Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Tuesday. October 12th. VI.

Thursday. October 14th. VI.

Wednesday. October 13th. VI. CFA Wednesday. October 13th. VI. CFA
Wednesday. October 13th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation this morning, without any thing uncommon happening. After breakfast, I attended Mr. Everett’s Lecture as usual. He closed the controversy with some remarks on the last points of it. The traditions concerning Solon at that age certainly favour Wolf’s hypothesis. They are not however directly inconsistent with the common opinion concerning the unity and authenticity of Homer. It is not at all surprising that Homer should have come down in detached portions when we consider the want of materials for the preservation of works and the practice of recitation easily accounts for the scattered state of the poems. Subsequent authors moreover, when Libraries were made for the express purpose of preserving entire books, have come down to us in a similar way. The different parts of the Testament even were collected at different places.

Another strong argument against Wolf’s theory is that no such thing has been mentioned by any ancient author whatsoever. Had it been a fact that these poems were formed by many, it would have been 384recollected for many ages and certainly a sufficient number of years does not exist between Solon and the last of these poetical composers to admit of a total oblivion or account for the want of any tradition of such compilation. We must observe also that this is a question not of the fabrication of the poems at a later date, as is the case with Ossian, but merely of the writing of the poems of which an author would have been proud to declare himself the composer. Perrault, to be sure, regards the contest of the seven cities as some argument, but this is merely an inference, and it is evident that no single, abstract conception of the unity of Homer could have been formed, had many authors been known to exist and had the poems been gradually perfected according to the present argument. Finally it is worthy of remark that Wolf and his followers are not at all confident in their own assertions. These, if brought to a strict test, amount to no more than that the present form of the Iliad and Odyssey, the division into books, the insertion of some of the episodes with scattered passages and many single lines, are to be ascribed to the rhapsodists and grammarians. That they were in a simple and shorter form and that there is no absolute historical certainty about the person of Homer.

Men when in contest are very apt to go further than they intend and in this something may have escaped from some of the advocates of the theory which the other party do not allow. Indeed by a quotation from Wolf’s own preface in the synopsis,1 we can see that his statements go no farther. Such are the merits of the most important question in Greek literature. Those who incline to support Wolf in his theory have a great argument and much plausibility on their side. The popular doctrine rests on the consent of ages. His Everett’s qualified statement of the theory is one which he thinks will unite most probabilities, as by it we can believe in one sublime poet for the author, whilst we do not contradict the known laws of human and intellectual progress.

He then went on to the life of Homer and mentioned the accounts of him which have been written. One is ascribed to Herodotus; ancient authors mention his having written such a life but this is not probably it. It is quoted by no ancient author. There is a life of Homer ascribed to Plutarch which is quoted by Aulus Gellius. The work does not however correspond with these citations. One author has supposed Dionysius of Halicarnassus to be the author. There are three short lives in Greek prefixed to a work of Allatius de Patria Homeri of which two are anonymous. The first is by Proclus. But the most convenient works on his life are those of Madame Dacier and Pope prefixed to 385their translations of the poems and that of Blackwall. We can only make inferences and deductions from the entire want of certain knowledge, and his omitting to mention himself in his poems, a custom which prevailed among the ancients but the reverse of which now obtains. We suppose him a native of Ionia from his geography and his hymn to Apollo which however is not correct ground. As to the time, a variety of opinion has been held. He has been placed between the sixth and tenth centuries before the Christian era. His description is minute of the siege of Troy but he says he was not near the time. Some have placed him before the return of the Heracleids (Mitford and Haller) but the Ionians did not emigrate until two generations after that.2 He has been fixed with most probability 900 years before Christ, 130 after the return of the Heracleids and 270 after the Trojan war. Herodotus agrees with this by placing him four hundred years before himself.

Lecture over, I returned home and sat myself down according to my usual way to write out my Lectures. I did not read over the Astronomy so that I did not know any thing about the recitation. It was upon the Moon today. After recitation I returned home and employed myself in a similar way. The afternoon was taken up in studying the lesson in Paley as I was confident that I should be called upon which was the case.

After Prayers we had a good Rifle drill and then attended a Lecture of Mr. Ticknors. I took very full notes of a very beautiful lecture but I shall be compelled to condense them very much. Pascal, he said, had given the direction and tone to French eloquence and had shown what it was capable of in the pulpit. Bossuet arose and carried it to it’s height. He was born in Burgundy in 1627, his education was private. He retired to Metz, was made a canon and there studied the councils, the scriptures and the fathers to prepare for those attacks upon the reformers which he commenced in 1655. The reputation which he thus acquired soon called him to Paris and in his sermons he so pleased the two Queens of England and of France that in 1661 he was called to the court, before which he delivered discourses that year and the lent of the year following. In 1669 he was made a Bishop and still remained about the Court. The next year he was appointed preceptor to the Dauphin and laid out a plan for his education in which all the learned men were to contribute. It was for him that he wrote an abridgment of history, an account of the reign of Louis 14th and a system of religious classics. It was for him also that he wrote the excellent Essay on universal history. In 1681 he was promoted to the 386more valuable bishopric of Meaux. The elector of Hanover had proposed a meeting between him and a protestant which was agreed to but it had the same result with all affairs of this sort, no success. He then attacked the sect of the Quietists of whom more will be said hereafter; he was always ambitious, great and successful. He enjoyed the office of counsellor to the king which he held until his death which happened in 1704, he being 77 years old. He wrote above 100 works which fill twenty quarto volumes. Many of these are in Latin and a larger part controversial. He was a Doctor at 25 and dedicated a thesis to the Condé by which he gained his favour. We find him at the hotel de Rambouillet in Paris leading the wits of the day. He did not come forward in his strength however until he was forty three years old when he immediately became the head of the clergy, which he kept until he was 73. Though for the last ten years of his life he did nothing half equalling his old effort, he made important additions to his universal history. His works were almost all written to increase his power and do not for the most part come within our jurisdiction.

His Doctrine he published in 1671 as an answer to the Protestants and it may be considered the best answer which has ever been given to the reformation. The argument is logical, acute, the proportion in style is elegant and it’s compactness is perfection to it. Bonaparte, if such an authority is to be quoted on such a subject, said that but for this treatise he should have been a Protestant. His Discours sur l’histoire universel was published in 1681. It is more of a discourse indeed than an item of events, but in his sermons we find most splendid specimens of French eloquence, although not the first in the language. He here yielded the palm to Bourdaloue3 and with more effect as it was done with grace. His funeral orations however were the very greatest things which were ever delivered. He then analysed the species of writing and went on with considerable eloquence to speak of the contrast between the men and the he has given. It is a duty but little proper to a Christian minister. This was certainly a beautiful specimen. He was undoubtedly the father of the Gallican church whose rights he ably defended. He was inferior to but few of his rivals; indeed Bourdaloue excelled him as they lived in the habit of writing touching Sermons.4 Not that Bossuet might not have succeeded, but that he would not. Of his great rival Bourdaloue whom Mr. Ticknor also mentioned, I cannot say any thing today but shall continue writing notes out whenever I have the leisure.

After Lecture, Chapman and one or two more of us went to Mr. Willard’s and spent a considerable quantity of time. I staid quite pleasantly and talked with him; afterwards, returned home and wrote 387out my notes, a long labour when I felt very much more like sleeping. I am anxious for the time to come when I finish a drudgery of slaves.



Everett, Synopsis , p. 44.


CFA wrote: “. . . but the Ionians did not emigrate until after that two generations.”


Louis Bourdaloue (1632–1704).


Thus apparently in MS, but the sense is obscure and some of the words in this sentence are less than perfectly legible.