Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Thursday. May. 20th. VII:30. CFA Thursday. May. 20th. VII:30. CFA
Thursday. May. 20th. VII:30.

Arose this Morning and immediately after breakfast took a long walk with Thomas Hellen to my father’s Estate at Mount Wollaston1 as well to see it myself as to show it to him. It is a pretty place and desirable enough in Summer, but a Winter’s residence would be very disagreable. I was led into a train of thought remarkable enough concerning our future destinies. This is the spot which George has fixed upon for a residence and here he is to exist with Mary Hellen, one of the most capricious women that were ever formed in a capricious race. He is to live as long as possible here and then which will not be a great while, go to Boston. Thinking of this, I have been wishing to obtain some knowledge concerning my own future probabilities but it is impossible. My next years will depend very much on my father’s and his, 151Heaven knows, are doubtful enough. Thomas has been thrown so many years further back in life that when he talks of prospects, I begin to think mine pressing. The estate is a remarkably fine one for it’s situation is directly on one of the most beautiful spots in the bay. For me it would be a beautiful retreat where I should not be plagued by the disgust of company and where I might with more ease pursue those studies which would profit me. All this however is but the effect of imagination and I will leave the train of circumstances to themselves, conscious that neither wishes nor prayers can change them. We returned home somewhat fatigued.

Owing to the presence of this young man I shall not be able to continue my Tacitus. I therefore shall labour on the five sections already translated to give them an elegant translation. I read none of Young today either.

The Evening was in the Parlour with the ladies. There is magic in a Petticoat to a young man. I cannot tell, but my passions and feelings are all so affected that I want their society. Of the tendency of this passion I am so well aware, that I make great attempts to keep it on guard. I have been hitherto successful and hope to be. With the exception of one difficulty which perhaps was the very thing which gave me prudence, I have felt no attachment and intend to feel none until it is as consistent with interest as with desire.2 A man can soon make himself love any woman, in the proper sense of the term, for in my opinion there is no Platonism in it. At least there never has been with me. I know the acting force and as I know it is impossible to gratify it without ruin, I know how to prevent it.

My Evening was pleasantly spent. They are the most agreable parts of the time here. The girls are agreable enough, not at all pretty. Indeed it is not the forte of our family to talk of handsome persons of either sex. For my own part, I see3 none of the present generation except Thomas Adams. XII:15.


Mount Wollaston farm, on that part of Quincy Bay still known as Adams Shore, was the estate of AA’s maternal grandfather, Col. John Quincy. In 1767 it passed into the hands of Norton Quincy, the Colonel’s son, and, after Norton’s death in 1801, the property was acquired by the Adamses partly by bequest and partly by purchase. At various times later on, CFA planned to build a home here, but it was his eldest son, John Quincy Adams 2d (1833–1894), designated as JQA2 in the present edition (see Adams Genealogy), who eventually did so, soon after the Civil War, and gave it the name “Merrymount” because the property included the site of the maypole erected at “Mare Mount” on Mount Wollaston by the 17th-century adventurer Thomas Morton. See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:x, 141, and an illustration of Mount Wollaston about the time of the present diary entry, same, facing p. 256; also Adams Family Correspondence , 2:388–389.


CFA’s manuscript at this point con-152tains a heavily penciled marginal line, with the number “174” (possibly “175”) beside it in an unidentified hand, presumably a page reference. Neither page 174 nor page 175 of the present MS Diary (D/CFA/4), containing part of the entry for 6 August and all of the entry for 7 August, below, throws any light on this passage.


Using a colloquialism ( Dict. of Americanisms ), CFA means that he recognizes none of the generation as handsome except Thomas B. Adams Jr.

Friday. May. 21st. VIII:45. CFA Friday. May. 21st. VIII:45. CFA
Friday. May. 21st. VIII:45.

Very late this Morning, Every body having done breakfast some time since. Although the weather in the morning was very disagreable, I determined to go to Cambridge and accordingly went, carrying Thomas in a Chaise. We went the longest road, through Dorchester, Roxbury and Brookline in order to show him the country. The weather cleared off and became fine. Arriving we went to my room and found it in great disorder, as they had just taken up the carpet and had carried away all the materials for making a good fire which as the wind had chilled us, we very much desired. College looks very barren indeed. No students to be seen, some of the dismissed Sophomores together with one or two others of the same class made up all. I walked all over Cambridge with Thomas, talking of the different places and showing him the professors houses. Met Morgan,1 who has come back here to enter the Sophomore Class after having belonged to the Senior and then came back last Summer to enter a Junior. I did not envy him at all as now the sooner out I say, the better.

Thus I spent the time until dinner time when we went to Willard’s2 and ate a good dinner in a very comfortable room which I had never seen before. Thomas is the most singular character I have yet met with and I can make less and less of him every day. A little while more being spent in my room we again sat forward for Quincy, I having obtained all the clothes I wished. We went to Boston over the Mill Dam3 and just cutting one corner of the city we rode back making the ride as long as possible by the turnings and variety of windings to different places.

At length we arrived and I finished the afternoon’s employment by reading four Satires of Young.4 I have got a prejudice against this author which will not allow me to give a fair criticism of his works. I therefore shall only say that he is in all things too elaborate for me. He stings too much as if he intended to sting at first with all the fury imaginable. My meaning is that he appears as if he was cool when he sat down to write violently. I have seen John do it and have disliked it in him. Mr. Edmund and Miss Susan Quincy5 stepped in for one 153minute and then departed, much to my joy. They are amazingly unpleasant people to me.

The evening was spent much in the usual way, except that I finished Mr. Cartwrights book to my Grandfather and read some of Mr. Quincy’s message6 which I thought was very bombastical—this is my own opinion however and much in opposition to that of the family. The ladies had been at Mr. Beal’s7 but returned early and we were all very much as usual. XI:35.


Possibly William H. Morgan, of New Orleans, who became a junior at Harvard next year, but never seems to have graduated ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1824).


Willard’s Tavern, in Harvard Square on the corner of what is now Dunster Street.


The Mill Dam or causeway, opened in 1821, ran along the line of the present Beacon Street from Charles Street to Sewall’s Point in Brookline. Fifty feet wide, one and a half miles long, and carrying a toll road, the Dam was to provide water power for mill sites. Yet, by enclosing (and creating) about six hundred acres of land, the Dam “was to change the shape of Boston more completely than any other single undertaking in its history.” See Whitehill, Boston: A Topographical History , p. 88, 90, 92–94, 141.


From Edward Young, “Seven Characteristical Satires,” in Aikin’s British Poets .


Edmund Quincy (1808–1877), the future abolitionist, was the son of Josiah Quincy (currently Mayor of Boston and later President of Harvard) and a freshman at Harvard. Eliza Susan Quincy (1798–1884), artist, diarist, and family annalist, was Edmund’s sister. See Adams Genealogy.


Josiah Quincy’s inaugural address to the City Council of Boston on entering his second term as mayor, 1 May. It was published in pamphlet form and was reprinted in Quincy’s Municipal History of the Town and City of Boston, Boston, 1852, p. 379–388.


The Beale family lived next door to the Old House, beyond the Adamses’ garden, on present Adams Street in Quincy.