Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Saturday. September 4th. IX. CFA Saturday. September 4th. IX. CFA
Saturday. September 4th. IX.

Arose and after breakfast, as it rained very violently, I kept myself in the house this morning, following my usual occupation of writing up my Journal which had got one day behind hand by my unavoidable absence of yesterday. My father has not made his appearance yet although he has been expected every day, and I begin to be in doubt whether he will come at all. I employed part of the morning in reading the Commencement of Junius’s letters, a book I have never read much to my shame. I commence it now because this struck me in some conversation which I had with George last night. We happened to be comparing the different styles of Johnson, Burke and Junius and I could speak only very superficially of the two latter. The fact is that I intended to delay reading it until I purchased a copy when I would read it with my own comments at Cambridge where I have accommodations for study which cannot be obtained here.1 At Quincy, I find much for study, much for reflection, much for ambition. Many men have been surprised that in a distinguished family much of the same spirit and feeling is transmitted from father to son, but nothing appears to me more natural. Every thing conduces to it, the conversation perpetually going on, the views laid open before one, the love of distinction which is so easily caught, every thing indeed which we can possibly imagine in the atmosphere, unite in forming it.

The rain stopped and I was obliged to recollect that I was engaged to dine at Mr. Quincy’s today so I went in, dressed myself and set off on my expedition, with George. We arrived there soon and I was ushered into the parlour. We found assembled, all the family, Mr. Ticknor our Professor and his wife, Mr. Samuel Eliot,2 Mr. de Wallenstein, the Russian secretary of Legation at Washington,3 Mr. Sparks of Baltimore4 and William Otis5 came in soon after. After some conversation on indifferent subjects we went into dinner. I happened to sit next to Miss Susan Quincy on one side and my eternal brother on the other. Chance always puts us together most improperly. The lady has always treated me with amazing “hauteur,” more it appeared to me, to play upon my former timidity than from any other reason. This in old time was much and has made me feel bitterly, a great instance of unpardonable weakness, but now, I have sufficient confidence to brave her distance without feeling it. I made it a point, as I was thus situated, to be particularly polite to her at the table, although God knows with how much ill will, and insincerity, for I should have been happy could I civilly have cut her, as we say at College. Pride, I am inclined to think, is the sense of my temper and 312I am not disposed to suppress it. I hate the purse proud ostentation of the city of Boston. It is not the pride I like, it is not mine. That man is to me properly proud, who is sufficiently conscious of his own value to keep him clear from the common herd about. Not piquing himself upon his wealth but on his education, his acquirements, without being to appearance conscious that he is superior to his inferiors, or at least just enough so to keep his station. A really noble man will not wish to show off before others any thing like superiority. I am an aristocrat but not one of Boston. I wish to be as far as I can, the man I describe. I fail very much, I am conscious, but the wish will bear me up and will suppress my knowledge of the weakness of my will.

The dinner was an extremely pleasant one, Mr. Quincy did put off his airs and, although Mrs. Quincy and Susan did not, they could not stiffen the scene, and there was a great deal of mirth and wit in the scene. It is now five years I think since I have been in this house or certainly but once since, and the girls whom I used to see have become women. Of all of them Margaret is the only beautiful one and she has not yet been spoiled by the chill of Boston society though this season will do it. Sophia is the pleasantest. Abby is not here now, when I saw her last I was much pleased with her.6 I had some conversation with Edmund who is quite a sensible fellow but he has a little too much of the student for a man of my cast. We arose from table, went to see the gentleman’s library and then returned. A short interval succeeded before taking our leave in which I conversed with Miss Sophia and then we went. Miss Storer7 was there whom I formerly knew, but so long since that really I did not dare claim the acquaintance. We returned home and found a Mr. and Mrs. Swett8 with others here. I was struck with the contrast in this sort of society and the one I had left but said nothing. After supper, conversation as usual. X:30.


