For a foreign diplomat today, a posting in Washington

On March 27 of that year, nine days after arriving in Washington, Mary Bagot recalls in her journal that they went to the White House "to Mrs. James Madisons evening party here called her Leve'e . . . -- very stupid . . . . "

Mary Bagot's journals were compiled by Rutgers University historian David Hosford and published by the University Press of Virginia, and parts of them appeared in the 1984 edition of the Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington.

In these journals, Mary Bagot recalled those first days, including observations on Dolley Madison's party (with misspellings preserved):

"Introduced to the President -- he is a very wizen old man wearing a powdered head a thick club tail platted & tied up. His constant attitude is standing with his hands in his breeches pockets & his shoulders up to his ears -- & he always looks dirty & has an unpleasant & sour expression of coutenance. Very dreadfully hot weather."

(On a visit to the Madisons' Virginia country home, Montpelier, two years later, after Madison left the presidency, Mary Bagot found "the kindness of the Madisons extreme & he very agreeable, entertaining & well informed.")

Mary Bagot's picture of life in Washington in that era:

"April 22. Did my bills & wrote till towards four when Charles & I walked on the banks of the Potomac. I was much struck with the beauty of it & particularly with the opposite shore of Arlington Virginia which is thickly wooded, & the light green of the trees just beginning to leaf intermixed with the dark pines & cedar trees had a beautiful effect . . . .

"April 24. Went with Mrs. Peter to see a collection of pictures at a Mr. Calverts presumably the Calvert mansion in today's Riverdale . We passed over the field of the War of 1812 Battle of Bladensburg that took place in 1815 & saw . . . the graves of our British soldiers who fell at the battle . . . by the side of the road . . . . "

"May 8. Charles & I walked to the ferry in Georgetown & crossed to Masons Island today's Theodore Roosevelt Island to visit Mrs. Mason -- did not find her at home. This island is a very small one in the middle of the Potomac. It is very pretty & has been bought by Genl George Mason who has built a pretty looking house on it & has made a farm & c. etc.of the whole island. It is beautiful in spring & summer but not wholesome . . . . "

"May 10. Very hot and oppressive . . . . After dinner Chs. & I walked along the banks of the North Rock? Creek. Nothing can be conceived more beautiful than the scenery, or more wild. I was especially struck with the dogwood trees which were in full bloom & their large white flowers . . . . "

"May 17 . . . . A party . . . at the little falls which would now be capitalized of the Potomac . . . . The river winding beautifully -- on each side of it are rocks of a grey kind of stone which on the right side are immensely high & craggy & covered with every beautiful description of American forest tree . . . . A military band was stationed amongst these rocks & . . . had a very striking effect . . . . "

Tomorrow, Mary Bagot on travel in the region.