Collection The White House Behind the Scenes
While the presidency is often in the eye of the public, those who ensure operations at the White House run...
In November 1845, Elizabeth Lord Cogswell Dixon arrived for the “season” in Washington, D.C., with her family. Her husband, James Dixon, of Hartford, Connecticut, had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Whig, ultimately serving two terms, in the Twenty-Ninth and Thirtieth Congresses (March 4, 1845–March 3, 1849). In addition to their two little girls—4-year-old Elizabeth (“Bessie”) and 1-year-old Clementine Louise (“Clemmie”), they were accompanied by Annie Cogswell, Mrs. Dixon’s younger sister, and Ann McKone, the children’s nurse. They quickly settled into a suite of rooms in the vicinity of the White House and entered Washington’s lively social life of visiting and calling and leaving cards and attending receptions and hosting evenings at home. Their circle included the elite and the powerful of the city—members of Congress, justices on the Supreme Court, the widowed and revered Dolley Madison, President James K. Polk and First Lady Sarah Polk, and members of the presidential household. When they returned to Washington for the second session of Congress, which in those years met from early December until sometime in spring or summer, the Dixon family included baby James Wyllys (“Bunty”), born in Washington in February 1846, and a second nurse, Bridget, but not Annie, who was fondly remembered as a belle.
Mrs. Dixon kept a diary of her first two years in the capital city, which is published here for the first time. She was in the capital in a vital period of change as the nation expanded to the Pacific—the annexation of Texas (1845), the settlement of the Oregon boundary (1846), and the war with Mexico (1846–48), whose treaty brought the Southwest and California into the nation. These huge events are backdrop; she records some of the congressional debates on these subjects—and on the slavery issue—and indeed she visits the Capitol often. But her journal entries center on the characters and entertainments of the capital city, and in this they know no rivals.
Elizabeth Dixon’s diary is unique not for its profundity or for its sweep of an entire epoch but for the pin’s head details it provides of everyday life in the American capital. She did not aspire to the grand scope captured by her friend, Fanny Calderón, in her Life in Mexico (1842) or the vastness of the later, massive Diary from Dixie (1905) by Mary Boykin Chesnut. Both of those famous volumes were written with publication in mind. Mrs. Dixon’s diary was almost certainly for personal use: “I wonder if this account of Washington will amuse Bessie and Clem in after years,” she muses in an entry for January 29, 1846, “for that was my object in writing it.” At points the diary reads rather like a memoranda book to remind the writer of the incidents and people in her very busy life as a congressman’s wife. It is a feast of details of the sort that nearly always vanish. In a sense Mrs. Dixon stood center stage, yet in a sense also she was in the wings, with time to take down what she saw.
Yet readers will wonder how she found the time. In an age where communication was limited to writing a note or going in person or sending a telegram, the familiar custom of women “calling” was greatly accelerated in the political community of Washington. Calls help weave networks of personal association, useful later on perhaps. The caller went in her carriage with driver and stopped at the desired houses. If the object of the call was not prepared to receive a guest, the caller was told that she was “not at home.” Most women designated certain days as calling days, when they were available for an hour or two. Notwithstanding the “not at home” response, the caller dog-eared her calling card at the top left-hand corner, left it, and the card fulfilled the requirement of a call. At the White House, the first lady received no callers that she had not called upon first. The calling process was an ordeal for the first ladies. For Mrs. Dixon as a representative’s wife, it was a duty in support of her husband’s career.
In addition to its fascinating record of these duties, the diary offers insights of a congressman’s wife into the domestic concerns of a young mother of the era. Mrs. Dixon arranges “play dates” for her children, takes them on outings, buys presents for their Christmas stockings, celebrates their birthdays, instructs them in sewing and spelling, catechizes them, and worries through their childhood diseases. She is seven months pregnant when she arrives in Washington and, following the birth of Bunty in February 1846, is ill, at the very time a deception involving Annie is revealed. When her parents, with sister Louisa, also arrive in Washington, as well as sister Mary Kinney with her daughter Constance, family tension complicate. Visits with family in New York and New Jersey suggest more about family interactions. Although Mrs. Dixon does not express her feelings in twenty-first-century terms, twenty-first-century readers will recognize the family pressures and social expectations that a nineteenth-century woman of her class and stature had to navigate.
Elizabeth Lord Cogswell Dixon was born in Saco, Maine, on July 1, 1819. Her connections to distinguished New England families were many. Upon the early death of her mother, and the subsequent death of her uncle, she inherited a large fortune, estimated at the time to be around a million dollars. Schooled at Mrs. Esther Smith’s boarding school in New York, Miss Cogswell learned all the gentle arts expected of a woman whose life would be lived largely in terms of marriage and home. It was perhaps there that she developed a passion for literature, both poetry and novels. Her wealth gave her access to famous writers, to whom, it will be seen, she showed great deference as a hostess in her years in Washington.
Elizabeth Cogswell and James Dixon were married on October 1, 1840, at East Windsor Hill, Connecticut, and boarded the celebrated steamer Great Western for an extended stay in Europe. Such luxuries as this, all thanks to her money, would not be usual in their lives, for both were conscious of saving their resources and appear to have led carefully focused lives. They settled in Hartford, where James, who had studied and practiced law, became active in state politics, to great success, rising to leadership in the Whig Party.
Following his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, James devoted much of the rest of his life to politics, and his wife accompanied him in his travels. When Congress was not in session, the Dixons always returned to Hartford, where their mansion on Asylum Hill was named Rose Mount, up the street from the Nook Farm neighborhood where Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain resided. In the 1850s the Dixons returned to Washington after James was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1869.
The reader may be interested to know that Mrs. Dixon was my great-great-grandmother. I came upon her diary in the course of archival research, and it opened windows for me on interesting times in Washington, and not least at the White House. My fascination really began with her Civil War friendship with First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. They might well have known each other in the late 1840s, for Abraham Lincoln was also a representative to the Thirtieth Congress and Mary Lincoln joined him in Washington. But Mrs. Dixon’s diary covers the Twenty-Ninth Congress only, and there is nothing here to indicate what their lives would become. White House History readers will have an opportunity to read about their friendship in a later issue, when Mrs. Dixon’s letters and ephemera from her husband’s years in the Senate will be published.
EDITORIAL NOTES ABOUT THE TRANSCRIPTION
The unedited original manuscript of Elizabeth Lord Cogswell Dixon’s “Journal written during a Residence in Washington during the 29th Congress. Commencing with the first of Decr., 1845,” is in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford, Dixon Family Papers, 1843–1864, Ms. 76582. The version published here is a transcription prepared by Caroline Welling Van Deusen and checked against the microfilm with the support of the editors of White House History, who have also provided annotations. It is published here with the permission of the Connecticut Historical Society. It has been transcribed directly, with no alterations of spelling and only minor changes in punctuation, for clarity. Some abbreviations have been expanded, and all have been given a final period, whether Mrs. Dixon used a period or not. Struck out words and passages have been preserved. Missing words have not been supplied or speculated on, but blank spaces, which Mrs. Dixon may have intended to fill in later, have been acknowledged in brackets, as [blank space].Uncertainties are noted by [?]. Occasional words that could not be deciphered are indicated as [illegible]. Dates of entries have been set off and standardized, and also for ease of reading, paragraph breaks have been added; marginal notes signal interesting topics. Letters from others that Mrs. Dixon copied into the diary appear in italics. Some of the newspaper clippings and engravings that she pasted into the journal are indicated in captions or endnotes. Endnotes offer explanations that give further insight into Mrs. Dixon’s life and times.
Journal written during a
Residence in Washington during the 29th Congress.
Commencing with the first of December 1845.
Dedicated to my daughters
Bessie and Clementine
by their Mother
Elizabeth L. C. Dixon
Friday, October 10, 1845
We left Rose Mount our dear home on the morning of October 10th 1845. Mrs. Sigourney & Mary came out to take us to the cars1 in their carriage and little Bessie’s picture they carried home to remind them of her during the winter. Mr. Beach Senior came also to bid us adieu and we left our house with the carpets up & every thing locked away for the season, not expecting to return until May. Bidding adieu to Mrs. Sigourney the cars soon took us out of sight of home and we reached New Haven in two hours. Here Mr. Luther Terry met us on his way home and we left New Haven & reached New York at dusk in a pouring rain. The city looked miserable after the country. How I should have stared six years before to have been told I should so much prefer Hartford as I do to New York—We arrived at Aunt Lois’ new house 24 Brevoort Place 10th St. at 8 o’clock. Clemmie was fast asleep in Ann’s arms & remained so on the sofa until 10 o’clock. The house was in a most unfurnished state & we were glad to retire at last. Mrs. Kinney, Mary, Constance & Louise were there to meet us.
Monday, October 13, 1845
Saturday & Sunday it rained & Monday morning we left for New Brunswick N. Jersey. We went first to Mary’s as she expected us & staid that day but as the Misses Cushmans of Troy were coming to visit Louisa & Annie all concluded it was best for us to go there first & then make Mary the visit so on Tuesday we went to Father’s & James left in the [a clipping here covers some of the text] Father had a sudden attack of illness at dinner & we were quite alarmed for a few hours but the next day he went to New York & returned feeling better. Dr. & Mrs. Davidson, Mrs. Birch, Mr. & Mrs. Crosby & others called on us.
Wednesday, October 15, 1845
Mrs. Kirkpatrick came to pass the day Wednesday, & Mary took us a long drive in the country. It would have been very pleasant & I should have enjoyed it, but I had been walking with Annie, my first walk after my fall from the carriage in Hartford, & I was warm from the exercise & the consequence was I took a severe cold.
Thursday, October 16, 1845
Thursday we took tea with Mrs. Kirkpatrick & James arrived in the cars. I hoped he would come & ran to the door when the train came in—soon I heard the well-known footstep, & heard a man bringing a trunk on a wheel barrow (Brunswick fashion) & we exchanged whistles as in the song “Whistle & I’ll come to you my lad,”2 & soon met. I am never happy when he is gone—.
Saturday, October 18, 1845
Saturday Mr. Kinney, Mary & Con. came to dinner & in the evening Mr. Henschell, Mr. Coppet, Mr. Janeway, & [illegible] called.
Sunday, October 19, 1845
Sunday we went to Mr. Demarest’s church in the morning & Dr. Davidson’s in the afternoon. Mr. Townsend called & passed the evening.
Monday, October 20, 1845
Monday I was wretchedly sick with a cold but we went up to Mary’s. In the afternoon there was a circus opened with a great flourish opposite & we thought we would let the children go for amusement. Mr. Dixon took Natty, Frank, Constance & Bessie but it was so fine he came over for us to go also. Ernest was sick in bed & we left him with Lilly. The evening Digby Smith passed with us. Clem & Ann went to the circus & she was delighted as well as Bessie.
Tuesday, October 21, 1845
Tuesday I was so sick I could not sit up & Mary gave me some sugar capsules containing as she said castor oil. I thought it quite a gain to swallow so much castor oil without knowing it but I was very violently ill & obliged to take laudanum which affected my head badly & next day I kept my bed. I had a great many calls but saw no one.
Thursday, October 23, 1845
Thursday I rode a little way to try my strength & as the Dr. thought Ernest’s a decided case of varioloid3 we prepared to leave. I felt an impulse but as we had been exposed to the disease it would be no worse, however Mary had so much care we bade her adieu Friday
Friday, October 24, 1845
—& reached New York at 2. Aunt Lois expected us as we had sent her word.
Field came up after dinner with a letter from Mrs. Marsh & soon after Mr. Terry came to tell us of the death of Mrs. Dixon James’ Mother. We expected to hear it but still one is never prepared for death. She had been very feeble all summer but rallied just as we left & we hoped would live through the winter, but the late intelligence had been unfavorable.
James felt the shock last spring as she had a partial paralysis & loss of her faculties & frequently was insensible & unconscious of the presence of her friends, & even hardly recognised her children so that it was almost relief to know the saint had gone home to heaven where she doubtless is. James had all the care of providing for her comfort & wants & felt much solicitude lest this winter she should suffer in his absence.
Saturday, October 25, 1845
The next morning at 6, dear James left me to go home to his Mother’s funeral. I was miserable enough till his return on Tuesday; Annie came over on Monday to do shopping & I went with her for I felt it necessary to divert my mind as I cried incessantly alone. Mother & Father came over & spent a day. James attended his Mother’s funeral on Sunday, said she looked so peaceful & sweet he could not believe that the spirit had fled. Dear old lady she was so dignified & high born, so kind & affectionate! My children will never know either of their grandmothers unless as I hope in heaven.
The weather is the indian summer & oppressively warm. We remained 4 weeks at Aunt Lois’. My engagements were numerous in shopping for Washington & the change in my dress made it quite arduous to supply all my wants & for the children. Bessie’s costume is a blue watered poplin pelisse crimson plaided dress & drab gypsey hood quilted & lined & trimmed with cherry satin for which they charged me $4. Gaiters of drab with plaid tops & blue gaiter boots, drab gloves & scarlet tippet. Clem’s blue plaid coat & blue satin quilted hat, blue plaided gaiters, scarlet tippet. My own dress black with a grey hat & black feathers.
We rode daily amost taking the children first & really I had no idea New York was so splendid. Some of the residences are princely indeed. Mr. Lennox has a perfect palace & others are very fine. “Merchant-princes” in truth they are called.
Mr. Terry took us to his studio & we saw his splendid works, Christ conversing with the Drs. in the temple, a mother & son, an Italian scene, cherubs & Byrons heaven & Earth. It seems to me there is nothing wanting in his pictures—Mr. Terry was frequently to visit us during our stay & Bessie & her pappa went one day to see the pictures.
Friday, November 14, 1845
Dear Bessie was not well for a fortnight & we could see no reason for it. Her birth day November 14 she was resplendent in beauty. Her skin was transparent & rosy, eyes brilliant, “as if they were indeed the wells of human thought,” her long golden ringlets floated about her neck & her beautiful arms and hands were burdened with gifts for herself & her cousins. She wore a crimson plaided dress & jacket fitting her form & I was proud enough of her—I had prepared a little work box with thimble, scissors &c, a needle book, emery strawberry & some work commenced. Mary, Mr. Kinney & the children had arrived the day before & Bessie had a present ready for each cousin, Natty a watch, Conny a dress & box of dessert dishes for her doll table, Frank a railroad train, Natty a watch, Ernest a pictured alphabet. She received a doll, a wash stand & bowl & pitcher, a box of doll’s knives & forks, & the day was a very happy one.
Dear little Clemmie was lovely with her full blue eyes, flaxen curls, dimples & bewitching smile & little cunning ways. Mary Kinney was determined she would not love her because she was not named for her but finally concluded she was “an angel” & indeed I could not say which child was loveliest, Bessie or Clemie.
Saturday, November 15, 1845
Saturday 15th Ann the nurse gave each a doll in a cradle, some pewter spoons & little tumblers. She is a faithful nurse & they love her devotedly. Bessie always presents her a new dress on each birthday. Ellen was in New York & brought Bess a doll’s head & Clem a sugar dog. Mrs. Sigourney sent her a little bag & a little pocket handkerchief trimmed with lace and the following verses “To Bessie on her Fourth Birth day.”
Bright fairy of Rosemount! The morning is here,—
When thy first waking smile made its Eden more fair,—
But now, on its beauties I gaze with a tear,—
For thou, and thy dear ones no longer are there:—
The birds are all hush’d and the flowrets all dead, —
And the poor, naked trees look forlorn and aghast,—
As if they were mourning that Bessie had fled,
And telling their grief to the pitilous blast.
So,—be a good girl in the Capitol, love,—
And show what the child of a poet should be,—
Like the changeable neck of the innocent dove
Like the purest of pearls in the breast of the Sea.—
And soon may the sweet vernal season return,—
When Rosemount again shall reecho with glee,—
When its young blushing flowrets fresh incense shall burn,
And thy grandmother’s heart borrow gladness from thee.
Hartford Friday Nov. 14th, 1845. L. H. Sigourney
I saw my friend Mary Pollitz & her three children, Mrs. James Beekman & her three children, Eliza Renwick & Phil. her baby was asleep. Elizabeth Leuncy[?] was in New York, and Mr. Osgood the artist, Mrs. Billings, Mrs. Bull & others. Mrs. Gardiner the mother of President Tyler’s lady called on me. She is quite a blooming dowager & very pleasant. She had in the carriage a greyhound with a little cloak on him! Judge Gardner of Troy & lady passed a week with Aunt Lois & nothing particularly interesting occurred. Mrs. Sherwood & the Beekmans invited us to parties but we declined.
Tuesday, November 18, 1845
James left Saturday 15th for Hartford & went that night to Enfield, Monday to Hartford & Tuesday back to New York. How glad I was to see him! He brought me a most exquisite bouquet from the green house as he did before. This arrived on Natty’s 9th birth day 13th. We had the table ornamented with it at dinner. Bessie gave each of the boys a little cane. I could not realize that Natty was as old (9 years) as I was when I went first to Mrs. Smith’s school.4
But alas James brought a shock to me. Our dear neighbour Mrs. Beach senior was no more! He attended her funeral the day before. She had walked in to town Friday 14th dear Bessie’s birth day & was seized with a dizziness near her father’s & had only time to reach the door & ring the bell violently. Her father opened the door as he was not in the habit of doing but knew not why he did so, & she fell into his arms saying only “Send for the Dr. & Mr. Beach, I can say no more but Lord have mercy on my soul.” These were her last words; she lay insensible several hours & then died. Nichols knelt by her bed & begged her to speak to him & forgive him for his undutifulness. But no voice replied & he rushed away frantic—Alas there is no forgiveness or palliation from the lips of the dead—her voice speaketh “Be ye also ready for in such an hour as Ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Mrs. Beach was one of those I valued most particularly as a neighbour & I had felt peculiarly tender towards her because she was with me during Bessie’s birth—and now she is dead!
Monday, November 24, 1845
The next day I was overcome with excitement & had quite a serious fainting fit but I braved it off as I was desirous of leaving New York & getting settled. We finished all our business & were ready & off Monday morning 24th. Bessie was not well on Sunday but we gave her some slight medicine & she was better Monday. Mr. Kinney, Mary, Constance, & Field Dixon went to the boat with us & we parted with Mary & Conny at New York & with F. & Mr. Kinney at Jersey. I felt sad at leaving. Mary & Conny & Bessie love each other dearly. Con is a lovely child with a most delicate complexion, grey eyes of the Mary Stuart style, & golden hair. She has very mature judgement & is very useful & obliging & has a sweet temper. She is a charming companion for Bessie & I hope they will always be a great deal together.
At last the cars whizzed off & we found no acquaintances but Mr. Rockwell of Norwich member of Congress on his way to Washington. He had charge of a Miss Basset whom I had once seen at the Catlin’s at a party in Hartford, a forward girl going to the South alone, for her health, a regular leech ready to fasten on any one she could. Mr. Rockwell presented her & she told me Mrs. Comstock had given her a letter to me of introduction; that is one penalty of office, one must see all who choose to come from a constituent.
At New Brunswick we found Annie all ready to meet us & Father, Mother, Louisa & little Jane with a basket for Bessie. We had only time to exchange kisses & adieux. Mr. Crosby, H. Janeway & Ben Stevens, Vail & other beaux were there to see her off. We had a pleasant time to the boat at Bristol but the boat was very uncomfortable & crowded & very small.
We reached Philadelphia at 2 & stopped at the United States Hotel. It was very cold & wintry but the hotel is a delightful one. We had a very nice dinner & our rooms had cheerful fires. We sat to see the ladies promenading after dinner but there is nothing like Broadway.
Tuesday, November 25, 1845
Tuesday 25th we left at 8 o’clock for Baltimore, where we arrived at 2. Our arrival was expected and two charming rooms with fires blazing were all in order for us. Mine had a wood fire, & the pillows had ruffles & we were most comfortable. Our apartments were on the first floor, near the dining room; our dinner was of french & English cookery & every thing in elegant style—Barnum’s comes next to the New York American. “They welcomed the coming guest,” in our case.
Wednesday, November 26, 1845
We left next morning at 9 for Washington where we arrived at 1/2 past eleven, & at 12, reached Mrs. Fletcher’s our home for the winter.5—Wednesday November 26th—This house was formerly the U.S. Bank, & occupied last year by the
Russian Austrian Ambassador. Mrs. Fletcher met us at the door & waited upon us into the parlour. She is about 45 and is rather sad in the expression of her face as though “Misfortune had marked her for its own.” She was of a good family in Maryland & reduced in fortune & Mr. Fletcher lost his office under government so that she takes boarders. Her daughter Miss Rose is a great musician. There are 7 slaves in the family & Richard waits upon us & Winny is chambermaid.
The parlour has a piano, guitar & is comfortably & nicely furnished all but the curtains which are a deep snuff colour with the windows full of beautiful plants. As James had described them as yellow silk we were rather disappointed to find them so many shades beyond yellow. There are two couches, a sofa, centre table, and crimson velvet rocking chair, the ceilings are very high & the walls papered very handsomely. The back parlour has a red sofa, & dining table & is exclusively devoted to eating, a great business here although the cooks are very inferior to our northern domestics.
I then went up stairs to my room, found a large french bedstead of maple, large chintz sofa & pillows, maple wardrobe, wash stand, dressing bureau, rocking chair & centre table. The curtains of a dingy blue worsted & dingy muslin. Every thing is for show & the curtains are patched, the rocking chair arms broken & held fast by a piece of cloth sewed over them, the tongs a very handsome pair, the moment we take them to poke the fire twist themselves most marvellously, and dropped the fire out & they are a specimen of boarding house furniture. The beds are clean, new & comfortable & other disagreements can be submitted to with a better grace. The nursery opens from my room and has an airtight stove and is very well.
The air today is very warm and after a dinner of roast turkey we drove to the Capitol & I seated myself in James’ place, & to The President’s house. The Avenue (Pennsylvania) was gay with equipages and dim with the dust blowing in clouds. We retired completely fatigued in the apartments of the Austrian minister after hearing Miss Rose play very well on her guitar.
Thursday, November 27, 1845
Thursday 27th. This is Thanksgiving day here appointed by the Mayor of the city and Thanksgiving at home. It was a dull, rainy, miserable day; & as we were not aware of it, we spent it in arranging ourselves & effects. The Austrian minister was not very neat & the bureaus were scrubbed & the drawers covered with clean paper, the closets likewise & we proceeded to the business of unpacking and disposing our clothes so that at night we were quite in order & gave thanks for being so comfortably provided for winter.
In the evening
Mr. & Mrs. B. Kirk we saw Miss Rose for the first time. She is tall & about 20 & muscular in her frame but listless & sleepy in her manner & complexion is dull & colourless—She came to her “Mama” who introduced her & said Mama I had an invitation to go out today to dinner—“Where?” asked her mother, “oh I shant tell where” & her voice died away in a prolonged giggle. That was Miss Rose’s first remark & but for her musical gifts I should think her “not at home” in the the upper story or attic of her tall figure. Mr. & Mrs. Bayard Kirkpatrick came in to spend the evening as we brought some letters & bundles for them.
In the afternoon the airtight stove in the children’s room smoked terribly & the hall stove6 not being up the weather changed very cold & we began to find smoke and cold intolerable & our faces grew blue & long. We tried to apologize to each other by saying “Well, it does not smoke quite as badly as it did,” & had a little hope of a fire two or three times but at last we got a mason & chimney sweep, and took out the bricks and Jack7 went up the chimney bringing down the soot of ages & we had the masonry again laid & a fire made that did not smoke & were quite happy again.
Friday, November 28, 1845
Next morning Friday 28th the wind blew a hurricane all day, the air was very cold & blustering & the dust was in clouds. Mrs. Fletcher requested a little of “the need for I” as she really was in want of some so we found a change from a wretched Thanksgiving dinner to a nice one, of oysters, poultry &c & there was a prospect of getting up the hall stove, as it had arrived in person.We went on with our arrangements & dressingboxes, workboxes began to have a place, bureaus a local habitation & a name, one James’ & the children’s. Cotton rolls were filled into great cracks in the windows, and Mr. Kirkpatrick called to ask us to tea. Mr. Rockwell & Mr. Truman Smith both called and thought we were very fortunate to have such nice quarters and said they were magnificent for Washington.
We went to tea at Mr. Kirkpatrick’s, found them living very near us in a snug little house very handsomely furnished & here I found the yellow silk curtains here. Mr. Dixon had been with Mr. K. to the various houses & finally took tea with them when he came on his hunting tour for homes, & the remembrance was of their house which he described for Mrs. Fletcher’s. Every thing is pretty & Mrs. K. is a very kind & unassuming woman. She is not a beauty but she makes no pretension she makes a very agreeable impression on every one. We had tea & came home at 1/2 past 9.
Saturday, November 29, 1845
Saturday 29th Mrs. Kirkpatrick called to bring my nurse Mrs. Skippen to present & I liked her appearance better than any nurse I have had. She is pleasant & good tempered I am sure. I bid her adieu till January.
Mrs. Hubbard, Mr. Rockwell & Mrs. White of New York called & we then had the carriage & left cards & a letter of introduction for Mr. and Madame Calderon de la Barca, the Spanish Minister & lady, also for Mr. & Mrs. Richard Coxe, Mr. & Mrs. David Hall, Mr. & Mrs. Ogle Tayloe. We called on Mrs. White, Hubbard, & Truman Smith. The former were out, the latter too ill to see any one but Mr. Smith came in to see us.
We then called & left cards at the Towsons the Brigadier General’s, as Annie became particularly acquainted with them at West Point last summer & they exacted a promise that she should call on them when she came to Washington. Our letters to Mrs. Tayloe & Mrs. Coxe were from William W. Boardman, Clemie’s godfather. We also left one from Mrs. Sigourney for Mrs. Madison with our cards.
The letter I here copy as this book is only for my children and as the letter is from one of the most famous women in the world & first poetess of America to another of the most remarkable women of our country.
Hartford November 17, 1845
My dear Madam,
Allow me to introduce to you my particular friends the Honorable Mr. Dixon Member of Congress from our district and his lady—persons of the highest respectability for intellect, education & position in Society. They were naturally desirous of paying their respects to you and I am persuaded I shall confer mutual pleasure by this introduction.
I shall also hope to participate in the satisfaction communicated by hearing through them particularly of your welfare, whose kind hospitality to me when a stranger at the South has lost none of its vivid memories by the lapse of years.
Yours Madam with great respect & regard,
L. H. Sigourney.
Little Andrew Kirkpatrick & his nurse came to see the children, a pretty boy. We also left cards at Rev. Mr. French’s for himself & lady. We found the weather so cold we returned home & had the happiness to find the hall stove up on retiring at night.
Miss Fletcher had arranged some more plants in the window & hall, & a large sofa, & table, and buff curtains made it look very pretty. Moreover a green baize door keeps off the cold from the back hall & the stairs look very well from below up to the first flight & after that there are various kinds of carpeting but patchwork is la mode at present. Mr. & Mrs. French & Miss Miller called while we were at dinner and we did not see them.
Sunday, November 30, 1845
Sunday 30th a cold rainy day, it ceased in the afternoon but did not clear off. Miss Towson, Miss Kuhn, & Mrs. Ord called after church. Ann went to church in the afternoon but we could not think of venturing in the storm.
Bessie had the chicken pox but very lightly, she is rather peevish & has a cold. I never saw Clem in such beauty as today as round & rosy as a lady apple, & so fat that when she “stoops to folly”8 like older ladies she can’t get up again. She is as cunning as she can live.
Monday, December 1, 1845
Monday December 1st I hoped today to see the Hon. James Dixon in his seat in the 29th Congress of the United States at its opening but alas it rained in torrents & I was disappointed. Congress opened & he took his seat but I was no wiser for it.
At four o’clock it ceased raining & cleared off warm & pleasant. I was just ready for dinner when Mr. & Madame Calderon were announced. Annie & Mr. Dixon were at the table but I had not gone down & on descending immediately I found they had gone & was just in time to hear the rustle of their dresses. I suppose Richard told them we were at dinner. Mr. French came to see us after dinner & Mr. Rockwell & Hubbard passed the evening but alas for the little lady apple, Clemie. She became restless & covered with the chicken pox on her limbs & screamed all night without ceasing like a little screech owl which she resembles her eyes are so large & she is so wise. Ann sat with her all night in her arms, & I was with her & her papa by turns trying in vain to soothe her.
Tuesday, December 2, 1845
Tuesday 2nd little owl was covered with red spots on her face, & she was a pitiable object enough, her little fat limbs blistered almost & I found a large variola on my lip—Clem was hoarse with crying the night before but she did not appear sick & I left her in a nap to go up to the Capitol for a short time.
The seats in the gallery were crowded to suffocation. We had a very good position to see James who looked very handsome I thought in his arm chair with his cloak around him. In the next seat was Mr. Marsh of Vermont, famous as an elegant scholar but he has a most coarse piggish face. One seat from him is John Quincy Adams ex-president. I cannot help thinking it undignified in him to come to the House of Representatives after being president however republican it may be considered. He sits motionless & colourless like a wax statue. We heard some amusing debates from Gerrit Davis of [blank space] Mr. Bayley of Virginia which seemed to me wordy & unsatisfactory on the subject of a public printer,9 the former insisting on a retrenchment in the expenses of printing & the latter accusing him of a new born zeal with which in former times he was not possessed. Of course Bayley the loco10 carried his point as his party is in the majority. It seemed as if they ought in deference to pay J. Q. Adams the respect due to age and ask him first to speak but incoming with the multitude he must be one of them.
Soon the private secretary of the President came in & announced that he had “a message from the President of the United States to which they would attend.” The Speaker, Dr. Davis of Indiana ordered it read & the clerk Mr. French commenced in an indistinct tone to read it. We sat an hour listening without hearing until I was very tired & on looking at Annie found her so deadly pale we beckoned to James & he came up & waited on us out.
