Coffin, Charles, 1765-1820. Journal of Charles Coffin and David Gurney, 1781-1785. HUD 785.14, Harvard University Archives.


This diary appears to have been kept by two different students, both members of the Harvard College class of 1785. The first two pages contain entries made by a student named David, believed to be David Gurney because the entries relate to the freshman curriculum and Gurney was the only student named David who was a freshman in 1781. Gurney originally titled the volume "A Journal or Diary of my concerns in College of important matters." He made entries from August 28 through October 21, 1781, recording his lessons on Virgil, Tully, Homer, the Greek Testament, Hebrew grammar, English author John Ash's "Grammar," and a text called "The Art of Speaking." At the top of one of the pages recounting these studies, Gurney wrote in large, bold letters: "About how I misspent my precious time." Charles Coffin's entries begin on October 25, 1781 and fill the bulk of the journal. Coffin kept this diary while a student at Harvard College from 1781 to 1785. Although most of Coffin's entries are written in Latin, an account of his July 1781 examination for admission to the College is in English.

Biographical Notes

Charles Coffin (1765-1820; Harvard AB 1785) was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts on September 4, 1765. He attended Harvard College, receiving an A.B. in 1785 and an A.M. in 1788. He was a physician and a teacher who worked in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and later in Beaufort, South Carolina. He died in Beaufort on September 8, 1820.|David Gurney (1759-1815; Harvard AB 1785) was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts in 1759 and fought as a private in the American Revolutionary War before enrolling in Harvard College in 1781. He earned an A.B. in 1785 and an A.M. in 1788. In 1787, Gurney was ordained a Congregational minister in Middleborough, Massachusetts; he served as minister there until his death in 1815.