This day was spent at home, in finishing my lord Bacon and in reading miscellanies. To continue the review of past books, the next one that I took up was the Confessions of an Opium Eater1
a book sent here for Madame by Mr. Addington.2
It is a very odd thing and a very amusing one, but the language is dressed up so bombastically that I am always in doubt whether he is ludicrously disposed or utters this with intention and in earnest. Such an incoherent mass it is hardly possible to meet with any where, and at the same time the portions of it are beautiful at others ridiculous and at others solemnly in earnest. It is a compound, and we are led to think that if he has not suffered what he represents, he describes correctly, and if he has that he is unfortunate.
One thing in it I was obliged to criticize although against the opinion of my Mother. I thought the language inflated, and although it was argued against me that this was the fashionable tongue in England now, I had only to lament the corruptions of the age. I have now to recur very naturally to the review of this work which is in the North American,3
and appears to me rather a disgrace to it than otherwise. It is a patched up thing with neither wit, spirit or sense. In fact considering this number of the publication as the standard of what it is to be, I cannot help thinking there is a little depreciation from what it used to be. Mr. Everett gave a success to that publication and a brilliancy which deserved it, not to be equalled I think, by a man, whom I am inclined to think has rather too good an opinion of himself. For the present editor to be brilliant
he should have been formed of more fiery materials.
In the Evening as Monsieur was engaged to dine at Mr. Mosher’s4
and consequently was unable to go to Mr. Goodacre’s lecture, he gave me his ticket and I availed myself of it to hear him. Indeed my knowledge of Astronomy was very much improved by it. I obtained a clear view of the relative disposition of the planets and by means of his large orrery was enabled to obtain quite a good impression. It is my opinion that more might be learned by boys in this way than in the dull theories which they are forever and ever drilling and drilling into them. Mr. Goodacre appeared to be a very religious and enthusiastic man for he interspersed all his observations with allusions to the supreme Creator. This course on all accounts appears to be well fitted for instruction. Men of this kind however are but little encouraged in this country. We are too new a race ever to be performing any thing like extensive improvement, and perhaps it is well
for our resources are not wasted. Boston which professes to give such encouragement to talent, pays an extravagant price for admission to see a buffoon while it neglects the provision of a good standing company of actors to amuse us for a season.
I returned home well pleased, and having ordered some oysters this evening we were not so unfortunately disappointed, but sat down and paid great devotion to them, particularly Mary and myself, Abby as usual not knowing what to make of it. After a pleasant supper and a cigar with John, I went to bed.
1. Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, London, 1822.
2. Henry Unwin Addington, British chargé in Washington from 1823 to 1825. Bradford Perkins has edited Youthful America: Selections from Henry Unwin Addington’s Residence in the United States of America, 1822, 23, 24, 25, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1960, which contains colorful glimpses of JQA.
3. Willard Phillips, “Confessions of an Opium-Eater,” North American Review, 42:90–98 (Jan. 1824). The editor of the Review was Jared Sparks (1789–1866); his predecessor had been Edward Everett.
4. JQA’s Diary
records under this date that he “Dined with Mr. Mosher, at Georgetown,” and lists the company.