Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Tuesday. 16th.

Thursday. 18th.

Wednesday. 17th. CFA Wednesday. 17th. CFA
Wednesday. 17th.

Morning rather cooler than it has been, with an Easterly Wind and 114cloudy but without rain. I passed an hour reading Vida’s Art of Poetry of which I can say, that it contains much valuable matter for a poet. But though it may make a good one, he will not be great. A great Poet must be an original. It will not do for every man of genius to be tied down to the track of Virgil and Homer. Had Virgil struck out a new path, with the same general melody of versification, would he not have held higher rank as a Poet. I do not mean to depreciate what he did, but I mean to apply to the genius the rule that all Critics apply to the species, there must be variety. What would have been Milton’s merit had he imitated Virgil as closely as this person did Homer? I do not think any great genius ought to imitate unless he is willing to admit his predecessor’s superiority.

Went to the Office. My Wife not quite so well today as the child will not take. I yet feel great anxiety about both. Occupied in writing my Journal and in copying a part of the eleventh and last Bible letter. Mr. Brooks called to let me know of some grapes which I was obliged to go myself to get. So I returned home and having been sent for to see Miss Oliver continued my walk to Hancock Street. She wants to keep the House, for two years more. Talked about repairs.

After dinner I read the Eleventh Book of Cicero’s Letters. The Correspondence of Decimus Brutus. The Letters of Brutus and Cassius to Antony are very dignified, and worthy of the men. The letter of Cicero to Matius and his reply are very good. Perhaps the reasoning in it is not entirely without basis. The question of the propriety of Caesar’s murder is a hard one to settle. But as a general rule one may be pretty sure that when a person is successful enough to become a tyrant, he is assisted to it full as much by the corruption of the People as by his own ability. It certainly was so here. Read Bacon’s Essay upon Truth which is good. Evening with my Wife, afterwards, Du Bos and the Spectator.