We went a few moments to the Senate but the Secretary Mr. Dickens had not read as far as Mr. French so we left immediately. Mrs. John M. Niles the bride & Miss Robinson were in the gallery. Mr. Dickens is our next door neighbour & this morning he called bringing Mr. Dixon’s letters saying that they came to him and they might often find each other’s letters & asking him to call. It reminded me of Miss Catherine L. Cogswell, now Mrs. Courtlandt Van Renseallaer who once opened a paper directed to me from Mr. Lambert at the time she was engaged to Mr. V. R. Miss E. L. Cogswell & Miss C. L. Cogswell she thought all ought to enter into a compact to keep each other’s secrets which might accidentally be revealed to them. There are in Washington & in office, Mr. Dix, Mr. Dixon, Mr. Dickens, & Mr. Dickinson.
Mr. & Mrs. Bayard Kirkpatrick came in to pass the evening. I was giving Clem a warm bath after which she slept very well & I did not know of their being here until tea time. Mr. & Mrs. White of New York passed the evening with us also. I was quite pleased with them, Mr. White is a very amusing man, he is perfectly satisfied with himself and his position and carries it so evidently in his face as to make him quite ludicrous. Mrs. White is deaf but reads & is entertaining. Mr. W. had been at Brunswick as he told Annie, an evening of great disappointment she had & asked her to think what it was. She tried in vain to guess & he told her that he was at Mr. Hasbroucks’ the evening of Mrs. Livingston’s party & they were so disappointed that the young ladies were not there. They had heard a great deal of Louisa & were desirous of seeing her. Mr. White thought he should like her so very much. Mrs. White soon asked him if he was ready to go—“No, Mum, I am not ready.” After a while, she asked him again but he was not ready & they “made an evening of it”—
To day we had cards from General Towson, Mrs. Towson, Miss Towson & Miss Kuhn.
Wednesday, December 3, 1845
Wednesday 3rd as we were preparing to go out shopping Miss Basset was announced. She walked with us & Mr. Dixon told her he had business & if she would go to the Capitol with a little beau she had, & would send for him, he would wait upon her to the gallery which she did. Annie & I bought sugar plums, toys &c & returned quite tired. Mrs. David Hall, Mr. & Mrs. Richard Coxe, Mrs. Harrison called. Mrs. Hall was an Ellsworth of Windsor, Mrs. Coxe a very dashing looking woman, with a superb cachemire shawl, one of the $1000 shawls & also her sister. The day was very stormy after noon. James called on General Scott in the evening but he was out & he left his card without his residence which lead to an amusing[?] time as the sequel will shew.
Thursday, December 4, 1845
Thursday 4th “The House” passed a resolution to draw for seats and James chose one next to Mr. Adams & before Mr. Marsh two removed from his first one & the best in the House—far better than before as he was exposed to a current of air and could not well hear.
Mrs. Hubbard called to introduce Mrs. Ogle Tayloe a very languishing body as I thought who is full of aches & pains like a lady in the Diary of Désennuyée,11 who wished to have everyone listen to her complaints but would not admit any one else to the privilege of relating theirs, “only fit to live in a rose & be nourished by its perfume.”
Mrs. Reid a daughter of Judge Thompson & bride has been here all the time we have. She was a widow of Captain Clack of the Navy & last summer in Hartford & visited Mrs. Judge Judson. She was going to leave today for her last winter’s “mess” as they call a party of members or others. She was in the parlour with Mrs. Tayloe & took the conversation with her. She appears very pleasantly & after Mrs. H. & Mrs. T. left told me she should have called but she was busy preparing to leave and was coming over soon to see us & ask us to her new residence.
Friday, December 5, 1845
Friday 5th the streets were very slippery and icy, but we went to pay visits as the House had adjourned till Monday & Mr. Dixon was anxious to accompany us. We called at General Dix, found them keeping house in one formerly occupied by Mr. Henry L. Ellsworth on the shady side of C Street. The steps were a glare of ice & it was with difficulty we could get up to the house. The parlours were furnished with very handsome
red chintz curtains, & fashionable furniture, & all their pictures & curiosities from Europe were disposed very tastefully about the rooms. Mrs. Dix is very pretty & very ladylike. She said she found house keeping in Washington very difficult. She brought some white servants and some she was to have here & one disappointed her. She never dared to speak of home for she was assailed with a volley of regrets & on our telling her of Ann our nurse she asked me to let her come & see her women which I promised to do.
We left cards for Mrs. [illegible], Miss Robinson, & called on Mrs. & Miss Cass at Fuller’s.12 We found Mr. & Mrs. Tayloe & Mrs. Tayloe presented us. Mrs. Cass looks much better than in Paris13 & Miss Isabella has lost the five years, a fortunate freak of Time in the case of a young lady. She told me she was very happy to meet us again & was very pleasant indeed.
We left cards for Miss Basset, & found on our return Mr. Huntington the Senator, Mr. Hubbard & Mr. Truman Smith had called to ask James to go with them to call on the President but he was gone & regretted it.
In the evening James called on General Scott & the servant said he was
not at home but he believed was not very well. James sent his card, Mr. Dixon of Connecticut but without his residence which I advised (him to be sure & put on—I take a little credit for that!) The servant brought word that the General Scott was very busy expecting some gentlemen to supper & could not see anyone. This poor Jamie thought quite a rebuff as he had been urged so strongly to go & see Gen. Scott & had known that he was apprised of his coming & would know all about him.
He stopped on his way home to call on Mr. Rockwell whose boots & gloves were ready for a party. He was going to ball at Capt. Swift’s & then said he had an invitation to a supper at General Scott’s he wished he could transfer to him as he could not attend both. James said to him, “Do you know Gen. Scott?” “Yes” said Rockwell “I have seen him & he says he shall be neighbourly.” James thought this a little odd because one evening when Mr. Hubbard & Mr. R. called & asked him to go to call on Mrs. Polk & then James proposed to them to call on Gen. Scott. Mr. R. declined & said “Oh, let these military officers call first it is their place”—
However he came home to talk it over with me and we concluded it was “no matter” as people usually do when they don’t mean so—and James decided it was the last of General Scott, he should never call again there.
Saturday, December 6, 1845
Saturday 6th was a beautiful day and as the children’s faces were quite clear Mr. Dixon took them with Ann their nurse to the Capitol. On their return I asked Clem. what she saw and she replied “a naked baby.”—which I thought rather a funny account to give but on reflection I remembered that the baptism of Pocohontas was one of the principal pictures and an Indian mother and baby in a state of nature were the most conspicuous figures.14
Bessie was delighted with her visit & as the capitol furnished sugar dogs & “hugar heeps” (sugar sheep) as Clemie called them, they remembered it as a sweet place—as both returned with one in each hand and a paper of sugar elephants of gingerbread.
We took the carriage on their return & drove to Mr. Bodisco’s the Russian Ministers residence in Georgetown where we left our cards. Mr. Bodisco married a beautiful young girl of Georgetown with whom he fell in love as she went to school & who was attracted by his diamonds & won by his elegant gifts of jewels. She is very fine looking with a large figure & is a real blonde. We met her in the avenue on our return—She wore a blue cloak lined with sables & a crimson velvet hat embroidered. She has a son to whom the Emperor Alexander was god father.
We left our cards on Mrs.
Bancroft Marcy Secretary of war Navy & called on Mr. & Mrs. Bancroft secretary of Navy. Mrs. B. received us. She is a very lovely looking lady, petite & a thorough Bostonian I judge. She had lost a little girl within a few weeks the only child of this marriage for Mr. Bancroft was a widower & she a widow both with children but this little girl was of great beauty. I felt a great deal of sympathy for her from the time I saw it in the papers. She seemed more cheerful than I supposed but told us she paid no visits.
We then went to call upon Mrs. Madison, the Dowager Queen. We had called the week before with our cards & Mrs. Sigourney’s letter to which we were indebted for her gracious reception of us. “Oh” said Mrs. Madison when I told her we had the pleasure of bringing a letter to her from Mrs. Sigourney a few days before, “You cannot tell how delighted I was to receive Mrs. Sigourney’s letter and to hear from her once more, she is a dear precious woman and although our personal acquaintance was not long I shall never forget it.” I told her how much we wished Mrs. S. to come to Washington and that next season she had promised to be here, and “Miss Mary” was to “come out” as a young lady. She could hardly believe, she said, Mrs. S. had a daughter grown & said nothing could give her more pleasure than to see her in Washington. She told Mr. Dixon she hoped he would not be very busy this winter, he told her he hoped his engagements would not prevent his coming often to see her. Oh yes she replied “and you must bring the ladies often to see me.” She apologized for not having been to see us but she was prevented by a cold. We had not expected it but considered in our duty to call first on her and not to think of her coming to see us.
She is certainly one of the most remarkable woman of her age I have ever seen, or of any age perhaps. Her complexion is as delicate as a rose and her figure quite em bon point with a fullness of face which entirely precludes every appearance of old age. She was suffering from a cold & her eyes shewed it a little. Her height is medium but she is so dignified & graceful in her carriage that she is a model of elegance. Her costume was most suitable & becoming. Her dress was a full black silk with a
scarlet crimson crape embroidered shawl disposed in soft folds about her person, a figured gauze turban and handkerchief of tulle illusion about her throat. The crimson curtains of the drawing room cast a glow over her face & a becoming light to the old aristocratic furniture, ancient pictures and busts, statues & marbles and the lady seemed more like a picture tableaux vivant who had stepped out of her frame to receive her guests & would return to it when we had taken our departure than like a lady of the present day.
We drove from Mrs. Madison’s to the White House but “what a fall was there my country woman!”15 The anterooms are large cold and dreary and the servant was a thoroughly democratic looking fellow. He took our cards in & then we entered. Mrs. Polk was surrounded by visitors (Poke! what a name!) and was polite & agreeable but I thought she seemed stiff in her new silk with black lace flounces and her white and gold scarf was more accustomed to the wardrobe drawer than her ladyship’s boney arms. Her skin is sallow, she has bright black eyes & black curls in a very dressy cap with gay flowers finished her costume. Two or three yellow Tennessee nieces16 were perched up on the sofas looking dreadfully afraid of rumpling their new stiff silks or disturbing their bright red silk scarfs & great stone breastpins. The President was not at home and we have not had a glimpse of Polk since we came to Washington.
The room was furnished with crimson velvet curtains & chairs17—& look warm & comfortable. When we said our adieux we went through the apartments open all day. The blue room with hangings of blue & white & gilded chairs to match, the green room & East Room, which was unfurnished except the carpet of Thompsonville manufacture, a ruby ground & gold coloured eagle & stars. I suppose the height of a carpet manufacturer’s ambition is to make one for the President’s house.
We had cards from Mr. and Mrs. Reid, Col. Stanton USA, Miss Towson, Miss Tinker, Mrs. Forester & Mrs. Ord were here. I received a note from Mrs. Ogle Tayloe inviting us to pass the evening with her and saying we should only meet Mr. & Mrs. Hubbard at tea & perhaps one or two neighbours might drop in in the evening from seven to ten.
We went as invited. I wore my dove-coloured shaded mousseline de laine, black lace flounce, black lace mantilla diamond pin &c. Mr. and Mrs. Miller of New York, Miss Sandford, Mr. Truman Smith, Miss Carr, Mr. Sarussi the Belgian minister, the Dutch minister, & his secretary of Legation, the latter did not speak English, & Miss Sandford entertained him; I regretted Annie could not speak French as it seems necessary here. Mrs. Tayloe talked to him, & her little girls, one spoke French beautifully, not more than 8 or ten years old.
We had a very pleasant evening indeed, & returned at 11. The soirée was very graceful & every thing went off very pleasantly. We had tea on an elegant silver service, and at 9 apples, nuts, grapes, maccaronies, sponge cake & wine. Mrs. Tayloe has a theatrical manner but her character is so well sustained as to be interesting. She is very tall with a profusion of long ringlets, in front her hair dressed in basket fashion, behind with a profusion of bows & braids, a crimson mousseline de laine shaded.
The house is elegantly & gracefully arranged. Mr. Tayloe is one of the pleasantest men I have seen & is of the most aristocratic families in Virginia. They are both very wealthy & their house abounds in pictures, & beautiful china &c. To have the entrée of Mrs. Tayloe’s house seems to be sufficient for the currency of Washington. Miss Clarke was there & I found was a sister of Marion, my old school mate now Mrs. Lt. Smith, her husband in the army.
Mr. Rockwell went with us and came home with us & on his way began telling James the mortification General Scott felt the night before—I told J. as I mentioned previously that I wished him to write his name on his card & address distinctly but he did not & General S. had sent all over Washington to find him but could not as the directory is not finished for Members of Congress & the evening he called sent the servant immediately after reading the card & finding him gone, for the servant when he took up the card & pretended he had asked him if he would see him & brought for an answer the Gen. was expecting company to supper, did not give it to him but made up the answer & gave the card after he left. The man followed as far as Fuller’s but not being able to trace him returned home much to his chagrin. He said to Mr. R. he would sooner have lost the best horse he had than to have had it happened. He was exceedingly mortified.
Sunday, December 7, 1845
Sunday 7th we left home for church intending to do the same as the President, but found it was utterly impossible & turned to another which was quite near us if we had gone directly to it from home but we walked H a mile out of the way. We heard Rev. Mr. Hogarth preach, Mr. Smith is the clergyman. In the afternoon we staid at home & Ann the nurse went to her church.
At noon a carriage drove up and General Scott was announced. James went down to see him & I was in the parlour & saw him through the folding doors partly open. He is a splendid man & in his military dress & plumed hat must be perfectly stupendous. His height is nearly seven feet & he is of magnificent proportions & seems the beau ideal of a General. His face struck me as remarkably like Louis Phillippe. He made all his apologies in due form to The Major & then told him he was a much younger looking man than he had supposed & began to talk of his own prospects & hopes as a candidate for the Presidency.
Mr. Brinley came in & took dinner with us. He is a nephew of Mr. B. from Boston & was formerly at Washington as clerk but now is here for a few days preparatory to going to Baltimore. He is decidedly the most conceited man I ever saw. We can name no one from Mr. Clay down but he is his “particular friend” & Mr. Clay kissed Mrs. Brinley & Mrs. Evans told him this & that, & John Quincy Adams told him something else—& he knows Mr. & Mrs. Adams very well—& so on—I have really never seen his equal for self sufficiency and he is a bore of the worst kind for bores usually are dull but he keeps up an incessant chatter & all for the glorification of Mr. F. Brinley.
Monday, December 8, 1845
Monday 8th It stormed to all day—pouring rain & we busied ourselves at home in writing and sewing. Mr. Huntington was here & in the evening Mr. Rockwell and Mr. Campbell of New York passed with us. It was warm & foggy, a scotch mist, as they called it.
Tuesday, December 9, 1845
Tuesday 9th It was warm and foggy in the morning. We went up to the Capitol and heard an amusing discussion on the tariff between Mr. Stewart of Pennsylvania and a member from the South. Mr. Winthrop of Mass. said a few words & others. Mr. McConnell a member from Alabama is very intemperate & his face was bruised & red but he is said to be so very generous & good hearted when he is sober that he is tolerated on account of his largeness of heart, he leaves a little Methodist wife at home, poor woman she chooses wisely. Yesterday a person was turned out of office and he gave him a new suit of clothes as he had just drawn his mileage.18
We tried in vain to get a seat in the Senate gallery, but sat awhile in the Library looking at pictures. We stopped shopping on the way home & found cards from Gen. Dix, Mrs. Dix, Mr. Temple, and soon after our return Mrs. Marcy wife of the Secretary of War, & Mrs. Andrews called, very pleasant ladies they were. Mr. Rockwell called in the evening & presented Mr. Sereuys, the Belgian Minister a very pleasant man but homely enough, he looks like pictures of Talleyrand, he is about 35.
Wednesday, December 10, 1845
Wednesday 10th Mrs. Hubbard came immediately after breakfast to ask us there for the evening. She said they expected some young ladies & a little dance. We called at Mr. Richard Coxe & found Mrs. Coxe at home, Her house is elegant & stylish. We then called on her sister Mrs. Rice, who was out, on Mrs. Hall where we had a very pleasant call. She is very friendly. We left cards for Mr. & Mrs. Miller of New York who has set up housekeeping & a carriage in Washington, but finds a Washington house although they pay $150 a month rent is nothing like a very plain house in New York. We called at Mrs. Tayloe’s & found her not at home, & then returned home.
We found our visiting list considerably swelled by cards from Mrs. Madison who had called in person and whose loss we deplored, Miss Payne was with her & Richard Cutts, her nephew, Mr. & Mrs. Matthew St. Clair Clarke called, & Miss Clarke, all of whom we missed.
In the afternoon Mr. Gray called but I did not see him, Mr. Robinson, reporter for the Tribune came up & took tea with us & went to Coleman’s19 with us. We found the drawing room full of people. Mrs. Hubbard presented us to her friends Mrs. Hunt of New York, Mrs. White, Mrs. H. & others. Mrs. Truman Smith sat by me—a lovely woman who is consumptive; Mrs. Hubbard got me a nice place to see every body and the dancing was before us.
Judge Woodbury, Gen. Green & Mr. Simmons two Senators from Rhode Island, Mr. King, Mr. Yancey of Alabama an old college friend of J.’s & a host of others were introduced to me. Mr. Rockwell waited on me to supper & many of the gentlemen had to wait as the ladies were all seated. James, Mr. Yancey, Mr. Robinson among others who were quite amused at my telling them they were a “standing committee.” Annie made one or two conquests, Hon. Mr. Cabell of Florida & Hon. Mr. Houston of Delaware were very devoted & danced with her.
Another youth with a long pointed beard very “tippy” had just succeeded in getting himself presented & was going to lead Annie off when we found it was nearly 12 o’clock, the evening had passed so rapidly away.
Mr. Robinson came home with us & invited us to go to the convent at Georgetown20 & the college as he has the entrée which invitation we laid on the table for some fine day.
Thursday, December 11, 1845
Thursday 11th. Ann & the children we took to see the President’s house. They were delighted and Clem made herself quite at home, seated herself on the blue damask foot stools & declined leaving. Bessie ran in to the room where the porter & usher staid (while her papa wrote the names in a book kept for the purpose) and they said “What a splendid child!” & out she ran—I might desire that they might be a President’s lady without wishing that they should be Queens.
We left them at home after carrying their papa to the Capitol & Annie & I went shopping a little. Mr. Rockwell, Mr. French, Mr. Wilcox and a Berlin constituent called, Mr. Hall in the evening. We paid Mrs. Kirkpatrick a call. James opened his mouth in the Capitol today, to present a petition from two towns in his district against the admission of Texas as a slave state into the Union.21
Friday, December 12, 1845
Friday 12th Mr. Rockwell came early to see if I would go up to the Capitol with him & if they could make up their minds to speak again today. Even while I write J. may be making his maiden speech. How much I should like to hear him and still should be so nervous for him!– –
I was surprised by a letter from Mrs. Matson today the first for many years. Miss Towson came & took Annie off to pass the day, & I am alone having given Bess a little bit of a spelling lesson & little Clem with her wee mouth is drawing “LAnn” (an abreviation of little Ann her doll) pictures on the slate. Her new version of her lullaby is
“Hush” my dear
Lie still in the tumbler
Holy Angels go by-by
Heaven blessings without number
Gently Falling down stairs
My pen fell & stuck in the floor a “sign” of visitors & up drove an equipage & Hon. Mr. & Mrs. Miller, Mr. M. a bachelor brother, & Mr. John O. Sargent made me a very pleasant call. The carriage came at ½ past 2 & we drove up for James, that is, Bessie & I. We met him as the house had adjourned early and called at the Hotel22 on Mr. & Mrs. Hubbard, Mr. & Mrs. White, Mr. & Mrs. Hunt, Mr. & Mrs. Ashley; Mr. Huntington & Mrs. Hubbard we saw, the rest had to be “carded,” as they say here.
We called on Mr. & Mrs. Reid who were out, Hon. Mr. Winthrop of Boston called on us. He is a brother of Mrs. Dr. Rogers of Rose Mount and James thinks a model of elegance & of a Boston gentleman. Mr. Ashmun a member from Springfield called & in the evening Hon. Mr. Houston of Delaware, Mr. Clayton son of the Senator, Hon. Mr. Brodhead of Pennsylvania, Mr. & Mrs. Kirkpatrick.
Mr. Robinson the “Richelieu” of the Tribune, a young Irish gentlemen of great talent as an orator & lecturer on Irish melody, a graduate of Yale College but undesirable as a beau to a belle, passed the evening and to ask us to go & see the Spitfire23 & Diving Bell at the Navy Yard but we were engaged to go to Arlington & as he had taken so much pains for us & had visited at Arlington by invitation from Mr. Custis I asked him to accompany us partly as cicerone. Annie returned at H past 9 delighted with her visit to the Towsons—.
Saturday, December 13, 1845
Saturday 13th One of the loveliest winter days I ever remember & Mr. Calderon Spanish minister said even in Mexico or Spain it would be so considered. We left home at eleven, as Mr. Robinson was here punctually, crossed the Potomac by a bridge a mile long, & then by a smooth road we took our way—. The country had a sort of spring-like aspect and the negroes busy in the fields made us almost fancy it was so—. The
air atmosphere was perfectly clear, & every building, tree & shrub & distant figure stood in bold relief against the Italian sky.
We rode two miles and drove into the gates of Mt. Arlington.24 The road winds around the hillside which is thickly wooded with oaks & evergreens & dotted with cattle lying in picturesque groups upon their leafy couches or divans. Off in the distance were the
groups cottages of the slaves & one very pretty ruin of an old stone cottage. We compassed the mountain & passed the stone stables of the Tuscan order, & the garden handsomely laid out & bright even now with ivy & evergreens till we drove up to the portico of the mansion on the brow of the mountain. The house is of brick stuccoed with rows of massive columns of the Tuscan order. It has two stories & wings. But the steps to this solid mansion were wooden & shewed “Time’s decaying finger” rather too plainly. Every thing is incongruous in a Southern establishment.
A wild looking man servant opened the door & took our cards & a letter & book from Mrs. Sigourney. The letter of introduction may interest Bessie & Clemmie when the last of the Washingtons are passed away.
Hartford Nov. 17th
Permit me my dear Mr. & Mrs. Custis to present to your favoring notice the Honorable James Dixon Member of Congress from Connecticut & his accomplished Lady, my very particular friends, who to minds highly cultivated by education & foreign travel unite that poetical taste & talent which you both know so well how to appreciate.
It is so long since we met in your pleasant mansion that it may not be inexpedient while introducing others to restore myself to your recollection, which I attempt to do so by the accompanying volume of which I request your acceptance as a slight mark of regard from
L. H. Sigourney.
George Washington Parke Custis Esq.
While the man had gone with the cards we had leisure to admire the magnificent prospect. The beautiful mountainside reaching down to the Potomac which seems to kiss the very hem of its garment (out of respect to the Washingtons I suppose). The cities of Washington & Georgetown stretching ten miles along the horizon with “the White House” conspicuous on the opposite margin of the Potomac & the Capitol, “Fame’s proud temple gleaming afar”25 against the blue sky in the brilliant sunlight.
The wild man invited us in & said Mrs. Custis was at home, Mr. Custis was on the farms & they had sent for him. We traversed the solid collonnade, entered a vast hall ornamented with the antlers of deer & lined with pictures of The Royal family of America and were shewn into a parlour which was divided from another by arches much in the style of ours at Rose Mt. except that the room was very large & the walls of great height. It was full of furniture, tables covered with books, couches, seats of various shapes & a side board loaded with old fashioned silver salvers, baskets, but excepting a few gems every thing looked rather poverty stricken, & there was that incongruous blending of magnificence & misery so continually seen in the old aristocratic families at the South. The reason is obvious—all their wealth consists in slaves & a large landed estate from which they must support themselves and even Mr. Custis with this fine place seldom sees the face of a dollar I have heard. A very small sum would make it the finest country residence I have seen next to Monte Video26 and it is more accessible than Monte Video and must be a delightful home for those whose tastes & attachments belong to Virginia.
There was in the large parlour an elegantly carved Italian mantel piece, with a great wood fire & in the other part of the room an airtight stove which the wild man had replenished as we came in leaving his old coat on a chair, as he had evidently put on his best one in a hurry. On each side of the mantel piece hung portraits of Gen. & Martha Washington who was the grandmother of Mr. Custis and a widow with this son when she married Gen. Washington. Mr. Custis was the favorite of Gen. Washington & he adopted him as his son & he then took the name of “George Washington Parke Custis.” These portraits are seen often engraved of the Gen. & Mrs. Washington, & and accompany the sketch written by Mr. Custis in The National Portrait Gallery. Between them was a portrait of Gen. W. leaning on his horse drawn by Mr. Custis. It is just after a battle and as is sometimes the case with amateur artists the perspective was so imperfect that if the horse had turned around he would have kicked over houses, ships and soldiers.
But here comes the lady of the mansion Mrs. Custis. She is about 68 or 70 tall & slender dressed in an ordinary dress & cap with her grey hair combed on each side of her face which might have been pretty in youth—as the features are regular. She received us very graciously and her conversation shewed her mind cultivated to a high degree; like most ladies residing in the country she had not much of the chit chat of the day and was much amused at the stories told by Mr. Robinson & Mr. Dixon & Mrs. Sigourney of course furnished a theme. Mr. Wadsworth & Professor Silliman had been there in former years & she spoke of the loveliness of Mrs. Sigourney who was there & passed a night before the birth of her children. She was delighted with her and was very desirous of seeing her again as every one is who has once known her. She has a peculiar faculty of endearing herself to every friend she meets even for a few moments.
Over the door was 2 portraits of Mrs. Lee & Capt. Lee,27 the former by West & another by a French painter. Capt. Lee was in a military dress & I found Mrs. Lee had been at Rose Mount two summers ago with Mrs. Sigourney to call. She was visiting Capt. Talcott at Glastonbury. They now reside at Fort Hamilton. Neither of the portraits are as handsome as Mrs. Lee who had beautiful eyes & a profusion of brown ringlets, her nose is rather broad & round for beauty. Just at that time she was in an interesting state of health28 & was not quite as pretty I suppose as at other times.
We staid nearly an hour waiting for Mr. Custis who did not come till we feared we had wearied Mrs. C. by our long visit but she urged our remaining & the servant handed Cake & wine on the old silver salver & apples from Arlington & at last Mr. Custis came in. He is nearly 80 but very strong & well. He had been walking several miles over his grounds, is his habit. He has the irish manner, frank, free & hospitable & amused us very much. He described his summer journeys or as he called it his “Pilgrimage to the battle grounds of America,” his “mecca” I suppose & the distress he felt at finding Bunker hill desecrated by houses & shops. He said he told them there that they might build a tower or monument to the skies & it would be nothing to that old battle field where the bones of the heroes had mouldered. He supposed they would think him a strange old man & an enthusiast but they must excuse him. He happened to be very fortunate at Lexington in finding an old survivor the only one who was at the battle and who had not been there for many years until that very day he happened to visit it & he enjoyed that highly. When he travelled last summer the papers announced his arrival & levees were held at different cities as every one wanted to see the last of the Washington family or what belonged to General Washington.
He begged us to stay & dine with them but we were unable to do so & then he shewed us his pictures & studio where his chef d’oeuvre occupied a large place. It is of Gen. Washington as are all his subjects, & his great horse & is better than the other, moreover the horse is very good. There is a portrait of Gen. W. at the time of his marriage & of Mrs. Custis at that time, and of many of the family. Mrs. Custis as a child & at the age of 12, then at 18—& at the time of her marriage with Gen. W. & in old age. We were very much entertained but the studio was so cold! It was a great brick room unfinished & unfurnished & the old gentleman is such an enthusiast! We had to tear ourselves away, glad to have seen all that remained of the Washingtons of whom every American is so justly proud, & hoping to repeat our visit in the spring when the roses are blooming.
The valley we again admired & the lovely view & one point off beyond the Capitol was 15 miles distant. Mr. Robinson was quite devoted to Miss Annie & in his letter from Washington to the Tribune [clipping here] he thus speaks of this visit. Mr. Robinson “Richelieu” recited to us on our way home “Indian Names” by L.H.S. & “Mary Stuart.”29
On our return from Arlington we found cards from Hon. Mr. Cabell of Florida, Mr. Hulseman the Austrian Minister our predecessor in this house, Hon. Mr. Upham the senator from Vermont, Hon. George P. Marsh, Mrs. Marsh, & Miss Crane, Mr. S. P. Walker, & soon after Mr. Calderon was announced.
As soon as he saw me he said “How much you are like Mrs. Kinney!” and asked many questions about them & the children & how they looked and then wanted to know how many we had & asked so particularly of them that as they were dressed Annie led them in and Bessie went to him & sat on his knee & he seemed enchanted with her and asked me to give her to him. “Oh!” said he “if I only had a child like you what would I do? I should make an idol of her & I have been married so many years and have none.” He told her if she would only come to see him he would give her every thing she wanted & thought her particularly graceful & admired her dress a crimson plaid & plaid stockings & her figure. He said they were in mourning for young McLeod at the present moment but their first invitation would be to us.
He made us a long visit and I thought of what Mr. Sereuys said of him the other evening as we were talking of him & Mme. Calderon—He says Mr. Calderon congratulates every unmarried man he sees, “Ah you are so happy you are not married!” & Mr. Calderon does make such long calls, two or three hours for he never goes home until dinner time 6 o’clock & then putting up his hat quite confidentially—Do you know said he they say he was obliged to marry Mme. Calderon? Ah! said I, it was a long flirtation—“Yes but they say he was obliged to marry her”—with quite a wise look. He says Mme C. is very unpopular, she is so exclusive & it is a pity as it is important for a foreign minister to have a popular wife or none at all, or one who like Mrs. Bodisco never say anything but looks so beautiful– –The entrée to Mrs. Tayloe’s salon seems to be the current stamp of fashion in Washington for Mr. Seureuys first remark on being presented was “I saw you at Mrs. Tayloe’s on Saturday evening!”
