Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Monday. May 17th. VII:30.

Wednesday. May. 19th. VII:30.

Tuesday. May 18th. VIII:30. CFA


Tuesday. May 18th. VIII:30. CFA
Tuesday. May 18th. VIII:30.

Although not extraordinarily late, I found my breakfast laid by and the room cleaned up. I was therefore reminded that the indulgence of former days was over, that the departure of my brother John who used to make this sort of indulgence more valuable, had broken all my plans. This is the first vacation that I have spent at Quincy without him. And here it is that I feel his absence most. All our parties and diversions are broken up for want of somebody to carry them on with and I find myself doomed to the variety of books. It is happy for me that I can bear this without complaining, but I must acknowledge, I cannot see how John could have lived here through four months in the same train. He paid me two compliments by requesting my society which I was willing enough to give him as the College studies were difficult and tedious. Since his departure from here, Quincy has become less attractive and has seen less of me. So that I now feel precisely as if in a strange family. Abby looks better than she used to, probably for discontinuing her loads of medicine. She is not very communicative about Washington. I think she has much improved by showing less of her fretting temper and by having acquired more of 147the manners of a lady. This is much more striking when we see the comparison.

I spent the morning partly in writing my Journal, partly in reading the first half of Young’s Ninth and last Night. This man was a singular character. His temper in his youth at least does not seem to have been the most gloomy. I imagine that he made himself so to write as I have sometimes made myself melancholy to enjoy the luxury. Lorenzo appears to be not the finest character in the world. The life vehemently denies that he intended his son to be represented. But this is written as if the son himself was the author. Dr. Johnson says but little. I took a ride also with Grandfather who appears remarkably feeble. He requires support now which I have never known before. We did not take a long ride for he could not bear it and merely stopped at Mr. Marston’s1 to hear what he had to say. He looked very busy, and important as usual. The day was a remarkably fine one, and he came home considerably refreshed. The rest of the morning was spent in lounging and keeping the old gentleman company, which is something of a task. My spirits are cheerful, but there is always something chilling to me here which I do not believe it will ever be possible for me to get over.

After dinner, feeling in singular state of humour, I took a walk up Montezillo as my Grandfather has called it2—and seated myself down on a rock where I had a view of all the harbour and of Boston. I had indulged myself in a remarkable train of musing on “auld lang syne.” My situation in this life, and the many pleasant hours I have spent here with John. For my pleasurable associations here will always turn upon him as we saw none else. I thought of our future course, that we should never see so much of each other again, that soon he would have a part to take in this world and would be engaged in a heavy responsibility. I ran over our future prospects, George with his marked distinctly for he will have much to struggle with, he has taken his course.3 John with his which is yet at his own disposal.4 And I, who am doomed to live an independent and a single life. I have not enjoyed pleasure of this sort for a long time, as it paralizes exertion and only makes me feel that I have neglected my duty. Thus I spent two hours after which I returned home and finding no other employment, took down Tacitus and commenced my destined task of translating the life of Agricola. In looking over a copy which was in my grandfather’s library5 I came to a mark of my father’s in which he put down his progress forty years ago. I determined to pursue the same course and for today I translated three sections. It is my intention if I have 148time to reduce it all to writing in order to improve my style which is said to be barren.

Tea was announced as I finished—and I went, after which I went up to the old gentleman’s sitting room where I amused him by reading aloud part of a book which he has just received called “The constitution of England explained.” It is the production of a man by the name of Cartwright6 who appears to be one of the extravagant advocates of radical reform in England. He writes as if he was not perfectly sound, certainly not perfectly correct. The book was very dull also, so I shut it up as soon as I obtained convenient opportunity. I then read over John’s letters7 to my Grandfather, and three of others to him, after which I went down stairs to hear the ladies talk of dress as Mrs. Clark and Elizabeth had just come out of town. This was not my forte so I laid down quietly on the sopha. Afterwards I had a little conversation with Mrs. Adams upon Shaw whose place of retirement I had not before known, and then retired. XI:45.


Presumably John Marston, JA’s old friend.


After JA and Jefferson resumed their correspondence in 1812, JA fancied his Quincy estate as “Montezillo,” or little hill, as contrasted to “Monticello,” or Jefferson’s lofty mountain. This was one of several names JA gave his Quincy home. See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:248.


GWA was admitted to the Suffolk County bar in 1824 and in 1826 was chosen to the Massachusetts legislature.


Expelled from Harvard after the 1823 “rebellion,” JA2 was studying law in Washington under his father’s guidance.


For editions of Tacitus among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library, see Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 240–241.


JQA’s copy of John Cartwright, The English Constitution Produced and Illustrated, London, 1823, is in the Stone Library. Among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library are two copies of the work ( Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 45).