Adams Papers



John Q. Adams—
Jany. 19/30th 1782
St. Petersbourg
New Stile
From the 27th. of January

1Titlepage of D/JQA/5 which covers the period 27 Jan.–23 Nov. 1782 and consists of JQA’s entries for the remainder of his stay in St. Petersburg and for part of his return trip to western Europe. This Diary, the first actual blank book purchased for this purpose, measures approximately 5⅞″ × 3¾″” and contains 118 pages. Presumably it was JQA who marked off in pencil margins on the top and left side of each page in order to designate months and days.

Arriving in late Aug. 1781, Dana and JQA took lodgings at the Hôtel de Paris in the heart of the Russian capital, not far from the Imperial Winter Palace. For the next fourteen months JQA served as Dana’s secretary and companion and continued his studies, albeit with many difficulties (Dana to Edward Dana, 9/20 Sept. 1781, MHi:Dana Papers; Storch, Picture of Petersburg description begins Henry Storch, Picture of Petersburg, English transl., London, 1801. description ends , p. xiii, xvii).

One of the probable reasons why JA let Dana take his eldest son to Russia was JA’s assumption, certainly shared by both JQA and Dana until shortly after their arrival, that JQA could continue his education there without complications. But it soon became apparent that “this [was] not a very good place for learning the Latin and Greek Languages,” studies necessary for admission to college. There were no schools, academies, or reasonably priced masters available for him; the Russians themselves sent their children to western Europe for education. Thus, Adams was reduced to what he could find and read himself and to whatever direction Dana might provide (Adams Family Correspondence, description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963- . description ends 4:234–235, 275–278).

According to letters and his Diary, JQA seems to have spent a large portion of the year in Russia reading English and European history by such authors as Hume, Macaulay, and Robertson. In his early months in Russia, before this Diary begins, he copied the poetry of Dryden, Pope, and Addison. Because JQA did not bring a Latin dictionary and could not find one in St. Petersburg for several months, he was unable to continue his classical studies until early 1782. Thereafter, he translated the biographical sketches of Cornelius Nepos and several of Cicero’s orations, but apparently little else. The Diary indicates that he briefly took up the study of German, while his small commonplace books show that during the summer of 1782 he devoted much time to reading and copying portions of the works of minor English poets from several anthologies, including John Nichols’ A Select Collection of Poems: With Notes, Biographical and Historical, 8 vols., London, 1780–1782 (same description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963- . description ends , 4:286–287).

Convinced for months that the sojourn had been a mistake for JQA’s education (and possibly for his morals), JA finally insisted on his son’s return to western Europe, where he might enroll in some regular course of study. Even though Dana wished the boy might stay, he realized that without schools, instructors, or books he could not guide his education. “Had he finished his classical studies I should meet with no difficulty in his future education,” he wrote to JA only months after his arrival in St. Petersburg; “I wou’d superintend and direct that in the course you wou’d choose and point out” (same description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963- . description ends , 4:264–265, 317, 322–323; Dana to JA, 11–13 Jan. 1782, Adams Papers).

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