Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Tuesday. 27th.

Thursday 29th.

223 Wednesday. 28th. CFA Wednesday. 28th. CFA
Wednesday. 28th.

The morning was cool but agreeable. I went to the Office and occupied myself as usual, in doing little or nothing, yet I seemed employed. Called upon Mr. Kinsman to know whether any thing further had dropped from Ayer, found nothing. Sat down and got involved in a conversation with Mr. Davis about literature which kept me there sitting until after twelve o’clock. He is one of the few young men here of uncommon mind who has known how uncommonly to apply it. And it is a pleasure to have to do with him.1 It is not a little singular that in a Community abounding so richly in all the means, there should actually exist so little of the end of education, literary excellence. Our system is perhaps slightly superficial in this respect, giving to all some thing and to none a great deal, but if it is so, the general advantage more than counterbalances the particular disadvantage.

I passed the rest of my morning in settling my money operations with my father’s books, and in paying Hilliard and Gray, my Mother’s subscription to the Juvenile Miscellany which I have stopped.2 I took up a number of the Quarterly review which contained an Article upon the Speech of Mr. Brougham upon Law reform,3 but I did not finish it before dinner time. In the afternoon, I wrote with great steadiness upon this Article which I am resolved to complete out of hand and make an experiment. It is well to get a foot hold first and much good may be done afterwards. I have been better satisfied myself than I ever was before, and have found no great occasion to alter or correct. The Evening was passed as usual in reading aloud from Eustace whose enthusiasm in Italy never ceases nor does his hatred of the French, but his style though too pompous is attractive. The glare4 is tedious and description too much the same, but he pays for it in energy and vividness of colouring. Two hours are thus spent every night when we are at home, and two hours more are devoted to my Work.

1.

Thomas Kemper Davis (1808–1853), son of Isaac P. Davis, and CFA had literary interests so similar that CFA repeatedly records his delight in Davis’ company; see, for example, above, entry for 18 Nov. 1829. It was only in later years that Davis applied himself more closely to the law. Early and late his enthusiasm for classical studies was such that upon his death it could be said that “he had read with studious attention every classical author, in the entirety of his works.” Also, though he gave little attention to the modern foreign languages and the literature in them, “his acquaintance with English literature was perfect and exhaustive.” To his learning and a “prodigious memory” was added a fluency that allowed him “to pour forth at will a perfect cataract of talk.” Flavoring all was “a dash of eccentricity of thought and manner, controlled by thorough kindliness of heart and good temper.” (A List of the Classical Books of Thomas Kemper Davis, given to Harvard College Library, 2241855, by his mother Mrs. Susan Jackson Davis, together with a letter of transmittal from Josiah Quincy to Pres. James Walker and an obituary notice by Edmund Quincy, MS, MH-Ar.)

2.

A bi-monthly magazine, it had been founded in 1826 by Lydia Maria Child, who continued as its editor.

3.

Quarterly Review, 38:241–297 (July 1828). Henry Brougham’s speech on the “Present State of the Law” was delivered in the House of Commons on 7 Feb. 1828.

4.

That is, ostentation, showiness.