Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

December 18th.


19th. CFA


19th. CFA

Arose this morning considerably refreshed and walked over to Mrs. Gilman’s to breakfast. As I did not intend to board there any longer, I took my leave of her and also of some of the students. Bartlett shook my hand but not so cordially as formerly on account of some late prejudice as to my conduct I presume, instilled into him by Greenough1 and probably in some measure because he was left out in the invitation of the 17th. Having taken leave of the Lyceum also, I got into the Stage for Boston with pleasure. My feelings however were not so extatic as on the same occasion last Winter.

Smith and Wickham were in the Stage, the former going to Philadelphia, the latter on his return home.2 Having left his class he finds the study of the law too dull for him and on that account he goes. Mr. Shaw was in the Stage also, appeared to be in low spirits and did not talk much. I am sorry for this man as it appears to me had his fate been kept a little more in his own power by himself, he might have been if not a distinguished man, at least a very respectable one. We left each other at the office and I have not seen him since.3

I went immediately to George’s room where I found him reading as usual. We had some conversation but on the whole the time passed heavily. The rain began to pour in torrents and I felt dull. After packages from all the Welshes4 &c. &c. had been given to me and some bustle about the town, I got into the stage and in a few minutes 14we were off. Myself in a bad humour as I was apprehensive that the roads would be horrible, the rain continuing. Also on account of a bundle which had just been put under my care and which I, fearing or foreseeing, had long and vehemently resisted. I was also troubled with a package for the United States Bank of Philadelphia which I would gladly have been rid of, had it been possible to avoid taking it. The rain continued violent for four hours and then ceased but the snow had all been washed away except a few drifts. This however did not retard our course in the least for I seldom recollect having travelled faster.

It is the greatest amusement to a person who is fond of observing others, to ride in a stage coach, for in it he sees so much variation in character that he can easily form his contrasts. A corner seat in front is good for an observer as he has more command of faces and can gratify himself with all those little incidents which a want of employment occasions him here to notice. It is not time wasted to move thus for one obtains as much insight into the human character in this way as he could by reading books for a great length of time. In this our first stage we had a young man by the name of Sheaff from Philadelphia, who not long since took a degree at Yale and had not got over the love of that sort of fun so prevalent in Colleges.5 Wild and fearless, he amused me much in giving some account of New Haven frolics which I returned by talking of Cambridge. Besides him were a gentleman and lady who appeared to belong to that sect of Christians called pious who delight in nothing but the length of their pastors’ discourses. Here we had a contrast at once, and I am afraid that their ears were not a little shocked at the freedom of our conversation. In my opinion it is better to appear worse than I really am besides a sort of malicious delight in provoking such persons. These affected my conduct. But they left us soon and we went on through the night between sleeping and waking without any material incidents happening. We were considerably amused by a hog who took it into his head to keep up with us for about half an hour grunting with such vehemence that I thought of the story of the little gray man which had been told us with the appearance of so much seriousness, when we were congregated together at twelve o’clock on a very stormy night last term.


George Barrlett and Horatio Greenough, both juniors, of Roxbury, Mass. ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


Calvin Stephen Smith, of Natchez, Miss., a senior, and John H. Wickham, a law student (same).


William Smith Shaw (1778–1826), son of AA’s sister, Elizabeth (Smith) Shaw Peabody, had been private secretary to President John Adams and later 15was clerk of the Massachusetts District Court in Salem. He was the principal founder and benefactor of the Boston Athenaeum. CFA probably felt that Shaw’s lameness from birth prevented his advancement in life. See Adams Genealogy.


Dr. Thomas Welsh (1752–1831) and his family of Boston, who were kinsmen of the Adamses (the doctor’s wife was AA’s first cousin). Both JA2 and CFA had boarded with them while attending the Boston Latin School from 1817 to 1819 (JQA, Diary, 6 Sept. 1817; see Adams Genealogy).


Either George [D.] or William John Sheaffe (Dexter, Yale Graduates Later than 1815 , p. 96–97).