Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

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.

Thursday. May. 27th. VIII:30. CFA Thursday. May. 27th. VIII:30. CFA
Thursday. May. 27th. VIII:30.

Thomas Hellen took his leave this morning for Exeter, evidently much against his will. He is quite agreable and when he shall have lost a little of his confidence, obtained I know not how, he will do very well. Great assurance in a young man is very disagreable and I would rather see him err on the side of modesty or timidity. The latter is by far the most easily corrected.

After breakfast I took a walk to see the canal which is digging, by whom no person knows.1 I also read all the poems of Gray, which are in this collection.2 This is an author who has always been a great favourite of mine although so severely lashed by Dr. Johnson. His elegy and Bard are very beautiful specimens of the pathetic and sublime. His other odes are sweet but require keener observation than I can at present afford. His poems, I have reserved for frequent examination. I employed the rest of the day in reading Mrs. Opie’s second volume of the New Tales. They are extremely interesting but still more subject to the observation made yesterday. In the “Confes-160sions of an Odd tempered Man” I find a character very much resembling my own although rather strained, for dramatic effect.3 Caprice is a prevailing passion with me in the light world, and I am very unconscionable in my dislikes of women and take prejudices immediately. My own character has been matter of some contemplation to myself and although I will not pretend to come to any decision concerning it, I think that I have some hints. At any rate, I know that by some singular idea, I am ever desirous to conceal the best traits of my character.

In the evening a young lady by the name of Cooper came out to pay a visit to the girls. Who she is, I know not. She is not pretty nor interesting. My Uncle also returned from Boston where he went in the morning. I spent an hour in the evening with my Grandfather in conversation concerning books and some time in the parlour although I see no family group half so pleasing now and I have again retired within my shell, after an uncommon exertion and satisfactory proof to the women that “I can be agreable when I am inclined to be so.” Now this is not much matter of importance to me. I had this evening the pleasure of sitting with my Uncle alone, in one of his usual fits, and I thought it somewhat singular that young girls should be invited by our ladies to this house only to see the disgrace of their father and to feel—if they at all in the proportion as I do, I pity them.4 I pleaded being very sleepy owing to my last night’s vigil and got away early. XI:25.


A private citizen of Quincy, Joshua Torrey, projected a canal in 1824 that would run from the head of the creek, east of the old almshouse, almost to the meeting house. The town was unable to assist him, and he discontinued the work. A year later other Quincy residents began a new canal, which was to follow a stream called Town River from the Tidemill up as far as the Stone Bridge on the Hingham and Quincy turnpike. The work was completed in 1826, but the canal proved unprofitable and was finally abandoned. See Pattee, Old Braintree and Quincy , p. 104–105.


Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard” and “The Bard” are included in Aikin’s British Poets .


CFA identified himself with the narrator of the story, Henry Aubrey, a man of affections and sensibility who consciously retreated behind an “impenetrable coldness” in order to protect his independence and ego. Aubrey’s unnatural behavior cost him his wife, child, and future happiness.


Thus in MS.