Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Monday 7th. CFA Monday 7th. CFA
Monday 7th.

Morning at home until ten o’clock with Abby. Then finding she had some of her friends coming, I went to the Office. Wrote my Journal but wasted my time considerably otherwise. Mr. Curtis called in to see me for a minute or two and we had much conversation respecting Mr. Boylston’s Will and the arrangement and disposal of his Estates. I have not yet been able to finish the Deed.1 After this I went to see Mrs. Longhurst and my father’s other Tenants. But I obtained from them nothing but promises. Money seems now to be a difficult thing to obtain. And there is so much due to my father that it is high time to collect it. I have done my best.


Thence to the House to dinner. Found numbers of her relations with Abby and therefore she had become over excited. It is wonderful to see on what high pressure her spirits go, and sometimes I am really frightened for her lest they should prove too much, Afternoon passed restlessly, giving orders and directions for the evening. My father came in early and I asked him up in my Library. The rest of the family came too.

This was the Evening upon which Abby was to receive her Company and when she was to be fairly launched into Society. She was dressed magnificently and really looked quite a new thing. Her marriage has had a wonderfully beneficial effect upon her appearance so far and we are perhaps more struck with the contrast as she now comes out of black.2 The Company both in character and number was highly flattering. All the most distinguished people in Boston favoured us and if I did not feel resolved not to be elated, I think I might with some reason. But all this is mere show. I hope I have too much sense not to see that it is all but as the passing shadow,3 and that I have other and deeper duties to perform, to support and sustain my character, in the event of which there is much doubt. But I hope I shall be aware of my situation, and that adulation to my Wife is not respect for myself. The Company went early.


Ward Nicholas Boylston (1747–1828) of Jamaica Plain, kinsman and friend of JQA (vol. 1:442 and Adams Genealogy), had by his will appointed as coexecutors of his estate, his wife, JQA, and Nathaniel Curtis (1774–1857) of Roxbury, a merchant of integrity and judgment (vol. 2:178; Francis S. Drake, The Town of Roxbury, Roxbury, 1878, p. 427).

The executors, faced with the prospect of conveying numerous parcels, wished a deed form prepared that would serve them generally. CFA had been chosen to prepare the somewhat complex instrument and was named conveyancer for the estate. See vol. 2:418; JQA, Diary, 1 Aug., 19, 25 Nov. 1829; and below, entries for 11, 16–18 November.


ABA’s brother, Ward Chipman Brooks, had died in March 1828; see vol. 2:223 and Adams Genealogy. It would appear that the Brooks sisters had continued to wear black since that time. Charlotte (Brooks) Everett had written to her husband on the subject, 1 July 1829, saying “there is little chance I think of my being able to have it off” (Everett MSS, MHi).


Father and son shared similar views of such occasions, but JQA, less accustomed to the prevailing mode, is more explicit:

“It was near nine, when the company began to come, and by half past ten, all excepting the family had retired .... There is a fashionable formality in these wedding visits, and subsequent parties, different from the practice heretofore, and objectionable in many cases for its expensiveness. The Lady sends her Cards with her maiden name, and on the back of it At Home, such an Evening. The bridesmen introduce all the Visitors, to the bride with as much ceremony as at an European Court presentation. The dresses of the Ladies are too costly: and this wedding visit is succeeded by evening parties or dinners given by friends.”

(Diary, 7 Sept.)

Those other than family whose presence JQA marked were the Chevalier Huygens, the Minister from the Nether-6lands, with his wife and two daughters; Lt. Gov. Thomas L. Winthrop; Daniel Webster; Rev. Henry Ware, the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, and wife; Mr. and Mrs. Richard Derby; F. C. Gray; Jared Sparks.

Tuesday. 8th. CFA Tuesday. 8th. CFA
Tuesday. 8th.

Arose this morning and breakfasted a little late, my wife being quite unwell. I sat with her until Susan Brooks came in, and I then went to the Office. Morning passed in writing my Journal and in arranging my papers. Chardon Brooks dropped in for a minute to speak about some Coal which he had engaged for me and to talk a little over the party. My Office has fallen into terrible confusion ever since the departure of my boy and I do not know when it will be restored. Returned to the House and found Mrs. Everett there, who was soon followed by her husband, Blake, Quincy and Mr. Lowell.1 Abby however was not over well to receive them. After dinner I sat with Abby and commenced reading to her Devereux a new Novel by the Author of Pelham.2

Julia Gorham interrupting us, I walked to the Office and became unconsciously engaged in reading portions of my brother’s Journal scraps which affected me exceedingly.3 There is much moral to be learned from his Life and the candor and warmth with which it was set down made me reflect upon his character and mine. He possessed all the cultivation of mind essential to his success, he held what is infinitely more to the purpose than any thing in my possession, an aptitude of language and power of style which made a fascinating writer. I have only steadiness of character, without the boldness of enterprise essential to success—and without any confidence in myself. Much of his record affected me much, particularly his ample details of his love affairs with Mary which materially affected his life—ever afterwards.4 Not that a marriage with her would have made him happy for I never believed any such thing, but his object of living was broken, and a chance was given to his weaknesses and evil inclinations to gain ground which never afterwards could be recovered. His Journal is interesting as a moral lesson to warn all young men and especially myself.

I returned home and found Abby alone. The Evening was quietly passed at home and I read a portion of Devereux to her. Quite happy.


Charlotte (Brooks) Everett (1800–1859), the second eldest of ABA’s sisters, and her distinguished husband, Edward Everett (1794–1865), currently a member of Congress, had been hosts to ABA in Washington in early 1827 at the beginning of CFA’s courtship of her; see vol. 1:8; 2:x, 92, 97–113 passim; DAB ; Adams Genealogy.

Probably John Lowell (1769–1840). Massachusetts Federalist and a leading member of the bar, on whom see vol. 2:311 and DAB .


Edward George Earle Lytton Bul-7wer (afterwards Bulwer-Lytton), Devereux, 3 vols., London, 1829.


GWA’s efforts to keep a diary had been sporadic. However, what survives must represent but a fraction of the successive false starts. CFA, although an admirer of his brother’s literary talents, eliminated from GWA’s papers those that CFA judged would be damaging to his brother’s name or painful to the family. The only section preserved is that for 1–23 Aug. 1825 (M/GWA/1, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 287). However, there are other pieces preserved of a related character: a series of weekly letters to Claudius Bradford from 4 Sept. to 30 Oct. 1817, each of which is composed of journal entries for the intervening period; an account in five “essays” of a journey from London to Paris in 1817, written in early 1818, each of which he signed “Sterne” and entitled “A Sentimental Journey”; an “Introduction” to a contemplated “Review of the year 1825,” which is in fact a memoir of his life up to that year. The remainder consists of a collection of poetical and prose compositions done at college, 1817–1821; poems copied by his mother in her commonplace book; “The Influence of Natural Scenery on Poetry,” his commencement part at Harvard (MH-Ar); and an essay “Elements of Knowledge,” dated 21 Dec. 1826, which was intended as an introduction to an anthology and to which CFA on 25 Dec. 1830 appended an appreciative note calling it “one of the best specimens of his mind” (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel Nos. 271, 287, 288, 291, 295).


GWA had become engaged in 1823 to his first cousin, Mary Catherine Hellen (1806?–1870), with whom CFA had earlier been in love, and who subsequently chose the third brother, JA2, becoming engaged to him in 1827 and marrying him in 1828. See vol. 1:xxvi, xxix, and Adams Genealogy.