Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Saturday. 14th.

Monday. 16th.

Sunday. 15th. CFA Sunday. 15th. CFA
Sunday. 15th.

Foggy with a cold Easterly wind this morning. I went to Meeting at Mr. Frothingham’s and heard Mr. Lunt of New York all day. I knew him at College.1 His writing is good though it did not interest me. This is a difficulty I am totally unable to get over. Not one preacher seems to be able to fix attention. Is it in my dullness or theirs? Perhaps a little of both. A Clergyman has a hard task. It is cruel to judge him who appears weekly before us—And when Christianity has 49been inculcated till all its leading doctrines have become too common to be fit for use in the Pulpit. A man who should tell us that Charity, Piety, Faith, Benevolence, Meekness, and the rest of the virtues are good things to practise, would probably be laughed at for his pains. Yet these are the great topics of our Religion, and the cultivation of them the great purposes of preaching. The difficulty is not to be common place.

I read today, Racine’s Esther and Athalie2 with the Commentaries and Laharpe’s Opinion. I think they justify their character. French Tragedy has not been my favourite in general, but these are master pieces in a style not known in any other author of that line. They are upon the Greek model and in management much superior. After all, the amount of genius requisite to overcome the infinite difficulties placed in its way by the French taste, must be very great. The production of passages is comparatively easy. A man may write one character in a play well and yet the Play itself be miserable. The combination is the difficulty. Edmund Quincy passed an hour. After him, Two Spectators.

1.

Rev. William Parsons Lunt, Harvard 1823, is identified at vol. 2:280. Lunt was to become co-minister of the First Church in Quincy in 1835, and a close association developed between him and the Adamses, particularly JQA. See JQA, Memoirs , passim, and Pattee, Old Braintree and Quincy , passim.

2.

Of the six editions at MQA of the Oeuvres of Racine, that in 3 vols. published at Paris in 1750 has CFA’s bookplate and also the signature of his daughter Mary, 1866. Esther and Athalie are in vol. 3.