Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Wednesday. 4th. CFA Wednesday. 4th. CFA
Wednesday. 4th.

I this morning made the final disclosure to my Wife and although much affected, she bore it on the whole remarkably well. Went to town and had my time engrossed as usual by the cares of my house. I progressed very much this day and looked more as if I was in a state of preparation for our move. Nothing of particular consequence took place.

On my return to my Office yesterday from receiving the news of poor Henry Brooks’ death, I found on the table a notice of my election as a delegate from Boston to the Anti Masonic Convention which meets here next week for the purpose of nominating a Governor and Lieut. Governor. The contrast between the two subjects which thus presented themselves in connection in my mind was painful. There is nothing additional to be said after the touching words of Burke upon a like occasion at the hustings of Bristol,1 but if there is a moment when the bustling nothingness of our political electioneering comes most strikingly across the mind, it is when our ideas are drawn to the solemn appeal of a voyager to a silent world. This subject as well as the incident that gave rise to it must be reserved for more serious consideration.

I was engaged some time in Accounts and returned to Quincy only after an hour or more passed in wandering about to procure my winter’s supply of fuel. Prices are somewhat reduced which is a great comfort. My afternoon was taken up in preparing the remainder of the Volumes of the Correspondence, for which purpose I neglected every thing else. The family went down to Mrs. Quincy’s to a party given in commemoration of the Anniversary of the arrival of their family to this Country two hundred years ago. My Wife and I remained quietly at home.2


In his speech at Bristol on 9 Sept. 1780, when he stood forward on the hustings, Burke referred to the death on the preceding day of Mr. Coombe, another candidate: “The melancholy event... reads to us an awful lesson 163against being too much troubled about any of the objects of ordinary ambition. The worthy gentleman who has been snatched from us ... has feelingly told us, what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue” (The Works of Edmund Burke, 9 vols., Boston, 1839, 2:286).


The Quincy family was given, too much given in the Adams view, to expressions of its consciousness of the distinction conferred by the antiquity of its marks of gentility (vol. 1:311–312; 3:11–12, 411). On the arrival of the first Edmund Quincy in America in 1633 and of the first Henry Adams at roughly the same time, see A Pride of Quincys, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1969, p. [1].

The manner of marking the two-hundredth anniversary was described by President Quincy’s son Edmund: “The whole family being assembled we all signed a record of the occasion written on parchment and intended to be kept in the archives of the family for the benefit of future generations.... We had singing and dancing and a very elegant supper in the West parlor. Mrs. John Quincy Adams was there too. Pres. A. was absent on a journey.” (Journal, 4 Sept. 1833, Quincy Family Papers, MHi.)

Thursday. 5th. CFA Thursday. 5th. CFA
Thursday. 5th.

Went to town accompanied by my brother. The day was cloudy and very sultry indeed. I passed much of my time at the House and at an Auction sale of the furniture of Mrs. H. G. Otis who being about to cross the Atlantic winds up here. I attended for the purpose of purchasing a small dining table, instead of which I got a large one at a price not much greater so that I did very well.1 This and some Commissions wore away the day until time to return. Afternoon again passed in a similar way. Finished the Index work for the whole making five Volumes, and got all but one in readiness for binding. This has been a labor voluntarily undertaken, but I hope it will prove somewhat of a security. After the binding is done I shall proceed with my copying. It is high time if I intend to begin at all to think seriously of Hutchinson. Evening quietly at home.


The auction held at 8 Somerset Street, the home of the widow of Harrison Gray Otis Jr., included a “set of Grecian dining tables” (Columbian Centinel, 5 Sept., p. 3, col. 7). On Mrs. Otis (Eliza Boardman), see vol. 4:185 and entry for 1 May, above.

Friday. 6th. CFA Friday. 6th. CFA
Friday. 6th.

I went to town again this morning and was occupied in the closing directions for the house, which has at last resumed it’s natural appearance. I was obliged to attend to a thousand little things which go into the sum total of starting a household, as my Wife is not able to attend to any thing, and Mrs. Frothingham upon whom I much depended has been called away to New York. She returned yesterday, 164and I saw her this morning. She looks very much fatigued. My time passed without my nothing it until my usual hour for return.

Poor Henry Brooks was brought here and thus closes the scene with him. It appears that he has been diseased in his liver for upwards of a year, and that no human aid could have effected his restoration. It is a very extraordinary case. His complexion was exceedingly sallow, but I never should have dreamed of his being unsound. This circumstance is a relief against all doubts of his medical treatment.

My Afternoon was a clearing up one. I finished off all the work that remained, and restored things as much as I was able to their places. The family went to town to see Miss Kemble as Julia in the Hunchback1 so that we had a very quiet evening of it. Nothing material.


The Hunchback by Sheridan Knowles had become a fixture in the repertory (see vol. 4:413–414). With this performance the Tremont Theatre, redecorated and with gas lighting substituted for oil, began its new season (Columbian Centinel, 4 Sept., p. 2, col. 4).