Upon commencing another Volume, I always feel disposed to attempt some new method of keeping my Journal, which will have some improvements upon the ancient mode. But not having much to record it is not necessary to condense, and the old way after all suits my taste and my habits. There is now no good reason to change it. The practice of keeping a Diary is a part of my father’s instruction to his Children. I believe I now am the only one of them who has persevered in it. Not that I have been without my qualms and hesitations. Most men’s lives are not worth a daily laboured record. Why should I consider myself superior to the mass of beings? As a mere matter of value, a man’s private Journal ranks low, and if I confined myself purely to such considerations I should never write a page in one again, but to me it has produced indirect results of considerable consequence in being the sole cause of a tolerable ease in style, which no part of a common education would have given me. It is an every day exercise in composition, and he who does not improve by it almost without any effort of his own, must be either a fool, or totally and 239wilfully negligent. My only surprise with me,2 is far from flattering to my vanity, that I have not improved more. But he who writes indolently and is afraid to correct for fear of blotting his page will make but slow progress. Few men’s first thoughts merit immediate transcription, and I may safely say that I have advanced more rapidly within a few months by studying corrections of style and finish of thought, than in all my preceding years. Yet had I not by my Journal habituated myself to labour in writing, I might have been deterred at the threshold. Enough, however about this.
I awoke at Medford, in the midst of a strong Easterly Storm, which was not so agreeable to my eyes as I could have wished. But after considering whether I would hazard my Wife in it or leave her at Medford, I could not decide upon the latter and so wrapped her up and we started after breakfast. The rain fell very straight and so did not materially affect us.
We reached home, and I went to the Office. My time was passed in translating Aeschines, a work in which I progress but slowly. But it will if persevered in assist me more than any thing in the knowledge of labouring composition. Little or no interruption took place. I felt a little depressed at not receiving letters from home, for there has been no similar interval since my father left us.3 Afternoon engaged in reading Demosthenes. New beauties strike me in this perusal, particularly his fine use of figures. I am as yet however barely skin deep in this Author, yet after finishing the Silesian letters to my Wife, I had the presumption to begin a critical notice of the Oration upon the Crown.
By the name of a city (or cities), CFA begins here to indicate regularly his abode, or changes in it, during the period covered by each journal entry. At times he includes also the city in which a large part of the day was spent. See the Introduction, pp. xxxix-xl, for a description of his practice in entering the information in the MS and for a statement of the course which has been followed in adapting the MS usage to the printed text.
Thus in MS.
The last letter from JQA had been received on 5 May. JQA, suffering from a prolonged and severe catarrhal cough and lumbago as well as an inflammation of the kidneys, was spending his days in reading, principally Cicero (Diary, 8–12 May).