Mr. Calderon having chased Bessie into the corner & given her another kiss bade us adieu. He is a very pleasant man. His hair has grown very white since I saw him & his whiskers are perfectly white & neat around his chin like a down tippet, he is a perfect gentleman without any of the affectation & “je ne sais quoi”30 of foreigners. True politeness and good breeding belong to no climate or country but are found alike in all.
Mr. Robinson came to tea & to accompany us to hear the Campanologians or Swiss Bell Ringers.31 As Annie & he had such a flirtation at Arlington we thought best to “nip it in the bud” & she did not make her appearance so after tea James, Mr. R. & I set off for Carusi’s saloon.32 The Bell Ringers are not Swiss as they are supposed to be, but Englishmen & their performance is most wonderful. Their costume is of Swiss mountaineers. They have a long table on which their bells were arranged. They appear like common bells, but are some of them muffled & some have leather handles & the clapper is hung horizontally instead of perpendicularly, as in common bells. They played waltzes, marches & Hail Columbia, Yankee Doodle &c with wonderful precision & accuracy. They change their bells as each note occurs but unless looking at them one could suppose it an orchestra or band performing except that their tones are sweeter & more melodious than those of any instrument. The performance is perfect melody & entirely unique—The Swiss Bell Ringers and Ole Bull are the most wonderful & delightful instrumental musicians I have ever heard & I am thankful to have been able to hear them.
Sunday, December 14, 1845
Sunday 14th it rained pouringly all day freezing as it fell & we could none of us get out of the house, indeed I suspect no one did except the clergy who are always expected to be at their post. We read all day, & it was a day of rest.
Monday, December 15, 1845
Monday 15th it was still unpleasant but moderated & in the evening & the wind blew a gale. Mr. John O. Sargent & Mr. Ord weathered it & came & spent the evening with us. Mr. Sargent is a brother of Epes who was once introduced to us by Capt. Summer & who afterwards published my letter from Rome & the carnival in his magazine.33 John O. is very small in stature quite a petite maitre but very gentlemanly and polished. Mr. Ord is a tall lank green youth who is a lieutenant in the Army and has never been in any society I judge but the Florida Indians & Texians. One of his elegant comparisons was that the “fluttering of beaux about belles was like the buzzing of bees round a sugar hogshead,” the lady the hogshead of course! Mr. Kirkpatrick called to introduce Dr. Miller.
Tuesday, December 16, 1845
Tuesday 16th a warm, lovely day. We called at Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s to inquire for little Andrew who had taken the chicken pox from our children but who was better & Mrs. K. gave us cake & wine—which had more of a home taste than anything we have yet seen, new plum cake & currant wine. We then called & left cards at Mr. Matthew St. Clair Clarkes, who were out, at Rev. Smyth Pyne’s to whom Mrs. Carder had sent a letter of introduction & an acceptance to “The President & Mrs. Polk” who invited us to dinner.
We called on Mrs. Andrews who lives in a beautiful house next to Governor Marcy’s, and on Mr. & Mrs. George P. Marsh of Vermont. They have a quiet little house & their sister Miss Crane is with them. Mr. Marsh is famed as an elegant scholar & Mrs. M. has entered into all his pursuits & studies but that is not “woman’s lot” & she paid dearly for it. One day 3 years ago she studied either some dead language or some fine drawing and has never used her eyes since. 16 hours without rest [illegible] one day & for three years she has not read a page! A penance indeed for her carelessness, in summer she has to shut herself up in her room and cannot bear the light of a single lamp & even for months did not go out of the house as the least breath of air inflamed them, still there is no perceptible inflammation, on the contrary she has very pretty hazel eyes & is a very delicate and beautiful woman.
We called to inquire for Mrs. Ogle Tayloe who was thrown from her carriage on Saturday & who saw us to our surprise. She had her hand very much bruised & her temple but seemed pretty well. The carriage was dashed to pieces but 5[?] children, Mrs. Tayloe unhurt. We then rode up to the Capitol and stayed in the Library till James came for us when we returned home to dinner—
James went to supper at Gen. Scott’s who sent this invitation—Gen. Scott requests the company of Mr. Dixon at supper (roast oysters) on Tuesday evening, at 9 o’clock, from which he returned at 1—.
Wednesday, December 17, 1845
Wednesday morning 17th Annie had a very lovely bouquet sent to her from an unknown beau, & one white rose with Mr. A. B. Gray’s card. Mrs. Lindsay the wife of Dr. Lindsay called, Mrs. Cass & Miss Cass, Mrs. Dummer, Miss Cleaves, Mrs. Ela (Saco ladies), Mrs. Hubbard & Mrs. Hunt. In my childhood, I thought Misses Cleaves the most fashionable ladies in the U. States & their hats & dresses from Boston were the admiration of the town. Moreover on Sundays children would climb the pews to see the nodding of their plumes & rustle of their silks. Mrs. Ela was Lucia King a school mate of mine who had always a dove like expression. She came to visit her sister one winter & caught a beau in the person of Mr. Richard Ela, to whom she has now been married a year. Mrs. Hubbard called with Mrs. Hunt, wife of a member from New York, Lockport I think, Mrs. Washington Hunt.
When they left Annie & I went to the Capitol. Mr. John O. Sargent who was almost small enough to be a Sargeant in arms & at elbows for he is not as tall as Annie seems to be quite taken with her as small gentlemen are apt to admire tall ladies. He sat with us in the gallery and we then went to the Senate & sat there awhile until they adjourned at 4 o’clock. They were choosing a printer
who was by ballot. Messrs. Ritchie & Heiss were the successful candidates. Mr. Sargent rode home with us & went to dine with Mr. & Mrs. Miller. We had no other visitors this day.
Thursday, December 18, 1845
Thursday 18th we remained at home as Bessie was sick all day. In the evening Mr. Sargent & Hon. Thomas Butler King passed the evening with us, both very agreeable.
Friday, December 19, 1845
Friday 19th a very fine day. Annie walked out to buy a few buttons for me & soon returned with Mr. J. O. Sargent who invited her to go to the Capitol & away she went. Ann & I finished trimming my dress for the dinner—my brocade with black lace flounce & trimmings with steel buttons, diamond pin, & silver ornaments & black lace mantilla. Ann is busy dressing my hair in braids with a sprig of silver rose buds and leaves in the centre of the back hair & ringlets in front thus. [drawing here]
Mr. & Mrs. Matthew St. Clair Clarke, Miss Clarke & Mr. Walker called but I could not see them. At 4 o’clock we were ready to go to the White House in compliance with the foregoing invitation on the preceding page.
James looked his very best. Just as we were ready to go Mr. Andrew B. Gray called whom we
left with Annie & drove to the President’s where we arrived at the moment. I met in the dressing room34 a lady whom I found to be Mrs. Mason wife of the Attorney General & who preceded us to the reception room.
As I had asked in vain and I could hear of none of my acquaintance who were invited to the dinner I did not know but they had got us up there alone to lecture us for not voting for Polk or to teach us the beauties of the Polka—however I found myself in a grand company of all the Judges of the Supreme Court & their ladies & we were asked because we were on “The Judiciary.”
Mrs. Polk received us in the circular blue room furnished with gilded arm chairs & couches & the little benches Clem. admired so much covered with blue & white satin damask. Mrs. Polk is very handsome in the evening but a little too much the colour of “refined gold” in the day time which Shakespeare
says insinuates needs no “gilding” but which in her case was decidedly improved by a scarlet cashmere turban embroidered in gold & trimmed with gold fringe on her “back hair” as Dickens calls it, & jetty ringlets in front. Her dress was dark blue velvet with brussels lace trimming to the neck & under sleeves to match, a long Brussels lace scarf reaching to the ground nearly, around her neck. Scarlet bracelets confined the sleeves at the wrist.
Mrs. J. Knox Walker the wife of the private secretary & adopted son of the President wore a mazarine blue & white striped silk trimmed with three rows of dark blue fringe, low neck blonde capes & sleeves to match. She wore blue & white marabouts & a set of aqua marines or french diamonds very brilliant & a star in her hair of the same. She has a small grecian head & features & is exceedingly pretty. She has already 2 children although she seems not more than 18 or 20 years old. She was somewhat smaller than I am in one respect.
I heard several of the Judges asking Mrs. Polk who I was & requesting to be presented, at which I felt to be sure quite flattered but I afterwards thought perhaps it was the wife of Senator
Dixon H. Lewis who is so fat that he has a chair made expressly for his own person, or perhaps the fat girl from Ohio who is exhibiting herself for an education & who as the elegant Mrs. Ord says “gains a pound a week daily.” Gen. Scott thinks Mrs. Ord has plenty of raw materials but he is so very queer[?]. Mons revenons à nos moutons!35
Soon the august visitors began to fill the room & Mrs. General Hunter an aged lady next to my chair told me “the Judges always were late” and I began to feel a “goneness” for want of dinner as I did not dare to eat one before leaving home.
Mr. Walker arranged the grand procession to the dining room & when the
I was very agreeably disappointed in the President. I had expected a tall, grim Poke of a man and to my surprise on entering the room found a short, slender & pleasant looking gentleman with long silvery hair bowing & congeeing about & shaking hands very cordially with whigs and democrats alike, to be sure he don’t care now he’s got it but he might shew a little spite to the Whigs if he wanted to do so—& then I liked him partly because his name is James. He resembles Gen. Jackson as a young hickory tree would a stiff old one,36 but I swallowed all my hickory nuts with the departed old tree. This picture is a very good one except that the President looks older & his hair is long and silvery after the fashion of Old Hickory.
Mr. Walker arranged the march to dinner, the order of the Polka37 much to relief of the minds of the guests so that when they moved Judge Neilsen of New York appropriated me & told me we were to follow Judge McLean after whom we took up the Polka. The President took Mrs. Wayne, who was on his right hand on his left Mrs. Catron, Judge McLean, & Mrs. Dixon, Judge Nielsen, Hon. C. J. Ingersoll of Philadelphia, Hon. Mr. Pettit, —a O— Hon. Mr. McCrate of Maine two other Cyphers, Mr. Howard of Baltimore Reporter of the Supreme Court, Hon. James Dixon, Hon. Mr. Mangum of the Senate, Mrs. Walker, Judge Woodbury, Mrs. Judge Bowlin, Judge Catron, Mrs. ——, Chief Justice Taney, Mrs. Polk, Judge Wayne (in which she acted a beautiful figure as she is both tawny & on the wane,), Miss Bancroft, sister of the Sec. of the Navy, Judge Bowlin, Mrs. Mason, Misses Woodburys in white muslins & scarlet embroidered cashmere scarfs, Mr. Walker, Hon. Mr. Yancey of Alabama, Hon. Mr. Winthrop of Boston, Mrs. Pettit, Attorney Gen. Mason, Mrs. Wayne & the President whence I started. There were forty guests. Annie felt quite piqued that she was not asked but as the President’s nieces, Misses Walker and Rucker did not appear but next day called on Miss Coggel & Mrs. Dixon, she felt better.
The table & dinner was as handsome as any I ever saw, in proportion to its size not even excepting the supper table at the Tuilleries at the Queen’s ball— The servants wore dark blue coats, white vests, cravats, & gloves. There were 200 lights, chandeliers, candelabras & figures round the grand centre ornament,38 which all were of gilt burnished & very brilliant, with vases of flowers.
The dining room is the west room of the right wing, corresponding to one half of the east room. Three long windows were hung with purple & gold coloured figured curtains, & purple velvet chairs with carved rose wood frames, as the furniture is all new & fresh & all the decorations newly gilded, it was very splendid.—
“Sit I guess we did sit,” four mortal hours for although the Judges have good fat offices they don’t think it wholesome to eat poor dinners and this was interminable. I judge 150 courses for every thing was in the french style & each dish a separate course, soup, fish, green peas, spinach, canvas back ducks, turkey, birds, oyster pies, cotelettes de mouton, ham deliciously garnished, potatoes like snow balls, croquettes, poulet in various forms, duck & olives, delicious birds, paté de fois gras, jellies, orange, & lemon, charlotte russe, ices & “pink mud,” oranges, grapes, prunes, figs, sweetmeats, mottoes & every thing one can imagine all served in silver dishes, with silver tureens & wine coolers and the famous gold forks,39 knives & spoons for dessert. The china was white, gold & blue with a crest the eagle of course, & the dessert plates were mazarine blue & gold with a painting in the centre of fruits or flowers.
The President had to be so kind as to drink all our healths, though we looked in pretty good case just then, but when one is in Washington they must do as the Washingtonians do (or don’t do).The glassware was very handsome blue & white, finely cut, & pink champagne, gold sherry, green hock, Madeira, the ruby port & sauterne formed a rainbow round each plate with the finger glasses and water decanters.
Eating must end when repletion begins & at the finale, with a number of mottoes for each lady who boasted of her children & I one for each of mine, we danced the Polka in reverse & reached the drawing room in safety. Coffee was served and liqueurs! & we bade adieu and reached home at 10 o’clock—found Annie on the qui vive to hear and John O. Sargent by her side with his eyes wide open and “Richelieu” opposite looking daggers & defiance. Mr. & Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Mr. Rockwell & Mr. Campbell had been here.
Saturday, December 20, 1845
Saturday 20th a cold windy day—we however had to make calls & went to see Mrs. Madison with whom we found Mr. & Mrs. Richard Cutts (Miss Hackley of Norfolk) and a roomful of visitors. Mrs. Madison was dressed as before. Mrs. Cutts wore black watered silk as she is in mourning for her brother. She is very lovely & beautiful. We remained but a few moments & cake & wine were offered. Mrs. Madison desired me to present her most kindly to Mrs. Sigourney & say she should have written but she was suffering from a weak eye. Mr. Cutts spoke of the pleasant parties he had attended at our house of which I have not the remotest recollection but did not commit the faux pas of contradicting him.
We called on Mrs. John M. Niles & found them at home. Mr. Niles is the Senator from Hartford & the first time I came to Washington was in the company of Mrs. Niles the first, a very plain excellent woman. She attended our first party in Hartford & died a few months after & about the time of poor Cogswell’s death. The bride Mrs. Niles second was an old maid of 35 & seems so pleased with “The Judge” as she calls him that she will no doubt make his declining years pleasant & comfortable. We found also Senator Dickinson & family there & so “killed two birds with one stone.” We called also at Dr. Lindsly’s and found Mrs. Lindsly very agreeable and also paid a visit to Gov. & Mrs. Marcy Secretary of War.
It is a great task to pay so many calls as a Representative’s wife must call on all of the Senators ladies, Secretaries ladies, President’s lady & “foreign affairs.”
We found cards from Mrs. J. Knox Walker, Miss Walker, Miss Rucker, (the ladies from “the White House”), Mrs. Towson, Miss Towson, Miss Kuhn, Hon. Mr. & Mrs. Hugh White of N. York. Hon. Mr. Houston & Prof. Davies also had called before we went out.
Sunday, December 21, 1845
Sunday 21st—a very cold and unpleasant day, quite as windy & blustering as any weather we suffer at home. Ann McKone went to church & of course I took care of the children. Mr. Ord talked with Annie all the morning but I was not aware of his being here until he had left as Annie had a sore throat and did not wish to go to church with him—In the afternoon we went to the church of the Epiphany, Rev. Mr. French’s on the excellence of God’s law—as the only rule of action from the 19th Psalm. The church is very neat & so near that we can see it from the windows.
Mr. Robinson called and Gen. Scott came expressly to make my acquaintance. Bessie & Clem came in and he hugged & kissed Bessie & was very flattering in his remarks. Of course I understood the praise of a political aspirant but she deserves it all notwithstanding. He knew that the nearest way to win a politician is to praise his wife & next his children to win his wife.
Mr. Rockwell, Hon. Mr. Campbell called and in walked little John O. Sargent with a bouquet for Annie. He is about large enough to be a bouquet-holder to a lady as Lorenzo Hoyt once said. He was groomsman to Judge Vanderpoel who married Ellen McBride. Each gentleman was to present his bridesmaid a bouquet and bouquetholder but at the time Mr. Hoyt had the flowers but had forgotten the bouquet-holder and when they asked him where his bouquet holder was he turned it off very humorously by saying that he had engaged a little black boy to come & hold it & he had disappointed him. John O. Sargent is a brother of Epes who is so small that he might be called a mere epesode of a man. He was to go to New York in the morning & was dreading it very much. James said after he had gone if he had not weighed over two ounces he might have “franked” him. We talked of some mutual acquaintance in New York among them Captain Summer who he says weighs a ton & yet I said he is not tonnish which seemed to amuse John very much.
Monday, December 22, 1845
Monday 22nd We had cards from Mrs. Gen. Gaines, Mrs. Seaton, the Misses Seaton whom Gen. Scott asked to call on us, Mrs. & Mrs. Senator Colquitt, the Misses Dickins, Miss Dickins next door neighbours, Miss Kuhn, Judge Wayne.
We heard poor Natty was delirious & not expected to live & of course were anxious enough about him. No mail at night.
Tuesday, December 23, 1845
Tuesday 23rd Mrs. B. Kirkpatrick called, Mrs. Col. Totten, Miss Totten, Miss Davies, Miss Burden, Mrs. Judge Wayne & Mrs. Catron, all very agreeable people. The morning was so fine we all took a walk & Bessie & Clem were very happy & bright. Mr. Robinson was here & dined. The house adjourned early & James meant us to walk with him but Robinson was hanging around & prevented us. Mr. Rockwell dropped in on his way home and we had a card from Hon. Daniel Webster. Miss Kuhn, Miss Towson & Miss White of Baltimore called
and took to ask Annie up there with them but owing to Natty’s illness she declined. Gen. Scott, Prof. Davies, & Mr. & Mrs. David Hall called and passed the evening.
Wednesday, December 24, 1845
Wednesday 24th Lieutenant Marcy called on Annie, Mr. Cabell of Florida, Hon. Mr. Rockwell who sent me a pair of sugar scissors & Annie 2 sugar hearts for Christmas gifts, the children some cornucopias of sugar plums—Mr. Holbrook called & Mr. Rockwell & Hon. Mr. Brodhead passed the evening with us as there was a great firing of guns, blunderbusses & crackers, & continued all night to usher in
Thursday, December 25, 1845
Christmas day 25th Long before daylight Bessie and Clemmie were up in their little night gowns to see what Santa Claus had put into their little stockings which they had pinned up into a chair, though Clemmy wanted hers to be hung on the door. Bessie’s had a horn of sugar plums & a letter franked by James Dixon MC containing a little salver for dolls tea service, Clem’s the horn of sugar plums & “a little bit man in a little bit waggon,” as she said. Each had a new arm chair for their own use, filled with papers of sugar plums, fruits from Mr. Kirkpatrick, also the deep & scientific work of “Dame Trot & her Wonderful Cat,” for Clemmy & Goody Two Shoes for Bessie. Each a beautiful doll & for Clem, a little basket from her Aunt Annie & for Bess a carriage drawn by a dog. Clem also had a “little bit hobby neigh neigh with a eetee bit tail.” Never had they realized[?] Christmas before and never were children in such extasies—of course there was no more sleep nor slumber for anyone after that. They sent little Andrew Kirkpatrick a curly dog, a watch from Annie & some sugar plums. Mrs. K. sent us some little tarts & a pitcher of egg nog the famous Christmas drink in Washington.
I found nothing in my stocking but a hole! where Santa Claus had escaped probably in punishment for my slovenliness! However Annie gave me a little card basket and knitted James a very pretty purse & James sent me a box of prunes in a very handsome box.
Lt. Ord & Dr. Ord called on Annie, also
Hon. Truman Smith to wish us a merry Christmas & he entertained Bessie by reading “Dame Trot” to her; funny old Truman! Lieutenant Hagner called also on Annie, Mr. Kirkpatrick who invited us to spend the evening but we could not go—Professor Davies, Hon. Mr. Cabell, Mr. Walker & Mr. Robinson called.
In the evening Annie went to Gen. Towson’s to rehearse in tableaux for next evening. While she was gone General Scott called to present Capt. Williams, his aid de camp to Miss Annie & myself—I told she had gone to take part in some tableaux. “Ah!” said the General “She is a living tableau picture.”
The weather was damp and dull enough all day
Friday, December 26, 1845
but Friday 26th it improved a little but the wind blew cold & cloudy in the morning.
Mr. & Mrs. Richard Cutts & Miss Payne, Mrs. Madison’s nieces called. The bride Mrs. C. wore a black watered silk & mantilla & a white hat & plumes, white Brussels lace veil. She looked beautifully & moved majestically. We then rode over to Mr. Bodisco’s— although knowing Thursday was her reception day, yet as it was Christmas, we thought she might be at home on Friday but were unsuccessful. We then called at Mr. Matthew St. Clair Clarke’s. Mrs. C. was mother of Marion, now Mrs. Lt. Smith an old school mate of mine & who used to call me her “child” at school. Their house is elegant, was built in the most costly manner in speculating times but a beautiful covered marble portico which came from Italy for it was seized on landing for debt!
We also called at Hon. Mr. Miller’s of New York. They took a house for which they pay $150 a month rent, just what we pay for every thing & their house is quite inferior outside & inside, only they brought furniture from New York, a sloop load of arm chairs, books, & kitchen utensils. The vessel did not arrive until they had been put to every inconvenience & regret at taking the trouble. The family consists of Mr. & Mrs. M. & a bachelor brother. They have a very nice carriage & horses but unless one’s equipage is most recherché no one notices it as it is impossible to vie with the President & foreign ministers and one would not care to do so as it would be pretty certain there would be nothing else to him but his equipage—
We were wiser in not taking a house as we thought of doing, nor bringing our carriage & horses although we have so comfortable a carriage ever since our marriage, & such elegant horses as our Arabians but they were sold to Mr. Fitch of Fitchville. I felt sad at parting with them, but it was better to sell them because if we left them at home they might be neglected & to bring them here they might be neglected or be killed in coming, & I feel happier to know they are with a kind of master who I hear is very proud of them. We have a very handsome carriage just as much as we like to have at about $40 a month & I ride continually, more than if I was well.
If only I knew as certainly where pretty Carlo is, with his collar “I am Bessie Dixon’s dog” I should be glad. The handsomest dog I ever saw, perfectly white Spanish poodle, large enough to be handsome & not so small as to be troublesome, his hair was like dress silk, his eyes black & expressive & his tail like a white plume. His face had none of the pugishness of a lap dog, he was a beauty! but ran away– –This is an episode indeed from the call at the Millers—
We drove over to Mr. Mason’s the Attorney General, found Mrs. Mason, & children at home & a daughter just “coming out,” neither pretty nor elegant—Two children in the room had evidently been accustomed to shew off & asked if they might dance the Polka. Just then a host of Western and Southern members & wives came in & we escaped the Polka & bade adieu & came home. Mr. Ogle Tayloe & Gen. Dix had called, Mr. Larned a neighbor & very pleasant man called on us.
At seven we went to Gen. Towson’s to see the tableaux where we met Mrs. Marcy, Mrs. Gen. Macomb, old Gen. Van Ness who reminded me of Uncle & who presented Miss Van Ness & Miss White, his nieces, Prof. Davies’ & daughter & Dr. Witherspoon of the army, a veryagreeable man, Capt. Casey, Mr. King the artist & many others, in all about 40.
We went to a dark room, & in the folding doors green baize ones had been made to open & shut easily, & a large gilded frame covered with black gauze makes the illusion complete. The first was a scene from Byron’s Gulnare & the Corsair. He is asleep & she playing the lute at his feet in red velvet dress, spangled turban &c & the silver girandoles were arranged to form a fountain. It was very effective. Then came the statue scene from Shakespeare in which Annie is Perdetta in a blue brocade—her face did not shew at all as she is kissing the Queen’s hands. As she comes to life Perdeta faints into the arms of an attendant. Annie’s next scene was as Edith Plantagenet as a novice in white dress & black veil holding an antique lamp in her hand. As she discovers the Nubian she turns her head away, the light was thrown on her profile & she looked lovely. As Rowena she wore a brocade & white Brussels veil falling to her feet & Rebecca is kneeling & just lifting to look upon the features of which she has heard so much, then offers her offers her jewels & her veil partly falls back as she bends over Rebecca who kisses the hem of her dress.40
Saturday, December 27, 1845
Saturday 27. It was very pleasant. Ann McKone took Clem & Bessie went with us to the Capitol where I got the Biography & literary remains of Edward Griffin, son of Mr. George Griffin41—We left Ann & Clem at Gen. Dix for her to see Mrs. Dix’ servants by her invitation from Mrs. Dix & called for them soon after.
As we reached home we found Capt. Casey at the door, & he made us a long call but shewed he was deficient in good breeding by saying Mrs. Kuhn’s 3rd tableau was the handsomest he ever saw, a faux pas as he need not out of grace to Miss Annie have said any thing of it for Annie was far prettier in hers & I suspected he was a little jealous & perhaps a lover of Miss Kuhn.
Mrs. Gales & Miss Gales called—Messrs. Gales & Seaton are the editors of the National Intelligencer,42 now almost as much of an honour as editor of Blackwood—Mrs. Gales was a leader of ton but now she is in mourning, she is very fine looking indeed & her daughter also a sweet girl. They came in an elegant carriage & liveries & we thought it was one of the Ambassadors. Hon. Mr. Houston took tea with us, and we had to excuse ourselves as we were engaged at Mrs. Tayloe’s soirée.
I wore black silk, a silver flower in my hair, & lace mantilla. We found Mr. Testa the chargé from the Netherlands, Mr. Seurys, Gen. Greene Senator from Rhode Island, Dr. Niles of Paris, Hon. Holmes of S. Carolina, Mr. & Mrs. Hubbard, The Kelloggs from Troy, Gen. Dix, Mrs. Dix & son, Miss Baldwin, Miss Carr, Mrs. Madison in black velvet & an india scarf, her tulle turban & kerchief. Miss Cutts, Mr. Cutts & bride, who looked sweetly. As I had become quite well acquainted in Washington, every one came to talk to me & pay their compliments so I had quite a reception. Mr. Testa desired to be presented, & we had a long chat of Mr. Huygens—&c & a very pleasant evening. A variety of refreshments were handed & we left at 10 o’clock.
Mrs. Madison came to talk by me & sat there the rest of the evening. On leaving she said, “give my love to that dear woman” meaning Mrs. Sigourney.
Sunday, December 28, 1845
Sunday, 28th We attended Rev. Mr. Sprole’s church, Presbyterian in 4½ Street. The text was “Come let us go into Bethlehem,” Luke 2nd. The President & Mrs. Polk came in just at the second prayer. Mrs. Polk wore a black watered cloak & white hat & plumes. The President looked as usual. Mrs. Polk is a member of this church. The sermon was very good indeed & strongly democratic.
We found the air as soft & balmy as April. Mr. & Mrs. Tayloe & Misses Tayloe & Master Tayloe called after church; Mrs. T. invited Annie to pass New Year’s day there & help her receive, which she was only too happy to accept.
Michael & Julia, former coachman & cook at Mr. Kinney’s came to see Ann McKone, who had not returned from church. Bayard Kirkpatrick & his little boy came over to call, & Hon. Mr. Cabell of Florida took tea with us.
I was very ill all night & had to take 20 drops of laudanum to gain relief & at last gained the relief that laudanum gives which made me sick all the next day, its effects are most unpleasant.
Monday, December 29, 1845
29th Monday I was not able to go downstairs to see any one & Annie received all the calls. Miss Towson, Miss White & Dr. Ord, Senator Dickinson & Misses Dickinson, Capt. Casey, Lt. Lee of the Army. Mr. French who came to ask us to tea next evening & which we declined, Mrs. Kirkpatrick who also asked us to dine next day & declined as being unable to do so—Miss Miller, Rev. Smythe Pine a very fashionable clergyman & of great wealth called on us. He married a sister of Dr. J. Smythe Rogers former proprietor of Rose Mount. Annie said he was very agreeable. I retired as soon as tea & saw no one all day.
Tuesday, December 30, 1845
Tuesday 30th My head ached violently & I could see no one all the morning. Mrs. Gen. Dix came to ask Annie to spend the evening with Miss Baldwin, & meet a few young ladies. Mrs. Miller called, Mrs. & Miss McKean, Mr. R. I. Ingersoll of New Haven, Mrs. Kirkpatrick & Mr. Compton, a deaf and dumb man.
At 3 o’clock as my head felt no better for lying in bed I dressed & started with Annie for a walk. It was most delightful—& I expected to meet James very soon but we met Mr. Miller who said “your husband has been speaking an hour! He has made a great speech!”43 As Jamie had several times shouted Mr. Speaker & could not catch the Speaker’s eye although I told him I hoped he would speak today when he left me, yet I hoped against hope & was delighted to find he had broken the ice as Mr. Webster to this day says he feels as if he should “cave in” every time he rises to speak.
Soon after, we met Jamie looking happy enough—as soon as he had done speaking John Quincy Adams came to him & congratulated him on his successful début which was thought a great honour as he never recognizes any one or portrays any emotion. 10,000 copies were subscribed for on the spot to be circulated all over the country & compliments poured in on all sides—thus has Jamie made his first or “maiden speech” as it is called—and in the hackneyed language of actors & others “this is indeed the proudest day of my life.” He says if I can only be as safely delivered he shall have no other care to depress him at present.
Annie went to Mrs. Dix to pass the evening but had a dull time of it as Mrs. Dix only presented her son & no other beaux and as she was a stranger she found it very irksome except to talk to Miss Sanford & Miss Benton. Miss Fletcher had some musical friends & I did not go to sleep until nearly morning. As Winny said to Annie “the young lady was a wonderful performer and sung Greek and Latin songs and every thing”—
Wednesday, December 31, 1845
Wednesday 31st the last day of the year as mild & bright as the first of spring. Mrs. Skippen my nurse came to see me to say she was in readiness at a moments’ warning & I told her I was—if I can only be as safely delivered as James was yesterday of his maiden speech I shall be glad—
Mrs. Custis of Mt. Arlington & granddaughter came to see us. We had cards from Mr. Bancroft Sec.of the Navy, Senator Clayton of Delaware, Mr. Testa charge d’affaires &c de S. Majesté le Roi de Pays Bas, the Misses Ferguson, Gen. J. P. Van Ness, Miss Van Ness & Miss White two very agreeable ladies whom I met at the Towsons. Miss Van Ness wore a white hat with pink roses inside in Brussels lace veil & velvet cloak trimmed with sables & sable muff. Every thing about their establishment was well appointed & elegant.
