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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0005-0007-0012

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1760-11-25

Novr. 25th. 1760.

Rode to the Iron Works Landing to see a Vessell launched. And after Launching went to smoke a Pipe, at Ben. Thayers, where the Rabble filled the House. Every Room, kitchen, Chamber was crowded with People.1 Negroes with a fiddle. Young fellows and Girls dancing in the Chamber as if they would kick the floor thro. Zab Hayward, not finding admittance to the Chamber, gathered a Circle round him in the lower Room. There He began to shew his Tricks and Postures, and Activity. He has had the Reputation, for at least fifteen Years, of the best Dancer in the World in these Towns. Several attempted, but none could equal him, in nimbleness of heels. But he has no Conception of the Grace, the Air nor the Regularity of dancing. His Air is absurd and wild, desultory, and irregular, as his Countenance is low and ignoble. In short the Air of his Countenance, the Motions of his Body, Hands, and Head, are extreamly silly, and affected and mean.
When he first began, his Behaviour and Speeches were softly silly, but as his Blood grew warm by motion and Liquor, he grew droll. He caught a Girl and danced a Gigg with her, and then led her to one side of the Ring and said, “Stand there, I call for you by and by.” This was spoke comically enough, and raised a loud laugh. He caught another Girl, with light Hair, and a Patch on her Chin, and held her by the Hand while he sung a song, describing her as he said. This tickled the Girls Vanity, for the song which he applied to her described a very fine Girl indeed.
One of his witty droll sayings he thought, was this. I am a clever fellow, or else the Devil is in me. That is a Clever Girl or else the Devil is in her. Wm. Swan is such another Funmaking animal of diverting Tricks.
Hayward took one Girl by the Hand, and made a Speech to her.
{ 173 }
“I must confess I am an old Man, and as father Smith says hardly capable of doing my Duty.” This raised a broad Laugh too.
Thus, in dancing, singing songs, drinking flip, running after one Girl, and married Woman and another, and making these affected, humorous Speeches, he spent the whole Afternoon.—And Zab and I were foolish enough to spend the whole afternoon in gazing and listening.
Gurney danced, but was modest and said nothing. E. Turner danced not, but bawled aloud.—God dam it, and dam it, and the Devil, &c.—And swore he’d go to Captn. Thayers, and be merry and get as drunk as the Devil. He insisted upon it, drunk he would get. And indeed, not 2 pence better than drunk he was.
Fiddling and dancing, in a Chamber full of young fellows and Girls, a wild Rable of both sexes, and all Ages, in the lower Room, singing dancing, fiddling, drinking flip and Toddy, and drams.—This is the Riot and Revelling of Taverns And of Thayers frolicks.
1. The “Iron Works Landing” and Benjamin Thayer’s tavern, on the Monatiquot River where it flows into Fore River Bay, may be seen at the foot of JA ’s sketch map of taverns in Braintree and Weymouth, reproduced in this volume. This entire entry was omitted by CFA in editing JA ’s Diary.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0005-0007-0013

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1760-11-26

1760. Novr. 26th. Wednesday.1

Ten days are now elapsed, since I began Hale the 2d time, and all the Law I have read, for 10 days, is that Book once thro. I read Woods Institute thro the first Time with Mr. Put. in twice that time i.e. in 3 Weeks, and kept a school every day. My present Inattention to Law is intolerable and ruinous.
1. This entry and those that follow, through 1 Dec. 1760, are again from D/JA/4, JA ’s record of studies.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0005-0007-0014

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1760-11-26

1760. Novr. 26th Wednesday.

Night before Thanksgiving.—I have read a Multitude of Law Books—mastered but few. Wood. Coke. 2 Vols. Lillies Ab[ridgmen]t. 2 Vols. Salk[eld’s] Rep[orts]. Swinburne. Hawkins Pleas of the Crown. Fortescue. Fitzgibbons. Ten Volumes in folio I read, at Worcester, quite thro—besides Octavos and Lesser Volumes, and many others of all sizes that I consulted occasionally, without Reading in Course as Dictionaries, Reporters, Entries, and Abridgments, &c.
I cannot give so good an Account of the Improvement of my two last Years, spent in Braintree. However I have read no small Number of Volumes, upon the Law, the last 2 Years. Justinians Institutes I { 174 } | view have read, thro, in Latin with Vinnius’s perpetual Notes, Van Muydens Tractatio Institutionum Justiniani, I read thro, and translated, mostly into English, from the same Language. Woods Institute of the Civil Law, I read thro. These on the civil Law; on the Law of England I read Cowells Institute of the Laws of England, in Imitation of Justinian, Dr. and student, Finch’s Discourse of Law, Hales History, and some Reporters, Cases in Chancery, Andrews &c. besides occasional searches for Business. Also a general Treatise of naval Trade and Commerce, as founded on the Laws and Statutes. All this series of Reading, has left but faint Impressions, and [a] very Imperfect system of Law in my Head.
I must form a serious Resolution of beginning and pursuing quite thro, the Plans of my Lords Hale, and Reeve. Woods Inst[itutes] of common Law I never read but once, and my Ld. Coke’s Com[mentary] on Lit[tleton] I never read but once. These two Authors I must get, and read, over and over again. And I will get em too, and break thro, as Mr. Gridly expressed it, all obstructions.
Besides, I am but a Novice in natural Law and civil Law. There are multitudes of excellent Authors, on natural Law, that I have never read, indeed I never read any Part of the best authors, Puffendorf and Grotius. In the Civil Law, there are Hoppius, and Vinnius, Commentators on Justinian, Domat, &c. besides Institutes of Cannon and feudal Law, that I have to read.
Much may be done in two Years, I have found already. And let it be my Care, that at the End of the next two Years I be better able to shew that no Time has been lost than I ever have been yet.
Let me practice the Rule of Pythagoras.

Μηδ᾽ ὕπνον μαλακοῖ σίν έπ᾽ ὄμμασι προσδέξασθαι

πρίν τῶ ν ἡμερινῶ ν ἔργων τρὶς ἕκαστον επελθεῖ ν

πη παρεβην; τί δ᾽ερεξα; τι μοι δεον οὐκ ετελεσθη;1

Thus let me, every night before I go to bed, write down in this Book, what Book of Law, I have read.
1. Quoted from the “Golden Verses of Pythagoras,” a collection of maxims actually written by disciples of Pythagoras. Professor Johannes A. Gaertner of Lafayette College has kindly furnished the following translation: “Let not sleep be admitted to tiring eyes before going over each of the daily tasks thrice. What have I omitted? What have I achieved? What has not been finished that was my duty?” Years later JA read through the “Golden Verses” in a French translation and wrote a rather bemused marginal commentary on them which has been published by Zoltán Haraszti in More Books, 1:106–110 (April 1926). Of the first sentence in the present passage he remarked: “Wise but very difficult.” Still later, JQA prefixed a verse translation of this passage to his Diary for 1819; see his Memoirs , 4:203.