Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Wednesday. May. 19th. VII:30. CFA Wednesday. May. 19th. VII:30. CFA
Wednesday. May. 19th. VII:30.

I this Morning changed the time of rising according to admonition, and appeared downstairs before breakfast was over. The day was so disagreable that it would not allow of any body’s going out. So I spent the morning partly in reading the remainder of Young’s ninth Night and partly in writing my Journal. I am exceedingly glad that I have at last got through these Thoughts, as it is well to say that I have read them, but I doubt very much whether I shall be tempted to take them up in any great hurry, again. Parts I have been pleased with, parts I have considered sublime although I could not relish their sentiments or tendency and parts I have thought rather dull. The tendency of this book is much more dangerous than that of lighter books as it gives us too gloomy notions of our existence and of our Creator. Man was 149not made to mourn unless he chose to do it himself. And it is too bad that any one should pretend to cry before they are hurt. I spent an hour in writing a letter to John1 also, the most quizzical affair, that I have seen for some time. Being in a state of terrible ennui I determined to dispense some of it upon him and therefore wrote upon nothing. Having made three pages out of this, I became perfectly satisfied and in the afternoon employed myself in translating five sections of the life of Agricola and in reading the sixth volume of Mosheim which I did not finish last term. There were but about forty pages which contained a short sketch of the Church during the eighteenth century. It is short and unsatisfactory and merely connected as an Appendix to the rest of the History. There are some Appendixes to the book which I did not read, as they treated more of theological than historical points and were written not by Dr. Mosheim but by his translator, Dr. Maclaine,2 on disputed tracts.

Mr. Quincy3 was here this afternoon from Boston and amused my Grandfather for some time, with a story of somebody in Boston and Mr. Pickering’s book. I think people tell him too plainly for his spirit that he is dying for however philosophically he may bear it, it is not possible for human nature to think upon such a subject and not feel depressed. Anxious as he is also, concerning the result of these attacks upon his reputation. He did not take his ride today. So I entertained him with a little more of Major Cartwright’s prospects of the English Constitution. As I am not over anxious to learn such a piece of nonsense I skip over much which he knows nothing about. For he does not appear to miss any connection in the sense. I had just finished a dialogue when I was luckily interrupted.

This was occasioned by the announcement of the arrival of Thomas Hellen from Portsmouth through Boston. He has been at School at Exeter for some time past, fitting for admission to College. He has grown considerably and begins to acquire the appearance of a man. I was glad to see him as I had just begun to feel the want of Society. He is the most agreable fellow that I could have of all I know. There is something remarkable in all these Hellens that I never could understand, particularly their views towards each other and their peculiarities for all have them. I never could account for it. They suspect or disagree with each other and still have considerable word omitted. I had reason to know Mary well, I have been intimate with Johnson, and I have seen this one from a boy of ten years, still there is something in them which puzzles me. Accordingly my address is not the most cordial and Thomas made something of a complaint of it at first. 150I like the young men and have too deeply loved the woman but this has been their reward. I am determined to break myself of this and, conscious that this is a good time, I will endeavour. At Quincy, surrounded by people whom I am obliged to consider hypocrites towards me, my conduct cannot be such as elsewhere, but this must be got over. I have lost the good will of this people because I made no exertion to gain it but have on the contrary expressed my disgust pretty freely. They are too unpleasant to me, being all hypocrites themselves and I not swallowing it down quite as well. Mrs. Clark with her piety puts me in a passion, knowing that had her husband lived, she would have had other fish to fry. Her playing the doll with her child4 and her terrible habits of affectation have displeased me while what she is pleased to call my impiety has disgusted her. Of the rest I will speak at another time.

After tea I made an exertion to be lively and succeeded for the evening amusing the ladies with nothing at all until late. Thomas and I were the last to go to bed as we talked of Washington, my father, the election which he appears as all the Hellens do, to be very deeply interested in, and his prospects. He has better views of nature and the world than I expected, on the whole was much pleased. We staid up in this way, talking and smoking until I found that we were encroaching upon the family rest and the morning. XII.




