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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0006-0018

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-05-18

Tuesday. May 18th. VIII:30.

Although not extraordinarily late, I found my breakfast laid by and the room cleaned up. I was therefore reminded that the indulgence of former days was over, that the departure of my brother John who used to make this sort of indulgence more valuable, had broken all my plans. This is the first vacation that I have spent at Quincy without him. And here it is that I feel his absence most. All our parties and diversions are broken up for want of somebody to carry them on with and I find myself doomed to the variety of books. It is happy for me that I can bear this without complaining, but I must acknowledge, I cannot see how John could have lived here through four months in the same train. He paid me two compliments by requesting my society which I was willing enough to give him as the College studies were difficult and tedious. Since his departure from here, Quincy has become less attractive and has seen less of me. So that I now feel precisely as if in a strange family. Abby looks better than she used to, probably for discontinuing her loads of medicine. She is not very communicative about Washington. I think she has much improved by showing less of her fretting temper and by having acquired more of { 147 } the manners of a lady. This is much more striking when we see the comparison.
I spent the morning partly in writing my Journal, partly in reading the first half of Young’s Ninth and last Night. This man was a singular character. His temper in his youth at least does not seem to have been the most gloomy. I imagine that he made himself so to write as I have sometimes made myself melancholy to enjoy the luxury. Lorenzo appears to be not the finest character in the world. The life vehemently denies that he intended his son to be represented. But this is written as if the son himself was the author. Dr. Johnson says but little. I took a ride also with Grandfather who appears remarkably feeble. He requires support now which I have never known before. We did not take a long ride for he could not bear it and merely stopped at Mr. Marston’s1 to hear what he had to say. He looked very busy, and important as usual. The day was a remarkably fine one, and he came home considerably refreshed. The rest of the morning was spent in lounging and keeping the old gentleman company, which is something of a task. My spirits are cheerful, but there is always something chilling to me here which I do not believe it will ever be possible for me to get over.
After dinner, feeling in singular state of humour, I took a walk up Montezillo as my Grandfather has called it2—and seated myself down on a rock where I had a view of all the harbour and of Boston. I had indulged myself in a remarkable train of musing on “auld lang syne.” My situation in this life, and the many pleasant hours I have spent here with John. For my pleasurable associations here will always turn upon him as we saw none else. I thought of our future course, that we should never see so much of each other again, that soon he would have a part to take in this world and would be engaged in a heavy responsibility. I ran over our future prospects, George with his marked distinctly for he will have much to struggle with, he has taken his course.3 John with his which is yet at his own disposal.4 And I, who am doomed to live an independent and a single life. I have not enjoyed pleasure of this sort for a long time, as it paralizes exertion and only makes me feel that I have neglected my duty. Thus I spent two hours after which I returned home and finding no other employment, took down Tacitus and commenced my destined task of translating the life of Agricola. In looking over a copy which was in my g[rand]father’s library5 I came to a mark of my father’s in which he put down his progress forty years ago. I determined to pursue the same course and for today I translated three sections. It is my intention if I have { 148 } time to reduce it all to writing in order to improve my style which is said to be barren.
Tea was announced as I finished—and I went, after which I went up to the old gentleman’s sitting room where I amused him by reading aloud part of a book which he has just received called “The constitution of England explained.” It is the production of a man by the name of Cartwright6 who appears to be one of the extravagant advocates of radical reform in England. He writes as if he was not perfectly sound, certainly not perfectly correct. The book was very dull also, so I shut it up as soon as I obtained convenient opportunity. I then read over John’s letters7 to my Grandfather, and three of others to him, after which I went down stairs to hear the ladies talk of dress as Mrs. Clark and Elizabeth had just come out of town. This was not my forte so I laid down quietly on the sopha. Afterwards I had a little conversation with Mrs. Adams upon Shaw whose place of retirement I had not before known, and then retired. XI:45.
1. Presumably John Marston, JA’s old friend.
2. After JA and Jefferson resumed their correspondence in 1812, JA fancied his Quincy estate as “Montezillo,” or little hill, as contrasted to “Monticello,” or Jefferson’s lofty mountain. This was one of several names JA gave his Quincy home. See JA, Diary and Autobiography, 3:248.
3. GWA was admitted to the Suffolk County bar in 1824 and in 1826 was chosen to the Massachusetts legislature.
4. Expelled from Harvard after the 1823 “rebellion,” JA2 was studying law in Washington under his father’s guidance.
5. For editions of Tacitus among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library, see Catalogue of JA’s Library, p. 240–241.
6. JQA’s copy of John Cartwright, The English Constitution Produced and Illustrated, London, 1823, is in the Stone Library. Among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library are two copies of the work (Catalogue of JA’s Library, p. 45).
7. Missing.

