Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) to William Plumer, Jr.
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00047
Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848)
Place Written: Washington, D.C.
Type: Autograph letter signed
Date: 21 December 1841
Pagination: 2 p. 26 x 20 cm
Summary of Content: Adams praises Plumer’s volume of poems and describes his own journal writings as ”volume after volume of trash.” In retrospect, Adams wishes he had focused his energies on producing a great historical work. He deems Plumer’s style of recording time and memories in a ”poetical record” superior to the usual diary form. Some of Plumer’s verse remind Adams of his own thoughts, and he lauds the poet for giving them permanent existence. Plumer was a former New Hampshire congressman.
Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860
Full Transcript: William Plumer junr. Esqr. Epping N.H. , Washington 21 Decr. 1841, Dear Sir, I thank you cordially for your volume of poems, which possess to my mind the high merit of originality. I have myself journalized the greater part of my own life in prose; and when I look back upon the volume after volume of trash that I have filled for a term sometimes interrupted of more than three score years, I am often tempted to consider it as wasted time. More frequently still has it occurred to me that the same time occupied for the same period with equal perseverance and assiduity in the preparation, continual revision and final accomplishment of some great and useful historical work, would have conferred upon me a far brighter existence in the memory of after ages, and perhaps have contributed to improve the condition of our posterity; but these thoughts like numberless others have perished without teaching me the wisdom of practical reformation. My journal has been a dull record of facts great and small from day to day,  with scarcely ever any action of mind for after recurrence- Your practice of marking the lapse of time by occasional monumental inscriptions in verse distinguishing the succession of days deserving to be remembered by a poetical record of impressions upon the heart and mind, strikes me as better adapted than a mere diary to show of what materials a man’s life is composed - The division of your theme, into three great stages of Youth - Manhood and Age, is philosophical, and having passed myself through several of the turnpike gates, if they may be so called, where you have stop’d to pay the toll of a sentiment or reflection suited to the place and the day, I have found on perusing your verses more than one witness in my own memory, of impressions on my own mind, which had passed away because left unrecorded at the time, but correspondent and sympathising with those to which your Verse has given a permanent existence. , That the reminiscences of your future days may be always cheerful, prosperous and happy, is the cordial wish and prayer, of dear Sir your faithful friend and servt., J. Q. Adams
Sub Era: Age of JacksonOrder Image