Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Tuesday. 27th.

Thursday 29th.

Wednesday 28th. CFA


Wednesday 28th. CFA
Wednesday 28th.

Coming down after the usual time spent upstairs in the morning, I heard the death of Mrs. de Bresson1 announced, a circumstance very shocking indeed. This lady was married at about this time last year, I attended her parties upon the occasion and officiated in a little ceremony to do her honour. She was then in all the pride of youth and beauty with hopes held out to her of all happiness. But her year had been one of misery, she had suffered by the ague and fever, by discouragement and bad treatment, finally had died in child birth. It is a melancholy case and exhibits to us in full force the mortality of the world. It affects us much more to see a person cut off in the midst of youth and life when she can enjoy it most than when the person is so old it is not more than to be expected. But I could not submit to feel much as it is only putting oneself out of order for nothing. Feelings and thoughts of this kind arise too often even in the usual run of life, so we must endeavour to repel them with vehemence. Accordingly John and myself took a walk with Mary and Abby to see Miss Selden, as I did not think it worthwhile to attend the House this morning. The lady was in full bloom, and looked as pretty as I ever saw her. There was considerable company there, all the Gales’s2 and others. As I did not know them I did not say a word. They soon retired, we took the usual formal set and then went ourselves.


From here, John and I went to Street’s3 painting rooms, to see the pictures he has up here for Exhibition. There were four of them, a Maniac, which was pretty well, the figure a little too much swollen, but generally the expression was good. This was decidedly the best of the pictures. Two others were so poor and struck me so little that I do not recollect their names. The fourth was from Thomson’s Summer, Musidora on the brink of the stream represented perfectly naked—a fine description but the painting unequal to it. So I retired quite displeased. The face was terribly ugly but the limbs were quite well shaped and might have had an impression had a very little more been exposed. He is pretty true to the description however.4 The third picture I recollect now, to have been Celadon and Amelia, struck by lightning, in Thomson, but the picture very faulty indeed. The dog which accompanies appeared the only natural part of the painting.5

In the evening we went to Mrs. Tayloe’s6 according to invitation, the rooms not remarkably well filled, all the corps diplomatique absent, and many others on account of the occurrence this morning. For myself I did not feel in very high spirits and had I, there was nobody here I wished to see. The Cottringers were not here. Miss McKnight was and I danced with her. Miss Clapham, of whom I should have given a description long since, for I was introduced to her on the fifteenth of the month at Mrs. Ringgold’s but as I forgot to make any mention of this party at that time I must insert it in a note to this volume.7 Watkins was here and lively enough, also Edward Kerr, whom I had not seen before to speak to since my return. He is a singular young man but one not much to my liking as I believe him to harbour in his breast, envy, malice, and all uncharitableness. I drank a good deal of punch with Watkins to try him, but he was steady as possible. Kerr was inclining, but the materials were exhausted. In short, such mean entertainment I do not think I ever saw before in any house in Washington. I did not dance much and enjoyed myself very moderately indeed. Dancing is not so agreable to me as it used to be, more on account of the difference in the society I presume than any other. These confounded balls are very disgusting objects. Madame and Mary did not go on account of this morning’s affair, Monsieur, Abby and we two filling the carriage, as he is always ready and Abby, obedient. We soon went off, I did wish to dance a Spanish dance but Colonel’s black fiddlers could not play one.


Mrs. Charles de Bresson, the daughter of Judge Smith Thompson, was the wife of a secretary of the French legation in Washington (JQA, Diary, 28 Jan. 1824).


Presumably the family of Joseph 72Gales (1786–1860), the co-editor of the National Intelligencer ( DAB ).


Robert Street (1796–1865), an American painter, who held an exhibition in Washington in 1824 and painted a portrait of Andrew Jackson (Groce and Wallace, Dict. Amer. Artists ).


The painting depicted a famous scene in James Thomson’s Summer (first published London, 1727), lines 1269–1370. See entry for 3 May, and note, below.


See Thomson, Summer, lines 1169–1222.


Probably the wife of Col. John Tayloe, owner of the splendid country seat of Mount Airy, Virginia, and the famous Octagon House in Washington (Wharton, Social Life in the Early Republic, p. 65–66).


See concluding passage in entry for 15 Jan., above.