Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Saturday 3rd. CFA Saturday 3rd. CFA
Saturday 3rd.

Morning at the Office, after seeing at the House, Mr. Conant, one of the Tenants of the Farm, at Weston. He came to make inquiry respecting my determination in regard to the place. I told him that I supposed I must accede to his Terms in the end but proposed an experiment in order to try and find whether the place would not be so improved as not to need all. He said he thought they could agree to it.1 I was occupied during the morning in reading Marshall, and in drawing up the Accounts of my brother George’s affairs which I am desirous to commence closing. I accordingly again wrote to Genl. Winthrop for a settlement of his debt.2 As I went into Hilliard’s I obtained some further Numbers of the Library of Useful Knowledge and obtained a Life of Sir Isaac Newton which I read—And wondered at.3 A mathematical genius is a singular gift and a precious one, but which I never could envy perhaps appreciate. Indeed there is no character on record which I would not sooner desire to equal and my taste must therefore be considered as decidedly poor.

Home to dine and as Abby went out in the afternoon I passed it in reading La Harpe. His remarks upon the Epic and the different specimens in ancient times which approach it are very interesting and I only broke off in the evening to go down for Abby to Mrs. Frothingham’s. Calling in to see how the Private Debating Society flourished, a meeting of which was called for tonight, I found only Quincy, and Park, the President and Secretary and myself.4 This looked poorly so I went in to Mrs. Frothingham’s and took a little Supper and chatted with them for an hour before returning home. I feel infinitely more at my ease with them now than formerly.


See entry for 15 Sept., above.


Brig. Gen. John Temple Winthrop was commander of the 3d Brigade, 1st Division of the Massachusetts Militia (“City Guards”), in which GWA had been a major and to which he had made a loan in 1827; see below, entry for 13 Oct.; Mass. Register, 1829, p. 93.


Hilliard, Gray & Co., booksellers, were at 134 Washington Street ( Boston Directory, 1829–1830). The volumes of the Library of Useful Knowledge (1827–1842), published by The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, London, were issued first in parts. Among the works included in the Library was Lives of Eminent Persons (1833), which had appeared in 13 parts, one of which was a life of Newton, adapted by Sir H. Elphinstone from the French of J. B. Biot.


The Private Debating Society, to which CFA had been elected a year earlier and which met on Saturday evenings from October to the beginning of April, though earlier said to have been the Boston Debating Society (vol. 2:309), was distinct from it and the other “public” debating society whose officers and meeting days were different from those mentioned in the present entry and in later ones. See Mass. Register, 1829, p. 142. Edmund Quincy and Edward Blake were among those who were both active in the Society and friends of CFA. On John Cochran Park, 35the secretary, an attorney with office at 16 Court Street ( Boston Directory, 1829–1830), see entries for 21 and 28 Nov., below.

Sunday. 4th. CFA Sunday. 4th. CFA
Sunday. 4th.

Morning opened with heavy rain which ceased however at the time commonly fixed to go to Meeting. I went to Mr. Frothingham’s and heard him deliver a Sermon upon the Communion, which had to me not much interest. It is a subject upon which I have not as yet felt disposed to pay much attention, nor have I felt that my religious opinions or method of life need any such support or confirmation. Returned home and passed the remainder of the day with Abby. She was suffering from the cold which I have just ceased to have. It seems to extend every where probably occasioned by a chill in the air which has a tendency to check the perspiration of the system too suddenly. Mr. Blake called in for a few minutes only to talk of Miss Hubbard’s marriage &ca.

I amused myself in reading La Harpe, who is the most amusing critic without exception that I have read. He discusses the Ancient Tragedy, and the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles with great spirit. I have been so interested in him as to wish that I only had more time to devote. But this at present is impossible. My wife is lonely and at times depressed, and she requires more attention than usual from the sensitiveness of her nature which has ever been too much indulged. Our evening passed quietly as they usually do and with much comfort. I certainly am too much favoured to think of complaining.

Monday. 5th. CFA Monday. 5th. CFA
Monday. 5th.

Morning at the Office, weather cold and blustering. On my way I called upon Mrs. Sidney Brooks to give some of my Wife’s Commissions to her as she is starting for New York soon. Abby herself was too unwell to think of going out. I sat a few minutes with her only and merely asked a few common place questions as usual. And this was the end, for I take no interest in her. She is a woman of a land I have seldom met with and to tell the truth with all her good qualities I do not desire to.1 But it is impossible for me to define the precise reason, and so I will not attempt it. At the Office I was engaged most of the morning in malting up the account of the sales made on my brother’s Account and mine producing for his share about sixty dollars and for mine thirteen. I am so disappointed by the result of the Dividends of the Banks today that I need every thing I can scrape. I do not receive a dollar upon twelve hundred invested in three several 36Banks which I call very bad luck. This is owing to the misfortunes which have befallen the Manufacturing Interest in this section of the Country and the prevailing depression of trade.2 A man called to see the House in Court Street vacated by Mr. Whitney, and I went over it with him. It was disgusting in the extreme for it has been neglected most abominably. This will cost something to put in repair, and money is tolerably scarce now. In deed I have seldom known a time when there was so much difficulty in raising it. My father’s income is considerably curtailed, and the vacancy of several houses makes it probable to be more so.

On my return to dinner I went in to see the Furniture of Dr. E. H. Robbins advertised to be sold and was much disappointed in it. He is a Bankrupt and his assignees in consequence sell his elegant superfluities. They are not very numerous. Afternoon at home with my Wife who was suffering very much with a cold. I did nothing. My father came in for half an hour after some purchases in order to begin living in his study with a fire, a necessary thing on such a day as this. He remained however but little while. In the evening Mr. and Mrs. Frothingham came in and passed an hour very agreeably.


During her visit to Boston, Mrs. Sidney Brooks presumably was at the home of her parents at 7 Bulfinch Place ( Boston Directory, 1829–1830). Frances Dehon’s background had led Mr. and Mrs. Peter C. Brooks to regard Sidney’s marriage as “a sore thing.” Her father, William Dehon (d. 1833), though currently successful as an auctioneer, was held in some contempt in the Brooks household for his lack of cultivation, while Mrs. Dehon was mocked for her pretensions (Charlotte Everett to Edward Everett, 23 Dec. 1827, Everett MSS, MHi).


On the depressed state of trade and manufactures, see below, entries for 27 Oct., 31 Dec., and notes there.