Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Monday. September. 6th. X. CFA Monday. September. 6th. X. CFA
Monday. September. 6th. X.

Arose quite late this morning owing to a restless and disturbed night, and after a short breakfast I went into the Office and commenced writing my Journal. I read a little while this Morning and was much amused in doing so, in a book called New Canaan or a description of New England by Thomas Morton1 a man whose memory is well known in our family because he was the first inhabitant of the estate at Mount Wollaston. It is a singular book, but displays much learning and satirical wit and feelings which may have become part of the soil, at least they agree much with mine. Some time or other, I will study the book with all others upon American affairs. I had almost completed my Journal for the day when news was brought to me that my father had arrived, a long expected event had at last happened. I flew in and going in to one room found not my father but a person as dear and less expected, my mother. I then found him. I was exceedingly happy at finding them. She looks quite well, a little pale but otherwise much better than she was last winter. He looks well but very yellow or brown. My Grandfather appeared to be pleased at seeing them although I never saw him more deaf or weak in his voice in my life. He was generally strong though.

After dinner was over, I had considerable private conversation with my mother and had a great deal of the mystery elucidated which I have formerly mentioned. I received a history of the transactions at Washington and became very fully confirmed in my opinion as to our family concerns. George, who had gone into town in the Morning, came out with them. He is in a sort of tantrum of some sort, I do not know what. George knows nothing of the character of my father. He does not appreciate it and can not look upon him with any thing but fear. This is the true fault of his character, he is always afraid of men 315of a certain decided cast of character, he cannot associate their images with pleasure, he has an indescribable and involuntary awe of them. This is the case with my Father, Johnson Hellen and John whom he never can act frankly to. This is the great, predominating fault in his disposition and I am almost afraid to trust the real truth to this paper, which however is only meant to meet my own eye. It is a painful thing to dip too closely into the foibles of one’s friends.

But of one thing I am satisfied, that Mary has been behaving unworthily to George and consequently that if he marries her, he connects himself with a woman who has no personal affection for him and there is the stumbling block. My Mother is half inclined to the Marriage and half opposed, my Father is tacitly opposed. I have done my duty, I have stated my opinion and I am now prepared to have nothing more to do with the matter. I am sorry for John who, I understand, is the victim of her arts, partially, as it is a conflict in his high feelings of honour which should have been spared him. But I am confident absence will cure him at almost any time. She gave me an amusing account of Johnson Hellen’s engagement2 and unfortunate state of his affairs. He puffed and stormed like a wild colt. The affairs of lovers when represented to third persons are ridiculous indeed. She also gave a very affecting account of the state of Mrs. Keating, so very lately Miss Hopkinson. A very fine woman who met in the first half year of her marriage a very uncommon provision, the death of her husband.3

After a very long “tete a tete” we joined the family and spent the rest of the afternoon talking with them. My Mother is the same woman she always was, as pleasing, and as lively. My father is, as usual, unpenetrating. He is the only man, I ever saw, whose feelings I could not penetrate almost always, but I can study his countenance for ever and very seldom can find any sure guide by which to move. This is exactly the manner which I wish to obtain, for were I confident of my features, I should soon be able to throw my expression into it, and in that way manage much better than I could otherwise. He makes enemies by perpetually wearing the Iron mask.

Tea over I sat part of the time downstairs and then with my Grandfather who is more overcome with a sense of his bodily infirmities now than I ever saw him before. He is a surprising man. We conversed there until nine o’clock when we came down to supper. Mr. De Grand, my father’s unfailing attendant, was here this Evening and as usual very privately closeted with him. We came to Supper and he, soon after it, went off. I spent a half hour in my mother’s room previous to her going to bed and then another with George downstairs after which we 316retired and I having decided that it was useless to talk so much, made a successful effort to sleep. XI.


JQA’s copy of Thomas Morton, New English Canaan, Amsterdam, 1637, is in the Boston Athenaeum ( Catalogue of JQA’s Books ). In 1883 CFA2 brought out a scholarly edition of this celebrated work for the Prince Society.


The name of Johnson Hellen’s fiancée is unknown. He did not marry until 1829. See entry for 25 April 1829, below.


Mrs. Elizabeth Keating, of Philadelphia, a daughter of Judge Joseph Hopkinson (LCA to GWA, 10 Oct. 1824, Adams Papers; JQA, Diary, 1 Aug. 1829).

Tuesday. September 7th. IX:20. CFA Tuesday. September 7th. IX:20. CFA
Tuesday. September 7th. IX:20.

Arose very late again today and found all the family at their occupations and even my mother up. My father looked blue. I went up and sat an hour with my mother and then went into the Office, wrote my Journal, and wrote one page of a letter to John. I have had four pages quietly with me for two or three weeks and have come to the determination for this time to give him a packet. There is much on which I wish to write to him, much of importance, and I shall merely in a few more words urge the importance of an answer, an explicit answer to my questions.1 I was employed in this way all the morning. My father and mother, after having been detained for a considerable time by company, went to Boston. George had gone in the morning. I, after dinner, was compelled to read to my Grandfather, Mr. Everett’s Oration at the anniversary of the Φ B K society.2 I was not much entertained by the first part, but the ten last pages contain the life of eloquence. It is a good work as it is calculated to give a spirit to the country which it ought to have, and will have sooner or later, and it is calculated to revive feelings which can too easily become dormant. The exertion was very considerable to read it to my Grandfather. I was on the whole, however repaid for the trouble.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon reading a novel which my mother obtained somewhere on the road; it is called “the inheritance.”3 I read with such rapidity that I finished the first and commenced the second in the course of the afternoon and evening. It is somewhat interesting. I shall speak more particularly of it when I have got through. The volumes are exceeding large, and I will not deny but at times they are a little heavy though the “tout ensemble” has much sprightliness. It rained all the afternoon and evening and I scarcely expected the family would return. They arrived however at a little after nine o’clock and we took supper together. My Uncle had been gone all day on business or amusement and returned very so-so. We 317managed to spend the Evening very agreably or at least moderately so. After, some conversation with George and my Father on the dinner at Mr. Blake’s4 at which he had been present today. We were not up late tonight and, what was more refreshing, George and I had but very little to say to each other upon going to bed so that I enjoyed a full night’s rest. XI.


All missing.


See entry for 26 Aug., above.


Susan Edmonstone Ferrier, The Inheritance, 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1824.


Presumably the Adams family friend, George Blake, Harvard 1789, who was United States district attorney for Massachusetts (Force, National Calendar, 1824, p. 200).