Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Friday May 28th. IX:10. CFA Friday May 28th. IX:10. CFA
Friday May 28th. IX:10.

Up very late this morning, so that the morning passed rapidly. I finished Mrs. Opie and read the small and short productions of Smollett1 in Aikin’s Collection. The commencement of the Ode to 161Independence is beautiful and the whole is not moderate poetry by any means.

The young lady who came here yesterday expected her brother to carry her back to Boston. He accordingly came and spent all the afternoon. Having accidentally fallen into his company, I was detained by him all the afternoon. After some conversation concerning our College institutions in which he made many inquiries and I had to tell him all the old story of the last year’s rebellion2 he compelled me in civility to walk with him to the top of the hill opposite to the house—this was a task not the most relishing to me but I did it and he talked very wisely for some time concerning the view while the day was as misty as it conveniently might be with a little sprinkling of rain. It was most excessively hot withal so that I had given up walking after attempting it in the morning but civility conquers all things.

Returning I accompanied him to the library where he professed to show a great deal of knowledge, and made some of the most awkward blunders I ever heard. He wanted to know if the Koran was not a religious book of the Jews, and if it was not very rare; who was the author of the Federalist and if that was not very uncommon; he talked of Lytteltons3 Essays instead of his Henry 2d. and made many similar mistakes in about ten minutes, making comments upon all these withal. By this I soon set him down for a shallow fellow with some assurance. I was not displeased with him as he was not impertinent and was only desirous to conceal ignorance and expose all the knowledge which he possessed. This certainly was but small whether by his own fault or that of others, and decides his character. I then walked in the garden with him and so got rid of him. I then went to the Office4 to write my Journal but was unable as my Uncle was in a talking humour being under the influence of this fire which he perpetually takes. We talked Politics until tea was announced when I was unexpectedly announced into a large tea room, full of company. Dressed as I was, I began to feel foolishly, but immediately recollecting it was Quincy, I put on my usual brass. Mr. Marston and family were here but went off at nine. So did Cooper and sister. I forgot to mention that Thomas went to Boston and brought his aunt and cousin Mrs. and Miss Harrod5 to spend a few days. Some other invited young ladies had a little dance on the carpet. I went to bed early. XI.


Tobias George Smollett (1721–1771).


Intermittently there had heen student riots at Harvard, but the “Great Rebellion” of 1823 revealed both instructional and disciplinary inadequacies. The immediate cause of the riot—an “obedient black” informed on one of the “high fellows”—was unimportant; the significant fact was that the “uncom-162monly rowdy” class of 1823 was so little inspired by the curriculum that it chose to leave college rather than see its hero dismissed and the informant rewarded. Forty-three of the rebels were expelled (including JA2, whose father pleaded with the faculty for leniency), and only generations later were twenty-five of them granted A.B. degrees as of 1823. See Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard , p. 230–231. For the later story of reform at Harvard, see entry for 17 May, and note, above.


George, 1st Baron Lyttelton (1709–1773).


The “Office” at the Adams homestead meant the rambling frame structure close behind the family residence. This building is partly visible in some of the early views of the Old House and was used for many purposes. It was the farm office; it was at times occupied by tenants and caretakers; and for nearly a century one or more of its upper rooms held most of the immense accumulations of the Adamses’ books. At length in 1869 CFA had it torn down to make room for an extension of the kitchen of the main house and to improve the site of the Stone Library that he built soon afterward.


Mrs. TBA’s sister-in-law, Mrs. Charles Harrod, and her daughter, Susan D. Harrod.

Saturday. May. 29th. VIII:20. CFA Saturday. May. 29th. VIII:20. CFA
Saturday. May. 29th. VIII:20.

After a breakfast a la Solitaire, I sat with the family all the Morning neglecting my usual walk which I find has been of such advantage to me since my stay here. Mrs. Harrod the sister in law of Mrs. Adams appears to be a woman perfectly versed in the really “bon ton” of society. She has more ease than I expected and appears a lady of very good breeding. The contrast is always striking between natural and artificial manners and makes me a convert to one great point of aristocracy, that is, the real difference which does exist between men bred naturally and those who have formed themselves. The latter are always over civil but not half so agreable. The little girl has come here to be put to School at Miss Marston’s which is now quite a flourishing academy.1 Deservedly I think for I believe the women to be really worthy although they breathe a little too much of the spirit of methodistical piety.

I read a short poem of Lyttelton’s which is in the rural style consequently is not remarkably apt for criticism. Thus I passed the day, about as slothfully take it altogether as any this vacation. I did not notice that I was in a passion at Mrs. A. last night, she disclosing herself for once and speaking of the Adams family in such a way as to put me in a violent passion. I subdued it however and so I thought it necessary only to mention the circumstance without particulars.

In the afternoon George came out in the stage as usual and after a walk in the garden we went in, I immediately to my Grandfather where I read a part of an article in the last North American Review. It was on a History of Philosophy.2 I did not see enough to judge as I stopped at nine o’clock. From here I came to supper and was doomed 163to a severe trial of my temper. My Uncle sitting next to me took occasion to be affronted at me for what I do not know, but he tried to provoke me into a quarrel with him. Many bitter things he said which stirred my blood but conscious of the extreme folly of making a difficulty with him I remained silent. This being perceived, he sprang up and went off declaring that there was no congeniality among us. This took off the chill which had been thrown upon the company but my blood was running fast all the evening. And I was fearful my absence would be noticed. After the family had retired, he came in cooled down, and we spent half an hour with him before going upstairs. I could not sleep until long after I laid down but spent the time in conversation with George on the subject of the whole of that family and our own. XI: 30.


The Misses Marston (two sisters) conducted a school for girls which attracted the elite of Quincy and Boston. It was located on the site where St. John’s Cathedral was later built (Pattee, Old Braintree and Quincy , p. 341).


Alexander H. Everett, “History of Philosophy,” North American Review, 43:234–266 (April 1824).