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Mr. Adams occupied much of his time throughout his life in verse-writing, and especially in converting the Psalms into meter. He often required of himself daily a few of these stanzas, and so persistent was he that he rendered the entire book into verse, some parts of which will live as long as the hymns of Dr. Watts.
A great deal of this work he seemed to do as if it were a duty he was under obligations to perform. He usually submitted his work, stanza by stanza, to Mrs. Adams, and while he consented with hesitancy to the correctness of her criticism, he was never so stubborn as to reject an amendment; always valued highly her counsels, and seldom really mistrusted her judgment.
During the winter of 1830 he wrote his most considerable poem, "Dermot Mac Morrogh, or the Conquest of Ireland, an Historical Tale of the Twelfth Century, in Four Cantos." This was published in a little 18mo book of one hundred and eight pages, with a historic preface by himself. It was also, as his letters on the Bible, and several of his writings, published in several forms.
Of Dermot he wrote on the 16th of April, 1831:—
"I finished this morning a fair copy of my poem of 'Dermot Mac Morrogh,' and have now the measure of my poetical power. Beyond this I shall never attain; and now it is an important question whether I should throw this, and almost all other verses I have. ever written, into the fire. Hitherto I have confined myself to translations and fugitive pieces of a very few lines or stanzas, a small portion of which have been published in newspapers and magazines. I have now completed an historical tale of upwards of two thousand lines; the subject of my own selection; the moral clear and palpable; the characters and incidents
• strictly historical; the story complete and entire. It has amused and occupied two mouths of my life, and leaves me now, like a pleasant dream, to dull and distressing realities, to a sense of wasted time, and to the humiliation of enterprise ashamed of performance; yet, at the same time, with an insatiate thirst for undertaking again higher and better things."
Many of his fugitive pieces, as he called them, were composed during his daily walks; but with all this uncommon energy, and his strong desire to turn it into a poetic channel, he usually seemed to have a mean opinion of his ability as a writer or speaker, and classed himself among the poorest of the American poets.
In 1848, when preparing his funeral address on Mr. Adams, for publication, the Rev. William P. Lunt wrote:—
"In 1841, when the author of this discourse was preparing a new collection of psalms and hymns for the use of the religious society to which he ministers, Mr. Adams was kind enough to place in his hands, for such use as he might choose to make of it, an entire metrical version of the Psalms, together with a few other pieces of devotional poetry. From these compositions twenty-two pieces were selected, and are contained in the book published under the name of 'The Christian Psalter.'"
At the end of his term of the Presidency, Mr. Adams believed that his public career had come to an end, and in this belief and desire meditated devoting the remainder of his life to literary pursuits. With this view he began to consider what he should do with the vast store of manuscripts left by his father. He had already made some advance toward the preparation of an extended historic biography of his father. The sudden change in his life again took his attention, and the result was that a volume or two of his unfinished "Memoir of John Adams" fell, with his other almost endless writings, to the care of his son, Charles Francis. It was, perhaps, well that he did not have the opportunity to finish this biography of his father. It seemed to be a task for which he was not suited; that is, writing calmly and disinterestedly about his father's public services. At least such must be the judgment of the reader of the first chapter, or first and second chapters in the "Life of John Adams," by his grandson. That part of the work is, to a great extent, his; and in its stilted and extravagant vein casts a shadow of discredit on the rest of his literary work, in the whole vast field of which there are certainly few flaws. The rest of that work is, as before said, a model of fairness, skill, and excellence.
While President an enthusiastic visitor thus spoke of Mr. Adams as a priest of Apollo :—
"From him I became acquainted with the biography of the canvas-back duck; the course of his flights; the place of his choice; the food he seeks, that gives him, for certain months in the year, his superiority over others after his kind. He was surveying some volumes upon architecture, which he had lately imported, and, on opening them for me, the President touched upon every order known among the scientific from the Pyramids to St. Peters, when Michael Angelo threw the Pantheon in the heavens; and from them down to my cottage, a little design after my own taste built many years before in his own neighborhood, and in which I resided for a long time in quiet and happiness, as far as an old bachelor can be called happy. I had been acquainted with scholars from my childhood, but such fullness and accuracy I never had before witnessed. I could have stayed forever and listened to such an oracle, but politeness would not permit me to trespass any farther than I did. In all this there was not a glance at politics. I thought I had been conversing with a priest of Apollo in the temple of wisdom."
THE MAN—ELOQUENT IN DEATH—JUDGMENTS.
IN his oration at Cincinnati, March 22, 1848, on the "Life and Character of John Quincy Adams," Timothy Walker said :—
"In surveying such a life as has been sketched, one of the first things which strike the mind is the astonishing amount of labor performed. I doubt if more work was ever crowded into a single human life. I speak now of quantity merely, and this is Herculean. There is scarcely a court in Europe whose archives do not contain records of his doings, evidenced by his autograph. And here, at home, he has been intimately connected with every important national movement for half a century. How then was he able to achieve so much? Did his mind conceive,- or his hand execute, more rapidly than others? Far from it. What seems so like a miracle was the simple effect of incessant application, directed by the most rigid discipline. From youth to old age, all his time wa.s employed, the miuutes, no less than the hours. Not a fragment was wasted. He was the most industrious man I have ever read of. An ancient sage grieved that he had lost a day. He had seldom cause to grieve at the loss of an hour. So constantly was he occupied, even when seeming to be idle, that many considered him to be cold, dull, and saturnine; while the truth is, that his mind was, at such moments, in a state of fervid action, working up the materials of previous inquiry. This habit often made him seem alone in the midst of a crowd. But let his attention be attracted from surrounding trivialities by some great or grave matter, and the flashing of his eye at once told you that his mind was wide awake. ...
"And if from this quantity of public service we turn to the giwliiij, the astonishment is not diminished. Whether we regard him as a foreign minister, a Cabinet minister, a Chief Magistrate, a debater in Congress, or member of a committee, he has always shown himself a consummate master of whatever he undertook. One of his most remarkable attributes was thoroughness. Whatever his hand found to do he did with all his might. He touched no subject which he did not exhaust. There was nothing superficial in any of his doings."
Mr. Adams doubted whether his life might not have been more satisfactory to himself, and beneficial to his race, if his knowledge and strength had been more concentrated. There could be no doubt on this point, if a science, an art, or a mechanical pursuit only, were in consideration. But if Mr. Adams's life were shorn of its wonderful versatility, much of its charm would be wanting. His acquirements in almost every namable direction, were, to a great extent, the instruments of his success as a politician and statesman. Mr. Adams had no need to regret that his lines were not laid in another or narrower way. And few of his countrymen, to-day, perhaps, could wish that his life, as a whole, had been other than it was.
In 1838 or 1839, Dr. Thomas Sewall wrote some letters against "Phrenology," which Mr. Adams considered so satisfactory and convincing that he thanked the Doctor in a letter published at the time, and from which the following extract will show that he had not neglected even the so-called science, humbug, or whatnot, of Phrenology :—
"I have never been able to persuade myself to think of the science of Phrenology as a serious speculation. I have classed it with judicial astrology, with alchemy, and with augury; and, as Cicero says he wonders how two Roman augurs could have looked each other in the face without laughing, I have felt something of the same surprise that two learned phrenologists can meet without like temptation. But, as it has been said of Bishop Berkeley's