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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

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

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-02-02

Monday. 2d.

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 { 79 } 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.

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

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-02-03

Tuesday 3d.

The Weather continued remarkably cold and for the first time this season the Potomac exhibited a thick covering of ice over it’s surface. For my part I stayed at home all day and read some numbers in the Enuite de la Sainte Pelagie, a very well written thing but severely reflecting on the conduct of the French government.
Madame was sufficiently well today to go out and pay visits, and Miss Mary was sent to Kalorama1 with the Carriage to bring Miss McKnight down to stay here a few days. Miss Cranch also came which fills up the house pretty well as there are nine of us now in the family. I am not sorry as the old proverb of “the more the merrier” is one which I am at present inclined to think well of, as the family has not yet got out of the dumps.
As it was the last evening at which I was to be present, Madame had the kindness to order the band, at the usual Tuesday Evening. But I did not avail myself much of the invitation as I always prefer to walk about and see the people. For my own part, I danced with Miss McKnight in the regular dances and nobody else. She is a young lady of that description that one observation is enough. There is one thing remarkable about her though, that she is extremely ladylike in her manners and although a little too precise has more of the “ton de la bonne compagnie société” than girls here usual have. I cannot { 80 } help making an exception of the Miss Cottringers who are more praiseworthy as they are more ardent tempers. I have never seen any thing gauche or improper in them. They are not so much out this winter and I have paid them nothing but a card visit as yet and it is so late now I do not intend it. I again asked Miss Peter. It has been a singular circumstance throughout the winter that at almost every party at which I have been present I have asked her, and she has always been preengaged, not that this has been matter of sorrow for I think that she is not the woman which I was formerly inclined to think her. Too much sameness is apt to cloy and at the same time her stiff behaviour. She holds her neck too stiffly and dances badly.
Miss Selden was very cool to me all the evening and it was the same with me as I had found observations had been made upon John. I did not wish to have him continue in the track so set the example against it. John did dance with her and excite remark as much as usual. He intends nothing but is singularly unfortunate in his situations. I asked her myself not to appear too abrupt about knowing her to be engaged.2 Mrs. Sullivan was gracious to me this evening, something very uncommon, and unexpected. I think but poorly of her. She is sister to Winthrop of our class.3 A Mrs. Rieves was here the wife of a new Virginia Member, herself a bride.4 She was not handsome, but lively enough. John danced with her, so took the trouble from me.
After the company had all retreated except Miss dWolf’s and Mrs. Dodge, we had a Cottillion, I dancing with Miss Cranch. A very good sort of mouse. Johnson was hooked into an acquaintance with Miss D’Wolf but could not go to dance. After which we departed to rest.
1. Kalorama, the old estate of Joel Barlow, owned in 1824 by Col. George Bomford of the ordnance bureau, lay just west of the bounds of the city, between Florida Avenue and Rock Creek (Bryan, Hist. of the National Capital, 1:240, 582; 2:8).
2. CFA probably meant: “I asked her myself not to appear too abrupt, knowing her about to be engaged.”
3. George Edward Winthrop, Harvard 1825.
4. Mrs. William Cabell Rives, the former Judith Page Walker (DAB).
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.