Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Sunday 25th. CFA Sunday 25th. CFA
Sunday 25th.

The morning was bright and fair and the air as mild as Summer, so that I enjoyed the day considerably. We all attended Divine Service both in the morning and the afternoon and heard Mr. Whitney preach two Sermons of very indifferent interest. He is a preacher who looks ill suited to his new Pulpit and does not raise the character of the mind in it’s aspirations after good.1

But the most remarkable incident of the day was the first appearance of the Tablet which my Father has caused to be erected to the memory of his Father and Mother. It is very pretty and quite ornamental although in the utmost simplicity. The inscription was written by him, and is chaste and simple, merely recalling the dates and the incidents which made their lives so peculiarly memorable.2 I felt perhaps an undue elation upon seeing it but what is the objection. They earned 56their reward and it is but a humble one after all, and why should not I feel proud that they merited the distinction among men.3

Much of the day was passed in conversation with my father upon subjects of more immediate importance, relating to his affairs, and afterwards in examining his numerous books of which he has a fine Collection. They are selected generally with judgment and to great advantage, being rare and not elsewhere to be obtained. My passion for literature was much increased by the sight of the many books which surrounded me, all of which I felt as if I was anxious to read, and most of which it is more than probable I never shall touch. For what is the life of man and especially of one who has duties of other kinds to perform. All this was a little dull to Abby, especially the refined tone of Conversation of my father which is perhaps a little too literary now for the taste of the present age. My own information is often puzzled by it. But as I am fond of instruction, I like this means of enlarging it. The evening was passed at home. One or two visitors came in, Mr. Beale and Mr. Daniel Greenleaf,4 but they soon left us, and I passed an hour reading Mrs. Thrale’s Correspondence with Dr. Johnson.5

1.

On Peter Whitney, minister of the First Church in Quincy since 1800, see vol. 1:157. The pulpit was that in the new stone edifice, in use for almost a year.

2.

JQA had asked for CFA’s and ABA’s presence on the occasion, also the anniversary of the marriage of JA and AA, “as a special favour and if I may presume so far, would put it in the form of a Mandamus, and command you to come ‘Laying all other things aside’” (to CFA, 22 Oct., Adams Papers; JQA, Diary, 25 October). The bust of JA in white marble by Horatio Greenough (vol. 2:400; JQA, Diary, 20 June 1829) and the tablet beneath, on which Alpheus Cary had carved JQA’s tribute to his father and to his mother (vol. 2:399 and entry for 23 Sept., above), had been put into place only on the preceding Thursday. On that day JQA had also had their names carved on the granite stones in the crypt to which their remains had been removed from the churchyard on 1 April 1828 during the construction of the Adams Temple (JQA, Diary, 22 Oct. 1829; Bemis, JQA , 2:187). The tablet and bust are illustrated in Daniel Munro Wilson, The “Chappel of Ease” and Church of Statesmen [Quincy], 1890, facing p. 103; the inscription printed in Bemis, JQA , 2:125 (where the text is incorrect in one particular: the date of AA’s birth given on the tablet is “November 11/22 1744”). See also Portraits of John and Abigail Adams , p. 231–232, 234.

3.

The self-reproach of pride in the erection of the memorial, evident in JQA’s diary as well as here, is the more understandable from the fact that “There are few such monuments existing in this Country, and indeed very few Churches of durable structure, in which they could be placed. There are three in the Stone Chapel at Boston—All of ante or anti-revolutionary personages.” It was after an inspection of these with Cary that JQA decided upon the form the memorial would take, deriving it principally from the monument to the wife and daughter of a colonial governor, William Shirley. (JQA, Diary, 9, 18 July, 22 Oct. 1829.)

4.

George W. Beale (1782–1851) in 1792 had built a house just to the west of the Old House on Adams Street, Quincy. At least two sketches by him, one of the Old House and one of Mount 57Wollaston, survive; see further, vol. 2:151.

Daniel Greenleaf (1762–1853), an apothecary and doctor, had been a Quincy resident since 1797; see vol. 2:153 and NEHGS, Memorial Biographies , 2:34–37.

5.

Hester Lynch (Thrale) Piozzi, Letters to and from Samuel Johnson ..., London, 1786. There is a copy of the 1788 edn. in 2 vols. in MQA.

Monday. 26th. CFA Monday. 26th. CFA
Monday. 26th.

It was impossible to desire a more agreeable day than this. The air was soft and entirely different from that which is our usual climate at this season. I cannot help enjoying it’s mildness, though I am far from complaining of that which is more severe. After breakfast Abby and I returned to town in the little Carriage. I went to the Office as usual and spent the morning in reading Marshall without much interruption, Mr. Clapp, the Mason being the only person who came, in order to inquire at what time he could go to Quincy which I told him.1 I had expected to see Orcutt but was disappointed.

After dinner, Abby and I went to pay a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Alex. H. Everett who have just arrived from Spain.2 He is one of those who have suffered proscription by the New powers and is now arrived to see what he can do with himself here. I confess for my own part that I do not easily perceive any cause for him which would be at all eligible. He has not what may be called an active character and here what can be done without one? He looks very well and has grown quite showy in his dress since I last saw him. She has become quite European and a little affected, I think, but always a pleasant woman. Our visit was short and I returned to my study to commence operations seriously as a student. I devoted a short time to continuing my Catalogue and then opened the subject which I am about to commence with the study of Auger’s preliminary Dissertation to the Works of Demosthenes.3 Singular as it may seem to myself I am resolved to attempt the Orations for the Crown in the Original.4 And I started in the Work fairly today. This is the only way to begin the subject of Oratory with any view to understand. I studied uninterruptedly until nine, when I went to Mr. Frothingham’s for Abby who passed the Evening there. Edward Brooks was there and we had a comfortable Supper enough.

1.

James Clapp of Chambers Street, near Poplar, Boston, contracted to do repairs at the Old House to the kitchen and chimney, for which he was paid $60 on 19 Nov. ( Boston Directory, 1829–1830; M/CFA/3).

2.

Alexander Hill Everett (1790–1847), a brother of Edward Everett, had been a law student in JQA’s office and subsequently JQA’s private secretary in Russia. During JQA’s administration he had been chargé d’affaires at The Hague and most recently minister to Spain. Within the year he would become, with his brother-in-law Nathan Hale, owner and editor of the North American Review . His wife was the former Lucretia Orne Peabody. See vol. 1:294–295; 58 DAB . Whether the Everetts were already living in their house at 38 Summer Street is doubtful ( Boston Directory, 1830–1831).

3.

Demosthenes and Aeschines, Oeuvres complètes, trad. en françois ... par M. l’abbé Auger. The edition published at Paris, 6 vols., 1793, owned by JQA, is in MQA. Auger’s “discours préliminaire” is at 1:1–151.

4.

Aeschines and Demosthenes, The Orations on the Crown. An edition in the original Greek with English notes by Alex Negris was published at Boston in 1829; the copy in MQA has CFA’s bookplate and numerous marginal notes in his hand.

CFA’s translation, here begun, was carried on until early January (CFA to JQA, 10 Jan. 1830, Adams Papers). A fragment of the translation of Aeschines is preserved in CFA’s literary commonplace book (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 312); of Demosthenes, among some papers on eloquence in a folder of literary efforts (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 317).