Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Wednesday. June. 2d. VIII:35. CFA Wednesday. June. 2d. VIII:35. CFA
Wednesday. June. 2d. VIII:35.

Owing to unusual negligence I did not close the month of May until today. I did not enter the office yesterday as I supposed that my Uncle was not in a mood to bear my presence with much coolness as I had also spoken pretty warmly. I was only able to finish the month of May today as I had not good opportunity to read over the Journal for the month in order to write a review. I was very politely turned out of the office and therefore went to sit with the industrious people who are fitting out Thomas for West Point. My stock of regular Poetry is exhausted so I took up a copy of Chesterfield1 and entertained myself with it until dinner. It appears really one of the most valuable books in the language as it contains the true directions to make a man pleasing to the world in general and this certainly is a desirable art.

Mrs. Adams was in a terrible humour all day and has been sour this week. Probably on account of these family difficulties. She is a woman whose equal will seldom be found. I am a prejudiced man as respects her character. I see so much to blame that I can see nothing to praise. Extravagant without the means and knowing that she plunges her husband deeper in his wretchedness, at every step she takes, she does not mind it, cunning and deceitful, hypocritical to 168a degree beyond belief and malicious as a serpent. She has done more to hurt the peace of our family than any one. She is kind to her children and attached to her blood relations however, and has some deep feeling for her husband—at least has had for it is now pretty nearly gone. Her character is decidedly bad as she is ungrateful and unprincipled in revenge. A mass of pride withal which would dignify the most immense lady in the universe. She is too unpleasant a subject for me to dwell upon. All my regret is that she has two young girls to teach hypocrisy by her example—and I am sorry to say that it has been done with effect.

After dinner I walked down with Thomas to Hingham bridge or Ben’s point as they call it, where we fished for some time with not much success. We staid until late, by quick walking, got home to tea. The family went to Mr. Marston’s in the evening, whilst I, after some conversation with Louisa in which she displayed her bitterness sufficiently, went into my Grandfather’s room and read to him a part of the North American Review. I whipped little Joseph2 this evening for naughty behaviour at tea. Spent a little while in the parlour after the familys return. XI.


No Adams copy of the 4th Earl of Chesterfield’s famous Letters to His Son, first published London, 1774, has been found. In 1776 JA had proscribed this work as reading for AA; see Adams Family Correspondence , 1:359, 376, 389.


Joseph Harrod Adams (1817–1853), TBA’s son. See Adams Genealogy.

Thursday. June 3d. IX. CFA Thursday. June 3d. IX. CFA
Thursday. June 3d. IX.

I was compelled to change my determination of returning to Cambridge today partly by the result of the conversation with my Uncle on the other day and partly by the rainy weather and cold wind with which we were affected today. I staid in the house all day. Most of it being spent in my Grandfather’s room reading to him. I went over almost all the articles in the North American Review. Most of which I had read before at Cambridge. They did not interest me, with the exception of that on Wordsworth’s Poems1 which I was happy to read again as my opinion of the poet is still farther confirmed. If his poetry is good then I do not know what poetry is not? This is the course of the words of the reviewer and my settled opinion. A weak poet can be forgiven, a silly one, never. I also read to him a notice of Irving’s Orations2 with some extracts. I like parts. He said it might be good but he did not understand it. I have been of late, surprised to find the method he has of regularly constructing his sentences when he speaks of any thing warmly, arranging his words as he goes on and chang-169ing them when not perfectly correct. I presume this comes from a habit of public speaking.

My Uncle returned to day from Dedham not having been any further on his intended journey. Somebody came with him in a chaise. I did not see him as he did not make his appearance in the house. In mentioning this to my Grandfather I heard him say more than usual on the unfortunate conduct of his sons—he laments the fate which has thrown so much gloom over our house, something was necessary to check our pride and we have suffered bitterly. We should have been crushed, had the Sons all been distinguished, but now while the World respects us, it at the same time pities our misfortune and this pity destroys the envy which would otherwise arise. So we see that some good comes from even the worst evil. Having been with him all day, I spent the Evening in the Parlour with the ladies. Something dull still hangs over them. Mrs. Adams is still angry with me for handling Joseph as I did last night. It was intolerable however and I did what I have often done and what has made many angry with me. I have become quite pleased with the girls, particularly Abby, since my stay. She is so easy and obedient in temper to all appearance, a thing I like in a woman. This is not her character in Quincy. XI.


F. W. P. Greenwood, “Wordsworth’s Poems,” North American Review, 43: 356–371 (April 1824).


Edward Irving (1792–1834), a Scottish religious enthusiast, published, among other works, For the Oracles of God, Four Orations, London, 1824. A Philadelphia edition of the same year is in the Stone Library.