Soon after I saw James walking home with Mr. Rockwell who just returned from New York, & Annie who had been to the Capitol came with Mr. Cabell. After dinner Annie and James walked out to buy Winnie a dress for New Year’s & a few trifles round & I sat at home. Mr. Robinson came & tired them with a long visit all the evening while I retired at ½ past 9 and Mr. D. not until 12 so that we heard the guns fired to usher in the New Year before we went to sleep—
Thursday, January 1, 1846
January 1st 1846 Another year begun. So many warnings that our hold on life seems but a thread. This evening I feel almost too sad to write at all.
Today, while in the midst of Mrs. Tayloe’s gay saloons Mr. Huntington the Senator asked me if I had heard anything more respecting Dr. Bull’s death. This was my first intimation of it as none of the members from Conn. intended to tell me of it & Mr. Huntington only had not been warned as my health is so delicate just now & particularly this week. It seems he threw himself from the window having been afflicted with a monomania that he was poor. But I have learned no other particulars.
At eleven o’clock the carriage came & Mr. & Mrs. Kirkpatrick also, we drove to the White House to pay our respects.44At first we were told there was no admittance but for members of Congress & thanks to that distinction we went in, & were shewn into the crimson parlour, where we encountered the President. Soon after one of the marshalls told us we could go into the drawing room as the ladies were ready & we went in—but poor Mr. & Mrs. Kirkpatrick had to remain behind. We found the ladies very pleasant & Mrs. Walker in the same dress as at the dinner, I suspect the only one that fits her, she wore a velvet mantle trimmed with down, & was lovely as ever. Mrs. Polk wore claret coloured velvet & her dress was not very tasteful, she also wore a plume in her hair. Miss Rucker and Miss Walker were there the latter in a stiff brocade—After we had paid our respects we were for leaving but Mrs. Walker asked us to remain & the President handed us to chairs and as I had a delightful arm chair I kept it awhile.
Mr. Bancroft Secretary of the Navy was presented & his remarks were rather queer: “You are in Congress, do you like it? How long have you been here? Have you been here before? We are neighbours, all new Englanders are neighbours” &c.
I met Gen. Marcy who was evidently very glad to see me & very pleasant. Mrs. Marcy is so very kind. She begged me to let her do any thing for me when I am sick and said she was more accustomed to a sick room than to balls & parties. If I accepted all the kind invitations of my friends I should have a levee or soirée on the occasion like the entrée of a royal branch—
Mr. Dallas & family were at the President’s, he is an elegant looking man, his hair perfectly white and curling. Mrs. Catron, Mrs. Mason & the Attorney General, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Walker all were there & their respective ladies.
At 12 the diplomatic corps made their entrée. Mr. Calderon & Madame Calderon, Mr. Packenham, Mr. Sureys whose dress was really very handsome, & he although a plain man looked admirably. He wore various crosses, stars &c. Mr. Testa the Dutch Minister wore a green court dress. Some were scarlet & gold & scarlet & silver but the Sardinian ambassador pleased me most. He is a most distingué looking person of about 32 or 33 with features like James, light hair and moustache. His dress was blue & silver—a military court dress & he wore it admirably. Then came the attachés in court dress & the chargés & and Secretaries of Legation forming a brilliant assemblage—then the military officers—Gen. Towson who looked very finely & a host of others so we glided off & escaped the great throng which was pressing through the door & windows.
The White House is open on this day to every one of the sovereign people who think they have a right to shake hands with the President they have made & as either of them have as good a chance to rule the country.
We passed crowds of people & carriages on their way which we had just left & we proceeded to Mrs. Madison’s to pay our respects to her before the press. She wore purple velvet & india scarf & turban as at Mrs. Tayloe’s and looked like a queen as usual. Mrs. Cutts & the other nieces were there.
We then proceeded to Mrs. Ogle Tayloe’s where Annie was to pass the day. Miss Wright of New Jersey was also there & Miss Kellogg of Troy. Mrs. Tayloe’s rooms were all open. They are lined with pictures & are furnished in the most tasteful manner a few years past, perhaps 1836 instead of ’46. The curtains are of crimson & yellow & blue & yellow hung with draperies, & tassels, while in New York a lady thinks she must have every thing exactly the fashion of every year & every thing has such a parvenu like effect. The table was beautiful—crimson & gilt china, & cakes—fruits beautifully arranged as for a supper party, egg nogg & apple toddy in large silver tureens, & a great profusion of plate scattered about all looking as if in use daily. Mrs. Tayloe appeared in a purple or lilac watered silk, with silver buttons down the front, & the waist a jacket, one she had just received from Paris.
A number of distinguished people came here from the Presidents: Mr. & Mrs. Bodisco & son, Russian ambassador, Mr. Bodis co’s court dress was blue embroidered in silver & sword. Madame B. wore a silk dress & pink satin quilted mantilla, a pink hat & beautiful ostrich plume. Little Bodisco wore a crimson frock embroidered & lace pointed pantalets, light kid shoes. Mr. Suruys & Mr. Testa had been home & changed their costumes for black suits—Mr. Suruys said he heard Mr. Dixon speak & “he speaks very well” said he, & asked if I was there to hear him. Gen. Greene also praised it highly, it seems a subject of praise. The Casses & many others filled Mrs. Tayloe’s rooms, & as she begged me to stay as long as I could be amused, I did an hour, & was highly entertained and I did not care to go home without Annie, and endure the fatigue of receiving calls alone.
We went to Gov. Marcy’s to see Miss Knower, who seemed really glad to meet us & Mrs. M. repeated her kind request to me & offer of services of friendship. We called also & paid our devoirs to Mr. and Mrs. Adams who were very polite. Mr. Adams really gave me two hearty shakes of the hand when I expected only an automation movement. Mrs. Adams is a very fine old lady. She wore black velvet with a white blonde cape & cap—& sat down & made me sit by her lest I should be fatigued as Mr. Dixon had been there to tell her I was not well enough to call.
After that James called at Gen. Scott’s, Mrs. Rockwell’s, Mr. Gales, Seatons, Clarkes, Bancroft’s, Towson’s, & other places & I rode with him but did not go in. On my return I found Gen. Scott had been here to know if I would lend him (James) to come & dine with him at 4 o’clock & he had been twice to see me, & the servant was to tell me that the tallest soldier in Washington had been to see me. We had many calls but people did not leave their cards & we know not how many. Lieutenant Ord, Capt. Lasinowsky, Prof. Davies, & Mr. & Mrs. Kirkpatrick. Mrs. K. called & took tea with me as they had sent me a
gl pitcher of egg nogg & I sent word I was alone—. Miss Fletcher also came in to tea & Prof. Davies & James who returned immediately after to Mrs. Tayloe’s for Annie who was to remain the soirée.
Friday, January 2, 1846
Friday 2nd. Mrs. F. Miller called and I became prejudiced against her from one circumstance that we were all ready to go out and she saw it & the carriage at the door & yet remained an hour I should think. We called on Mrs. Richard Ela who was Lucia King of Saco, a schoolmate of mine. Her husband is a clerk in some department and she has quite a neat house & pretty baby. We then drove to the Capital & as Mr. Adams was speaking James desired us to go in & we were very much gratified. All the Senators crowded about him & there was breathless attention as he poured out his sentiments on war and Oregon.45 The statue was warmed to life & no compromise for Oregon, but it is ours was his doctrine & not an inch should be yielded up.
Mr. Houston & Mr. French were with us & Mr. French rode with us home “as crazy as ever”—& in the evening came & took tea with us. Governor Seward of New York & Mr. Robinson also came at 9 o’clock but I was so tired I did not sit up to see them.
Saturday, January 3, 1846
Saturday 3rd—I had a bad head ache & rode 3 hours to cure it which was successful. We called at Gen. Towson’s, Gov. Bagby’s, Gen. Dix, Mr. Benton’s, at Fuller’s for the Kellogg’s of Troy, McKeans & others. Annie went in for me & apologized for me—Mr. Foster, Mr. & Mrs. Richard Coxe, Mr. & Mrs. Rice, Lt. Goldsborough, Mr. McCrea, Capt. Thomas Williams [blank space] had been here.
It was a very mild & Bessie & Clem rode up to the Capitol which Clem. knows now when she sees it. Our Christmas box came from New York. I had sent for a white hat which arrived, also Mrs. K. sent Annie & I each a fan, Mary, each of us a head dress, & me a pockethkf [handkerchief?] worked in blue. Bess had a transparent slate & box of perfumery, Clem a box & the cries of New York which she has made the cry of Washington, James had a cigar case, & pocket handkerchief, Annie a scarf & Ann McKone a neck ribbon. Mr. Cabell spent the evening here and Mr. Dickens secretary of the Senate called & was very friendly in his offers of friendly & neighbourly interchange as they live next door.
Sunday, January 4, 1846
Sunday 4th We attended Rev. Smythe Pine’s Church St John’s. His text was “Why art thou cast down Oh my soul & why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God for I shall yet praise him who is the help of my countenance & my God.” The congregation was very fashionable & I saw many of our acquaintances, Mrs. Madison, Mrs. Andrews, Mr. Tayloe’s, Miss Carr, & all the elite—The preacher did not seem to have much connection to his remarks & I was disappointed in him. The church is very pretty & was decorated with the Christmas greens.
Mr. Cabell came home with Annie & in the afternoon Mr. Foster waited on her to church & I catechised Bessie—I asked her what God had made & she said; “black folks & white & Richard & Winny—Richard was a black man but his soul was white,” & Clem took up thesubject “Baby love all Baby’s friends, baby love black & white & Baby loves all B’s friends.”
Mr. Erastus Smith of Hartford came & took tea with us & talked about Hartford. The weather today was incomparable for winter & reminded me of Easter Sunday in New York when all the ladies come out in new Spring dresses and hats & the weather is so warm & almost always pleasant in Spring.
This church was very gay with the élite of Washington. It is simple & ancient in its exterior but beautiful in the interior reminding me of an English “chapel of ease.” Mrs. J. Knox Walker & the President’s equipage were in waiting, also the Calderons & others, we walked home & I heard birds’ singing. The children & Ann came to meet us.
Monday, January 5, 1846
Monday 5th Just as we were ready to go out “The Dutch Minister” was announced & Miss Annie went to see him & Ann the children & I rode up to the President’s grounds, they were making the garden as in April with us. The Adams equipage drove up to our door & we had cards from J. Q. Adams, Mrs. Adams, Mrs. John Adams—& Major Gen. Jesup, Mrs. & Misses Jesup.
We drove up the Capitol & found all the fashion there, the foreign ambassadors & all eager to hear the debates on Oregon & war. The weather was per fect & the Avenue thronged—The Calderons equipage drove up on our return & Mme Calderon & Miss McLeod called on us. Mme was very agreeable. She begged us to come & pass an evening as every evening she is at home and being in mourning they give no parties. Rev. Smythe Pine invited us for a Wednesday soirée. Mr. C. J. Ingersoll (who sat next but one to me at the president’s dinner & who interpreted some of my witticisms to Judge Nelson who was not very funny) came today to James & said he had been seeking an introduction to him but finally concluded to introduce him self—He tried that day to do all he could to confuse J. by his interludes but could not succeed as James’ fortè is readiness in debate and quickness of repartee.
Mr. I. is one of the dryest old codgers I ever saw & I took quite a fancy to him at the White House, perhaps it was mutual, as he told J. that he did not visit but would like to pay his respects to his lady. He is excessively plain and was the first person who opened his mouth in the present Congress. He is the author of the History of the Last War & he reminds me of some “quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.”46 Mr. & Mrs. Rockwell, Gen. Greene & his cousin were here to pass the evening. Gen. Greene is a Senator from Rhode Island and very funny quite a beau.
Tuesday, January 6, 1846
Tuesday 6th a pouring rain. However we thought that Mr. Calhoun would speak in the Senate & at least there would be room enough on account of the storm but as long the Oregon question is discussed the throng is wonderful. The Senate was in executive session or sitting with closed doors in other words & we went to the house & after a little while had a good seat.
Mr. Hilliard of S. Carolina made a fine speech. He was a Methodist clergyman & is a very polished & beautiful speaker. Mr. Testa, Mr. Cabell, Robinson & other beaux were in attendance on Annie. Lt. Goldsborough who has called on us all unsuccessfully was there & having no chance to be presented to Annie hit upon this expedient. Mr. Cabell had been recommending some book and said he would send it to her, & soon after this gentleman appeared & handed it to her with Mr. Cabell’s compliments that he thought she would find it interesting & we both thought it was some gentleman connected with the Library.
Mr. Testa rode home with us—& Robinson passed the evening & brought an extract from the N.Y. Express of Monday & Albany Evening Journal in praise of J’s speech & which I have placed with the others. I was crazy to see them as Mr. Miller told me to-day that the papers came back laden with my husband’s praises & so it seems – – the speech tonight was ready for the printers.
Wednesday, January 7, 1846
At 8 we were ready for Mr. Pyne’s, Dr. Witherspoon of the Army & Capt. Williams General Scott’s aid came to see us just before leaving but they were also to be there. On arriving we found the rooms quite full & officers moustaches, secretarys of Legation in abundance. The first gentleman I saw struck me as the handsomest man I had seen so far in Washington & Mr. Seurys said he was Mr. Stoeckel Russian Secretary of Legation. After paying our congees to Mr. Pyne as Mrs. P. was absent, I seated myself on a couch by Annie but Mr. P. soon came & took me to an arm chair & shewed me a beautiful silver cigar case of Genoese workmanship & elegantly illuminated edition of the Sermon on the Mount. He then offered me a glass of lemonade & talked awhile, when other acquaintances came up & he left me.
Supper was quite early & he immediately came to me & waited upon me to the table & seated me at the head—Mrs. Pearson an elderly lady he placed beside me, and we had a very pleasant time. Mrs. Rockwell & Gov. Seward soon joined us & Commodore McDonough. Mr. Orne was very kind & we had an elegant supper.
If all clergymen were as social & hospitable & made their houses as agreeable they would not be so unpopular as some are. Mr. P. told me that we were the first he invited & he went on asking intentionally but a few but gradually the number increased & he did not think half would come & was as much surprised as myself at so large an assembly but he asked more because next Wednesday is Miss Jessup’s wedding, then he goes to New York for Mrs. Pyne & then comes Lent, & he cannot ask his friends until Easter as he is in the habit of doing every Wednesday evening.
I met Mrs. Judge Wayne in the dressing room & the Wrights of New Jersey. Mrs. W. asked to be introduced, “she thought it pleasant to see how those people looked who called upon her,” she is a sort of Mrs. Julius Catlin, complete parvenus. Mr. W. is a great carriage maker (wheel wright) and made the handsomest in Jersey & in the country so they came here on the votes of the strength of their carriages & have an elegant one here. We reached home at H past 10 but I was very tired & the heat of the room made me very ill so that I vomited at night & suffered very much all night.
Thursday, January 8, 1846
Thursday 8th I was miserably all the morning & had to go to bed all day until dinner time. Mrs. Dix, Miss Baldwin, Mrs. Kellogg & 2 daughters, Miss March & Mr. March [blank space] called whom I could not see. Mrs. Rockwell & Mrs. Campbell called also to ask Annie to go to the ball with Mrs. C. & Mrs. R. as chaperones but she declined entirely as I thought she ought to do, and in the end was glad as Alfred the coachmen told us the next morning, “it was the rowdiest ball he ever saw & they turned out the ladies and gentlemen” what an entrée for a belle!
Mr. Seuruys came & passed the evening with Annie & said he was not to be there at all—& I heard not one of the Foreign Ministers went & it was purely democratic but those who were caught made it out as very agreeable, the Jackson ball.
Friday, January 9, 1846
Friday 9th We had an early visit from Mr. Truman Smith who came to walk with James—and a funny letter from Mary & one from Mrs. Sigourney speaking of the pride she had in James brilliant début in Congress.
We called at the Hotel, found Mrs. Hunt, Mrs. Hubbard, Mrs. & Miss Ashley & Mrs. Gen. Gaines at home. Mrs. Gaines is certainly one of the most curious characters I have seen in Washington. She is petite & pretty, piquante & spirituelle but has the wildest laugh I have ever heard like a maniac. She has a claim which is said to be just & which if established will entitle her to nearly half the city of New Orleans & on that account it is thought she will be unsuccessful because so many will be ruined by it should it be decided in her favour.
We found it raining as we left the Hotel but went to Mr. Seatons & found the ladies very very pleasant. I owed their acquaintance to the kindness of Gen. Scott who thought I should need some lady friends in Washington & he asked them to come & see me. We then went to the Capitol in the rain & met Mrs. Judge Catron who was similarly situated & we sat in the gallery together and found we had a mutual admiration of Mrs. Tyler to whom she seems much attached. She asked me if I would like to go into the Supreme Court and as I had not yet been I accepted. It is very quiet of course & all the Judges were ranged along in their gowns looking very imposing. The trial or rather arguments were very dry &
except as a trial of my patience. I could not endure it so we soon left & as Mrs. Catron’s carriage had left her we carried her home.
We called on Mrs. Cass who as well as Mrs. Seaton offered in the kindest manner to come & be with me in my sickness. We also called on Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Rockwell & at Gen. Jesups, all of whom we found “not at home,” and at Mrs. Gales who was at home & Miss Gales very elegant in their attire & rooms but Mrs. Gales appears like a disappointed woman. I believe there were some “on dits” about her once when she was gay—but I do not know– –
We called on our neighbours the Dickins whom we found very pleasant indeed. We found cards from the Mr. & Mrs. Mason Attorney General, Mrs. Pearson (my friend at Mr. Pynes), Mrs. Walsh, Miss Gaston, & an invitation to dine at Governor Marcy’s next Wednesday– –Mr. Cabell, Mr. Goldsborough & Mr. Serruys called.
Saturday, January 10, 1846
Saturday 10th. We staid at home all day. Mr. & Mrs. John M. Niles, the Misses Parris, Mr. & Mrs. Kirkpatrick called & Prof. Davies came to tea. After tea we went to Mrs. Tayloe’s as she had called & asked on her card that we would not forget her this evening & she expected more company than usual. Miss Cass wanted to go with us & we called for her.
I wore my brocade & black lace mantilla & trimmings, & Annie a plain white muslin & wreath of green leaves
green wreath, was very much admired. Miss Cass wore black velvet & pink roses. I sat still all the evening from choice. Mrs. Bolton & the Commodore were there, old acquaintances of Mary Kinney’s & as she had come not expecting a party & in a plain dress we kept each other company by sitting together. I had numerous friends to address me—& she had also so we were together a long time.
Mrs. Madison came & sat by me. She & Miss Payne had called on us yesterday. I was quite amused at her address—a gentleman came & bowed to her & said “Mrs. Madison you do not remember me?” She shook hands with him & said “I beg your pardon,” & he immediately said “Mr. Bibby,” she still shaking his hand & looking at him said in continuance “I beg your pardon Mr. Bibby your face is as familiar to me as when I knew you many years ago!” but I could see that she could not “realize” him, as one of our servants used to say.
Mr. Pakenham British minister, Mr. Benton & family, Mrs. Calhoun & daughter, Dix family & many others were there. We returned at H past 10. Mrs. Tayloe’s has perhaps an art in having her friends leave so early just as they are beginning to enjoy themselves most, but I like early hours.
Sunday, January 11, 1846
Sunday 11th A beautiful day. Ann McKone went to church in the morning & Caty Dix & her nurse came home with her. Caty had expected the children the day before & cried so much that the nurse had to bring her up here to pacify her & she asked them for Wednesday Katy’s birthday. James & I took a walk at noon with Bessie & in the afternoon but we went to Dr. Laurie’s church in this street. He did not preach, but an old English clergyman, Mr. Osgood, gave us a very good sermon from these words, “for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation.” After church Miss Cass asked Annie to walk with her and told her the old clergyman had baptised her, he was from Canada. Mr. Hugh White spend the evening here.
Monday, January 12, 1846
Monday 12th I was quite miserably. Mrs. Skippen was sent for, & Dr. Lindsley called also, but I grew better towards the night & she went to her brother’s. James at my request attended a supper party at Mr. Seaton’s (the Mayor’s) where he had a fine time & met 100 persons, Gen. Scott, Gov. Seward, & all the Whig members of Congress, Mr. Bodisco, Mr. Tayloe & others. James F. Clayton, son of the Senator passed the evening here. Mrs. & Miss Towson, Miss White, Professor Davies called, the latter to bid adieu & go home to West Point.
Tuesday, January 13, 1846
Tuesday 13th—I had the hysterics so violently the evening before having been so worn out with pain, that I was miserably & my eyes all inflamed. I rode out with the children & found Dr. Lindsley had been to see me in my absence but as he recommended my riding I was not sorry to be away. Mr. & Mrs. Campbell, Mr. & Mrs. Rockwell, Mr. & Mrs. Rogers, Mrs. Ward who was a Miss King, & in the evening Miss Towson & Miss Kuhn, Miss White, Lieutenant Eld, Mr. McRea, Mr. Foster, & Gen. Scott called to ask for me. I read the Wandering Jew47 which Mr. Kirkpatrick had lent me & not meaning to read it but it is so intensely fascinating & exciting.
Wednesday, January 14, 1846
Wednesday 14th a lovelier day never shown. The children were dressed for a visit to Caty Dix who is three years old today. She was born in Madeira. Bessie wore her crimson plaid & hose to match, & her hair in ringlets all over her waxen neck—& and little Clem really outshone herself in a little blue plaid & the funniest slippers & ribbed hose & a little blue & crimson silk boddice apron laced up & her little chemise trimmed with Mechlin lace & little fat neck & bosom with her little silken curls. She was delighted & had her rag baby (“plaid dolly” as she calls her) hugged in her arms. We left them there & James at the Capitol & then went to call on Mrs. Webster. She was engaged & we called at General Van Ness—on the banks of the Potomac.48
You enter by an iron gate between 2 lodges built of stone & a high-brick wall surrounds the grounds, & the avenue reminded me of Rose Mount more than any thing I have seen in Washington. Everything was elegant & aristocratic. The ladies were very pleasant particularly Miss White who is the niece of the Gen. & was a nun at the time of her Aunt’s death but left the convent and came back to live with them. I saw “the Poets of Connecticut” lying on the table & I suppose they had perused the poems of “James Dixon.”49
We called next on Mrs. Pierson & Mrs. Walsh, Miss Pierson & Miss Gaston. We had supposed they lived at Brentwood50 out of town but found that they are in town for the winter. Very pleasant ladies indeed.
We then called at Mrs. Dunmers, left cards at Rev. Smythe Pyne’s, found Rev. Mr. French & Miss Miller just leaving home & Mrs. French sick so we did not go in there, also we called on Mrs. Judge Wayne & Catron who were out, & returned home, found cards from Commodore & Mrs. Bolton, Lt. Lay, Lt. Hammond, & Mr. Testa the Dutch Minister was here & I suprised him quite in devotion to Annie.
I rode up to the Capitol for James & we walked over to see the statue of Washington by Greenough in a building erected for it. $25,000 was paid for it by Congress51 & when it came to this country public opinion condemned it so entirely that after several thousand dollars paid for its being placed in the Rotunda, more was voted to get rid of it & it is placed in a sort of temple built for it like a watch box. The marble is very blue & homely & the naked form of Washington does not much resemble the beau ideal of his countrymen, but looks like some heathen god of war.
We called for the children at Gen. Dix & brought them home delighted with their visit which Clem invited them to return on Friday her birthday. James went to dine at Governor Marcy’s. I had sent a regret on Monday which I regretted as I should like to have gone when the time came. I retired early & James returned early having had a very pleasant dinner. He was the beau of Mrs. Dix & Mrs. Campbell and as he is a most amusing dinner companion I presume they enjoyed it very much.
Thursday, January 15, 1846
Thursday 15th as warm as a May Day. We sent to Mr. Serruys we would accept his invitation to present us to Mme Bodisco & he returned for answer he would be there at 1 o’clock and would await our arrival. I wore my new white hat & cachmere shawl but it was warm languid day & I felt as drowsy as possible. We arrived at Georgetown at the appointed hour & drove up to the Russian Minister’s. A tall footman opened the door in blue livery & on asking if Mr. Seuruys was there he bowed without a reply as high bred servants usually say nothing but look very wise—
We were shewn into the hall & I inquired if Mr. Seuruys was there—another bow—walk up stairs if you please madam—so we proceeded up the broad neat staircase to the drawing room & found Mr. Serruys. He presented us to Madame Bodisco saying he had just been announcing us to her and then presented Mr. Dumont his secretary of Legation a young moustached Belgian with very bright straw colored gloves—Madame Bodisco is very fair & very fat, almost my age and 40 years younger than her husband. He resided in Georgetown & fell in love with her seeing her go to school & married her. Her diamonds cost $40,000—and he idolizes her, dressing her in the most beautiful manner. She went to Russia & her son born there was a named for the Emperor & he was his godfather. She described a dinner at the palace in Russia in which all wore their court dresses & the ladies were seated on one side & gentlemen the other, the Royal family across the head of the table & Mr. Seurys asked if we might see her portrait in her court dress which she wore on that occasion so she ordered it lighted properly and on bidding her adieu we went to a room under the conservatory where at one end it was placed. A full length figure in a white embroidered under dress & crimson velvet train & coiffure with a long veil. She looked very delicate & pretty & is stepping from a balcony, the palace of the emperor in the distance. To say her figure now is “em bon point” is diminution of the truth as she is very large and looks sleepy.
The rooms are all separated by painted glass screens set in bronze which fold & unfold in place of doors. The furniture is all very handsome & a great profusion of superb old china in cabinets, and of marbles, & other articles of virtu. There was a portrait of the Emperor who Mrs. Bodisco says is the handsomest man who ever was or ever will be, she does not except her husband who is called the russian Bear. The children are miserable little things, look pampered & “horrid” as Mr. Serruys says.
On return we left cards at the French minister’s M. Pageot’s—at Mr. Pakenham’s, the British ambassador’s. We took the children to ride and on our return found Mr. Brinley here for the first time I had met him since his return. Aunt Lois used to call him Mr. Brimful & he is of himself. Capt. & Mrs. Charles Stewart McCauley, Mr. Bankhead (Mr. Pyne’s nephew) were here and I received a card from Mr. Pakenham, British ambassador.
In the evening was a supper at Mr. Tayloe’s & Mr. Herrick of New York came to accompany James. Mr. Testa, Mr. Ogden of Chicago, and Mr. Warner of the Army a very disagreeable person whom Mr. Ogden presented, Lieut. Lay & Captain Williams were here.
Friday, January 16, 1846
Friday 16th It rained in torrents. Dear little Clem’s birthday, aged 2 or as she says “too old.” Caty Dix did not come. Annie & James went to a great bridal party at General Jesup’s opposite to us, & all night I did not close my eyes from the yelling & halloring of the coachmen—Annie wore her white crepe & green wreaths—& looked very pretty. I was excessively nervous & worried—Annie received an elegant bouquet from Mr. Testa & they went at 9 o’clock—& I retired to my sleepless bed—The party was excessively crowded & warm & about 5 times as many persons as the house could hold. The bride is Mrs. Blair; her husband a son of the editor of the Globe.52 James did not enjoy himself at all but to Annie it was coleur de rose.
Saturday, January 17, 1846
Saturday 17. We rode about for two or three hours, & Annie called at Gov. Marcy’s on Miss Knower, on the Misses Kellogg at Fuller’s & some others. It was rainy & unpleasant in the evening and very stormy, so Caty Dix could not get here yesterday or today & Bessie & Clem were quite disappointed. James bought Clem. some birthday toys, and Bessie some drummers & a soldier, Clem a doll in a sleigh, & “two eette bit birds of poomage rare, Peet Babytime & Barby are.” Ann went out & bought her a churn with which all day she churned butter for “eette bit Caty Dix”—as she says.
Sunday, January 18, 1846
18th Sunday We did not go to church in the morning as Ann McKone wanted to—Mr. & Mrs. Tayloe called at noon to ask for me & to say also they could not forgive Annie & James for not going there the evening before—John Quincy Adams & others were there. In the afternoon we went to Dr. Laurie’s church & heard Rev. Mr. Ballantyne the new pastor on the Christian armour—Ephesians 6 from the 10th verse. He is a dull tedious preacher. Mr. Rockwell walked home with me & I found James and Annie had disappeared, calling. Mr. Cabbell came to tea & after tea Mr. Bankhead & after I had retired Mr. Ogden called.
Monday, January 19, 1846
Monday 19th Mr. Goldsborough called, Mrs. General Gaines whom I saw. We had cards from M. & Madame Pageot ministre Plenipotentiare de France, Mr. Webster & Mr. Calhoun. I rode up to the Capitol & went in a few minutes, Mr. & Mrs. Rockwell & Mr. Foster of Norwich rode down with us. Brinley sent up his card PPC53 & I was glad enough to see him go.
Sketch of our friend Marplot54
From a letter of Mr. Dixon to Mary Kinney, Monday evening
My dear sister,
He has gone! Yes Brinley! The sage, the grand eloquent has departed for Baltimore and now that we breathe freer and easier I have strength enough left to describe him. Who then is Brinley? Well! His chief fame is in not being Mr. Frank Brinley, but in being the husband of his wife, Mrs. Frank Brinley. Nobody knows Brinley, every body knows Brinley’s wife. Yet he ought not to be unknown to fame. If to be the most disagreeable man I have ever seen, is enough to authorize him to think him a bore, then I vote this Brinley such. We have named him Marplot, but that word will give you a favorable idea of him. He is vanity personified. Oh! that you could see him!
