Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Tuesday. May 25th. VIII:30. CFA Tuesday. May 25th. VIII:30. CFA
Tuesday. May 25th. VIII:30.

Employed this morning as usual. We are so monotonous here at present that it is hardly possible to obtain material enough for amusement, in my journal. I finished the Pleasures of Imagination and wrote my Journal as usual. The family moved into the large room today as the rest of the house is entirely unoccupied. It is the Pleasantest part of the house so I rejoice at the circumstance. But my day was not spent in the most agreable manner so I sat down and amused myself as well as I could for want of my usual society in reading one of Mrs. Opie’s New Tales.1 It was the first called Mrs. Arlington’s. These are written very pleasantly, containing a great deal of vivacity, some nature and some good observation. Still they hold considerably to the romance of life and are too apt to take hold foolishly of the wild ideas of youth. Novels I think are generally injurious as they serve to increase the tendency to build castles in the air, which is naturally strong enough. The sudden blight of these prospects is frequently the cause of the destruction of their holders. Sheer elegance and magnificence however wished for, it is the lot of but few to possess.

In the afternoon I wrote a letter to my mother2—it was a wretched scrawl and I was much ashamed of it but as this is no place to do any thing either elegantly or methodically I determined to let it go as I had made it. I am afraid my Journal will not appear to the best advantage when I look over it at Cambridge but rather than let it run down to wind up at Cambridge which would be difficult, I continue it badly. After tea I took a long walk to Milton with Thomas in which we had 158some interesting conversation concerning the family about which I have not been able to sound his knowledge hitherto. We returned and remained until nine o’clock in my Grandfather’s, reading the newspapers to him which my Uncle had brought out for he had been there, and brought out with him, a young man or boy rather a nephew of his by the name of Foster,3 a sufficiently modest young man.

I was at the table with the ladies until eleven when they retired when I had the comfortable task of sitting up with my Uncle when he was in one of his usual situations. It has often made me grieve to think this man should make himself a ruin to others and to himself, possessing as he does all those qualities requisite to make an excellent member of Society. But I fear the evil is irremediable for his own efforts to break the vice have not been successful and consequently no one else’s will be. XII:15.


Mrs. Amelia Opie, New Tales, 4 vols., London, 1818.




Charles Phineas Foster (1806–1879), of Boston, son of Phineas and Frances (Harrod) Foster and a member of CFA’s class at Harvard (Harvard Archives).

Wednesday. May 26th. IX. CFA Wednesday. May 26th. IX. CFA
Wednesday. May 26th. IX.

Arose very late this morning owing to the late hour at which we retired, Thomas and I having considerable conversation concerning the scene of last evening. We also took a long walk and I read the remainder of Akenside’s Poems in this collection, of which I shall not at present think of judging. This is the day in which the State Officers for the next year are installed in Boston, consequently it is a holiday, it being also the birth day of one of my Aunts children we had a remarkably comfortable dinner of which I partook in very good spirits.

In the afternoon I wrote my Journal and finished the first volume of Miss Opie’s Tales. “White Lies” is very good indeed although it is a story intended to injure the very moral which she lightly inculcates in a former. The last story is too much worked up for effect. The interest is attempted to be wound up too far. It may do in plays because we are willing to feel excited but not so well in novels.

In the afternoon I again took a walk, and strolled over the burying ground of the church. Here I saw the tombs of my ancestors. Four of them descending in a direct line from the first of the name who came to this country. Mine making the seventh generation since we have been in the new world. In the old we have no traces. Here I felt inclined to muse but as Thomas Hellen was with me who is no musing character I was quickly interrupted and we soon returned.1


After tea, I as usual sat with my grandfather until almost nine o’clock, he retiring much earlier than usual this evening. His curiosity and interest is lost in almost every thing now, few subjects will keep his mind many minutes and it requires a person much more skilled in giving amusement or fluency than I am to amuse him. He will not talk on old matters now and that is almost the only thing which I am commonly interested in with him. We came downstairs again and sat with the ladies until they retired, they remained rather later than usual on account of it’s being the last evening of Thomas’s stay. For my part I sat down to a good supper on bread and cheese, I having surprizingly recovered my appetite since my regular exercise. After this, I talked and smoked more than usual with Thomas—principally concerning our prospects of which subject he is as fond as myself, and we thought that probably this was the last election night as well as the first in which he and I should sit in the old family house spending such a pleasant evening with so large though inharmonious and still agreable family. I.


These tombs, furnished by JA and inscribed under his supervision, may still be seen in the burying ground across the street from the First Church in busy Quincy Square. They are those of Henry Adams (ca. 1583–1646), the immigrant; Joseph (1626–1694), 7th son of Henry; Joseph (1654–1737), eldest son of the first Joseph; and John (1692–1761), often called Deacon John, 2d son of the 2d Joseph and father of JA. See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:254-255 3:254-255 , and Adams Genealogy.