The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

JQA, Social Butterfly

You may think you're busy with an endless stream of holiday events and festivities, but if you've been following along with John Quincy Adams' time as the American minister in Russia you'll know we've got it much easier than he did!

As he wrote in his long diary synopsis for the month of November, JQA found the social schedule quite grueling: "We rise seldom earlier than 9. in the morning, often note before ten. Breakfast. Visitors to receive, or visits to make untill three, soon after which the night comes on. At 4 we dine, and pass the Evening either abroad untill very late, or at our lodgings with company untill ten or eleven o'clock. The night parties abroad seldom break up untill 4 or 5 in the morning. It is a life of such irregularity and dissipation, as I cannot, & will not, continue to lead."

And yet, for the first few weeks of December, he and his family are quite busy with social engagements: dining out or entertaining company almost every day, a ball on 7 December, a "children's bal masqué" at the French Ambassador's residence a week later, and then another ball on 17 December (this one something of a surprise to Mr. Adams). In his long diary entry for the day, he writes: "At 5 we went with the Ladies and dined at Mr. P Severin's - We had been invited only to a dinner, but found it was a Ball. There were about fifty persons at the dinner, which was very splendid, and double the number in the Evening. ... We attempted in the course of the Evening to slip away unperceived, but without success. About 2 in the morning we had an elegant supper; after which the Ball, began again. About four in the morning, we finally with much difficulty obtained leave to come home."

Mr. Adams lamented the next day "I have done nothing for several days," and on the 19th "sent an excuse" to yet another party (which his family attended, arriving home around 4 a.m.). On the 24th Adams was "obliged" to attend the Empress Mother's ball. He describes the ball as "splendid", the supper "magnificent", and the Empress Mother as "very gracious." The party broke up with the departure of the imperial family, "around two." Then the family had a few days of rest, but on the 30th JQA was back at it, out until 1 a.m. playing cards with Mr. Krehmer "and four other gentlemen."

JQA closes December with this terse summary: "Little different from last month, and no better." And things wouldn't get much better in January, either - his line-a-day diary entries (stay tuned for these on Twitter next month) reveal quite a few more late nights for Mr. Adams.

permalink | Published: Thursday, 17 December, 2009, 10:27 AM


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