Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Thursday. 8th.

Saturday 10th.

Friday 9th. CFA Friday 9th. CFA
Friday 9th.

The morning arose in great beauty. The East Wind which so much troubled us yesterday had spent itself in the course of the night in a frost which covered the hills and valleys with a white mantle, the sure harbinger of a clear day. The day was in effect lovely and admirably calculated for our purpose. We again started this morning on the next survey. Leaving Mr. Josiah Adams’ house to which we rode as yesterday, we took him for our guide, and with the same party we proceeded to those spots strictly called Wood lots to be surveyed today. Our day’s work was much the most laborious of any we had undergone, as we were obliged to pass through swamps and the luxuriant undergrowth of the woods which at once impeded our progress and increased our exertions. Now and then an ascent of rocks presented itself after surmounting which we only saw below us a grove of oaks almost impenetrable to relieve our sight. Add to this, the knowledge of our guide gave out when we had passed one half our course and the rest was a mere attempt to get out of the wilderness before sundown. So that on the whole we had rather a useless day’s work.

I do not know how it happened but instead of suffering from the labour, I enjoyed it. The beauty of the day, the rich colouring which the Autumn had given to the leaves of the Woods, and the picturesque effect of the wild scenery, a glimpse of which we caught occasionally 40on the high grounds as we climbed over them, gave a kind of romance to the Expedition which prevented my feeling the labour and the fatigue. I have from early associations in life felt a singular fondness for that scenery which by others is always considered wild and desolate. It seems in some measure to harmonize with a particular tone of mind in me formerly cherished but now repressed which seeks melancholy for pleasure. I can see more beauty in the roughness of nature than the softness of artificial cultivation, more attraction in a spot where man seems never to have been than where his labour has made all things smooth. Indeed my feelings today reminded me of early dreams long since vanished and not till now revived in any degree. They were the offspring of idle hours of musing then and are worth no more than the pleasure which remembrance gives to early feelings of all kinds. I have indulged them only here, and even here perhaps too much. For after all I am no loser by the changes which have come over me. Why should I be savage, and lonely. Why should not I delight in the society and converse of others as other people do. Enough of this.1

We took our rustic dinner at sunset in a singularly rough spot and I have seldom relished food so much. This closes my surveys for the present, perhaps entirely. I have on the whole enjoyed them, and yet I do not regret much the end. We have not accomplished more than one half the farm but I can spare no more time. I have gained now a sufficient knowledge of the location of it to assist me materially in whatever I may at some time or other hereafter have to do. It will be long hereafter I hope and believe before any such call will be made upon me. Perhaps I may be the first to leave the World and things cease to be of interest to me at the idea. Perhaps I may have no interest to obtain the information. But these things are only troublesome to think of and lead to no good. We must trust to the Divinity for much—for all.

After our return I felt so little fatigued that I took the opportunity to look over a Volume of Block’s History of Fish, a most splendid work which is among the books my father is now opening.2 This is a beautiful Library and if I live I promise myself much pleasure from it. I obtained a good deal of information in relation to many fish which in appearance are familiar to me, though I was able to give but a very superficial attention to them as the time was short before I retired.

1.

JQA’s diary entries for these three days are richer in detail and more comprehensive than CFA’s. CFA’s, as here, are more reflective and sensitive to land and weather. A rooted responsiveness to the more romantic aspects of nature and of literature, the association of melancholy and loneliness with the sub-41lime, is evident in CFA’s poetic taste which ran strongly to Byron and the works of such 18th-century figures as Collins and Gray. See vol. 1:110, 114, 129, 159, and CFA’s literary commonplace book, p. 1, 61–62, 262–263 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 312). The feeling that in indulging this sensitivity toward which he was drawn there was a moral danger, he had expressed too in his college years in his estimate of Byron (vol. 1:220–221, 418); now it was more than ever in his mind as he reflected upon GWA and himself. See entries for 15, 16 Oct., 24 Nov., below.

2.

Marc Eliéser Bloch, Ichtyologie, ou histoire naturelle ... des poissons, 6 vols. in 3, Berlin, 1785–1788. JQA’s copy with his bookplate is in MQA.