But to come to the point, this Brinley came here for the first time, when we had been in Washington two or three weeks. We saw little of him at first as he did not eat with us & we only met him in the Parlour. If we had any favorable impression with regard to him he soon kindly undeceived us. To give you an example of his talk as follows.—
Fragment of an unpublished comedy
Just discovered at Pompeii
Scene a dirty parlor at Washington
Present, Mrs. J. Dixon, Annie Cogswell, &
Behind a scene J. Dixon is seen taking notes
Mrs. Dixon: Is Mrs. Brinley coming to Washington soon, Mr. Brinley?
Brinley: I think not at present, she took a very bad cold going out the other day in Baltimore to make some calls with Mrs. Daniel Webster. I am very sorry it so happened for the first man I met at the Depot, here was Mr. Choate who by the way is a very particular friend of Mrs. Brinley’s & he said to me, Ah! Mr. Brinley, how are you. How is Mrs. Brinley? Choate by the way used to take tea with us every evening, & when we boarded at Mrs. Latimer’s the best boarding house in Washington & he regrets very much that Mrs. B. could not come with me & while he was speaking—what was a little curious—Crittenden—whom I know very well, just then passed with Judge McLean, a very particular friend of Mrs. Brinleys, & while their hats were off bowing to me, who should accost me on the other side but Evans, who said Mr. Webster was just now inquiring for me, so that I had to go. Oh—as to Mrs. Brinley’s coming, Mrs. Webster told me she thought Mrs. B. would probably make her a visit soon; though I think Mrs. Reverdy Johnson will insist on her spending the winter in Baltimore, especially as Mrs. Chief Justice Tawny sent her an invitation to go & call on our English lady just arrived. (“Mrs. Harris probably”).
Here Brinley paused out of breath giving Mrs. D. time to ask if Mrs. Webster was well.
Brinley returning: Yes—no—Yes—that is, I left Baltimore a day sooner than I expected otherwise should have done, as Mrs. Webster with whom I am very intimate wished me to wait on her, & I couldn’t very well refuse as Mrs. Brinley had known her when she was Miss Le Roy. The Le Roys by the way being our most intimate acquaintances, which reminds me of a little anecdote I told Mr. Webster about Mr. Clay’s kissing Mrs. Brinley which made Matthew St. Claire Clarke by the way very angry, because he could not do the same thing, but Mrs. Brinley never did like to be kissed which Webster well knew, when he told him one day, that if I had not had her he would, for the sake of kissing her.—but Webster we never did like, as well as Choate (Then the man gasped for breath) & stopped a moment—
Now, did you ever hear such stuff, yet such is the unending strain of the mans conversations—Sickening beyond all comparison.
I could not endure him—& when last Tuesday he came again—I just kept out of the Parlor not wishing to see him or hear his silly vanity, but last Wednesday what do you think the man did but object to our children going into the Parlor because children annoyed him, & as Ann took them in he threw himself out of the room, saying “no gentleman would let his children come into the parlor.”
What made it more insufferable; the fellow had no right in the house at all. I having hired the room he occupied as soon as he left after his first visit, & on my speaking to Mrs. Fletcher about it, she said, as he would only stay a day or two he might as well remain— But I said nothing to him, though a day or two after the scene about the children, he apologised to Elizabeth said it was only the Nurse whom he dislikes in the parlor & had the unparalleled impudence as well as insufferable vanity to say she (Ann the Nurse) made advances to him, was ever such a vain fool permitted to live—no doubt he thought Ann was enamoured of him as every woman must be at first sight.
To night the man has gone, on going had sent his card with P.P.C to Mr. & Mrs. Dixon, I went down and saw him off—but Heaven knows save from seeing on again. I shall enter the room & take possession to night & if he ever gets into the House again he will have to bring Webster, Choat, Evans, & Clay—& all his other particular friends with him.
Yours J. D.
General Scott called to see us quite early hoping to kiss the children before they retired.
Tuesday, January 20, 1846
Tuesday 20th a dull cold day and snow storm at night. Mr. Dixon received a note from Mrs. Sigourney and a lock of her hair for Baby tine and some verses as follows:
To Clementine Louise Dixon on her second Birth day. January 16, 1846
Though far away
On this the day
That hailed your birth—
My Clemmie dear,
Me thinks, I hear
Your voice of mirth.
From halls afar,
Where your Papa
In wise debate,
Doth win that fame
Whose proud acclaim
Delights our State.—
Of Rose Mount Blest
I am no guest,—
For bower and grove
Are stripp’d and bare,
And none are there
Whom well I love,—
But check the sigh,
For Hope doth spy,
That fair retreat,—
When flower and stream
Shall brighter gleam
Your steps to greet.
I hoard with care
The lock of hair
That veiled your neck
And offer you
One of the few
My brow that deck.
A kiss I send
To every friend
But first and best
To sweet mama
And Bess, —the star
Upon her breast.—
And now, my child
As fairy dream,—
God bless thee still
And make His will
Thy bliss supreme.
L. H. Sigourney.
A violent snow storm and fine sleighing in consequence, the first this winter here while in Hartford the thermometer has been below zero.
Wednesday, January 21, 1846
Wednesday 21st We received cards from Dr. & Mrs. Heiskell, Mr. & Mrs. Gouveneur & an invitation to a party next Tuesday evening.
Letters from Hartford brought news that S. B. Grant had failed & was crazy and worse that he had forged his father’s name & Mr. Niles for $9000. State’s prison is the penalty for that crime. Alas, it reminds me of Thistledowns in the Diary of a Désemuyée whose bijou of a residence was so soon forsaken in consequence of extravagance and folly. Poor little baby, what an inheritance it has received!
Mr. Gray, Mrs. Cutts & Miss Cutts & Miss Annie Payne, who wore an indian headdress, came for Annie to go sleigh riding in a sleigh & 4 horses and she then went to dine with Mrs. Madison and had a very pleasant visit there. They shewed her all Mrs. Madison’s antique wardrobe of velvets, brocades &c.— I received calls from Lt. Ord, Mr. Testa, Mr. Hamilton, Mrs. Lawrence of New York, Miss Lawrence.
Thursday, January 22, 1846
Thursday 22nd James came for me to take a sleighride having taken Mrs. Rockwell & Miss Wright home from the Capitol. It was a funny sleigh, a sort of green box sleigh with counterpanes for buffalo robes and a comfortable with the cotton visible in front of us. Our coachman had an old straw hat & a coat of many patches—& yet this equipage was in great demand! The snow never lasts in Washington more than one or two days & rarely long enough for sleigh riding.
Mrs. Hunt, Mrs. Hugh White called & in the evening the Messers. Cabell. They are from Virginia & their father is the Chief Justice of the state, a relative of General Scott.
Friday, January 23, 1846
Friday 23rd I wrote to Mrs. Miller to accept an invitation to chaperon Annie to Mr. Buchanan’s soiree at Carusi’s & she was kind enough to express pleasure in taking her & would call for her at 9 o’clock. Her departure was the event of the evening & she looked like a princess—in her white muslin embroidered in blue, turquoise star in the lace tuckes, white wreath of roses, blue earrings, ringlets, pearls on her neck—& gloves trimmed with down. Mr. Testa had sent an elegant bouquet with 7 japonicas in the evening in a beautiful chased silver bouquet holder & she was called for by Mrs. Miller at 9. Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, Mr. & Mrs. Schuyler, Miss Sanford, Mr. Sargent, Messers. Miller two bachelors formed the party. She was engaged for three quadrilles, one with General Greene, Mr. Goldsborough, Capt. Williams before she went. The little description of the party in the Tribune is best but James sent it off—It was said to be the most splendid party in the district of Columbia.
Saturday, January 24, 1846
Saturday 24. We rode up to the Capitol and heard Mr. Cabell’s case & this is the result. [clipping here] So poor Mr. Cabell goes.55 Mr. Miller, Mr. White, Mr. Bankhead, Mr. Houston & others came into the gallery to talk with us.
We staid till half past three & on our return home found the funeral carriages at the Jesups for the poor burned coloured woman who was waiting for the family to return from an assembly last Friday and was so tired she fell asleep near the fire & her clothes caught in the flames and communicated to the curtains and it soon spread throughout the room where all the furniture was destroyed & the children rescued with great difficulty—Miss Jesup was badly burned & a sister of the nurse but this poor creature survived but a short time. Sad resumé of a week of bridal festivity—!
We found cards from Mrs. Goldsborough, Mr. Gray, Mrs. Ela, Miss King, Mrs. Marcy, Miss Knower, Mrs. Totten, Miss Totten, Miss Davies we received on our return. James dined with General Scott and he and Annie passed an hour with Mrs. Tayloe in the evening.
Sunday, January 25, 1846
Sunday 25th I did not go to church as I do not dare to do so again. I read the bible and finished the life of Edward Griffin son of George Griffin of New York a young clergyman. Governor Seward, Mr. Robinson, Mr. & Miss Dickins passed the evening.
Monday, January 26, 1846
Monday 26th Mr. Dickins called again and accompanied Annie to the Gen. Jesup’s where she called for me. Mrs. Senator Ashley & daughter called, Miss Calhoun and Lt. Lay. It was a damp unpleasant day. Mr. Rockwell took tea with us & he & James called at Judge Waynes & Catron’s, Judge Nelson’s, Mr. Seaton’s, Mr. Daniel Webster’s & others.
Tuesday, January 27, 1846
Tuesday 27th a lovely day bright, warm & sunny. We took Bessie, Ann & Clem to the Capitol & then left Clem at home to take a nap, while Annie & I went to General Towson’s where she made a call. She had a note from Mrs. Tayloe asking her “to steal a speech of Mr. Dixon’s to send to an aristocratic friend across the water who would not soil his fingers by reading an American newspaper”—
We rode about for a while and then returned. The parlour was undergoing cleansing & we had to decline seeing Mr. & Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Hubbard, Mr. & Mrs. Danagh, members from Pittsburg, Mr. George Betts of New York, Mrs. Madison, Miss Payne, Mr. & Mrs. Cutts, Mr. A. B. Gray; just as it was finished & really looked very neat Lieut. Eld called & as he left Mrs. Daniel Webster, Miss Jandon & Miss Bankhead. Mrs. Webster has a fine person but is not handsome. She wore black watered silk, an india shawl & black hat. She told Mr. Dixon if Mr. Webster had come to Hartford as he intended last summer she should have accompanied him.—
Wednesday, January 28, 1846
Wednesday 28th Mr. Testa & the two Mr. Cabells called. Mr. Larned spent an hour, also after tea Mr. & Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Mr. Rockwell, Judge Catlin of Connecticut & at H past nine the younger Cabell stayed till H past 11 to bid Annie adieu as he is going to the South.
Thursday, January 29, 1846
Thursday 29th—Mr. Testa came to accompany Annie to see the Ivory Crucifix made by a monk in Genoa, the work of a life time.56 Cards are pasted about the streets here “The Ivory Statue of Christ” & then next “Titian’s Venus.” What is it but a violation of the 2nd Commandment making a graven image of any thing above all of Deity? – – Mrs. Dr. Lindsley called but I do not see any one now and was not ready so I sent her word to that effect.
Annie and I rode up for James to the Capitol. A person from Hartford told James that Mr. Grant had forged the amount of $20,000 & fled, that Mrs. G. was kept in ignorance of his circumstances & supposed him rich. What a shocking want of confidence! Officers were sent to arrest him only two hours after his flight. Married but 3 years in making a dash above every one else even after once failing & not paying his just debt seemed assuredly dishonest but crime & villainy one did not expect to find so long concealed. “Who maketh us to differ?” The first time I came to Washington Grant came with Mrs. Niles & took great pains to attract me—I disliked & avoided him but what a risk young girls run in forming such acquaintances, showy & unprincipled.
Our visitors now number 420.
We have invitations to dine at General Van Ness’ next Thursday & tomorrow to a soirée at Mrs. Marcy’s all of which I shall decline & do not expect to visit for many weeks.
I wonder if this account of Washington will amuse Bessie & Clem in after years for that was my object in writing it. A giddy life for those who enter into it but my head was not to be turned by it. There is more aristocracy of talent here than any where in the union & if I could go into society I could write many amusing sketches of character but I cannot & I hope to be spared to do so yet & enjoy much happiness with my idolized husband and children—
Mr. Serruys, Belgian minister, Mr. Dumont attaché, Mr. Bankhead, Lieut. Eld passed the evening here. Annie received them. Miss Fletcher had some girls to see her & they drummed on the piano till nearly midnight. I have finished skimming through the Wandering Jew by Eugène Sue. It is a shocking book both as revealing the iniquity of the Jesuit Society and its pictures of awful suffering and torture. The death of Adrienne and Djalma, could any thing be more iniquitous & depraving? I hope my daughters will never read the writings of this author, they blunt the delicacy & sensitiveness of the female character & I do not agree that familiarity with vicious writings is an antidote to their pernicious effect—
Friday, January 30, 1846
Friday evening Annie & Mr. Dixon went to a soiree at Gov. Marcy’s, secretary of war. Mrs. Mason was there, Julia Phelps the young widow of the Gov. Stevens T. Mason of Michigan who was the youngest Governor in United States being only 21 & died at the age of 25 or 26—in New York of scarlet fever after a most sudden illness & her little boy did likewise & now she is here dancing away in Washington after four years of mourning! She has a good deal of the french woman in her composition, capricious and variable. James found the party intolerable, for he does not dance and everyone else does and Annie was not ready to leave – – Mrs. & Miss Seaton, Misses McKean called to day.
Saturday, January 31, 1846
Saturday 30th57 The day was summerlike & the thermometer up to summer heat & damp. The air was like a vapor bath. Clemie begged to go to ride and got her hat & cap on “hind part before” but Bessie did not care to go & remained with Mrs. Skippen, however when Clemie returned she was so glad to see her & took off her clothes & kissed her as if they had been parted a week indeed. It was their first separation! that they were old enough to know of – – !
Mr. and Mrs. Rockwell called and passed an hour at tea time. Mrs. R. betrayed a weakness I did not expect in regard to dress. She did not like to go to parties any more having worn all her dresses & Mrs. Campbell had such a variety!
A green chariot & servants in drab liveries left an invitation from Madame Pageot and the “Ministre de France” prient M. & Mme. Dixon de leur faire l’honneur de venir passer la soirée chez eux le Lundi 9 Fevrier, à 9 heures, which of course I must decline or forego— 427 calls thus far!
Sunday, February 1, 1846
Sunday 1st of February Annie went to church also Ann McKeon & Mrs. Skippen while James staid with me & the children. It was colder & windy. Bill Cozzens called—& in the evening Mr. & Mrs. Kirkpatrick & Lieutenant Eld. I thought I would go in & see Mrs. Kirkpatrick, as she had made me a pumpkin pie the day before & sent over & I would go in & thank her but they staid until 10 o’clock & I was completely exhausted.
Monday, February 2, 1846
Monday 2nd I left cards for Mrs. Mason & Miss Phelps, also for the Secretary of the Treasury & Mrs. Walker, Mr. & Mrs. Darragh of Pittsburg.
Monday, February 9, 1846
Monday morning the 9th of February was born my darling little son, James Wyllys Dixon as he was christened by Rev. J. Dixon Carder the following summer and Luther Terry, Mrs. Sigourney & Annie were his sponsors.
I was better than usual the day before (Sunday) and took quite a walk and received Mr. & Mrs. Tayloe at noon who said I looked very well. At daylight I felt ill & summoned Mrs. Skippen & the Dr. & little Bunty as we still call him arrived at H past 9.
It was the day of the great Oregon vote in the House of Representatives58 and the Connecticut delegation voted to call him Oregon & sent him speeches on the subject, Hon. J. A. Rockwell & Truman Smith Esqrs. So I insisted upon it that James should go to the House as I felt quite well & so delighted at being the mother of a little boy. General Scott called to inquire for me and Richard told him we had a “new recruit” for him.
All went on well for a day or two and little Bunty was laid to sleep in the large arm chair & sweet Bessie would stand & lean over him with her sweet face and golden curls looking like a little angel. Clemmie would come & cry to see “this pretty live baby” & was so delighted with it she could not be bribed out of the room.
When the fourth day came with it Mr. Kinney & my sister Mary & Constance & had rooms near us.
The evening of Bunty’s birth was Mme Pageot’s great ball to which Annie & I sent regrets much to her regret—& next evening to Mrs. Attorney General Mason’s great ball where 1600 persons were crowded together. The evening Mary came, there was an elegant dinner at Mr. Tayloe’s for Messers. Langdon of New York, grandsons of John Jacob Astor, to which Annie went at my request & wore pink tarlatan with an over dress of the same & silver wreath of leaves. Many were there, Judges McLean & Catron & several foreign ministers & a superb display.
Next morning Annie & M. went out to leave cards & from that time I began not to be as well, suffered most intense agony from nursing my sweet baby, as I nearly lost one breast—My darlings Bessie & Clemmie were seized with catarrhal fever & confined to their beds, also Ann the nurse with the same. Clemie would not let her leave her & they had to be sick together. I did not see the darling for 9 days & then so changed! Her eyes so dim & watery & her poor little lips covered with blisters blackened by medicine. Bessie I went in to see as soon as I could walk across the floor & would sit by her bedside as long as possible.
Mary & Annie received constant visitors & went to a ball at Mrs. Seaton’s, & at Dr. Heiskell’s, also to an Assembly, to a party at General Dix, to the President’s, to a levee and had a house full of company so that the shutting constantly of the door worried me sadly & Connie’s constant running in & out gave the children their colds.
My nurse Mrs. Skippen had to leave me in a week & her sister Mrs. Cannorack came in her place. She had never nursed a lady & glad was I to see her go in a month but the sufferings bodily & mental I had in that time no tongue can describe.
The efforts I made to nurse the baby nearly killed me as I was determined to try, while life permitted. It is such a comfort to a baby but as I had to have several persons to hold me to do it & was so faint after it Dr. Lindsley advised me to give it up, as many hours as possible 36 or more & so I lost a great part of the milk & Bunty took to his bottle which the untidy nurse was not particular to keep very nice & that made me very nervous but I consoled myself as best I could thinking how many poor children live with no mother & no care—& so grew Bunty & was vaccinated59—& went on finely.
When Bessie was able to come in to my room Mary had complained of her being unamicable & unwilling to answer what was asked her & we discovered she could not hear so that worried me not a little but it wore off after a while.
Added to all my troubles I discovered that Annie had been acting a double part and acting under Mrs. Tayloe’s advice had received the addresses of Mr. Testa the ambassador from Holland who Mrs. Tayloe said belonged to a very distinguished & noble family high in rank & distinction. He had sent Annie for Mr. Buchanan’s ball a bouquet with 7 japonicas a superb affair & a silver bouquet holder & diamond ring. The latter she sent back by the footman but when I said “The bouquet holder must go back” she said “I will see”—not telling me the truth & exasperating me very much as Mr. T. was no ways desirable being very homely, very small & very jealous & hateful I thought.
However the proposals were made & a constant correspondence with Mrs. Tayloe who wrote some of her notes in French, as Annie had written her some on indifferent subjects at my dictation with several french expressions in them she thought A. must be conversant with the language—She would sit reading sometimes & ask me the meaning of one word & another & I would tell her thinking it occurred in the book. Alas that I should be undeceived. “Ingratitude thou marble hearted fiend”!60 After urging Father to let her come & trudging all over New York to get everything pretty for her—& giving her a winter in Washington where she was the belle of the season through my pains & then to be so treated! May my daughters be preserved from so doing!
It seems to add the climax to the neglect of me that she had so far accepted his proposals as to allow her decision to rest upon the opinion of her sister Mrs. Kinney when she should see him so he went to New York after leaving the matter open & found Mary here on his return.
He happened to “get the wrong side” of Mary, as they say, by telling her he believed she was jealous of Madame Calderon & also treating her unhandsomely at Mrs. Heiskell’s party by taking her into a room & leaving her a stranger—so it was decided to decline.
He asked her if her family would think $5000 a year enough to support her as he now had $5000 & should have $5000 in a few years. She told him no & he burst into tears—so it was left open for 2 years and if then her mind did not change it was to cease.
—All this coming to me in my sickness I felt I could hardly bear the sight of her at all and the constant buzz & rustle of call making & parties worried me terribly.
Wednesday, March 4, 1846
On the 4th of March at 7 in the evening came to town Father, Mother & Louisa & Bridget. Father and Mother went to Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s to stay & Louisa with us. That evening was the last levee for which Father had hurried along that Loo might not miss of it. It so happened the same evening was a soirée at Mme Calderon’s, the Spanish Minister’s to which Mary & Annie were going & had engaged Mr. Dixon to accompany them.
Poor Louise arrived without any one to help her or tell her what to wear to the President’s & as the other sisters prepared to go to Mrs. Calderon’s as they told Loo they would not go to so vulgar a place as a levee. I said to A.—“Why can’t you help Lou, she does not know what to wear or where to go” & she replied “Oh, Winny (the coloured woman) can help her—” & off they went—Father supposing they were all going in a party to the President’s was sadly disappointed & it was a trying evening & distressed me so that I did not close my eyes all night.
The next day I saw Father & Mother & every day after and they all went to a musical party at General Dix’s house for Master Burke now Mr. Burke the famous violinist.
Mr. Kinney had left previously & Mary had come over to our house with Constance—While Mr. K. was here, he dined with General Scott one day who was speaking to Mr. Pendleton about Mr. Dixon & said the General “His wife is the prettiest woman in America.” As I shall be old before my daughters can read this for themselves, I may write it.
Mr. Dixon invited Mr. Rathbun & John W. Houston Members of the House to dinner before Loo came, & one morning Mary & Annie walked up to the House with Loo & Connie behind & J. Houston with Mary & Annie to whom they did not present to Louise but at the Capitol met young Rathbun, a youth about 20 and Mary told Loo he could walk home with her & he was a nice little fellow she could ask any time to go any where—Ah! he was fascinated & fell in love and a most romantic affair ensued and offer—also from Hon. J. H. Johnson of New Hampshire & Robinson became a perfect bore—also Hon. W. W. Giles of Baltimore.
To Annie, Mr. Pakenham requested a presentation & she knew all the Members of the Diplomatic Corps, I think a young lady never had a more brilliant début & Mrs. Tayloe came to see us & begged & implored Father to leave her for 2 months but he declined & as she had treated me so ungratefully I did not urge it.
Neither she nor Mary would allow Louise to pay visits with them saying she would go with me when I went out & she took up with those acquaintances she happened to meet, the Misses Dickins, who went to walk with her & introduced her to their sett, a very different one from ours & in vain I urged her when we had only the elite that she would not form any other associates but in vain I begged her. Democratic tastes found their level & a different sett were introduced by her, among them was a worthless fellow by the name of Grey, who was a descendant of old Billy Grey of a good family in Boston but a miserable disagreeable person—& others.
Father and Mother stayed but a week but I was able to be down before they left & before our baby was quite a month old, & the second day down, I found Lizzie Codman & Miss Mary McLellan, & Mrs. Tayloe, Miss Kerr, Mr. Greene, Major Brett, Mr. Grey of Va., Mrs. Lindsly & child, Judge Wayne & others called—Mr. Serruys who soon after left for Belgium & in whose place came the Monsieur Lieut. Colonel & Madame Beaulieu with whom we exchanged cards—
The weather became very pleasant & warm, and just as I was able to ride out & had got over the shock of Annie’s conduct, Mary prepared to return home—with Father & Mother. The last night of Annie’s stay she had a beautiful serenade ending with home sweet home & in the cold grey morning they left. I told Mary I hoped she would forgive any thing unpleasant as there had been a good deal of hard feelings & James told me I should feel better if I was the first to make the ‘amende’ so off they went.
The weather became very warm & I rode almost daily & we recovered somewhat our health. I found cards from every body while I was ill, from Gen. Jesup & family, General Henderson & Mrs. H., Mr. & Mrs. Judge Wayne, and all my friends so Louise & I prepared to return all. Soon the flowers began to bloom, lilacs and roses, & Louisa received some superb ones from Dr. Bomford of Callorama,61 a superb place where we went to leave cards for him & Lieut. Colonel & Madame Beaulieu.
We rode to the Navy Yard to return Mrs. Henderson’s call, also to Brentwood, the residence of Mrs. Pearson, a lovely place covered with roses & in a wood—& over to Georgetown Heights. I had a new light silk made with a jacket, and an embroidered straw hat trimmed with straw colour and helio-tropes inside & a black lace shawl, the gift of Mrs. Marsh which had belonged to Mr. Dixon’s mother.
Mrs. Lindsly gave a party which I was unable to attend & the Dr. was very kind in coming for me to go to ride with him in his carriage which however I happened to miss—Mr. & Mrs. David Collins, Miss Ely & Richard came to Washington & also old Mrs. Kirkpatrick, all of whom took tea with us one evening & 2 Misses Dickins & brother, Hon. J. H. Johnson,—Mr. Gray of Boston, & Robinson. General Scott called during the evening but did not come in as he heard we had company.
The next day I had offered to present the Collins’ & Mary Ely to Mrs. Madison but Mrs. Hubbard had forestalled me and so they went with her. Richard arrived & called in the morning & went too. We first called on Mrs. John Quincy Adams, Lou & I & then went to Mrs. Madison’s.
I had a new spring costume for the occasion, a silver coloured silk, black lace shawl & embroidered straw hat trimmed with straw colours. We then proceeded to Mrs. Madison’s & had quite a visit there before the Ely’s came & after seeing their entrée we left.
In the evening, we went to Mrs. Tayloe’s. I wore white muslin embroidered with 2 flounces & green wreaths & a showy scarf. Madame Calderon was there in pink watered silk with 6 black lace flounces, black scarf & gilt combs in her hair. Mr. Calderon sat by me nearly all the evening & Madame had to give him two or three taps with her fan before he went.
Nat Willis was also there, a tall fine looking man with a profusion of light curling hair. Mrs. Tayloe is fond of him. Lieut. Colonel & Madame Beaulieu, the new Belgian Minister successors of Mr. Serruys, Mr. Pakenham, & Mr. Crampton & many other diplomats & distinguished persons were there. Mrs. Madison in purple velvet & headdress of a gay scarf & a great number of others. There was a little dancing for which Mrs. Tayloe played—&c &c—& we all left at ten—
Mrs. Madison sent for me to come to tea the next Friday evening with Louisa, who told me she was going to Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s to dine & after dinner would return but I sent for her & she had left there as I afterwards learned to walk with Robinson & then to pay a call with Mr. Johnson—so I went without her—& took tea with Mrs. Madison who was very pleasant & gave me a kiss on going & returning home—Mrs. Hackley was there & spoke in the most exalted terms of Mary. Miss Cutts & Miss Kerr were there & Annie Payne had to go with a party to present them at the White House. We went home at ½ past 9 & Mr. Corcoran went there after we had left, to meet us.
Louisa & Mr. Johnson returned at ½ past 10—but she said nothing of her other engagement with Robinson. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”62—Lieut. Thomas let out the secret by asking her who she was watching for on Mrs. K.’s stoop—that light haired young man—and so it went on, she meeting him continually without my knowledge as she would run out to walk saying she was going shopping and so I would perhaps not know it until she was gone and on her return she would say she had been out shopping or with the Misses Dickins.
We waited upon Mrs. Kirkpatrick to the Capitol shewed her all the ancient things there and she heard Mr. Adams in the House and Mr. Huntington of Connecticut on Oregon in the Senate.
Sunday, November 15, 1846
November 15th Mr. Dixon, Bessie, Clemmy, Bunty, Ann, Bridget & myself again left home for Washington. Mrs. Marsh remained a few hours to shut up the house then to go home to Enfield where she & Field, William & wife were to pass the winter together. Simpson made us some elegant bouquets to carry to New York one of which I sent to Mary at Brunswick. Matilda, Catherine Roper & dear little Leo, the lap dog which Uncle Lord had sent Bessie & Clemmie remained behind. Mrs. Sigourney & Mary were out to take us to the cars & we sat awhile & then away we whizzed to New York. I amused myself by the way in reading Mrs. Sigourney’s beautiful “Myrtis with other Etchings & Sketchings”63 she had sent me on my departure & at dusk we reached Aunt Lois in 10th Street. She was expecting us & received us all including Ellen, who had come on a visit to her sisters. Louisa we found not well & she grew worse & kept her bed nearly all the week I was there & had the Dr. daily—but his manner was so indifferent we thought there could not be much the matter with her.
I received a number of calls, Mrs. Ruggles & Bostinck, the Sherwoods, Mrs. Renwick, Miss Jandon, Miss Prall, Hon. William W. Boardman & Miss Boardman, Miss Haight, Mrs. Beckman, Mr. Thayer, Mr. Hardenbergh, Mr. Cogswell Greene, Mr. Bustamente, Mr. McLelland, Mr. Maceias, Mr. Hudson, Mr. Gray were the beaux & Mr. Thayer brought Mr. Archibald Lowery, one of my old friends & beaux who seemed very glad to see me.
It was an evening we were going to a party at Mrs. Sherwoods, I was dressed to go & came down to see them in my new maroon velvet the gift of James on my wedding day (& also a black & blue plaid raw silk). We went to the Sherwoods where I met the Ruggles, Campbells, Bostinicks, Tallmadges, Noyes & all the old sett of relatives.
Mrs. Sherwood invited us to take seats in their private box at the Park to see King John by Mr. and Mrs. Keans.64 It is a superb play as prepared for the stage by the Keans & Mrs. Kean kept me crying all the time when with her sweet Arthur she appears as did Arthur in the prison scenes—The farce of Mr. Oblivious Top was very funny—“a man without a head”—or rather I should say memory, who has to call up the servant to know if he had been to bed the night before.
Friday, November 27, 1846
We left New York on the 27th of November & all but Louisa & Aunt Lois went to Brunswick as it was Thanksgiving day to keep it with Father. It was intensely cold & James & I were put into a cold room & I thought we should have frozen as the water did, however the children were snug & warm & I did not care for myself.
