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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0032

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-31

Saturday 31st.

Exercises performed as usual. Madame and Mary went with Monsieur to Mrs. de Bresson’s funeral which took place today. To me at a distance it appeared a very long one. When they came home they had such long faces that they almost infected the house so that I was obliged to tell ridiculous stories about Cambridge to turn the feeling. Women are made of very irregular feelings for these laughed almost hysterically at my stories and although in very low spirits could not avoid paying attention to me. A man, had he been grieved, would have rejected all folly until the next day when his spirits return but a woman will grieve the next day and laugh if diverted. Their want of occupation gives them time and when they think of nothing else they lament.
However, I had been considerably shocked myself, and therefore went out and took a walk to the [Columbian] College, near which I { 76 } had not been for years. It appears to be a flourishing establishment and may at some future time be quite worthwhile but at present it is only a secondary affair. The afternoon was a pleasant one, but I could not help looking toward the eastern branch and thinking how low she was layed. So young. It might have been a blessing to her for it was said that her mind had been severely affected once or twice before. But still the shock was a severe one. And when I thought of all the heartless scandal that I had heard repeated over concerning her and the family I could not help loathing the common forms and the inhabitants of this mortal world.
I came home, more settled; the family appeared very chilly though. Madame has not been so well of late, which has damped us all, besides this occurrence. I do not think she is in such good spirits this winter as usual. Not so fond of society, she has become less ambitious of keeping the lead, probably because all her rivals have fallen before her. Mrs. Brown being the last one having disappeared. Johnson being sick too serves to depress the house. In fact Washington is not so delightful this winter from these causes, and because society is no novelty now, and my favoris never present.
After dinner, Monsieur and John went to hear Mr. Goodacre’s introduction to his astronomical lectures,1 while the rest of us stayed at home moping considerably.
1. Robert Goodacre published an Outline of Eight Lectures on Astronomy and of an Introductory Lecture Which Will Be Delivered in the Assembly Hall near the Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, Washington, 1824.

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0002-0001

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-02-01

Journal. February. 1824. Sunday 1st.

For the first time this Winter, we had a cold day, in truth, hitherto it has been most remarkable in this respect. I went to Mr. Baker’s Church1 however, with my father, and heard him deliver a Sermon in his own style. That is to say, a sort of familiar conversation with his people. It appears to me that this sort of preaching might be made a great deal of by an eloquent and a powerful man. And even without if a person possessed only tact and talent enough he might act with a great deal of force. It is a method which so easily takes hold of the multitude and shows so much of the native simplicity of the religion that it is surprizing able men have not oftener resorted to it. For my own part however I am much more affected I must confess with the regular service of the English Church.
Returning, I spent the rest of the day lounging about the house, { 77 } reading one or two French books and for the most part not doing much. Perhaps it would not be improper for me here to mention what I have read this winter, as my list has not hitherto been very extensive. I have in the first place, read a novel by Benjamin Constant which appears to me very beautifully written and interesting; the moral too I very much approve for it gives us an animated description of the waste of youth, through the indulgence of a careless passion and the feelings which attend on an extravagance in love. A full argument, it appears to me to the question of difference of age in marriage and has shown me the folly of my conduct and my wishes two or three years since. I have forgotten the name.2
It having become time to dress for dinner, Monsieur having made up a company for a Sunday dinner, we went upstairs, and after a long conversation on politics &c., New York &c., we prepared to go down. The gentlemen asked were Mr. Coolidge of Boston,3 Captain Pedrick formerly mentioned who has at last arrived, and Mr. Van Wyck of New York who is staying here at present with purpose not known but supposed.4 After a very long and tedious sitting upstairs dinner was announced and I by fate was thrown between the girls, as the gentlemen neither of them could endure the fire. Mr. Coolidge had his usual smooth insinuating New England way, which showed the man of wealth which Bostonians know so well how to do, and not the finished man which in such a station he might be. Mr. Van Wyck appeared to me the only really any thing like agreable man of the three and what he possessed appeared more of the homely and simple manners of a New York inlander than the polished ones of the city. But Captain Pedrick, alas! was doomed to be laughed at by the table in a most unmannerly way. Johnson, John, Madame, Mary and myself were on the full soar for half an hour, trying to make subjects for conversation and failing. For my part, I endeavoured to lay it all on the fire which affected me, but it made it more ridiculous and we were doomed to be unmannerly, for this day. The Captain looked very blue, and Abby appeared to be out of her element not being quick at such things. We soon rose, and then were doomed to a bore, as the visitors did not appear to know the rules.
1. Daniel Baker, minister of the Second Presbyterian Church in Washington (Bryan, Hist. of the National Capital, 2:181).
2. The novel was Constant’s Adolphe, Phila., 1817.
3. Presumably Joseph Coolidge, of the Boston mercantile family (Crawford, Mass. Families, 2:213 ff.).
4. Samuel Van Wyck, brother of Congressman William William Van Wyck, of New York, was eager to go to Europe as a diplomatic agent or messenger (JQA, Diary, 1 and 11 Feb. 1824).
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, 2017.