Archibald Maclaine.


Josiah Quincy (1772–1864), Harvard 1790, whose life encompassed several distinguished careers: Federalist Congressman, 1804–1813; Mayor of Boston, 1823–1828; and President of Harvard, 1829–1845. His wife was the former Eliza Susan Morton. See DAB and Adams Genealogy.


Susan Maria Clark (1818–1853). See Adams Genealogy.

Thursday. May. 20th. VII:30. CFA Thursday. May. 20th. VII:30. CFA
Thursday. May. 20th. VII:30.

Arose this Morning and immediately after breakfast took a long walk with Thomas Hellen to my father’s Estate at Mount Wollaston1 as well to see it myself as to show it to him. It is a pretty place and desirable enough in Summer, but a Winter’s residence would be very disagreable. I was led into a train of thought remarkable enough concerning our future destinies. This is the spot which George has fixed upon for a residence and here he is to exist with Mary Hellen, one of the most capricious women that were ever formed in a capricious race. He is to live as long as possible here and then which will not be a great while, go to Boston. Thinking of this, I have been wishing to obtain some knowledge concerning my own future probabilities but it is impossible. My next years will depend very much on my father’s and his, 151Heaven knows, are doubtful enough. Thomas has been thrown so many years further back in life that when he talks of prospects, I begin to think mine pressing. The estate is a remarkably fine one for it’s situation is directly on one of the most beautiful spots in the bay. For me it would be a beautiful retreat where I should not be plagued by the disgust of company and where I might with more ease pursue those studies which would profit me. All this however is but the effect of imagination and I will leave the train of circumstances to themselves, conscious that neither wishes nor prayers can change them. We returned home somewhat fatigued.

Owing to the presence of this young man I shall not be able to continue my Tacitus. I therefore shall labour on the five sections already translated to give them an elegant translation. I read none of Young today either.

The Evening was in the Parlour with the ladies. There is magic in a Petticoat to a young man. I cannot tell, but my passions and feelings are all so affected that I want their society. Of the tendency of this passion I am so well aware, that I make great attempts to keep it on guard. I have been hitherto successful and hope to be. With the exception of one difficulty which perhaps was the very thing which gave me prudence, I have felt no attachment and intend to feel none until it is as consistent with interest as with desire.2 A man can soon make himself love any woman, in the proper sense of the term, for in my opinion there is no Platonism in it. At least there never has been with me. I know the acting force and as I know it is impossible to gratify it without ruin, I know how to prevent it.

My Evening was pleasantly spent. They are the most agreable parts of the time here. The girls are agreable enough, not at all pretty. Indeed it is not the forte of our family to talk of handsome persons of either sex. For my own part, I see3 none of the present generation except Thomas Adams. XII:15.


Mount Wollaston farm, on that part of Quincy Bay still known as Adams Shore, was the estate of AA’s maternal grandfather, Col. John Quincy. In 1767 it passed into the hands of Norton Quincy, the Colonel’s son, and, after Norton’s death in 1801, the property was acquired by the Adamses partly by bequest and partly by purchase. At various times later on, CFA planned to build a home here, but it was his eldest son, John Quincy Adams 2d (1833–1894), designated as JQA2 in the present edition (see Adams Genealogy), who eventually did so, soon after the Civil War, and gave it the name “Merrymount” because the property included the site of the maypole erected at “Mare Mount” on Mount Wollaston by the 17th-century adventurer Thomas Morton. See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:x, 141, and an illustration of Mount Wollaston about the time of the present diary entry, same, facing p. 256; also Adams Family Correspondence , 2:388–389.


CFA’s manuscript at this point con-152tains a heavily penciled marginal line, with the number “174” (possibly “175”) beside it in an unidentified hand, presumably a page reference. Neither page 174 nor page 175 of the present MS Diary (D/CFA/4), containing part of the entry for 6 August and all of the entry for 7 August, below, throws any light on this passage.


Using a colloquialism ( Dict. of Americanisms ), CFA means that he recognizes none of the generation as handsome except Thomas B. Adams Jr.