Mr. & Mrs. L. Kirkpatrick, Dr. & Mrs. How, Mr. Kinney, & Mrs. Hall who is staying with Mary, Natty, Frank, Constance & Ernest were there & all the children had a table together at which Natty, Andrew & Constance presided & Bessie, Clemmie & Jane were the belles.
The next evening we took tea & passed with Mrs. How—& Saturday with Mr. Kinney. Mary’s baby was just 1 month old & she having been feverish is yet not downstairs. It is a pretty baby boy & she kept it a secret from me until it was revealed by some one a few weeks before but by whom is as great a secret as who wrote Junius65—Dr. & Mrs. Janeway, Evans’, Dr. & Mrs. How, Dr. & Mrs. Davidson, Mr. Van Dyke, Mr. Janeway, Bustamante, Maceias & all, Mr. & Miss Smith called & were returned—
Louisa continued very sick in New York. Every day I was at Marys until Tuesday I went intending to amuse her & be very cheerful when she brought up all the old Washington scores & treated me so unkindly I was obliged to leave.
Friday, December 4, 1846
However I went up Thursday morning December 4th & bade her good bye—as if nothing had happened. Annie was at the cars to bid us farewell & away we came to Philadelphia, & had charming rooms at the United States Hotel. In ours I counted 8 velvet arm chairs—it was delightful.
At dinner, we met Miss Leslie the Authoress who came to speak to us, & Robinson came in to shake hands with us. After a dinner James & I walked out & bought some books—Amy Herbert by Sewall and Dombey & Son by Dickens66 & Miss Leslie and Truman Smith spent the evening with us. Miss Leslie is charming in conversation.
Saturday, December 5, 1846
Next morning we left very early, for Baltimore, found Mr. & Mrs. Truman Smith & Mr. & Mrs. Hugh White in the cars & many other Washington friends. Arrived at Baltimore, our rooms were all ready as we were expected the day before but it was so pleasant we thought best to go on to Washington.
Judge Nelson’s family were in our car & Hon. Mr. Bayley of Virginia & family. All went on well awhile & Bessie & Clemmie both went to sleep but poor Bunty got frightened at the noise & shrieked like a steam whistle. At last after worrying us out of our senses a nurse of Mrs. Bayley produced some candy & it pacified him.
Arriving in Washington, a bright moonlight evening, Alfred our last winter’s coachman, was waiting for us & very glad to see us & soon we were wending our way to Jullian’s67 on Pennsylvania Avenue between 17th & 18th Streets, a house of 40 years old & the former residence of General Scott & Colonel Esteonitt, British Commissioner. Mrs. Jullian received us, a pretty active woman full of business. Jullian is a french cook & supplies the dinner parties at the President’s & tables of several gentlemen. Mrs. J. is an American woman & very neat & notable & would not dream of being a lady.
The parlour had a warm fire of Cumberland coal blazing, a sofa, 2 card tables, a pier table on which stood an elegant gilt candelabra, pier & mantel glasses, centre table, & everything very nice & bright crimson curtains, trimmed with black velvet & muslin embroidered shades to fall over the windows, of which there are four. In two we have the sun all the afternoon; a large oleander is in the corner of the room, & a book case in one corner—mahogany chairs & rocking chair & our own great arm chair. Our room had a nice fire & the nursery a nice wood fire & also the dining room where we had 2 silver branches, sideboard &c—We retired to the nicest of beds & in the morning had every thing unpacked & put away & sent to Mr. Kirkpatrick’s for the childrens chairs for which they were crying, & other things they had kept for us, rocking chair, tub &c. Mr. Rockwell called & then we had Alfred & went to call at Mr. Kirkpatricks, also on Mrs. Truman Smith & Mrs. White & then drove to the Capitol grounds & Bess and Clem went to see the fountain & gold fishes—
On our return James bought me a chocolate mousseline de laine embroidered in blue, & we came home had a coloured man named Joseph Dosier68 engaged & a beautiful dinner, & were very happy. Mr. Kirkpatrick was here in the evening—Mr. Hülseman had been here before we came & called in the morning while we were out.
Sunday, December 6, 1846
Next day Sunday we went to Mr. Sproles church in the morning, had an excellent sermon from these words “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,” dwelling especially on crimes of seduction &c which because not punished at once people go on to sin.
In the afternoon, I catechized Bessie and Clemmie & at night Mr. Larned was here & made a long visit.
Tuesday, December 8, 1846
The next day Tuesday was very rainy but Mr. Hülseman braved the elements to come & see us. I read and sewed—heard Bessie spell & she began to sew her patchwork on December 8th so if she finishes the quilt it may amuse her to know when it was begun.
Wednesday, December 9, 1846
Wednesday 9th very dull and moist. I went out in the carriage & left part of my cards to let the people in Washington know that Mrs. James Dixon had arrived & was at Jullian’s Pennsylvania Avenue between 17th & 18th Streets. Dr. Lindsly called & seemed very glad to see us back again & said he did not know what we had all been doing to make us look so well.
I found Mrs. Hugh White & Mrs. Washington Hunt had called in my absence—& went to the Capitol a little while in the gallery & met them there also Mr. Rockwell & Robinson—& Mr. White. Our next neighbours & under the same roof are Commodore Smith & family to whom we had a letter from Uncle Joel & sent it next morning. Mrs. Albert Smith and Mrs. Commodore called & just at night the Commodore came in.
Thursday, December 10, 1846
Thursday morning 10th Mr. Cogswell Greene called just from New York where he left Louisa quite miserable—Mrs. Charles Stewart Macauley called. She now lives at the Navy Yard. She was beautifully dressed. Capt. McCauleys card was laid on the table—Mr. Aaron Ogden Dayton, Mrs. Dayton, Miss Dayton—little girl—called next & in the afternoon Mr. & Mrs. Kirkpatrick just as we were going out—We went down to see Mrs. Madison who opened her arms to embrace me & kissed me most affectionately. Mr. Hugh White passed the evening here.
Friday, December 11, 1846
Saturday 11th I went out to leave the and found Mr. & Mrs. Richard Cutts, Miss Cutts, Mrs. Lindsly, Mrs. Page, Mr. & Mrs. Trist, Miss Randolph, Hon. Truman Smith & Mr. Rockwell had been here. On our return, Mr. Huntington was here, Hon. Mr. Cranston of R. I. & Hon. Mr. Stephens of Georgia while we were out, Hon. Mr. Mosely of Buffalo & Mrs. Pleasanton a very pleasant lady opposite Mr. Calderon’s house—Mrs. Richard Coxe, Mrs. Rice. At tea time Mr. Lloyd called, a Hartford gentleman now connected with one of the papers here.
[illegible] I called on Mrs. Polk who really seemed quite glad to see me. She was dressed in a dark plaid silk, a cape of rows of thread lace, a little black velvet head dress & pink gloves. Miss Virginia Tayloe & Mrs. Lewis were there, very pleasant ladies. Mrs. Polk inquired for Father & my sisters very kindly, & hoped I would come there often this winter. I wanted to go on Friday but James had the tooth ache and could not go.
Saturday, December 12, 1846
On Saturday Senator Atherton called here, also Hon. Mr. Winthrop who is very elegant. His sister was Mrs. Rogers, my predecessor at Rose Mount, Mrs. & Miss Parris also called, and we had a card from Mr. Buchanan, also from Senator Greene & Senator Evans, & Hon. Mr. Hubbard was here in the evening
Sunday & Mr. King the Painter spent the evening here—
Sunday, December 13, 1846
Sunday 12th we started for Mr. Sproles but it was so late the President’s carriage passed us & they always go into church late, & we went to hear Dr. Dewey, who is here from New York this winter. He preached on the character of Judas, a very good sermon. In the afternoon we went to Mr. Pyne’s.
After church, Captain Casey came to see us & seemed very glad to see us here again—Every day through the week I had calls, Hon. Hugh White & Mrs. White, Mrs. Washington Hunt, Mrs. Miller & Mr. Miller called & invited us there for Monday evening to meet Dr. Dewey & Mrs. Dewey so we went but had to go late as we wanted to see all the children asleep as Bessie had symptoms of croup so as they were all well we went & staid an hour.
Everyone said they should not have known me I looked in so much better health. Mr. Marsh of Vt., Mr. Campbell, Capt. Casey, Mr. Broadhead, & Mr. Rockwell, who had dined with us & a friend of his Mr. Mitchill, a fine young man from Norwich who is a correspondent of the
Whig Review,69 & the Deweys were there. The Dr. requested a presentation & was very agreeable, he once dined with us in Hartford. We had a very pleasant evening.
Monday, December 14, 1846
Next day Mr. Greene was here, Mrs. and 2 Misses Hagners, Lieut. Caldwell & his bride, Annie’s friend Miss Towson, Miss White. Mr. Rockwell came for the house had adjourned early on account of the death of McConnell & Mr. R., James & I went to the Bodisco’s, Pageots, Beaulieus, Figanières Russian, French, Belgian & Portuguese Ministers with cards, found Mrs. Hubbard, Col. & Mrs. Totten & the Misses Totten had been here—
Tuesday, December 15, 1846
Tuesday morning 15th Madame Calderon & Miss McLeod called—we had walked home from church together Sunday evening. They were very pleasant—then came Mr. Greene, Mrs. Matthew St. Clair Clarke & Miss Clarke, Mrs. Carroll wife of the Clerk of the Supreme Court (& Mr. Carrolls card), Mrs. Lee of Arlington daughter of Mr. George Washington Parke Custis, Judge McLean, Judge Nelson, Senators Woodbridge & Senator Upham’s cards. Mr. Greene came to dinner & in the evening we went to the Presidents.
Mrs. Polk wore a sky blue silk trimmed with 2 flounces of black lace, a black lace shawl or mantilla, a gold net head dress, & bracelets &c. She looked very well. Mrs. Walker looked sadly faded. She wore black watered silk, a pink lace scarf & a sort of whoop on her head, like one of the grace whoops, Miss Rucker wore a faded pink dress. They were all very pleasant.
The President shook hands & said Quite Northern weather madam. Mrs. John Davis was there and a very pretty girl Miss Farnham, Senator Evans, Mr. Broadhead, Mr. Seaman, Mr. Testa who came to me & seemed glad enough to see me, & asked for my sisters. I said you did not see them in New York? “Yes, I saw them but New York is so large!”—they met him in the street! Mrs. Walker was joking him on losing his heart. He said, I have never lost my heart—“Well,” said she, “it is time you did then.” “Oh, I have never been in loss”—so Annie would have felt quite flattered if she had heard her devoted little Turk thus talk—We left early although Mrs. Polk asked me to take an arm chair & sit by her & join a group of old ladies, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Totten & others, but I declined.
Wednesday, December 16, 1848
Wednesday morning I went out to walk & missed Mrs. Judge Nelson, Mr. Nelson & Miss Nelson. I received Mrs. & Miss Kerr, Mrs. Hubbard, Mrs. Senator Dix, Mrs. Wilson a very pretty woman with white hair & a most splendid india shawl, Mrs. Larned & Mrs. Newman, Mrs. Senator Davis & Mrs. Seaton, Mr. Greene & Mr. Rockwell who spent the evening with Mr. Mitchill.
Sunday, December 20, 1846
Sunday we walked up to Mr. Sprole’s who preached a sermon for the Orphan Asylum. It was so cold we rode home. Mr. Hülsemann called at noon & Mr. Rockwell and Mr. Mitchill were at Mr. French’s church and they walked part home with & Mr. Rockwell took tea & spent the evening.
Monday, December 21, 1846
Monday morning I was reading to Clemmie when Ann waited on a lady in, who was Mrs. Judge McLean. She was very handsome, light brown hair & blue eyes. She seemed much pleased with C—and asked to see the baby whom she admired so much—She had lost her little boy at 9 months old—& seemed to feel great interest in ours & also in the other children. She made a long visit & was succeeded by Mrs. Hubbard and Mrs. Albert Smith who staid but a few moments. I met Mr. Hulsemann & he walked with me to Mr. Cutts and then I went out and called at Mrs. Miller’s, Parris’, Trists, Kirkpatrick’s, Cutts, & into the avenue where I met James & we came home together. I found M. & Madame Pageot had been to see me, also Mrs. Knox Walker & Miss Rucker, Mrs. & Miss Wright, Lieut. Colonel & Madame Beaulieu, Rev. Mr. & Mrs. French & Miss Miller. It was quite dark & damp & I sewed on doll’s dresses all the evening.
Tuesday, December 22, 1846
Tuesday morning Mrs. Goveneur & Mrs. Heiskell called first. Mrs. Heiskell is very pretty, then came Mrs. Col. Talcott & Mrs. Wood wife of a member from New York, as Mrs. T. left she put Col. Talcott’s card on the table. Mrs. & Miss Gales came next. Mrs. Gales is a superb woman, wife of Mr. Gales one of the editors of the National Intelligencer which has now become as famous as any European Quarterly or magazine—Mrs. Gales was a great belle in the time of Mr. Clay & now looks rather like a woman who is disappointed that she ceases to be admired although acknowledged superb.
Dr. Lindsly called to see how Bunty’s gums were as he had yet no teeth & nearly eleven months old. Mr. Green was also here with a dissected picture for Bessie, a pack of odd fellows cards for Clemmie.70 At dusk came Hon. John W. Houston & Mr. & Mrs. Marsh of Vermont to call and they took tea with us—In the evening came Mr. D. A. Hall to invite James to a New England dinner next day at 6 o’clock.
Wednesday, December 23, 1846
22nd Wednesday The day of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers. We had cards from Mr. & Mrs. Bodisco, Mr. Benton, Mr. Dickinson, Senator Davis, Mr. Wright of New Jersey. Busy all day & at night a Mr. Dixon called on business, Mr. Greene came to tea & we went to a concert at Carusi’s to hear Sivori the great violinist71 & Mrs. Bayley and DeBegius who sang very well but every thing was lost in the desire to hear Sivori who plays exquisitely but not to my taste as well as Ole Bull who has such a fascinating manner, as Mrs. Child says, “such a caressing way of holding the instrument to his ear”—
All the diplomatic corps nearly were there & all the elite of Washington. James did not go to the N. E. dinner & did not wish to go to the concert as he dislikes music very much.
Thursday, December 24, 1846
Thursday 23rd busy making a hat for Bridget for a Christmas gift & when I had sewed a good deal on it I walked out to complete my Christmas things & got a red pin for Jemima, & a pocket handkerchief for Joseph—some toys for Mrs. Jullian’s children. I gave James a vest of black plaided with blue, & Ann & Bridget each a collar.
After dinner Mr. & Mrs. Dummer & Miss Cleaves called just as we were going out. Mr. & Mrs. Gentry, Mr. Figanière the Portuguese minister, Judges Wayne & Catron’s cards, Senator Niles, Senator Badger, Judge Woodbury cards—
I sat up very late getting ready for Santa Claus. Bessie & Clemmie each had a wax doll to open & shut the eyes, clothes complete to take off & they were in a little waggon with a band-box fastened on behind & their night clothes in it, each a candlestick & wax taper, a box of sugar plums from Mrs. Kirkpatrick & various cakes &c.
Friday, December 25, 1846
In the morning of Christmas, which was ushered in by firing of guns &c I went in to see the children at daylight & they were up in their little bare feet patting about looking at their stockings filled with bonbons—& in ecstasy with their dolls &c.
It was a dull day & I had sewed so the night before I was really sick & rested all the morning. At noon we walked out a little & on our return found Mr. Hulseman here with a beautiful box of sugar plums for Clemmie & a bag worked in pearls full of them for Bessie—We had a nice dinner of soup, boeuf au sauce tomate, croquettes, roast turkey, plum pudding, jelly & fruits. Mr. Campbell & Judge Carroll spent the evening here.
Saturday, December 26, 1846
Saturday 26 I rode up the avenue with James & the children & found Mr. Greene had been here with some bon-bons for the children, & Mr. Houston also had been here—Mr. & Mrs. Ripley, Mr. & Mrs. McKean called & the Vice Presidents carriage drove up with Mrs. & Miss Dallas. Mrs. Dallas is very agreeable & simple & Miss Dallas a very pretty girl. She wore a quilted hat & plaid dress—Mrs. Seddon’s beautiful chariot also drove up with blue & silver liveries & she made me a long call. She wore a blue embroidered merino & pink hat & plume. She is a cousin to my friend Mrs. Flournoy & Hon. Mr. Broadhead of Pennsylvania spent the evening with us.
Sunday, December 27, 1846
Sunday 27. James did not feel like going to church so I went alone to Dr. Laurie’s & heard a good sermon from Mr. Bannatyne, “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” His manner is so very disagreeable as to destroy all the good of his discourses.
James came to meet me with Bessie & Clemmie & they had to get up & walk on a board along the fence at the President’s. It was as mild as our May. Mr. Greene called at noon and dined with us & we went to Mr. Pynes church in the afternoon. He preached a very good sermon on the close of the year & among other things spoke of those who had lost friends & who felt the remorse of any unkindness they had ever shewn them. Mr. Rockwell, Mr. Mitchill, Mr. Robinson took tea with us & Mr. & Mrs. Hubbard called in the evening also Senator Huntington.
Monday, December 28, 1846
Monday 28th It was announced that Col. Baker of Illinois who had resigned his seat in Congress to take charge of a company of volunteers in Mexico, was to address the House on the Mexican war72 & as Mme Calderon had been in Mexico I thought she might be glad to know of it, & so I wrote her a little note about it—Mr. Greene went up with me and we found Mme Calderon & went to the side gallery where we had very good places—Sawyer of Ohio spoke first & Col. Baker next made a very good speech, his manner is rather hurried & his delivery very rapid—
We called at Judge Nelson’s on our way home but they were not in—& as it rained we rode home. Found cards from Mrs. Benton, Misses Benton & Mrs. Frémont had been here, Mr. & Mrs. Grinnell, Mrs. Seaton & Mrs. Lee of Arlington had been here.
Tuesday, December 29, 1846
Tuesday 29th We had a card from Mrs. Carroll to come & pass the evening with her. As James had a bad cold we sent for Mr. Rockwell to go with me supposing he had been asked but found he had not, however he had seen Judge Carroll & he urged his coming so he came over and smoked a cigar & went home to dress. Mrs. & Miss Totten, Mr. & Mrs. Bayard Smith were here. Mr. Rockwell sent Bessie a box of beautiful white furniture inlaid for her baby house & Clemmy a box of red, & Bunty a swan to move in the water with a magnet to which I wrote an amusing reply.
At ½ past he came for me & we went to Mrs. Carroll’s. I wore my new velvet & a little velvet headdress worked in pearls with silver fringe, also my diamond pin, silver chain & cross.—The house was much lighted & 2 drawing rooms elegantly furnished were open—& some young ladies visiting there sang & played very well & Miss McLeod played very well—Mme Calderon was there in a bright red dress, & gold ornaments, Mrs. Madison in purple velvet & a striped india scarf, Annie Payne, the Cutts, Judge & Mrs. Catron, Mrs. Benson a fair divorcée, Judge Nelson & family, Mrs. Pearson, Mrs. Walsh, some of the foreign ministers, & others. Mrs. Carroll looked beautifully in a pink & silver headdress, plaid flounces, silk & thread lace cape—There was an elegant supper, with pyramids &c one had a lamp in it giving it the effect of a little coloured lantern. Mr. Sargent handed me to supper, & we left soon after & Mr. Campbell & Mr. R. came home with me & got a cigar a piece to smoke on the way home—
Wednesday, December 30, 1846
Wednesday 30th This day is as warm as May with us. Mrs. Pearson, Mrs. Walsh & daughter came to see me also Mrs. Lindsley & Page & the Misses L. & Page. I went out & took a walk with James. We called at Mrs. Latimer’s, to call on Mrs. Col. Talcott & Mrs. Wood whom we saw, & then to Mrs. Kerr’s, Mrs. St. Clair Clarkes, Mrs. Gales, Mrs. Wright at Mrs. Ulrich’s—After tea Mr. Greene & Mr. Culter[?] called to see us, & I was busy preparing for Madame Calderons, where I wore my brocade with black lace flounce, & scarlet head dress, & diamond pin. We went at nine as we were invited sociably but were the first there; there was no dressing room for the gentlemen but I was shewn into a beautiful room, all the window curtains, bed curtains, toilette, a duchesse with a canopy were of embroidered muslin lined with pink & trimmed with lace—,
Mme Calderon, Miss McLeod, Mr. Calderon & Mr. Bowman received us—Mme C. in embroidered muslin over pink & superb bunch of roses & velvet leaves in her hair & one in her belt in front of her waist—Kate McLeod in a white lace dress with
silk three tunics, & flowing sleeves and a bunch of flowers made of the feathers of the humming birds in her hair.
In a few moments came Mme Pageot in a beautiful Paris dress as she informed Mme Calderon, a very fine tarlatan embroidered in cherry colour & white; braids of hair & ribbon with pearls on her head—She asked if my sister was with me, or to be here, & Mr. Bodisco asked James if his pretty sister was here.—James said he had no idea she was such a belle till this winter so much is said of her—
Lorimer Graham was with Madame Pageot. Mrs. Dr. Harris walked in alone in a pink silk, 3 lace flounces & a thread lace cape lownecked—& a wreath of green leaves with gold acorns. She look like Juno. Mrs. John Davis came in with Mr. Winthrop, & Miss Farnham, the belle of this season, a perfect blonde in blue-figured satin & thread lace capes & a gold & lace head dress. Mrs. Seaton joked Mr. Winthrop about her but he seemed to feel in no danger he said. She is very delicate.
Dr. & Mrs. Niles who is the step mother of Eugène Sue & whose children were the originals of Blanche & Rose in the Wandering Jew was there & they rode home with us—Dr. Niles was Secretary of legation at Paris once & is very agreeable—She wore a black changeable silk & lace capes, diamond pins & bracelets.
Mrs. Miller was there with Miss Wright & her mother. Miss Wright wore a white embroidered muslin trimmed very richly, a wreath of scarlet leaves twined twice round her head, & cherry & silver ribons—her dress is always perfect, & had she a little colour she would be very pretty as she is a pale brunette, she is a nice unpretending girl.
Mr. Pakenham, Hülsemann & all the Diplomatic corps were there, & as I know but few of them & Mme Calderon does not introduce it was not very pleasant for me as I had a very bad nervous headache all the evening. I had a great deal of pleasant chat with those I knew but I was not in spirits for the occasion at all—I cannot say that I think it true good breeding not to introduce in some measure. True it is a great bore to be introduced to every body but where a lady is a stranger I think it more polite in the dame de la maison to introduce some persons to her as the acquaintance probably would never extend any farther, certainly not without the wish of the parties introduced.
We returned home about 12.
Thursday, December 31, 1846
Thursday 31st last day of the year. A thick fog so that it was almost impossible to see across the street, indeed quite impossible. At ten I rode up to the Capitol with James as the funeral of Senator Barrow was to take place at 12—he thought I had better go & take a book, and wait than to go late & find a crowd. He brought me the life of Lady Hester Stanhope73 but before I had time to open it Miss Wright came into the Senate Gallery where I had the first choice of a place & we sat & talked together—The Senators were all trying on their gloves & some men were laughing & joking, one in particular a master of ceremonies was joking about the horse he was to ride & hoped it would be steady & quiet so that the solemnity of the scene was destroyed by seeing all the preparations. It ought not to have been so – –
At 12 the coffin covered with black cloth & placed upon a bench covered with a velvet pall was brought in, & the Vice President, Speaker of the House, Rev. Mr. Sprole, Rev. Mr. Shier Chaplains, Senators Huntington, Benton, Clayton, Crittenden, Hannegan, & Reverdy Johnson were pall bearers & sat each side of the coffin all with white scarfs—Governor Vance of Ohio & a son of Senator Barrow as mourners, also the Senators & Members of the House from Louisiana—his state. Then came the President & Cabinet, all the Diplomatic Corps & Mr. Bodisco in his court dress—all the Judges of the Supreme Court in their long black gowns, & all the Members of the House of Representatives.
There was a chapter read & prayer by Mr. Sprole, in which he prayed for the widow who had not yet heard this sad news in her home that she might pillow her aching heart on her Saviour & for the persons who were connected with the deceased under peculiar circumstances that all animosities might cease and it might be occasion for reconciliation—Mr. Bayley & Garret Davis.74
In the course of a debate the day before Christmas, Mr. Bayley had said some insulting thing with respect to those in favour of the Mexican war or perhaps the reverse—& directed his remarks to Garret Davis who immediately replied, Does the gentleman mean me, if he says so he makes a false reference. Mr Bayly said in return, If he says it is a false reference it is a lie—& so they demanded satisfaction of Davis and Senator Barrow carried the challenge to Bayley as the second of Davis—The noise was heard & Bayley was arrested at the alarm of the woman of the house but Davis & Senator Barrow had to get up in the middle of the night to escape to Baltimore. They walked quite a distance & Senator Barrow got his feet very wet & on arriving at Baltimore he was seized with billious cholic, & so violently that all the skill of Philadelphia & Baltimore could not save him. His little son at school & several of his friends went over from here & returned with his corpse!—What a lesson to these duellists of the uncertainty of life without the wanton destruction of a fellow being.
Mr. Shier preached a sermon on these words “For I know thou wilt bring me to death and to the house appointed for all the living.” The sermon was a failure and in one part intending to be eloquent he said “Look at the gallant Ringgold from me own native state how he went on into the thickest of the fight & then died from an accidental fall from his horse,” finding that he was mistaken as some one prompted him he said, “I refer to Ridgely” making it really ridiculous after the flourish he had made.75 I felt it a pity he was to preach because the peculiar circumstances of the case & the sudden & awful death would have been an occasion for great solemnity.
After the services there was man to call out the procession & he did it in such an unfeeling business like way & they all marched off & “the place shall know him no more forever!” though but a week before he was in his seat strong & well with greater promise of health than any other Senator—
“Ye’ve gathered to your place of prayer
With slow and measured tread
Your ranks are full, your mates all there
But the soul of one has fled
He was the proudest in his strength, the manliest of ye all—
Why lies he at that fearful length & ye around his pall?”—76
I went down stairs & saw the hearse with its four white horses & the procession move off & then I went into the Rotunda to find James, & Mr. Broadhead was there who took me into the library to look for him & there was Mrs. Hubbard & her friend Miss Whitney a great heiress, from New Haven, Mrs. Marsh of Vt. & Miss Crane, Mr. & Mrs. Miller, Mr. French, Mr. Greene, Mr. Mitchill & others. Mrs. Marsh & Miss Crane rode home with us. Dr. Lindsley came to see us as James had a very bad cough. Commodore Smith spent the evening with us & so ends 1846.
Friday, January 1, 1847
Friday January 1st 1847. As warm as a May Day & as clear & balmy as possible—What a contrast to yesterday! The thermometer was up to 70° at sunrise, at to 80 in the house at noon—The doors were set wide open & so were the windows & all was bright & beaming—Oh how many reverses may not this gay mornings next anniversary witness—“Like ships that have gone down at sea, when heaven was all tranquillity.”77 The Dr. came to see James & told him he better not go out, but it was so pleasant no one could stay in, and we were dressed at eleven & went to the White House. I wore my striped silk pink hat & feathers & india cachmere & how warm I was! I had to come home & put on a crape one—
On arriving at the door we met Hon. Mr. Mosely just going in, who was presented to me & said he had intended calling on us had he not met us there—We found Mrs. Hubbard, Mrs. Miller & a few ladies & soon Mrs. Polk seemed to be there without coming in. She wore a green velvet dress, pink velvet & silver head dress & pink watered silk mantilla. Mrs. Walker wore a bright ruby coloured velvet, & head dress of the same twisted with pearls, low neck & thread lace capes, Miss Rucker pink striped silk & lace cape, & an elegant bouquet.—Soon came Mr. Pakenham & a court dress of blue emboidered in gold very richly, white pantaloons with a gold stripe, sword, & chapeau with plume. Mr. Crampton & Mr. Berkely accompanied him. Then came Mr. Pageot in green & silver & various orders, & stars, also Mr. Bodisco—with his nieces—Mme Pageot in a black velvet dress & lace mantilla, thin white hat with plume fringe on the bows. Then came Mme Calderon in a black velvet dress, black blonde flounce, green Parisian hat with plume & pink flowers inside & a chinchilla cape very handsome & rich. All the secretaries & other ministers following & the Northern ones in Scarlet & gold—the Officers of the army & navy in uniform, all the ladies in their gayest dresses, the carnival of America.
A band of music played at intervals & the equipages dashed about the court yard. I was presented to Mr. Bodisco and Mr. Pageot, & met many old friends. Judge Wayne apologized for not speaking to me in the court room as he said a judge could not bow to his friends while on the bench. I had not been there at all & so made no reply.
We staid about an hour & then came home, I to change my shawl for a cooler one, & to get Bessie to go out with us, it was so lovely. I also told Ann & Bridget that they might go over & shake hands with the president which they did. Among the friends I met there were Mr. & Mrs. La Fayette Foster. Mrs. Foster was an old friend of mine as Miss Joanna Lanman. On our return home Mr. Blandy of Madiera called, an old friend of Uncle called with a letter of introduction to James, & we invited him to go with us to see Mrs. Madison & others.
Meanwhile Mr. Andrew B. Gray, Mr. Truman Smith, Mr. & Mrs. Hugh White & Miss White, called—& we then went over to Mrs. Madison’s. She wore a black silk low in the neck, an illusion inside, handkerchief, & a mosaic necklace. Annie Payne, Miss Cutts & Mrs. Cutts were with her. When she saw Bessie she said “Oh this is an old friend of mine” & was much pleased to see her. We then went to Mrs. Matthew St. Clair Clarke’s & she gave me a cup of caudle very good—
We then went in to see Mrs. Gales who looked beautifully in black velvet & then we went to the Vice President’s where we had a very pleasant visit & they made a great deal of Bessie, & Mr. Dallas thought she resembled his little girl—& when she left he said “I don’t want to part with you so soon”—they offered her cake but she declined.