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0006-0019

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-05-19

Wednesday. May. 19th. VII:30.

I this Morning changed the time of rising according to admonition, and appeared downstairs before breakfast was over. The day was so disagreable that it would not allow of any body’s going out. So I spent the morning partly in reading the remainder of Young’s ninth Night and partly in writing my Journal. I am exceedingly glad that I have at last got through these Thoughts, as it is well to say that I have read them, but I doubt very much whether I shall be tempted to take them up in any great hurry, again. Parts I have been pleased with, parts I have considered sublime although I could not relish their sentiments or tendency and parts I have thought rather dull. The tendency of this book is much more dangerous than that of lighter books as it gives us too gloomy notions of our existence and of our Creator. Man was { 149 } not made to mourn unless he chose to do it himself. And it is too bad that any one should pretend to cry before they are hurt. I spent an hour in writing a letter to John1 also, the most quizzical affair, that I have seen for some time. Being in a state of terrible ennui I determined to dispense some of it upon him and therefore wrote upon nothing. Having made three pages out of this, I became perfectly satisfied and in the afternoon employed myself in translating five sections of the life of Agricola and in reading the sixth volume of Mosheim which I did not finish last term. There were but about forty pages which contained a short sketch of the Church during the eighteenth century. It is short and unsatisfactory and merely connected as an Appendix to the rest of the History. There are some Appendixes to the book which I did not read, as they treated more of theological than historical points and were written not by Dr. Mosheim but by his translator, Dr. Maclaine,2 on disputed tracts.
Mr. Quincy3 was here this afternoon from Boston and amused my Grandfather for some time, with a story of somebody in Boston and Mr. Pickering’s book. I think people tell him too plainly for his spirit that he is dying for however philosophically he may bear it, it is not possible for human nature to think upon such a subject and not feel depressed. Anxious as he is also, concerning the result of these attacks upon his reputation. He did not take his ride today. So I entertained him with a little more of Major Cartwright’s prospects of the English Constitution. As I am not over anxious to learn such a piece of nonsense I skip over much which he knows nothing about. For he does not appear to miss any connection in the sense. I had just finished a dialogue when I was luckily interrupted.
This was occasioned by the announcement of the arrival of Thomas Hellen from Portsmouth through Boston. He has been at School at Exeter for some time past, fitting for admission to College. He has grown considerably and begins to acquire the appearance of a man. I was glad to see him as I had just begun to feel the want of Society. He is the most agreable fellow that I could have of all I know. There is something remarkable in all these Hellens that I never could understand, particularly their views towards each other and their peculiarities for all have them. I never could account for it. They suspect or disagree with each other and still have considerable [word omitted]. I had reason to know Mary well, I have been intimate with Johnson, and I have seen this one from a boy of ten years, still there is something in them which puzzles me. Accordingly my address is not the most cordial and Thomas made something of a complaint of it at first. { 150 } I like the young men and have too deeply loved the woman but this has been their reward. I am determined to break myself of this and, conscious that this is a good time, I will endeavour. At Quincy, surrounded by people whom I am obliged to consider hypocrites towards me, my conduct cannot be such as elsewhere, but this must be got over. I have lost the good will of this people because I made no exertion to gain it but have on the contrary expressed my disgust pretty freely. They are too unpleasant to me, being all hypocrites themselves and I not swallowing it down quite as well. Mrs. Clark with her piety puts me in a passion, knowing that had her husband lived, she would have had other fish to fry. Her playing the doll with her child4 and her terrible habits of affectation have displeased me while what she is pleased to call my impiety has disgusted her. Of the rest I will speak at another time.
After tea I made an exertion to be lively and succeeded for the evening amusing the ladies with nothing at all until late. Thomas and I were the last to go to bed as we talked of Washington, my father, the election which he appears as all the Hellens do, to be very deeply interested in, and his prospects. He has better views of nature and the world than I expected, on the whole was much pleased. We staid up in this way, talking and smoking until I found that we were encroaching upon the family rest and the morning. XII.
1. Missing.
2. Archibald Maclaine.
3. Josiah Quincy (1772–1864), Harvard 1790, whose life encompassed several distinguished careers: Federalist Congressman, 1804–1813; Mayor of Boston, 1823–1828; and President of Harvard, 1829–1845. His wife was the former Eliza Susan Morton. See DAB and Adams Genealogy.
4. Susan Maria Clark (1818–1853). See Adams Genealogy.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.