Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1



Thursday. 8th. CFA


Thursday. 8th. CFA
Thursday. 8th.

We were busily employed during the whole course of the day in arranging the supper table and the rooms below. It does not appear to me that I had one minute’s rest during the day. A Supper table was laid with seventy covers, but as the crowd was to be so great the people were to eat standing. The rooms were all to be opened except Madame’s, which was to be used as a punch room, as it opened into the Supper room. The chalking below, took the whole 34day, and had a pretty effect. We took an early dinner at a little after four, and were prepared at six all except the lighting up. Company flocked in so early, that they could hardly get through with this in season. And it was not till the upper rooms (only two were opened at first) were crowded to suffocation almost, that the lower ones were thrown open.1

Now the ladies must be carried down, so I meeting Miss Vail first, immediately offered my arm and down we went among the first. The effect was very beautiful. The rooms all round were hung with wreaths stuck with roses, and in each festoon a small illumination lamp was fixed, and at the angles, large bouquets. The pillars also, were wreathed all up in order to match. At the extreme, Monsieur’s book case was stationed it being thought too heavy for removal but it was covered with green, and on the top were placed a whole forest of flower pots with pretty flowers, and between them were illumination lamps. The lustre was woven with green and from the top there hung a festoon which attached itself to the top of each pillar. This was the appearance of three rooms. The floors were chalked with eagles, flowers etc.

The general, to whom all this was given, appeared and won his way through every thing, the hero of the evening. Every body wanted to see him, every body to speak to him. He is tall and rather thin with an exceedingly wrinkled and narrow face a little stern but not commonly expressing the quality he is so noted for. For myself after dancing rather a stupid set with Miss Vail I was very glad to get off and begin to look about me. So I went upstairs for a little conversation, found up there, Mary and Miss McKnight together talking so I just stood and talked with them for a little while. And walking about as well as I could through the crowd I happened to meet Mrs. Thornton2 puffing and blowing at the heat who upon seeing me, immediately tacked me to Miss Calvert whom I never had the pleasure of seeing before, and begged me to go down which I accordingly did. After a great deal of trouble to find a place I got one in the second room. In the mean time to divert her I carried her around the rooms and excited my talkative powers to the utmost but if ever stupidity existed I think it must be here. She is young and new, which may be some reason, but I should scarcely imagine this to be enough for such a lack of power. She knew no body and therefore stood silent when I did not speak to her. This was very tiresome to me and I cursed Mrs. Thornton. Finally though she happened to meet a boarding school acquaintance and then had tongue enough to talk, but from the 35sample of their conversation which I was obliged to overhear, I did not think much of it. The dance appeared long to me and I was very heartily glad when the end of it put a stop to so hard a task upon my civility.

I was impatient also on another account. Mr. and Mrs. Brent, the new married couple, whose wedding on Tuesday night I forgot to mention, had just come in, with Anne and Cornelia “en attendance.” One of them, Anne, I immediately seized upon, and after some exertion obtained a place for her in the dance. This cottillion was as much too short as the other was too long, for I was so happy in seeing one of my “favoris”3 again that I did not mind the minutes as they passed. She is rather a silent girl than otherwise, but there is a sort of feeling of voluptuousness around her that always makes me delighted to dance with her. She is one of those women whose very looks and eye cannot help discovering to a man that her passions are always making strange work within. I promised myself another dance with her, which owing to the crowd I did not obtain. After a short interval, I met Cornelia and had a great deal of very pleasant conversation with her. She talks more than her sister and is more beautiful but so young yet that she has not attained to that power over my feelings which Anne has. I asked her many questions as to the billet of ladies sent me to dream on with the wedding cake and had almost said she would have come nearer to my dreams if she had sent her own name, but I thought it would have been too much of a compliment and perhaps, a truth. With perseverance, we managed to obtain a place in a cottillion, and danced a long dance which appeared so short to me that every set, I swore we had danced one less than before, until I found people out becoming offended, (justly perhaps) when I gave way. She did look uncommonly beautiful this evening.

It became now almost supper time and as I had not spoken to Miss Selden the whole evening I went up to her, and had a pleasant conversation with her. The ladies and gentlemen were most of them unaware at least downstairs that the supper room was open. Consequently I took the advantage, and when her dance was over, slipped her arm in mine and carried her upstairs. Although the room was very crowded I managed to push through all opposition and we walked all round the supper observing every thing and every body. She is very pleasant and full of fire and life. She introduced me to Mrs. Miller the half sister of Mr. Crawford as if I was to see a curiosity. The old lady was rather amusing and overpowered us by the profusion 36of her “honey.” Professor Everett was here but as I was not honoured with a bow, I gave none.

We returned downstairs and then had a very pleasant dance, for by this time the room had become very thin on account of the news of Supper. This continual exercise had fatigued me exceedingly, and had I not been enlivened by music and wine, I do not think I could have got through it. Being now somewhat excited by these causes I danced with Miss McKnight, a young lady whom I had the pleasure of dancing with at Mrs. Wirt’s and who is an old acquaintance. The fact is that I take no pleasure in any except the old acquaintance and have been introduced to but two new ladies this Winter Miss Calvert and Miss Crowninshield, neither of whom have given me any wish or desire to become acquainted with more. This was the last cottillion which I danced as I found the fatigue fast growing upon me. So I went back to the tables to talk with Johnson in a corner.

Thus passed the evening and the company by this time were going off in crowds, so that the dances were changed to reels. As I felt as if I had not finished the evening, I again selected Miss Selden and we danced or at least I walked a reel, for I was perfectly done up, and in consequence ordered the music to stop long before it was wished. After making my excuses to her I went upstairs and threw myself on the sofa perfectly exhausted. Miss Cranch4 staid here according to invitation. I had been hunting for her all the evening, without success. The tables exhibited a picture of devastation, for I never saw a place in my life in which there is more eating at balls than here. Even some ladies have a marvellous faculty of destroying good things. I dragged myself to bed, complaining even of the trouble of undressing myself.


JQA handsomely returned Andrew Jackson’s invitation (see entry for 4 Jan., above) by giving an elaborate ball in his honor on the anniversary of the victory at New Orleans. One thousand guests were invited, including all members of both houses of Congress but two (Alexander Smyth and John Floyd, who had offended the Secretary of State). Speaker Clay and Secretary of War Calhoun attended, but President Monroe excused himself to avoid giving an impression of favoring anyone for the succession.

Women were brilliantly gowned, and all the men except JQA wore full-dress attire—blue coats, gilt buttons, white or buff waistcoats, white neckties, high chokers, white trousers, silk stockings, and pumps. House decorations were made of tissue paper and evergreens, and the floors were chalked with eagles, flags, and a motto, “Welcome to the Hero of New Orleans.” See JQA, Diary, 6 and 8 Jan. 1824; Mary S. Lockwood, Historic Homes in Washington, N.Y., 1889, p. 72; Gouverneur, As I Remember , p. 279–282; James, Andrew Jackson , p. 384.


Mrs. William Thornton, the former Anna Maria Brodeau, wife of the noted doctor and architect ( DAB ).


CFA repeatedly uses this expression, which in French is the masculine form (feminine: “favorites”), for the girls he liked best as social companions.


Elizabeth Eliot Cranch (1805–371860), daughter of Judge William Cranch (JQA, Diary, 6 Feb. 1824); she later married Rufus Dawes. See Adams Genealogy.