We next went to Secretary Mason’s (Secretary of the Navy). He was very cordial & asked for the boy & wanted to compare ours with their baby—Mrs. Mason whose eleventh is only a month old (they have almost masons enough to build a house) saw me up stairs. She had cake, wine, egg nogg &c and gentlemen up in her room. The bed curtains were white & pink & every thing looked very pleasant—
We next went to General Towsons & to Governor Marcy & also to Mrs. William L. Carroll’s clerk of the Supreme Court—she had a table like Mrs. Tayloe’s last year—& Miss Tayloe was with her. Alas poor Mrs. Tayloe how she enjoyed the last new year’s & how little time it seems since that day – –
I found cards from Hon. James H. Johnson, Mr. Walker of the Navy, C. K. Greene & Col. McIntosh a hero of Palo Alto—who was attacked by 5 Mexicans & received a bayonet through his mouth out the back of his neck, & one in his arm. I regretted not seeing him. The afternoon was lovely & the moonlight ravishing. I retired fatigued enough with the day as did Clemmy & Bunty who had been out walking. Commenced the book of Romans.
Saturday, January 2, 1847
Saturday 2nd I went up to the house with James & then called on Mrs. Morse of Louisiana who has taken a beautiful little cottage all furnished on the hill. She is a very pleasant lady & Mr. Morse’s mother was there, a funny person—I called at Dr. Dewey’s who were very pleasant, on Mrs. Seaton, at the Hotel where I left a card for Mrs. Catron & Mrs. Benson, & for the Whites & Mr. & Mrs. Foster. I then called on Mr. Larned, the Hagner’s, the Dickins’ & meeting James I returned home. Had an invitation to a ball at the Navy yard at Captain McAuley’s. Found cards from Mrs. Richard Coxe, Mr. & Mrs. Reid. Mr. Greene spent the evening here.
Sunday, January 3, 1847
Sunday 3rd Did not go to church in the morning as I was not well & Dr. Lindsly came & advised James not to go—I heard Bessie her commandments & read her about Joseph, & Mr. Hagner called at noon, & Mr. Larned. In the afternoon I went to Mr. French. He preached on the last angel who declared “that there should be time no longer”—I walked home with Martha Cutts & Miss Wright—I was not well in the evening & retired early.
Monday, January 4, 1847
Monday 4th a rainy day north easterly rain & sat sewing all day & just at evening Mr. Dewey a student of Williams College78 called & took tea with us. He was all enthusiasm about college life and full of college stories without the freshness being gone—he will in ten years become somewhat blasé as to college life. It was interesting to see with what zest he told these things.
Read in Lady Hester Stanhope’s life & retired.
Tuesday, January 5, 1847
Tuesday 5th a most lovely day. Ann & Bridget, Bessie, Clemmie, Bunty, & myself all went to the Capitol in the carriage with “papa.” Bunty went to sleep before we reached there and B., C. & Ann went in to the Capitol to see the pictures & Mr. Dixon took the children into “the voting room” as they call the House of Representatives. There is a new picture of Ruth & Naomi by Rossiter79 which is extremely beautiful, all it wants is a little more shadow, but the picture is like life & what greater perfection can an artist attain. Ruth is hanging on the neck of Naomi who is urging her to leave her, with her finger pointed to a train of camels & travellers, on their way. But Ruth says, “Where thou goest I will go & there will I be buried, thy people are my people & thy God my God”—it is a beautiful thing. Rossiter is from Connecticut who numbers some of the greatest artists among her sons, Terry, Cheney, Huntington, & Rossiter & the Flaggs—
On my return Mr. Greene called & then Mrs. Judge Catron & Mrs. Benson, Mrs. Rathbun and her daughter and Commodore Bolton who was very pleasant.
I then read till James returned—we walked a little after dinner & I had the misery of an early st ge of influenza. Commodore Smith spent the evening with us—interested in Uncle Joel’s promotion.
Wednesday, January 6, 1847
Wednesday a lovely day. Mr. Loyd called on me, Dr. Lindsly and card from Mr. & Mrs. Seaman who are in mourning. I walked out & met James, it was very pleasant; General Greene of Rhode Island & Mr. Richard Greene spent the evening with us & were very pleasant– –
Mr. R. Greene said I must write to my sister to come to Washington he is one of Annie’s admirers. We were invited to a ball at the Navy Yard this evening but as we both had such colds we declined much to our regret, which we sent & which was a real one.
Thursday, January 7, 1847
Thursday 7th a rainy day. I had a letter from Mrs. Sigourney saying she & Mary were all ready to come & only waiting for an escort to accompany them. Mr. Taintor whom they expected to come having failed, a letter to
Matilda Bessie from Matilda giving an account of Leo the lap dog as being in good health & I have just answered it, & also written a letter for Ann to Thomas Fanell & to Ellen giving an account of her visit to the President & begging her as Ann said not to keep them “in dis-pense” about her welfare. Commodore Smith was in to see us but no one else—James was invited to a supper at Mr. Joseph R. Ingersoll’s but declined.
Friday, January 8, 1847
Friday 8th was a very pleasant day & I went to the Capitol quite early with James—We went in to the Supreme Court a while & heard Judge Berrien of Georgia in a dry case, & soon left. I then went to the gallery of the house of Representatives where I met Mr. Rockwell who introduced a young Williams of New London, who sat by me. Mr. Mitchill also came—& Mrs. Campbell & the Kelloggs were there & an immense crowd.
Mr. Toombs of Georgia made a speech & was very eloquent & when he closed so great was the attention & so profound the silence that at its close, when a member watching shouted for the floor every one gave a start as if electrified & there was a shout of laughter. Mr. Winthrop was the successful competitor & made us a very fine speech—I was glad to hear him as I have always been desirous to do so—James praises him so much—He told a funny thing in his speech. He said Sheridan in the Rivals makes Mrs. Malaprop80 say that she wished her daughter instructed in geometry that she may know something of the contagious countries & he thinks in our case contiguous countries are contagious as proved in the case of Mexico. Mr. W. is perfectly cool & self possessed, rather too deliberate after the Southern vehemence of which Mr. Toombs is a good specimen.
We went into the Library & soon after returned home. During the evening we read—I in Lady Hester S.
Saturday, January 9, 1847
Saturday 9th I went again to the house & heard General Harralson of Georgia & Mr. Thompson of Mississippi on the war & then they tried to pass the bill authorizing the President to order 60 more regiments of troops for the war but there were so many amendments & votes on each that I became tired & came away at 4—
John W. Houston & others by me in the gallery & I went into the Library where I found Mr. Sargent. I got the life of Rowland Hill81 & brought Mr. Williams down to Coleman’s—& came home exhausted enough, found Mrs. Hubbard’s, Miss Whitney’s, Mr. Kirkpatrick’s, Mr. Green, Mr. Cavaseelas, Mrs. Dowmnys, Mr. Sargents & 2 of Mr. Pakenham’s cards. In the evening came Mr. Hubbard, Mr. T. Smith, Mr. Rockwell & Mr. Huntington to talk over politics, & after a little while James felt so ill he had to go to bed & have Dr. Lindsly sent for. We had a very nice little supper but as James was gone we had a quiet time & they left immediately after it.
Sunday, January 10, 1847
Sunday 10th a violent snow storm all day & I did not go to church but read the life of Rowland Hill—No calls except the Dr.—& Mr. Rockwell to see how James was.—
Monday, January 11, 1847
Monday 11th a day of beautiful sleighing.
Mr. Rockwell called in the morning. I was busy writing to Annie & Mary. Miss Virginia Tayloe & Mrs. Lewis called here & in the evening Mr. Green was here & asked me to take a sleigh ride—busy sewing & reading & playing with the children.
Tuesday, January 12, 1847
Tuesday 12th came Mr. Green to go sleigh riding—however Commodore Smith & Mr. Rockwell had been in. We rode to Georgetown, to the Congressional burying ground, & to the Navy Yard. Judge Pennybacker a Senator died this morning so all business was suspended—2 senators in 6 weeks, how sad!
On my return I found Mrs. John Adams & Miss Adams cards, Mrs. & Miss Cutts, Secretary of War, & soon after my return, Mrs. Hubbard, Mrs. Albert Smith, Mrs. Towson & Miss Kuhn called, Mr. T. Smith, Mr. Hubbard, Hülsemann, after dinner came Mr. Kirkpatrick & staid till tea time & after tea Mr. Greene, Col. McIntosh who was wounded in Mexico & was attacked by five Mexicans & had a bayonet through his cheek, one through his side & another through his shoulder, & miraculously escaped—Mr. George L. Ward who brought a letter of introduction from Mr. Hall also called—Mrs. Jullien has not been well but “a dometic” Bridget said cured her—the irish for emetic.
There was a little notice of James illness in the paper & it sent numerous friends to inquire for him. He is well enought to be down, but the Dr. says he must stay in the House & not go to the House at present.
Wednesday, January 13, 1847
Wednesday, 13th a pleasant day & good sleighing & merry sound of sleigh bells. I walke over to Mrs. Ulrich’s82 & left cards for Mrs. Seaman, Mrs. Rockwell & Mrs. Campbell who were out. The Dr. came on my return, to see James, & soon after Hon. Julius Rockwell of Massachusetts, Hon. Mr. Mosely of Buffalo, Mrs. Hubbard came in & sat between day light & dark talking about Mrs. Miller’s & Mrs. Campbell’s indiscretions & how in case of the former her great wealth has made her fashionable & at Saratoga83 she took the lead in every thing & was hand in glove or hand in hand with Mr. Crittenden & all the great men. The omnipotence of money she shewed clearly for the fashionable worlds.
Commodore Smith was in during the evening. Mrs. Hubbard asked me to go up to the Supreme Court next morning & I went for her,
Thursday, January 14, 1847
Thursday 14th & she & Miss Whitney, & Mr. Hubbard went up with us into the Supreme Court. Senator Davis of Massachusetts was counsel for the state in the license question 15 gallon law & he spoke an hour & H & then came on Mr. Webster in 1H hours. Both were dry to me though in a liquor case.84 After ward we called at Mrs. Whiterolls[?], on Mrs. Davis, Grinnell, Miss Farnham, Miss Berrien &c who were all out & then we went to see Mr. Judge McLean & Mrs. Gentry who were at home, & then we called on Mrs. Webster who was very pleasant & asked for the girls.
After that we stopped at Coleman’s & found Mrs. White in & Mrs. Hunt but as Mrs. H. was dressing her hair, & Mrs. White had just come in we left cards, for the various ladies. Mrs. White & Mr. London came to the carriage & Mrs. Hubbard left word we should come next evening to see them.
On our way home we stopped at Mrs. Harrisons to look at some dresses—& then came home. As we came up C. K. Greene also drove up to ask for James. We had cards from Mr. & Mrs. Halls, Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. & Miss Wright. Mr. Testa had been in & made a call to condole with James, & Mrs. Marcy had been in half an hour, also Mr. & Mrs. Carroll had called—Judge Carroll came in in the evening, & Rev. Mr. French, Mrs. French, & Miss Miller—
Friday, January 15, 1847
Friday I engaged to go up to the House with Mr. Greene at 12, & just as he came we had a visit from Rev. Smythe Pyne & before he left Mrs. Richard Coxe called and then came Dr. Lindsly & then a carriage with Mr. & Mrs. Wood, Col. & Mrs. Talcott but James sent them word we were engaged & so I got off.
The Senate was thronged to hear Hon. George P. Badger & we could not get in but went to the house to see what was there & heard a squeaking speech from Mr. Rhett & other poor speakers, & came [illegible], the Library where a crowd were looking at new picture of Columbus before the council of Salamanca,85 a very fine picture & highly finished by Powell & I found it to be the same little Powell who had painted my portrait which Father has, & also 2 of Father, Aunt Lois, & Mary’s—He was there & came & spoke to me, & promised to come & see me—Mr. Mosely was in the Library & Mr. White. Powell is anxious to get a commission for the vacant panel in the Rotunda, & Mrs. Judge McLean is electioneering for him; & it is supposed he will succeed—I do not think him competent but a Western man, & a Western scene the subject of his pencil.
Mr. Greene came home with me, & dined with us, as he brought the children a quantity of andy & sugar plummy as Clemmy calls them. Mrs. Secretary Mason & Miss Wright called—He left early & a note came from Mrs. Hubbard saying she would call for me to go to Coleman’s at ½ past seven, so we went—I found she & Miss Whitney had their hoods on & were dressed up but I wore my hat, and shawl.
We called first on a Mrs. Pritchard of New Haven, a lady whom Miss Whitney wished to visit and then went to the Coleman’s where it looked very brilliant. Mrs. Catron was in an embroidered merino down & satin cape; Mrs. Benson in velvet & a thread lace cape, Mrs. Gov. Van Ness, Mrs. London, the Kelloggs, Mrs. Hepburn & a very pretty daughter, Mrs. Washington Hunt, Mrs. Truman Smith, Mr. White, Mrs. General Ashley & others. Miss Whitney danced, and at 9 we left. I found Mr. Ward of Boston there, who was very polite & pleasant & I introduced him to Mrs. H. & Miss Whitney. Mr. Huntington came in, & Mr. Smith who had been up to see James, & met Mr. Mitchill, who also spent part of the evening with him. Mr. Hubbard came in with me a moment.
Saturday, January 16, 1847
Saturday 16. was Clemmie’s birth day & she strutted about in the importance of being three! Every thing was to be done for Clemmie because she was three! Bessie let her have every thing because she was three. Ann went out & bought her a work box as a present from me—as she has made quite a large piece of patchwork at 2 years old, & so now she has a little thimble & implements for her own use. Bessie was playing with her wax doll before the glass & James said “Why Bessie are you vain or proud” & she began to cry & said “Why papa, I never should have thought of it, if you had not spoke of it”—
To celebrate Clemmie’s birth day Bunty crept across the room—Bridget went out & brought Bessy a glass bowl & pitcher for her doll, Clemmie a ring & Bunty a whip with which he was much pleased and a gingerbread horse whose qualities he soon tested.
Annie Payne called to see me, & in the evening Mr. & Mrs. Rockwell, Mr. Williams & Alfred came & spent an hour—
Sunday, January 17, 1847
Sunday 17th Bessie & I went to church to hear Mr. Pyne preach & in the afternoon Judge Carroll & Mrs. W. T. Carroll, Dr. Lindsly, Commodore & Mrs. Smith, & Mr. Huntington called. I thanked Mr. H. for a copy of Frémont’s expedition86 he sent me, & he said, “I suppose you forgot it before” rather polite than otherwise!
We had a letter from Annie of Mary who is very delicate & the Dr. feels anxious about her, she has a cough & night sweats. Poor Mary, what an unsatisfied life she has led! All disappointments—Father wrote a letter expressing much anxiety about James. I read in Rowland Hill’s Life some to day.
Monday, January 18, 1847
Monday 18th In the morning I noticed considerable going to and fro in front of the Commodore’s and after awhile a trunk put on a carriage band box &c & Miss Smith came out & her father & mother & Mrs. Albert Smith with them, & soon they all got in to the carriage & drove off and after an hour the Commodore & Mrs. Smith returned with Miss Smith’s cloak & I learnt[?] that they left her at the convent to pass the rest of her days. She was determined to go and they finding it useless to oppose her, went with her & with the understanding that she was to see them whenever she or they wished, but they always say so, and then after a while when her mother goes she will be told that she is dead to the world and does not wish to see her—Oh what a wretched life! and how absurd as if giving up all ones friends, ceasing to perform the duties of a daughter & sister, or any other duties was going to ensure heaven, in that cold dismal place for life—how horrid! Poor Mrs. Smith spent the day in tears & it was a cold rainy day & Mr. Rockwell passed the evening with us until 10 o’clock—
Tuesday, January 19, 1847
Tuesday 18th was very pleasant & James & I went to the Capitol, he to his seat in the House after an absence of 10 days & I to the Capitol in general. I found Mr. Ward of Boston in the Rotunda, and we went together to see Powell’s picture where was also Mr. & Mrs. Morse of Louisiana & many persons. James I introduced to Powell—& we looked at his picture together—Columbus before the council of Salamanca—After that we sat a few moments in the House & then went to the Senate where we sate till nearly 4 o’clock—Mr. Dixon was too tired to remain through the whole day—In the Senate we had quite a spicy debate from Benton, Calhoun, Berrien, Badger, Crittenden, Huntington, Reverdy Johnson, & others. Onour way home called at Mr. Gideon Welles & left cards at M. Carvallo’s. James & I went in to the Commodore’s to call after dinner and had no visitors except Mr. C. K. Greene.
Wednesday, January 20, 1847
Wednesday 20th Mr. Hinman & Mr. Pease (Judge Pease) called & at 1 o’clock came Mr. Ward to go & call on Mrs. Marcy as I had promised so we went & had a very pleasant visit and then to Mrs. Hubbard’s who was out as well as Miss Whitney & we met Mrs. Wood & Mrs. Talcott just going out.
We also called at Ulrich’s & all the ladies there had gone out. I then went shopping & got a pair of gloves, a pair of white satin shoes, a
pa wreath, a pink & silver sash. $5 worth of things.
Mr. Ward went the rounds with me. I found cards from Mrs. Gentry, Mrs. Judge Woodbury, Miss Woodbury, Mrs. Judge Catron, Mr. & Mrs. Eames, Major Andrews & Mrs. Andrews, Mrs. Hubbard.
At 7, I began dressing for the Levee at the President’s. I wore
white pink crape over pink watered poplin, & a wreath of wild roses & velvet leaves. Mr. Rockwell called for me at about 9 o’clock & we called for Mrs. Rockwell & Mr. Lewis a gentleman who accompanied them, & went to the President’s. I had my white crape shawl on my arm as I got into the carriage, and on arriving found I had lost it but the coachman found it at home on the pavement. As there was a light fall of snow, it was unobserved by passersby—how fortunate!
On arriving at the White House, the band were playing very finely in the hall & we proceeded into the drawing room—
Mrs. Polk was in a dark velvet & white plume in her head. Mrs. Walker was in a cherry coloured silk with three rows of white fringe on the sleeves and a set of French diamonds—The prettiest dress was Mme Calderons, a blue brocaded with silver, open in front & under a pink silk skirt covered with rows of lace & pink bows & a pink rose in her hair & Miss McLeod wore a white dress & red velvet braid around her head.
After we had promenaded the rooms a while we were just leaving & met Mrs. Madison who seemed in fine spirits. Some one said “Oh what a crowd”—“Yes a delightful crowd” said she appearing in her element and as if she was again the Lady President.
We left at 10 or a little after & took our carriage to Mr. Cavallos the Chilian Minister, who on our calling on Tuesday immediately sent us an invitation to their party the same evening. Mr. Lewis could not be found in the crowd and we had to go without him, which affected Mrs. Rockwell’s temper a little.
On arriving there Mr. R. took me in & we found quite a brilliant house. Mme Calderon & party were in the front parlour, and Madame Pageot in green velvet & shaded ribbon headdress in the other—I danced with Mr. Rockwell. They had ices, charlotte russe & mottoes coming in & Mr. Cavallo who was very polite insisted on my taking a little port wine punch—which was very nice & we had chocolate late in the evening & cakes.
Two rooms were open together, & a large alabaster fabric with branches & lustres resting on lions was in the middle of the room. In one of the other parlours were cards & liqueurs, & in the other refreshments. Servants in black liveries lined with scarlet & scarlet vests were in attendance & every thing was very handsome—
The evening we were at Mme Calderon’s every one was laughing at her as the most outré looking person on earth but now she gives such handsome parties. Madame Calderon says “Oh she is such a good creature”—Mr. Seaman & a very pretty niece Miss Cooper, & Mr. King the artist & his cousin, Mr. Larned, the Wilkes & a few others were all the guests & at 12 we returned.
Thursday, January 21, 1847
Thursday 21st Mrs. Hubbard had sent yesterday for me to go and make some calls with Miss Whitney & herself—& we went to Mrs. Bodisco’s where Mr. Bodisco ushered us into the room. Mrs. B. was dressed in a striped silk, cherry satin cardinal & a japonica in her hair. Her complexion was lovely.
Miss Bodisco & another young lady were there, Mrs. Clack & Anna. We had a very pleasant call & then went to Madame Pageot’s. The house is very plain outside but elegant within. A very spacious hall, & a drawing room furnished with purple velvet & gold coloured embroidered satin, all sorts of china ornaments & beautiful things. In an inner drawing room were most comfortable chairs & lounges, & a delicious vase of heliotrope & reminding me of home. Baskets of crewels & knitting work were lying round, books, &c &c a splendid portrait of Louis Phillippe with a crown over it, & chandeliers & brackets à discretion—
We called at Mme Beaulieu’s who was just going out, then at Mrs. Bayard Smith’s, Mrs. Goveneur’s & Mrs. Heiskell, Mrs. Tillinghast a very pleasant lady, & at the Totten’s who were out. I found cards from Mrs. & Mrs. Senator Davis, Mr. & Mrs. Grinnell, Mrs. Senator Badger & Mrs. Senator Berrien, Mr. & Mme. Cavallo—We had a note from Mrs. Sigourney and a birth day letter to Clemmy written on Saturday 16th. Mr. Mitchill was here & spent the evening.
Friday, January 22, 1847
Friday 22nd was a very cold day and I staid at home in the morning until 2 & walked over to Mrs. Ulrich’s to see Mrs. Rockwell who was out and then to Mrs. Latimer’s87 to see Mrs. Hubbard & Miss Whitney who were also out. I then called at Mrs. McKean’s & saw one of the young ladies & at Mrs. Bolton’s who was out.
On my return what was my surprise to find Dr. Leonard Woods for here—& we had a very pleasant meeting. He took Mrs. Sigourney’s room till her arrival & we spent the evening in talking over old times.
Saturday, January 23, 1847
Saturday we went up to the Capitol together into the house & heard Mr. Joseph Ingersoll & others speak. On our right hand were Mrs. Rockwell and Mrs. Campbell who seemed much pleased to see Mr. Woods—
As we left the house going into the Rotunda we met Mrs. Webster & General Greene who said they had just been to see me, we also met Mrs. Hubbard, Miss Cutts, Miss Whitney & others & we went into the Library to see Powell’s picture the description of which General Greene read to Mrs. Webster, & Mrs. Campbell real toady, pushed herself in and added the words Gen. G. could not remember, much to the surprise of Mrs. Webster.
On our return we found Mr. & Mrs. Webster’s cards, Mrs. Evans, Mr. & Mrs. Niles, Mrs. Parris & the Misses Parris, Gen. Greene.
In the evening Dr. Woods & I went up to Mr. Marsh’s, Mrs. Pearson’s to call, also to Madame Calderon’s whom we found not at home as they were at dinner at Mr. Pakenham’s. On our return we found Mr. & Mrs. Rockwell & Alfred who spent the evening with us.
Sunday, January 24, 1847
Sunday morning, Dr. Woods & I went to the Capitol where we heard Mr. Sproles preach on the judgement, a powerful sermon. He gave out the hymn by lines & the congregation sang it. The President was at church—In the afternoon we went to Mr. French’s and heard him preach on the conversion of St. Paul. Mr. Hülsemann was here to call at noon. Dr. Woods went to hear Dr. Dewey in the evening & Mr. Coffin of the Observatory88 spent the evening.
Monday, January 25, 1847
Monday morning Alfred Rockwell called with an invitation to me to go to the Assembly89 which I declined entirely & then went to the Capitol into the Senate with Mrs. Hubbard after we had paid a visit to Madam Cavallo. Mr. French called here and was with us—We heard speeches from Huntington, Niles, Benton & others.
In the afternoon came another invitation from Mrs. Rockwell to go to the Assembly that I concluded to go then as James insisted upon it that I should do so as did Dr. Woods. Mr. & Mrs. Hugh White, Mrs. Hunt were here to call—
I dressed for the Assembly in my wedding dress & a wreath of imitation coral tipped in silver. Just as I was coming down stairs I met a gentleman & trunks coming in, and found Mrs. Sigourney & Mary had really arrived much to my joy. Mr. Rockwell came for me at ½ past 9—& we went to Jackson Hall, where was a most brilliant scene, the most beautiful dresses, the finest music, brilliant lights, all made it bewilderingly beautiful.
Mrs. Webster & Mr. Winthrop came together & danced together, a very stately dance. Madame Calderon was there in white worked in cherry colour, &
wh scarlet headdress & white plume, Mrs. Bodisco in ruby velvet & wreath of japonicas, diamond necklace, Mrs.Pageot in a superb thread lace over pink & wreath of violets. Mr. & Mrs. N. P. Willis were there, and all the élite of Washington. It was said to be the most brilliant one ever seen—I danced with Mr. Rockwell, & Major Graham who took me to supper, also with Judge Carroll, Mr. Ward & Mr. John O. Sargent, Mr. Houston also asked me, but I misunderstood him & Major Graham asked me to waltz I believe but I declined entirely.
We returned at 2 o’clock & found Dr. Woods still up and intending to sleep in the dining room—.
Tuesday, January 26, 1847
Next morning Tuesday, was a foggy day, and Dr. Woods & I went up to Madame Calderon’s to call—& had a very pleasant visit. While there Mrs. Judge McLean came in, & said she had just been to see me, I told her I had seen her & President McLean at church the day before, saying President accidentally & she laughed most heartily.
We called at Mrs. Tayloe’s, but they were not at home, and at Marcy’s & Marsh’s I left cards. Mrs. McLean, Rockwell & Campbell had been here, and Mrs. Hubbard, Miss Whitney came afterwards, and in the evening Mr. & Mrs. French & Mrs. Miller came to tea and Dr. Woods, Mary Sigourney & I went to the President’s, where I presented them. Mr. & Mrs. Teddow,
Mr. Broadhead, Mr. Holbrook, Dr. Niles were all I knew & Judge Wayne. We staid about an hour and came home in a dense fog.
Wednesday, January 27, 1847
Wednesday, we staid at home. Mrs. Seddon, Miss Tolifer, Miss — Mrs. Kellogg & Misses Kellogg, Mrs. Southwick called. We rode up at 3 o’clock to the Capitol stopping first at Mrs. Madison’s but she was sick. Annie Payne & Mr. English were in at night & Mr. Rockwell, Judge Carroll & Mr. Carroll called & spent the evening, also Commodore Smith.
Thursday, January 28, 1847
Thursday was a beautiful day. Miss English came to see Mrs. Sigourney & Mr. French wrote me a note to ask us there to meet Dr. Potter of Albany, & Miss Ferguson & a few friends but James & I had such colds we said they had much better come here so Mrs. French & Johnny said they would come.
We had numerous calls the day was so fine, from, Mrs. Yulee the Senator’s lady from Florida, Mrs. Martin of Wisconsin [blank space] Mrs. Ann S. Stephens the authoress, Mr. Brown of Indiana, 44 in all including Dr. Potter of Albany, Mr. & Mrs. French, Miss Miller, Rev. Charles Henry Halsey, who married for his first wife Mary Smith, daughter of Mrs. Esther Smith where I was educated and who died 10 months after her marriage after a live of great happiness while it lasted. They were beautifully settled in Newark and very gay. She died after giving birth to a little son who also died at its birth & Mr. Halsey became an Episcopal clergyman & finally married Miss King of New York a contrast to his beautiful wife—Mary Smith. Dr. Potter is associated with my earliest childhood as the Episcopal clergyman of that church in Saco & I used very much to admire him and remember most vividly his sweeping into church in his robes preceding the funeral train of a Mrs. Tucker which all made a great impression on my youthful mind & it has never been effaced. The Burial Service is so far superior to an extemporaneous service on such an occasion.
The Misses Ferguson also
called came & took tea & spent the evening, & at about 8 General Greene & Miss Whitney, Mr. & Mrs. Hubbard came & spent the rest of the evening with us.We had a little ice cream &c & a very pleasant meeting of friends & every one said they enjoyed it highly.
Friday, January 29, 1847
Friday a rainy day & the ice froze on the trees but we thought we would go to the Capitol as it was stormy. At 10 came Mr. Holbrook who came on with Mrs. Sigourney and took breakfast with us. He is a most ridiculous man and is on the look out for a wife so he asked us a great many questions about Miss Whitney: “is she a linguist? is she musical? what is her age?is she fond of children?” and many such inquiries which amused us mightily. He has the shiniest little eyes and the most showy teeth & a red skin a dapper little figure and brisk spry little way. One great byword has been
that “tough and devilish sly” an expression borrowed from Dickens’ Dombey. Joey Bagstock, a queer character and another extreme of absurdity —a Mrs. Chick to shew the indifference of her husband to her said, “he would not care if ‘she walked on the wall like a fly’.”90—
At the Senate we heard Col. Benton & Mr. Corwin but it was very warm—Judge Carroll took us in. We went to the Supreme Court & heard Mr. Richard Greene in the Lexington case91—but we staid only a short time—had a nice dinner & in the evening a great deal of fun. Mary dressed up like Bets Hainter & we were very much amused.
Saturday, January 30, 1847
Saturday 30th a very high wind. The Misses Andersons friends of Mrs. Sigourney came from Alexandria and staid an hour or two, and I went out shopping a little & called on Mrs. Reid, Mrs. Frémont & the Bentons. Mrs. Frémont is very agreeable, the wife of Lieut. Col. Frémont now in California. Her little girl had not seen her father for 2 years—and she says she has to try & keep up an interest in him by telling her stories of Col. Frémont. She eloped with him contrary to her father’s wishes, but he is now proud to acknowledge so distinguished a son-inlaw, and he says he will give his daughter credit for greater discernment than himself.
