The existence of this diary was totally unsuspected until its recent and somewhat accidental discovery among papers at the Vermont Historical Society during a search by Wendell D. Garrett, Associate Editor of the Adams Papers, for Adams family letters of a later period.
In part, the diary antedates by more than two years all other diaries of John Adams, and as a whole it is an invaluable addition to the Adams Papers, significantly supplementing the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams issued by the Belknap Press in four volumes in 1961. The editors’ introduction describes the romantic and dramatic circumstances under which the diary is believed to have left the hands of the Adams family and found its way into the possession of young Royall Tyler, later a successful writer and distinguished Vermont judge, but in the 1780s a suitor for the hand of John Adams’s daughter Abigail. Among other matters, the newly found diary contains material on John Adams’s life as an undergraduate at Harvard, his choice of a career, his law studies and his first case as a practicing lawyer, his ambitions, and his observations on girls.
As L. H. Butterfield, editor in chief of the Adams Papers, says of John Adams, “He almost never fails to give even his casual reflections a characteristic turn. He is a great stylist… His wry, amusing, engaging comments, whether on daily life in New England, on literature, science, or government, show an original mind at work.”