Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Sunday. September 26th. VII:30.

Tuesday. September 28th. VI.

Monday. September 27th. VI:10. CFA Monday. September 27th. VI:10. CFA
Monday. September 27th. VI:10.

Missed Prayers this Morning although awake before the bell rung. I was in time however for recitation but did not attend it with much advantage to myself as upon being called upon, I was obliged to declare myself not prepared. After recitation I stated the reason to Mr. Hayward but he laid open no way of avoiding the difficulty. After breakfast we attended a Lecture from Mr. Everett at the Philosophical room which is no place however, fit for such purpose. His course today was short, merely laying out his ground and stating the kinds which he should divide it in; his manner is good for Lecture as it is simple, easy and clear. He has a singular way of dwelling upon an adjective even when connected with a substantive which should receive the accent. It was his course he said to give an account of Grecian literature. He then made some observations upon it’s originality and antiquity, the first composition was earlier than that of the Oriental tribes and, if we except a portion of the Hebrew writings, theirs were the first literary efforts. It is on this account that we are indebted to them. It is for the influence which these attempts exerted upon future periods that we look up to them. In this Lecture, he intended only to explain the general nature of his topics and his future course. He would first treat of the origin of the language, although he should not take much notice of the argument concerning the Phoenicians, as it is certain enough whatever they may have contributed to the Greek language, none of their own productions, if they ever had any, have ever been received by us. He should first notice the legislators, such as were only known in fable and mythology. This he called the Anti Homeric age.

Then he should treat of Homer and of Hesiod. He should then treat of the Lyric writers such as Alcaeus, Sappho and others which he should call the Classic Age. The succeeding time was remarkable for the commencement of prose writing with the invention of paper re-337ceived from Egypt, which was so remarkably late as only the seventh century before the Christian era. He said his course as far as here would be in regular chronological order but in future this mode would be too arbitrary and only create confusion concerning the different sorts of authors. He should treat of Pindar alone as he is the sole author in his species of writing. He should then go on to speak of the dramatists, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. It was remarkable that these lived so nearly in the same age as they are found to have when we reflect that Aeschylus was engaged in the famous battle of Salamis, Sophocles was chosen leader of the band or chorus to celebrate the victory and Euripides was born on the very day.

He should then treat of the historians, the most remarkable of whom were Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon. Also he should notice Ctesias and Heraclides Ponticus who are not known to us as only small fragments of their works are preserved. Next came the philosophy which he should treat of entire, down to the destruction of Greece. Then the Orators and then some miscellaneous notices which could not well be classed under any of these heads. Next he should describe the Alexandrian age from the establishment of Christianity to the downfall of Greece the most learned if not the most illustrious age of Greece. Lastly came the ecclesiastical age in which the propagation of letters in the west of Europe took place, with some observations upon the formation of the language of Modern Greece. A subject not exactly connected with his but which might be advantageous. This is his plan.

He closed the lecture with some sort of an address to us. He said that we must be aware that we had come to a time of life when our minds either had or shortly would take a graver cast, that we were to acquire a habit of forcing attention, the only way by which our future studies could be advanced. We were not to make amusement our principal object and we must be conscious, we could hardly receive much here. We were progressing into a time of life when we should become fully sensible of the worth of literary acquirements as we had less opportunity from attention to our various professions of increasing them. He therefore recommended to us to pursue while the time was given us those branches which would be of so much advantage and solace in future life. This was a short lecture so that I know not what I shall make of long ones. After we had come out of this I returned to my room, wrote my Journal and read Pope’s Third Essay on the use of Riches. These do not strike me so much as they did in first going over. I also continued reading Rochefoucault.

At eleven o’clock, I went in with the class to Mr. Farrar for a lesson 338in Astronomy which is our morning study for this term. He laid his plan before us which was that we should read over this work of Ferguson’s on Astronomy,1 which is our Text book, and he should ask questions upon it which he should illustrate as well as he could from the instruments in his possession and by familiar conversation. This man is the only one who understands the method of instruction. After a few observations upon the value of Astronomy as a Science, he dismissed us. I spent the rest of the morning in attempting to select a speech for declamation and at length fixed upon that one of Henry’s, which is so often spoken.

After dinner was over, I went to the library to obtain a book for our next Forensic which takes place unexpectedly on Thursday. I did not succeed however. I then employed myself the rest of the afternoon in studying a lesson in Paley which was a remarkably hard one. It was on Simony. I shall be compelled to change my plan of study this term as we have the afternoon without division so that I shall be compelled to study two hours every day upon the same lesson which will make it somewhat fatiguing.2 After recitation was over, I went to Brenan’s room and spent the remaining few minutes before Prayers. It is a singular sort of a change, moving into Holworthy. But every anticipation is so pleasant that we are considerably borne up even under a hard load of studies.

After tea, I settled myself down comfortably in my room for the evening. I employed myself in reading Rochefoucault’s maxims which I do not find, generally speaking, so extremely striking, but I am willing to attribute this to the extension of the truth of them which now makes them appear Commonplace. I also thought upon my Forensic but could not come to a great deal of matter in point. I managed to write a number of hints tonight upon the subject which however cost me the Evening. I again attempted my Mathematics and failed again. I found I could do nothing, so coolly turned back to see what I could do on the subject at it’s commencement, and found myself in a similar predicament, so I went to bed in despair. X:30.


JQA’s copy of James Ferguson, Astronomy Explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles, London, 1785, is in the Stone Library.


See entry for 14 Sept., and note, above, for CFA’s academic schedule.