I called on Mrs. Berrien at Mrs. White, Mr. & Mrs. Grinnell whom I saw but Mrs. Willis & the other ladies were out. Mrs. Grinnell said she was coming down to see us & had her bonnet on so after leaving cards at Mrs. Woodbury, Madam Calderon, & Mrs. Eames I came home, found the Misses Anderson’s beaux Mr. Heaton & Mr. Abbott came for them and they had gone—Mrs. Lindsly & Dr. Lindsly had called with Mr. Rufus Choate the great orator but Mrs. Sigourney had a fit of coughing some thing like croup and could not see him or them. Mrs. Judge McLean had been here also. Mr. & Mme Pageot called & left a card, & on my return Miss Seaton & Miss Scott, Mrs. Grinnell, Mr. & Mrs. N. P. Willis, Mr. Richard Cutts, Rev. Mr. Stone of Alexandria, Mrs. Commodore Smith. In the evening Mr. & Mrs. French and Mr. Mitchell were here and Mrs. Sigourney was able to be down in the evening.
Sunday, January 31, 1847
Sunday 31st Commodore Smith called to escort us to Mr. Pyne’s church where we heard Dr. Potter preach on the dutifulness of Christ as a child to his parents from the text “he was subject unto them.” Judge Carroll walked home with me, and made a call. Mr. & Mrs. Campbell walked as far as of the gate with me, & young Chapman of N. York with Mary—In the afternoon we went to Mr. French’s & heard Dr. Potter again on the day of the judgement. He is very high Churchman and seemed to believe in purgatory &c. Dr. Woods went to hear Dr. Dewey in the evening & we had a visit from Mr. Coffin a gentleman connected with the Observatory & the late in the evening came Mr. & Mrs. Rockwell & Alfred.
Monday, February 1, 1847
Monday 1st of February came early Mr. Truman Smith called before breakfast, and immediately after came Mr. George P. Marsh principally to see Dr. Woods. We then prepared and went to the Capitol to hear Mr. Webster in the Supreme Court in an argument connected with the loss of the Lexington. Mr. Webster came & shook hands with Mr. Dixon & asked him if his wife was there intending to hand me in, but Mr. Dixon said “here is Mrs. Sigourney” so as she was first, he took her and I preferred her to have that pleasure to receiving myself the compliment. We sat 3 hours & heard Judge Woodbury read an opinion, and Mr. Green give some authorities for a case he had just argued. It was so warm we became fatigued and could not stay after 2 o’clock—Mr. Webster’s exordium was very fine. He spoke of his hair-breath escapes in intending to take the Lexington the day she was burnt, then again the Swallow, then again the Atlantic,92 & so saved his life—There was a great crowd in the court room but it was too warm to endure. We called on Mrs. Judge McLean, Mrs. Gentry, Mrs. Willis, Mrs. Grinnell, Mrs. Hunt, White, Strong, T. Smith, Catrons, Benson, Kellogg, Gales, Stephens—& at the Madisons & Mrs. Tayloes, a fine old baronial mansion called “the Octagon house.”93 Dr. Woods left us just after dinner—and Mr. Hough a student called, Mr. T. Smith & in the evening, Governor Edwards of New Haven, Mr. Horace Greely, & Robinson, Dr. Potter & Miss Ferguson.
Tuesday, February 2, 1847
Tuesday 2nd Mrs. Sigourney & Mary took a new room in Mrs. Commodore Smith’s house a very pleasant one—
I went up to the Capital with Mr. Dixon & stopped shopping on my way back. Soon after my return Mrs., Dr. & Miss Dewey called, Mrs. Seaton & Mrs. Senator Davis, Mrs. Tillinghast & her son Rev. Mr. Tillinghast, Miss Beall, Mrs. Col. Totten & Miss Totten, & Mr. George Washington Parke Custis of Arlington passed an hour or two with us. He is a very remarkable man & his reminiscences of the times of Washington of whom he is the grandson are very interesting. He said in his tour to New York, he went to see the old house in Cherry Street where General Washington lived & found it the same. People said how was it possible that General Washington held his levees in so small a room but the secret was they were so very select but the élité of the nation. He is gifted man, quite a painter & a man of genius but reduced in fortune probably on account of family pride. In the evening, Mr. Erastus Smith called and went over to the President’s with us at 9 o’clock.
We dressed for Mr. Pakenham’s great ball, Mrs. Sigourney & I both in our court dresses we wore at the Presentation at the Tuilleries. Hers was a dove coloured watered silk trimmed beautifully with lace, a little cap with blue flowers & feathers, mine my wedding dress & a little tulle over dress vesthe[?] & white wreath of roses with very showy glistening centres. Mary wore a pink tarlatan & wreath of apple blossoms. Dear James went at his own desire although with a blister on his chest. He wore a white cachimere embroidered vest, & black suit, polished boots.
We rode over to the President’s and paid our respects while James presented Mrs. Sigourney who liked the royal family better than she expected to. Mrs. Polk wore a dove coloured embossed silk, & a pink & silver head dress, thread lace cape & ermine tippet, Mrs. Walker a ruby velvet dress & a set of french diamonds on her head & neck—Miss Rucker a blue tarlatan with puffed skirt & neck & pink roses for trimming, a wreath of silver leaves & bunches of flowers. Mrs. Catron & Benson were there and Mrs. Ann S. Stephens, the authoress who is very pleasing in her appearance, tall with sandy hair & florid complexion. Her hair curls profusely and she is very warmhearted, affectionate & impulsive. Mrs. Catron said there was quite a striking coincidence that the first time she ever read a description of Mrs. Sigourney was in Tennessee written by Mrs. Stevens & now she saw both together talking for the first time.
We staid but a short time & then left for the British Minister’s. The Right Hon. Richard Pakenham having invited us to a ball at his mansion on this evening. We were detained a while by the crowd of carriages stopping the way & at last emerged into a hall blazing with light. A gentleman met me at the stairs & said “Madam allow me to escort you to the dressing room” & took me up to it, making a profound bow as he left me. As we came down we paid our respects to Mr. Pakenham and he was devoted to his guests, it must have been a hard evening’s work for him.
The rooms were brilliant lighted & the windows filled with rare plants in bloom. The crowd was immense & comprised all the elite of Washington, The Diplomatic Corps, the Senate, Judges, Mr. Webster & lady & all the great & fashionable. N. P. Willis & lady who wore a black lace dress over pink, Mrs. Dr. Harris in a thread lace dress, very elegant small hat & pink plumes. Mrs. Bodisco was perhaps the most beautiful woman there in a blue crape trimmed with pink roses & a wreath of blue artemisias, turquoise necklace, & other ornaments of great elegance & value. Mrs. Richard Cutts was one of the prettiest women also. Mr. Rockwell took me round the rooms, and we saw every body Mrs. Berrien, Mrs. Gales in blue brocaded satin, & blue feathers tipped with silver. Mrs. John Davis, Mme Calderon in white gause with 7 or 8 flounces trimmed with beautiful bunches of geraniums & the same in her hair, Miss Timberlake with a pink crape & wreath of violets—Mme Pageot in a white lace dress trimmed with dahlias & a wreath of dahlias all bright scarlet, Mrs. Madison wore a purple velvet dress, & 2 japonicas in the bosom, a white turban—one japonica fell off & I picked it up & have it pressed in this page.
The supper was early and was so crowded we did not see the tables, but heard they were very superb—& Jullien was cooking there a week, the day before until three o’clock in the morning. We got seats by a little table in one corner & there staid. After supper we went upstairs a while, and found it pleasanter but still very crowded, & soon left.
On going up to the dressing room Mr. Pakenham came up supporting a lady who proved to be Miss Ladd the young lady it is said he is engaged to marry & on seating her on the sofa her head dropped and she fell back senseless. Her sisters fanned her, gave her water &c.—.Mr. Pakenham walked off in the coolest manner, a phlegmatic Englishman who dislikes scenes. Various vague rumours have since arisen as to his now certainly of being engaged to her &c, nous verrons.94 He told James he regretted so much Miss Cogswell was not here she was so much missed & made so many friends & that he meant to have visited her last summer—
I had a meeting very unexpectedly with an old friend whom I knew before my or his marriage, viz. Mr. George Riggs. I saw him, and recognised him immediately and he recognised me but could not at first think of my name. “Miss Cogswell” he said is it not? But I replied I was Miss Cogswell before I was married but I have been married 6 years. He asked my name and I said “Oh, I won’t tell you it as more amusing that you should not know what it is so I won’t tell you”— I asked him if he lived here and he said “you may have heard of Corcoran & Riggs & I am the Riggs.” I told him I lived at Jullian’s & Mr. Corcoran knew me & just then Mr. Pakenham came to hand me to the carriage & we left—
Wednesday, February 3, 1847
Wednesday 3rd the day was rainy & we reclined & rested all day, took “horizontal refreshment” as Dr. Clarke used to say. I was reading Geraldine, the tale of conscience in favour of the Catholic religion95 to which I am in no wise inclined. The wind blew a gale & we had no company & in the evening we gave up the soirée at the Chilian ambassadors & read & wrote all the evening.
Thursday, February 4, 1847
Thursday 4th was very windy & cold and we did not go out all the morning. Mr. & Mrs. David A. Hall, Mr. Ward, Mrs. Richard Coxe, Miss Mary Louisa Warren & Miss Hardenburgh called—In the evening we prepared to go to the Vice Presidents to a soirée—and as James could not go & the beaux we asked were engaged & not going viz: Judge Carroll & Mr. Broadhead so we went without a beau.
Mrs. Campbell sent to know if she might go with us and we sent word we would meet her in the dressing room—We there met Judge & Mrs. Catron, & Mr. Catron urged Mrs. Sigourney’s acceptance of his arm, so we waited for Mrs. Campbell—After being there half an hour she did not come & we then went up stairs.
The Vice President received us at the door and we found Mrs. Sigourney & Judge Catrontogether. Mrs. Polk was there dressed in a yellow satin brocaded, the President did not appear. Mrs. Dallas wore black velvet & was attentive to her guests as was Mr. Dallas who entertained Mrs. Sigourney with an account of his residence in Russia when he was our ambassador there. Mrs. Sigourney wore her light poplin & I my maroon velvet & white wreath—
One room was appropriated to dancing, and one to conversation. Judge Nelson & family, Mrs. Madison, Dr. & Mrs. Niles, Mr. Christopher Hughes formerly minister to the Hague who had called on Mr. Dixon this morning, a very dashing man with a vast deal of what the french call applomb—was there & presented to me—He is very amusing indeed.
The diplomatic corps were there, Mme Pageot in a dress like mine maroon velvet, & a wreath of purple dahlias—Madam Bodisco in a pink crèpe dress, & wreath of apple blossoms, she looked very pretty indeed, her skin is like alabaster.
I never saw any thing so dazzling. The quadrille & waltz were very brilliant and Miss Hepburn of S. Carolina, was most distinguished as a waltzer. I think the most beautiful waltzer I ever saw—she glides as if she did not move at all & is so sweet in her expression and air being only seventeen. Her mother I remember at Saratoga as a very gay dashing woman & her Father Col. Hepburn was a very showy man—He was killed in some fight or duel and Mrs. Hepburn was a great gambler. She is apparently very vain & maneuvering—dresses a great deal, is handsome, and famous for gambling. What a mother to direct a beautiful young daughter!
I did not feel well and was delighted to come home, just as a gentleman was going to ask Mary S. to dance.
Friday, February 5, 1847
Friday 5th we went off early to the Supreme Court to hear Mr. Rufus Choate who was introduced to us as soon as we went in by Mr. Carroll. He has a very dark skin and a head covered with short black curls, like an Apollo—he seems all fierté & spirit & the grosser elements seem entirely absent or under the control of the spiritual. Every vein & muscle was distinctly visible, & his face seemed a perfect network of nerves & all alive & quivering! His hands were so tremulous he could hardly hold his memoranda at all, and it was almost painful to watch him. He had a glass of hot water by him & came and told Mrs. S. he hoped she would not think it was any thing else as he was strictly temperate but so billious was obliged to have it to set him right. We sat 3 hours very much delighted & fascinated by his oratory. He is the only person I ever saw who quite comes up to my ideas of the orator & who did not disappoint in some way—he made dry law truly enchanting as plain persons are set off and made really handsome by dress.
I found cards on my return from Mr. & Mrs. George Riggs.
Mr. Stone of Alexandria came to tea and Mrs. Sigourney & I went to a party at Mr. William J. Brown’s the assistant post master general. Mr. Dixon rode as far as Mr. Webster’s with us & we intended making a call but finally as Mrs. W. had the head ache we did not go in but left Mr. D. & went to Mr. Brown’s where we were the first guests. Mrs. Ann S. Stephens was there in velvet & roses, and after we had been in the dressing room a half hour we went downstairs.
It was evidently a great event for the Browns to have company & all things looked half genteel but not wholly so—2 crooked candles were on the mantel piece & lamps about the room & 2 suspended from the ceiling. Mrs. Brown wore a black silk trimmed with red bows & looked like Ellen Boyes. Mr. Brown handed everybody in, and introduced them to us. They introduced at Browns, not so fashionable as to leave their guests, and indeed we had a much pleasanter evening than at the soirée of Mme C de la B—or the other magnates of fashion at the west end. Mr. Davis came the Speaker of the House of Representatives & was introduced: “Mrs. Sigourney Mr. Speaker Davis Mrs. Sigourney, Mrs. Dixon Mr. Speaker Davis, Mrs. Dixon”—& so of every one—it was very funny & seemed so novel after the stately goings at our usual places of resort.
Mr. Hannegan Senator from Indiana was there & he and I got quite acquainted & finally he told me if he did not come and see me in four days he would give me the handsomest fan in Washington, against which I bet a pair of gloves—General Sam Houston was also introduced to me, Senator from Texas—what a curious life he has led! Judge Douglas who is now in the house of Representatives from Illinois was presented to me—his history is quite romantic & American. [blank space] I danced with him and found him very agreeable. He had asked Mr. Dixon to introduce him to me and told him if he did not he would go and introduce himself to me—so he asked Mr. Broadhead to present him. Mr. Peter G. Washington asked to be introduced to me—he is first auditor in the Post office and a fine looking & pleasant man. He urged me so much to dance with him that I consented although we had expected no dancing but only a tea party so I wore my brocade dress, & white crape shawl. I had so bad a cold, & danced in my shawl—
Knox Walker was there, also Senators Chalmers of Mississippi, Levin of Arkansas, Robert Owen called “Father Owen” & Robert Dale Owen—& two rooms full of other guests. It was not a particularly recherché affair but as Mrs. Sigourney & I rode home by moonlight which was most beautiful we concluded we had not had so much real fun & amusement at any party this season for the parties of Madame Calderon are any thing but amusing. Her guests come in, pay their devoirs & sit or stand about—in stately grandeur—while the young ladies of her family monopolize the waltz & beaux & only those whom the diplomatic “lords of creation” ask to dance are so favoured & they are usually the young belles, & the rest look on—which is very wearisome—at the Browns au contraire they seemed to feel that their guests had honoured them by coming, and not that they were specially honoured in being allowed to tread within the enchanted circle of the diplomatic corps—
Saturday, February 6, 1847
Saturday 6th we made a business of returning calls & made 20 or over—at the French’s, Pynes, Cutts, Madison, Trists—Mrs. Trist is a grand daughter of President Jefferson & her mother was a Randolp so she has the best blood of Virginia & the Randolps consider themselves descendants of Pocohontas. Mrs. Trist bears a wonderful resemblance to the portraits of Jefferson.—
We also called on Madame la Baronne de Gerolt who was most lovely & said my children were the most beautiful she ever saw—of course I thought her lovely—She said she had wantedso much to see me, that she knew my baby was brought up on the bottle and she wanted to know how I managed it & she could not succeed in that way but got a wet nurse for hers.
We called at the Coxes who were out, & on Mrs. Judge Woodbury who was out also—on Mrs. N. P. Willis who was out, and also was Mrs. Grinnell, Berrien, Badger & Davis. We saw Mrs. Judge McLean & Mrs. Gentry, both very pleasant, called on Mrs. Yulee of Florida, Mrs. Martin of Wisconsin both of whom were out.
We found Mrs. Madison at home and she was unusually agreeable & told us of times in Virginia. She said she went to the President’s the evening before expecting to meet us and was disappointed as she desired to present Mrs. Sigourney herself.
We left cards for Dr. & Mrs. Dewey & an invitation to tea. We called at Mrs. Dr. Lindsly & she showed us a most superb chinese quilt as many as four yards square of blue satin trimmed with most superb fringe—at each corner & centre was a pagoda with the chinese in scene taking tea &c &c, various scenes from life, between were hunting scenes, & in the centre of the quilt was a superb wreath of flowers. On the quilt were 2000 butter-flies, & every one copied from nature & every one different flowers interspersed—it is the most magnificent piece of needlework, I ever saw. It was made by order of the emperor and presented by the Hong merchants96 to Mrs. & Dr. Parker the missionary’s wife Mrs. Lindsly’s sister & by her sent to Mrs. Lindsly—she shewed us also a most superb shawl of straw colour embroidery in white, like my wedding dress———
We found cards from [blank space]
I sent for Mr. Mitchill to come to tea, also Dr. Commodore & Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. & Miss Dewey came—& Mrs. Lindsly—after tea Mr. Choate the superb & Dr. Dewey spent the evening with us—all very agreeable. Mr. Choate said he should make himself a cousin of mine through his brother who was married to Father’s cousin, Miss Mary Cogswell of Essex. He spoke of the Cogswell’s as a most distinguished family in Essex county & Aunt Lois would have experienced a return of Cogswell family pride at his accounts of their ancient estates & high respectability97—Mr. Choate as a companion is all that he has been represented & in no respect does he disappoint me—He is charming & one feels too, his greatness—Mr. Webster always seems heavy & ponderous, Mr. Choate, brilliant as the sun at noon day. Dr. Dewey was very pleasant & Miss Dewey very interesting. She has emphatically dewey eyes.
Sunday, February 7, 1847
Sunday morning 7th we went to the Capitol to church and heard Rev. Mr. Sprole from the text “I knew that thou wast an austere man reaping where thou hast not sown & gathering where thou hast not strewed.” [blank space] A very eloquent and impressive sermon as much so as any I ever heard, it was a very solemn one too—Mr. Ward came home with us but did not stay to dinner. Mr. Dixon we met walking.
In the evening my new friend Mr. Hannegan came & spent with us so I lost the gloves—He gave us a most interesting account of the Indian tribes in Indiana, the Pottawattamies & their exile beyond the Mississippi & their grief at leaving their homes when a long wait arose and smelled on the breeze and even he “albeit unused to the melting mood”98 was moved to tears. Mr. Hannegan is one of our most remarkable men. A native of Indiana and thoroughly western man, he has been self educated and now is a member of the Senate distinguished for elegance and among the most prominent men of his party (democratic) he bids fair to be President as much as any man in the United States. N. P. Willis in a letter to the London Times describing the great men omitted him and Greeley said in a notice of this letter—“Strange that he should omit Hannegan, one of the most remarkable men in the Senate.” The New York Observer calls him “the fiery & fascinating young orator of the West.”
Monday, February 8, 1847
Monday February 8th We went to the Supreme Court and heard Mr. Choate conclude his argument which Mr. Webster said was the best but one he had ever heard from him. His imagination seems so exuberant and his language so flowing it is a succession of daguereotypes or like “The fairy who spoke pearls”—and one’s listening powers are on the alert that not one gem should be lost.
Donald Mitchill was there and on the conclusion of Mr. Choate’s argument, when we had heard honest John Davis a few moments who was as dry as a sand bank, or as a rock for he is sound and solid but not abounding with stalactites, we left him and went to pay some visits—Had a very pleasant call at Madame Cavallo’s (Chilian Minister’s) and then went to the General Post Office. It is the most beautiful building in Washington after the Capitol, which I do think more imposing than any I know of, certainly the most so in this country and far more so than the Capitol at Rome.99
Donald went in for my new friend Mr. Washington who is chief auditor and he took us over the whole building, shewed us the system of accounts for all the Post Offices in the United States which is stupendous and all written most exquisitely without a blemish, also the first book of accounts in Benjamin Franklin’s handwriting, took us into his own room which is very pleasant, and up flights of marble stairs for the whole building is of marble—shewed us the
desks & secretaries all his inventions which turn down & form a desk, all uniform in size & colour, which Lord Ashburton100 pronounced more perfect than any thing he had ever seen.
He took us into the dead letter office where two men sit from one year’s end to the other opening dead letters which become dead after advertising[?] six months & after every possible inquiry. They contain all sorts of things and one of the men found a $50 bill while we were there. One watches the other and there is no deception.
This paper lady was in one & the pattern of the cloth also this little lock of hair probably sent, perhaps from a father to a child or mother to a daughter, or to a little sister. Some were quite touching, as one was from a wife to her husband with a lock of hair of each of her children and piece of her new dress—the ages and date of each lock of hair which was all beautiful. I wish the poor little girl could have received her paper girl—
There were some things very valuable sent by a mother to her son in this country from Germany with only his initials on the package “F.B.” Pensacola Florida. There was a beautiful set of ruby earrings & pin, and an elegant pin with cipher in diamonds, also some very superb rings one a signet ring of great beauty & values and last a daguerrotype likeness of the Father & Mother both agreeable looking persons. It will be a “treasure trove” should they be successful in finding the owner.
We saw a great iron chest full of money collected from letters and a closet full of other articles
franked or forwarded—with a pigeon hole for each state, there were cookery books, pocket books, gifts of different kinds and one theatrical costume, also cheeses have at different times been sent but could hardly have a place among the antiquities—The letters that are finally pronounced defunct are opened & their contents of money &c are taken out and they are torn into pieces & destroyed.
Mr. Washington then took us into the room of the Post Master General, Cave Johnson, who is a fine venerable looking man rather the belle of the Cabinet for beauty. He is tall with silvery hair & a fine gentlemanly person. We met Mr. Hobbie the assistant Post Master General a very pleasant man and friend of Mr. Kinney’s for whom he inquired—We were presented to Mr. Johnson who invited us to sit down & we made a short call & then bade his adieu, had a peep into Mr. Brown’s room who has the appointing to office to do & also cutting off of heads, and then we peeped into another office of one of the clerks who had the most splendid geranium I ever saw, it covered the whole window which reached nearly from the ceiling to the floor & was very fragrant. I wonder if it was the clerk who wrote so exquisitely—both are said to be characteristic of refinement.
We next called at some stores, Mrs. Sigourney had some shopping to do, and then we called at Mr. Dallas, found Miss Dallas at home, and a lady visiting there, and then returned home.
Mr. Rossiter, the artist who painted the beautiful picture of Ruth & Naomi called and took tea and Judge Niles & lady, Mr. & Mrs. Gideon Welles, Mrs. Robinson & Mr. Pease called & passed the rest of the evening.
Tuesday, February 9, 1847
February 9th Tuesday was our dear Bunty’s birthday. James Wyllys Dixon, age 1, a stout, rosy noble little boy now at an age to be the least anxiety, as he cannot [illegible] into any mischief—. Who can tell his future? Oh, may he be spared to be useful and good and virtuous. I do not desire great fame for him unless he is eminently pious & virtuous and then I should love to have him serve his country with honor but if he can only inherit his dear father’s goodness will not that be enough?
Mrs. Sigourney gave him a beautiful set of silver knife, fork & spoon in a morrocco case, marked with his initials & hers, & to me, she gave some hair pins gilt with black currants, to Ann and Bridget a scarf and to Bessie and Clemmy a string of coral beads & scarf. Bunty also gave me a superb lace dress (the gift of Papa) and to Mrs. Skippen who nursed him first, a very handsome hymn book, Methodist bound in morrocco & gilt.
up out to make some calls, one in Charlestown on Miss English, who keeps a school for young ladies.101 I found Anna Boyd was here one of my old school mates & a cousin of Mother, and asked for her. She sent down word she was so much engaged at her classes she could not come down. Poor Anna, at school she was the loftiest and most purseproud and overbearing girl in school but pretty. Her sister Isabella was my most intimate friend & her brother Bayard was at Mother’s wedding, Mrs. Boyd & Mrs. Kirkpatrick being sisters. We did not like Mrs. Boyd at school as she used to tell Mrs. Smith if she saw anything amiss in the girls. However the school days are all gone forever! and I as the wife of a member of Congress & Anna Boyd in the dull business of teacher in a school meet again after a separation of ten or twelve years! I a happy proud wife & mother and she lonely, poor and desolate. She resembles her Brother but is no longer pretty and alas no longer young being of the age of Mary Kinney.
Miss English on my regretting I could not see Miss Boyd went and released her from her duties & brought her down and we talked of old times until it seemed as if we were again school girls. If the inhabitants of those school rooms could meet there again, what interesting “talks” they would have! But alas they can never more return and Time moves on with accelerated velocity, every year bearing us farther from our youth. There is nothing more sad & suggestive of moralizing than such a meeting.
We called on Madam Calderon whom we found at home and very pleasant, the Pearsons were all out, the Pleasantons at home and very Pleasant ones they are—
We then proceeded to the Senate Chamber; sent in for our friend General Greene who told me to exercise the privilege of “cousin” and send in for him so he took us to nice seats on the floor of the Senate and we heard Mr. Calhoun in a great speech on the war, an oracle in his party. On its close Mr. Hannegan came and shook hands with us, and we met many friends & Mr. Houston of Delaware informed me that Mr. Dixon was speaking in the House, offered me his arm & we went to the side gallery behind him & he did not know it till he had finished. His voice is very powerful but as I had never heard him before my head whirled so I could not attend to a word of it. I felt such a responsibility—.
He celebrated thus Bunty’s birth day, and the speech was famous at home and praised by the papers as “one of the ablest & most eloquent” of the session.102 He came to us after its done, his brow covered with drops of perspiration & his lungs quite worn out with his efforts.
We went home very soon and James had to commenced the business of writing out his speech, a great deal of labour. Those that dance must pay the fiddler is about as unpleasant a business. Mr. Washington & his son passed the evening with us, both very pleasant.
Wednesday, February 10, 1847
Wednesday February 10th We paid a visit to Mme Pageot who was very agreeable, as was Miss Timberlake & Mrs. Randolph and other calls, and at Mrs. General Hamiltons the widow of General Alexander Hamilton whom Burr killed in a duel. She is a relic of the olden time and interesting in that way being now 90 & able to walk nearly 2 miles & doing many wonderful works. Her daughter, Mrs. Hamilton Holley as she styles herself is a “beau catcher” if she can get sight of one, & rather a ridiculous personage as she takes her old mother around to the Senate & elsewhere to attract attention.
I had my new lace dress made and over pink to wear this evening which I was duly equipped in for the three parties. I wore my silver ornaments & a pink & silver sash. Mrs. Commodore Smith came in to see us dressed, Mary wore pink & Mrs. Sigourney a light poplin & pink head dress & scarf I lent her.
We went first to the great last Levee at the White House, which was superb—On going in we found Mr. Washington who took me & his son who was beau for Mary Sigourney & Mr. Dixon took Mrs. Sigourney.
We were quite early and walked around the East Room before the company entered it. A few persons were lost in its vastness. Mrs. Polk was very pleasant and she and the Ladies wore the same dresses as on New Year’s day. As it was the last Levee of the Season every body was there almost and a great crowd— I promenaded for a while with Mr. Washington until Judge Carroll discovered me—& he insisted on a promenade with him.
Then George Riggs joined us and we talked of old & new times. He told me he had the prettiest place in the world and I told him I had the prettiest place as he would say could he see it.
Well then he said he had the prettiest children. I told him that was not so either, that mine were the prettiest in the world & we agreed to disagree until we could compare notes (of admiration!). Senator Hannegan came soon & immediately insisted upon a promenade with him so we walked a while & he begged for “one turn more” & we took half a dozen last rounds, and General Greene then claimed me but we had to leave for Mrs. Seaton’s to attend the wedding party of Miss Seaton.
On our way out we met Mr. & Mrs. Bodisco going in. Mrs. Bodisco wore white silk with a flounce & very richly embroidered & lace work let in to a great depth, a new style of dress this season. On arriving at the Mayors we found the house very brilliant. Mrs. Madison was there and all the most distinguished persons in Washington the very élite of the élite.
The bride wore white watered silk & a tulle scarf, white japonicas, & her hair twisted in the simplest manner, she did not look stylish at all—Her husband Mr. Schroeder is one of the handsomest men I ever saw, light hair and moustache, he resembles Prince Albert. There was supper all the evening, and two large immense loaves of cake set in different parts of the room for people to eat & carry home. It was not a very pleasant party. There was no order of reception, and we were very happy to leave. I had rather a pleasant chat with Judge Berrien of Georgia & Mrs. Berrien, Mr. Peters of Philadelphia, & one or two others. We were shewn the bridal room and all the bride’s presents—She had several superb turquoise bracelets from Mrs. Webster & other friends & a table covered with gifts.
We drove from Mrs. Seaton’s to Madame Calderon’s last soirée. We found the rooms quite full. Mrs. Webster, Mr. & Mrs. Curtis of New York, the Diplomatic Corps were there, the Wrights, Swans of Baltimore, Mrs. Ashley, Miss Taylor, a cousin of General Taylor, Mrs. Campbell & others. It was very dull indeed although they danced once or twice. There were no young ladies with Madame Calderon & Kate McLeod had gone and she was the life of the House & the most acceptable of all the McLeods. Madame C. did not present any beau to Mary Sigourney & she did not dance. I thought it extremely stupid and Mme C.’s parties I vote the least agreeable of any I ever attended—We were tired enough on returning home.
While the presidency is often in the eye of the public, those who ensure operations at the White House run...
This year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the culmination of the suffragists' fight to secure the right to...
George Washington never lived in the White House, but played a major role in its design, as well as the...
President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s White House helped set the tone for an era of peace, economic prosperity, and technological ad...
The National Archives has been collecting records of the United States since 1934. It holds billions of documents, photographs, and objects...
The White House has always shaped the lives of the Presidents and First Families who have lived there, and reflected...
Throughout our history, presidents have faced crises that have gripped both the nation and the world. In this episode, Association...
From diplomatic dinners to holiday gatherings, the White House has always played a central role in the nation’s official en...
Biographies & Portraits
Portrait artists have captured the image and personality of our presidents throughout history, providing a record of their time in...
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to office at the height of the Great Depression. He ushered in an environment...