Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Saturday 24th.

Monday. 26th.

Sunday 25th. CFA Sunday 25th. CFA
Sunday 25th.

The morning was bright and fair and the air as mild as Summer, so that I enjoyed the day considerably. We all attended Divine Service both in the morning and the afternoon and heard Mr. Whitney preach two Sermons of very indifferent interest. He is a preacher who looks ill suited to his new Pulpit and does not raise the character of the mind in it’s aspirations after good.1

But the most remarkable incident of the day was the first appearance of the Tablet which my Father has caused to be erected to the memory of his Father and Mother. It is very pretty and quite ornamental although in the utmost simplicity. The inscription was written by him, and is chaste and simple, merely recalling the dates and the incidents which made their lives so peculiarly memorable.2 I felt perhaps an undue elation upon seeing it but what is the objection. They earned 56their reward and it is but a humble one after all, and why should not I feel proud that they merited the distinction among men.3

Much of the day was passed in conversation with my father upon subjects of more immediate importance, relating to his affairs, and afterwards in examining his numerous books of which he has a fine Collection. They are selected generally with judgment and to great advantage, being rare and not elsewhere to be obtained. My passion for literature was much increased by the sight of the many books which surrounded me, all of which I felt as if I was anxious to read, and most of which it is more than probable I never shall touch. For what is the life of man and especially of one who has duties of other kinds to perform. All this was a little dull to Abby, especially the refined tone of Conversation of my father which is perhaps a little too literary now for the taste of the present age. My own information is often puzzled by it. But as I am fond of instruction, I like this means of enlarging it. The evening was passed at home. One or two visitors came in, Mr. Beale and Mr. Daniel Greenleaf,4 but they soon left us, and I passed an hour reading Mrs. Thrale’s Correspondence with Dr. Johnson.5

1.

On Peter Whitney, minister of the First Church in Quincy since 1800, see vol. 1:157. The pulpit was that in the new stone edifice, in use for almost a year.

2.

JQA had asked for CFA’s and ABA’s presence on the occasion, also the anniversary of the marriage of JA and AA, “as a special favour and if I may presume so far, would put it in the form of a Mandamus, and command you to come ‘Laying all other things aside’” (to CFA, 22 Oct., Adams Papers; JQA, Diary, 25 October). The bust of JA in white marble by Horatio Greenough (vol. 2:400; JQA, Diary, 20 June 1829) and the tablet beneath, on which Alpheus Cary had carved JQA’s tribute to his father and to his mother (vol. 2:399 and entry for 23 Sept., above), had been put into place only on the preceding Thursday. On that day JQA had also had their names carved on the granite stones in the crypt to which their remains had been removed from the churchyard on 1 April 1828 during the construction of the Adams Temple (JQA, Diary, 22 Oct. 1829; Bemis, JQA , 2:187). The tablet and bust are illustrated in Daniel Munro Wilson, The “Chappel of Ease” and Church of Statesmen [Quincy], 1890, facing p. 103; the inscription printed in Bemis, JQA , 2:125 (where the text is incorrect in one particular: the date of AA’s birth given on the tablet is “November 11/22 1744”). See also Portraits of John and Abigail Adams , p. 231–232, 234.

3.

The self-reproach of pride in the erection of the memorial, evident in JQA’s diary as well as here, is the more understandable from the fact that “There are few such monuments existing in this Country, and indeed very few Churches of durable structure, in which they could be placed. There are three in the Stone Chapel at Boston—All of ante or anti-revolutionary personages.” It was after an inspection of these with Cary that JQA decided upon the form the memorial would take, deriving it principally from the monument to the wife and daughter of a colonial governor, William Shirley. (JQA, Diary, 9, 18 July, 22 Oct. 1829.)

4.

George W. Beale (1782–1851) in 1792 had built a house just to the west of the Old House on Adams Street, Quincy. At least two sketches by him, one of the Old House and one of Mount 57Wollaston, survive; see further, vol. 2:151.

Daniel Greenleaf (1762–1853), an apothecary and doctor, had been a Quincy resident since 1797; see vol. 2:153 and NEHGS, Memorial Biographies , 2:34–37.

5.

Hester Lynch (Thrale) Piozzi, Letters to and from Samuel Johnson ..., London, 1786. There is a copy of the 1788 edn. in 2 vols. in MQA.