CFA did subsequently buy a copy of The Letters of Junius, 3 vols., London, 1812; it is in the Stone Library, along with two other editions of the work.


George Ticknor (1791–1871), the first Smith professor of French and Spanish languages and literature at Harvard, and his wife, the former Anna Eliot, daughter of the wealthy merchant and Harvard benefactor, Samuel Eliot ( DAB ). For Ticknor’s pioneering role in bringing an educational renascence to Harvard, see Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard , p. 225–226, 232–233.


Julius de Wallenstein ( Mass. Register, 1825, p. 228).


Jared Sparks, who had just resigned his ministry in Baltimore to become editor of the North American Review ( DAB ).


William Foster Otis, Harvard 1821, son of Harrison Gray Otis (Crawford, Mass. Families , 2:245–247, 249).


The four daughters of Mayor Josiah Quincy here mentioned were Eliza Susan, Margaret Morton, Maria Sophia, and Abigail Phillips Quincy. See Adams Genealogy.

313 7.

Presumably Mary Storer, the daughter of Charles Storer (1761–1829), who had been JA’s private secretary and a member of the Adams household sometime between 1781 and 1785 in Europe. The Storers were related to the Adamses; see Adams Genealogy.


Presumably Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Swett, of 12 Hancock Street; he graduated from Harvard in 1800 ( Boston Directory, 1823).

Sunday. September 5th. IX. CFA Sunday. September 5th. IX. CFA
Sunday. September 5th. IX.

Arose rather late this morning and therefore could do but little before it was time to attend Meeting. I went and heard Mr. Whitney deliver a Sermon on some subject or other, which I did not attend to. He is an exceeding feeble Sermonizer. I had occasion to be somewhat displeased with a new regulation they have which is to stand up while the singing is going on. This over, I returned home and continued writing my Journal which I continued also in the afternoon and finally succeeded in bringing it up to it’s precise and exact time. It has been something of a labour but it has exhibited my perseverance and I am satisfied. I employed myself the remainder of the day, in reading over the second volume of Percy Mallory, as I had done it very hurriedly before. Part of it requires attention, particularly the trial which consists in the cross examination of an ignorant witness. I read it over with more care and was much pleased with many observations which the author makes in course, as some of them are very striking. He talks as if he was in high life. Who it is, I have forgotten although I have been told.

In the Evening, much company in the house which I did not go in and see. My feelings are singular in this respect. I do not like to see the visitors we have here half the time and can scarcely give my reasons except that I do not feel confident when I see them; there is something so ineffably coarse about one part of the receiving family that I cannot see her move or speak without feeling degraded. It is this which makes me avoid company in which she is, as I do burn with shame when I see her vulgar, dashing manners. This is the truth and nothing but the truth. I am perfectly convinced with the author of Percy Mallory, that unequal marriages are unfortunate things. I spent half an hour upstairs, Mr. Quincy and Josiah there. As John Taylor of Caroline is dead Grandfather had that famous letter of his read to him which is really an honour to him and a great tribute and a deserved one to Grandfather.1 They went away and then we went in to Supper. George and I had some classical conversation and then retired but we were long awake and conversed very particularly concerning Mary. I think myself that it is a disadvantageous match, and 314therefore if it could possibly be stopped, would be desirable. Although I went to bed at eleven it was after one before I slept.


JA and John Taylor of Caroline (1753–1824), the brilliant theorist of the Virginia agrarians, disagreed sharply over the principles and the policies of the American government; in fact, Taylor’s An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814) was undertaken in order to refute JA’s A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States of America. Nevertheless the two men remained personal friends, and on 8 April 1824, in his final illness, Taylor wrote JA a farewell letter, praising the President as “a patriot, who I believe has served his country faithfully, and done what man can do, to please his God” (Adams Papers; printed in JA, Works , 10:411–412). See Henry H. Simms, Life of John Taylor, Richmond, 1932, p. 208–209.