A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Diary of John Quincy Adams, Volume 2

Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0003-0001-0016

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1788-01-16


It snow'd all the forenoon; but the weather continued moderating and in the afternoon, a steady rain took place of the snow: and when I came this evening from the office, the ground was covered all the way with one continual glare of ice. It was dangerous walking, and I came as much as half the way, without lifting my feet.
I spent the evening at home; writing to make good the time which I have lately lost; but I accomplished my purpose only in part.
It may be observed that I say of late, little, but of what I do in the evening; and the reason is, that the only varieties of any kind, that take place, are in that part of the day. At about nine in the morning, I regularly go to the Office, and when, I do not lose, my time in chat, with Amory or Townsend, I take up my lord Coke, and blunder along a few pages with him. At two I return to dinner. At three again attend at the office, and again consult my old author. There I remain till dark, and as Mr. Parsons for special reasons, to him best known, objects to our having a fire in the office, in the evening, while he is absent, as soon as day-light begins to fail, we put up our books, and then employ the remainder of the day, as best suits our convenience, and the feelings of the moment. I go but little into company, and yet I am not industrious. I am recluse, without being studious; and I find myself equally deprived of the pleasures of society, and of the sweet communion with the mighty dead. I am no stranger to the midnight lamp; yet I observe not that I make, a rapid progress in any laudable pursuit. I begin seriously to doubt of the goodness of my understanding, and am not without my fears, that as I increase { 346 } in years, the dulness of my apprehension likewise increases. But we are all mortal.

Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0003-0001-0017

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1788-01-17


Putnam called at our office this forenoon, and return'd Sullivan's Lectures, which he borrow'd about a fortnight ago. I pass'd the evening till 9, with Little and Putnam at Thompson's. We convers'd upon the subject of originality. Thompson opposed my sentiments upon that head, though, I believe he does not differ very widely from me.
I told him I was fond of novelty in characters, and was even pleased with excentricity if it was not affected. I cannot bear your people, who have no characters at all. And yet I could name many young gentlemen, who being merely blest by nature with a good memory, and by art with diligence and application; bustle through the world, and even find people, who will call them men, of genius. These fellows will always secure the favour of their superiors by an hypocritical kind of modesty. They will treat their equals equivocally, and suit their conduct to circumstances: but from those whom they consider as their inferiors, they will claim the same veneration which they themselves pay to men from whom they have any thing to expect. I have sometimes been fatigued to death, with a coxcomb of this kind, in hearing him deal out for an half an hour together, a parcel of common place thoughts, with as much pomposity, as if he was all the time delivering aphorisms. And this he will do in the company of three or four women, who will all the time wonder at the immensity of his abilities. But of such an one, I can neither disguise nor conceal my contempt. His genius is imitation, and his skill is cunning. I had much rather see a person, who can invent, who can create, even though the production, should be more imperfect.1
1. In JQA's line-a-day entry, he adds, “Putnam went off” (D/JQA/13, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 16).

Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0003-0001-0018

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1788-01-18


This afternoon I wrote a couple of letters to send by Mr. Atkins, who goes to Boston to'morrow. One for N. Freeman, and the other from [for] Wm. Cranch,1 and as I could not finish before dark, I ventured to stay in the office till seven o'clock. I then { 347 } went with Townsend, to Mr. Atkins's, to give him the letters: Miss Dashwood was there: a young Lady from Boston. She speaks thick, and quick, which is at present all I have to say of her; except that by candle-light, she looks handsome. I came home, and then went with the Doctor to Mrs. Emery's. There we found Mrs. Jackson, and Miss Fletcher. Mrs. Jackson, looks better than I ever saw her, and was in high spirits. She talk'd almost all the time, and would have talk'd well, had she not appeared rather too fond, in repeating some gentleman's speeches, to render every word, even those which are most superfluous; words which if used before women, even by a man, at least argue ill-breeding; but which the lips of every woman, ought to be ignorant of pronouncing: Miss Fletcher sat two hours, and scarcely opened her mouth. The poor girl is in love, and when her friend is absent,2 she can utter nothing but sighs. This evening it is true, she had no chance to speak, but she was not only silent but absent. She did not appear to enjoy the conversation, and all Mrs. Jackson's wit, could scarcely soften her features to a smile.
After they were gone, we sat there about half an hour in chat with Miss Emery: she is Thompson's favorite, and in this as in many other instances, he shows the goodness of his taste.
1. Neither letter found.
2. Presumably JQA's fellow law student William Amory, whom Lucy Fletcher later married.
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.