch's biographies of Agesilaus and Pompey. In his long diary entry, JQA adds that he also read Plutarch's comparison of the two (scanned copy).
9/5/1809: Alexander. See entry for 8/8. Scanned copy of Plutarch's biography of Alexander the Great. In his long diary entry, JQA mentions that he was "quite unwell all the afternoon & evening. Read only the life of Alexander in Plutarch."
9/8/1809: Agis and Cleomenes. See entry for 8/8. Scanned copies of Plutarch's biographies of Agis and Cleomenes. In his long diary entry, JQA notes that these biographies conclude the fourth volume of his set of Plutarch.
9/9/1809: T. and C. Gracchus. See entry for 8/8. Scanned copies of Plutarch's biographies of Tiberius and Caius Graccus. In his long diary entry, JQA adds that he also read "the parallel between them and Agis and Cleomenes" (scanned copy).
9/10/1809: Massillon [on] Prosperity, Impenitence. See entry for 8/6. In his long diary entry (manuscript image, partial transcription), JQA records "I read two sermons of Massillon - 2d volume of Lent, on the dangers of Prosperity and on final impentence. After reading them I attempted to make an abstract of them, as a trial of memory; but without success. I was obliged constantly to recur again to the book. I still find that of all my reading at sea, the memory takes hold scarcely of anything. There are so many things on board which distract attention, that it exceeds all my powers of volition to apply the mind to objects of study. I also read part of Paley's Horæ Paulinæ." This latter is William Paley, Horæ Paulinæ; or, the truth of the scripture history of St. Paul evinced, by a comparison of the epistles which bear his name with the acts of the apostles, and one with the other. An 1801 London edition is available via the Internet Archive here.
9/13/1809: Antony and Dion. See entry for 8/8. Scanned copies of Plutarch's biographies of Antony (begun the day before) and Dion. In his long diary entry, JQA adds that he also read the parallel of Demetrius and Antony (scanned copy).
9/15/1809. Aratus. See entry for 8/8. Scanned copy of Plutarch's biography of Aratus. You'll see in JQA's long diary entry (manuscript image, partial transcription) that this was a busy and stormy day aboard ship. Observation of land allowed them to correct their earlier longitude readings, and with a fair wind they passed Rona Island in the morning and came within view of the Orkneys by the late afternoon. In the evening a storm came up, and JQA records that he was up "almost the whole night."
9/17/1809: Two Sermons of Massillon. See entry for 8/6.
9/18/1809: Anacharsis. Jean Jacques Barthélemy, Voyage de jeune Anacharsis en Grèce, first published at Paris in 1788. It was soon published in an English translation as Travels of Anacharsis the Younger in Greece (London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson, 1790-91). The first six volumes of John Adams' copy of the 1790 Paris edition in seven volumes (now at the Boston Public Library is available via the Internet Archive (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5, Volume 6. An 1800 London edition in English is available via Google Books here. In his long diary entry (manuscript image, partial transcription), JQA records "The rolling of the vessel in the forenoon made it impossible for me to write; or to read to any purpose, and I gave it up." In the afternoon, once they reached calmer seas, he adds "I read something in the first volume of the Voyage d'Anacharsis."
9/24/1809: Two Sermons of Massillon. See entry for 8/6.
In the final days of the month, JQA doesn't mention his reading, either in the line-a-day diary or his long entries. On the final day of the month, he writes in his long diary: "The three first weeks of the month, like the last month. Since we made the land of Norway, I have had no regular course of life to pursue - Every day has been altogether different from every other; and this unsettled state still continues."
Continue with the October post.
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- This Week @ MHS
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