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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0028

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-27

Tuesday. 27th.

This morning after having gone through the customary portion, I went to the House of Representatives not with the expectation however, of meeting with any thing remarkable. Mr. McLane was delivering his reasons for the passage of the old affair concerning the roads and canals which I believed had been settled long ago.1 He is a sound man, and has some influence or had when the Congress was less brilliant. Not pleasant in his manner, a person will find matter but nothing to amuse in the process of acquiring it. He was not “metal so attractive” though as to keep me long here. Monsieur was at the House today, which is a very uncommon thing. There being a meeting of the sinking fund2 he always devotes a portion of his hours at the House which can be spent in no other way.
We came home and after dinner dressed ourselves for the ball, at Mr. Livingston’s.3 Madame being unwell did not go, the rest departed together. The ball was given to the bride who was there with Cornelia, Anne sick at home. Cornelia was the only girl I knew in the room and consequently my evening was not perfectly pleasant. I was much diverted with some sly remarks of Mrs. Brent concerning John, whom she appeared to consider a gone case; she also informed me that as she knew the symptoms, she certainly must be the best judge. This I allowed her. She is a very pleasant and ladylike woman, in my mind far superior to the common run here, but there is a little repelling stiffness which is disagreable. She deports herself very matronly.
Mr. Livingston’s good supper and Champagne Wine compensated fully for all my want of dancing, and after the ladies retired we formed a retired table very pleasantly. Blunt, Watkins, John and myself. Blunt, I have often mentioned and shall only say, I was better pleased with him than usual. Watkins is a very pleasant fellow indeed and full of life. After drinking a sufficit of what Blunt was pleased to call “Cider” and eating Canvass Backs we again went upstairs, and as I felt very much like dancing I was introduced to and danced with Miss Hamm of Alexandria. My head was turning very rapidly and I felt in extravagantly high spirits. I did nothing however which could in the least compromise my character. The only difficulty was that I could not plainly distinguish her questions, so that I had to answer at random, but it was with general success. She asked me my opinion { 70 } of Miss Crowninshield and here I got into a difficulty for I did not speak in the highest terms of them and afterwards understood they [are] intimates from a boarding school. This one was a pleasant girl, with considerable vivacity—and probably made allowances for Cider. Watkins in dancing the reel was thrown down in elegant style and in attempting to recover himself drew up Miss Orr’s gown to a considerable height. On the whole, I had a delightful time and taking another glass of cider with Blunt we three got in to the Carriage and dropping him arrived safe at home. The family had gone long before.
1. Louis McLane (1786–1857), of Delaware, favored the bill to procure surveys and estimates of necessary roads and canals (Annals of Congress, 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1217–1232).
2. The Commissioners of the Sinking Fund, who dealt with the funding of the national debt, were Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins, Attorney General William Wirt, JQA, Registrar of the Treasury Joseph Nourse, and one Marshall (JQA, Diary, 6 Feb. 1824). As a member of the commission JQA signed a resolution recommending the purchase of 7-percent stock according to law (same, 26, 27 Jan. 1824).
3. Robert LeRoy Livingston’s wedding party for Robert Brent and his wife (JQA, Diary, 27 Jan. 1824).

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0029

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-28

Wednesday 28th.

Coming down after the usual time spent upstairs in the morning, I heard the death of Mrs. de Bresson1 announced, a circumstance very shocking indeed. This lady was married at about this time last year, I attended her parties upon the occasion and officiated in a little ceremony to do her honour. She was then in all the pride of youth and beauty with hopes held out to her of all happiness. But her year had been one of misery, she had suffered by the ague and fever, by discouragement and bad treatment, finally had died in child birth. It is a melancholy case and exhibits to us in full force the mortality of the world. It affects us much more to see a person cut off in the midst of youth and life when she can enjoy it most than when the person is so old it is not more than to be expected. But I could not submit to feel much as it is only putting oneself out of order for nothing. Feelings and thoughts of this kind arise too often even in the usual run of life, so we must endeavour to repel them with vehemence. Accordingly John and myself took a walk with Mary and Abby to see Miss Selden, as I did not think it worthwhile to attend the House this morning. The lady was in full bloom, and looked as pretty as I ever saw her. There was considerable company there, all the Gales’s2 and others. As I did not know them I did not say a word. They soon retired, we took the usual formal set and then went ourselves.
{ 71 }
From here, John and I went to Street’s3 painting rooms, to see the pictures he has up here for Exhibition. There were four of them, a Maniac, which was pretty well, the figure a little too much swollen, but generally the expression was good. This was decidedly the best of the pictures. Two others were so poor and struck me so little that I do not recollect their names. The fourth was from Thomson’s Summer, Musidora on the brink of the stream represented perfectly naked—a fine description but the painting unequal to it. So I retired quite displeased. The face was terribly ugly but the limbs were quite well shaped and might have had an impression had a very little more been exposed. He is pretty true to the description however.4 The third picture I recollect now, to have been Celadon and Amelia, struck by lightning, in Thomson, but the picture very faulty indeed. The dog which accompanies appeared the only natural part of the painting.5
In the evening we went to Mrs. Tayloe’s6 according to invitation, the rooms not remarkably well filled, all the corps diplomatique absent, and many others on account of the occurrence this morning. For myself I did not feel in very high spirits and had I, there was nobody here I wished to see. The Cottringers were not here. Miss McKnight was and I danced with her. Miss Clapham, of whom I should have given a description long since, for I was introduced to her on the fifteenth of the month at Mrs. Ringgold’s but as I forgot to make any mention of this party at that time I must insert it in a note to this volume.7 Watkins was here and lively enough, also Edward Kerr, whom I had not seen before to speak to since my return. He is a singular young man but one not much to my liking as I believe him to harbour in his breast, envy, malice, and all uncharitableness. I drank a good deal of punch with Watkins to try him, but he was steady as possible. Kerr was inclining, but the materials were exhausted. In short, such mean entertainment I do not think I ever saw before in any house in Washington. I did not dance much and enjoyed myself very moderately indeed. Dancing is not so agreable to me as it used to be, more on account of the difference in the society I presume than any other. These [confounded balls?] are very disgusting objects. Madame and Mary did not go on account of this morning’s affair, Monsieur, Abby and we two filling the carriage, as he is always ready and Abby, obedient. We soon went off, I did wish to dance a Spanish dance but Colonel’s black fiddlers could not play one.
1. Mrs. Charles de Bresson, the daughter of Judge Smith Thompson, was the wife of a secretary of the French legation in Washington (JQA, Diary, 28 Jan. 1824).
2. Presumably the family of Joseph { 72 } Gales (1786–1860), the co-editor of the National Intelligencer (DAB).
3. Robert Street (1796–1865), an American painter, who held an exhibition in Washington in 1824 and painted a portrait of Andrew Jackson (Groce and Wallace, Dict. Amer. Artists).
4. The painting depicted a famous scene in James Thomson’s Summer (first published London, 1727), lines 1269–1370. See entry for 3 May, and note, below.
5. See Thomson, Summer, lines 1169–1222.
6. Probably the wife of Col. John Tayloe, owner of the splendid country seat of Mount Airy, Virginia, and the famous Octagon House in Washington (Wharton, Social Life in the Early Republic, p. 65–66).
7. See concluding passage in entry for 15 Jan., above.
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.