Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Saturday. May. 8th. VII:30. CFA Saturday. May. 8th. VII:30. CFA
Saturday. May. 8th. VII:30.

Owing to my being up so late last night I did not arise quite so early this morning and therefore missed Prayers and recitation in Enfield. I immediately sat down to write my Journal for the preceding day. There being no Exercises after the Morning, I had it for leisure time and read in it the fourth part of “Liberty” and Moliere’s tragicomedy of Psyche. Of the first I can say but little more than I did yesterday except that I like it a little better. Some fine sentiments and just observations and occasionally quite a bright passage. This is too severely criticised by a very few words in Dr. Johnson’s life of him, saying that when it came out he had not been able to get through it and he never should. It is not a subject or a title to please him very much. Psyche is rather a representation drama than a reading comedy. There is great room for scenery and beautiful women. The Gods being the principal actors, the whole goes by machinery. I could imagine the effect of it on the stage but I should not incline to read it again. La Fontaine has written a beautiful little story on this subject which although considered by Roscoe as a failure, I beg leave to differ, and think well of. I am not a judge but I recollect being very much pleased in reading it.

I received also a very good letter from John1 in which he tells me his disappointment in a party to Mount Vernon in a very amusing 125way. Thus was I occupied all the morning, so constantly that I could but just steal ten minutes before dinner to go to the reading room. Not much news. The memorial of Mr. Edwards is printed and makes considerable noise.2 I think Monsieur’s chance is gradually improving. This affair may assist Crawford materially however. Each man to his turn however to clear up these accusations. My father has been through the ordeal with success. Let others go on also. The Boston party of republicans are very rash and headstrong, attacking the federalists, like fools. Had they been more moderate, they would have had much less opposition to their measures.

The members of the house were all absent today except Tudor and myself, so we dined alone. After dinner my time was most egregiously wasted but not voluntarily, for Tudor was here one hour and a half and after him Brenan for another hour so that at four o’clock I had accomplished very little. Tudor then insisted upon a walk to the bookstore which I had promised, so that I went and lounged there sometime. We had intended to ride but changed our minds when the wind rose—the roads also were not sufficiently good. I returned home at a quarter past five but could do nothing owing to Tudor and Wheatland and Sheafe until we attended Prayers.

I read only about one hundred pages of Mosheim all day. It treated of the commencement of the seventeenth Century, and has become less interesting to me as it comes to more known ages. The system of Missions was commenced and carried on in this century. The Catholics adopting the measure. The Jesuits acting a conspicuous part in these scenes. This sect became terrible as it obtained power and as it was under the influence of no moral restraint could affect even the Pope himself. They became hated and persecuted in some kingdoms and it has now become so proverbial that Jesuitical signifies to the world generally, every thing that is bad. I am not inclined to be so quick in condemning them in America, as historians speak of the Paraguay missions as models for the peaceful civilization of the Indians. I have never been able to make up my mind concerning the efficacy of proselytism, and less concerning the expediency of talking so arrogantly about our religion—“the light of the divine ray,” “benighted regions,” are the expressions of almost all Christians. They believe themselves to be right and are so without doubt to us. But if there was no doubt in the minds of pagans they would all embrace our religion upon perceiving its truth that is to say immediately. And it would be unnecessary to make converts by fraudulent means or to make any exertion by missionaries. Let this divine truth act for itself. 126Perhaps if we inquire rigidly into the matter we shall find that these rays were not introduced so as to convince, for even the most pious allow that had not the religion been a remarkably good political system it would not have obtained so general an acceptation. If the religion is one so convincing why make so violent exertions in its favour, if not it is not worthwhile to spread it. I have nothing more to notice except the great spread of philosophy. This being the age of Gassendi, Descartes, Bacon, Galileo and Newton.

I have to blame myself this afternoon for becoming too angry in a conversation with Tudor. My position was right for he was exercising most intolerable arrogance over Sheafe but I was wrong in becoming angry. My passions are not things I know to be trifled for if excited to a very high degree it might cost my antagonist and myself our life. I have not been in a passion since my unfortunate affair with Fessenden.3 I governed myself very well finally and walked to Prayers with Tudor in very good terms. In the Evening I walked with Dwight with some delightful conversation. On returning I wrote a letter to Mother in rather a plaintive tone being somewhat affected by an expression in hers.4 This detained me awake until late. XI:20.

1.

Missing.

2.

See entry for 1 May, and note, above.

3.

Benjamin Buekman Fessenden, of Boston, a former schoolmate of CFA’s at the Boston Latin School and a junior at Harvard, was expelled on the 15th. See Boston Latin School Catalogue , p. 154; Harvard Annual Cat., 1823; and entry for 15 May, below.

4.

Letter missing.

Sunday. May. 9th. VII:20. CFA Sunday. May. 9th. VII:20. CFA
Sunday. May. 9th. VII:20.

Arose very late this morning after having missed Prayers. The late hour at which I retired last night and the only time we have for indulgence had their effect in detaining me. This circumstance however put me woefully back in my day’s business. My Journal not being finished until it was time to attend Chapel. Indeed I find that the duties I have set upon myself too difficult as they give me not a moment of leisure time during the day. Unavoidable circumstances and occurrences delay my progress and make me unsatisfied with myself. Indeed this accumulation of duties has happened by accident as I commenced two long works before I received this Journal1 for which I had made no allowance. Things being so however I shall persevere, as but little more is left. I can not bear to give way in a plan as it diminishes my self esteem and injures future resolutions. The precedent is the thing to be feared and not the step.

I concluded the poem of Liberty and with a few other small poems, 127finished the Sixth Volume of the Poets. Whatever I may intend to read over, certainly this is not one as I imagine there is not enough temptation. Of his small poems I noticed some very remarkable. “Les Femmes Savantes” came to my assistance and amused me very much. A severe caricature upon the Blue stockings but perhaps not altogether so incorrect as might be supposed. A learned lady is a suspicious personage for it naturally makes a person suppose that wanting the employment which is the lot of the sex in general, she is obliged to resort to books as a relief from ennui. This is all well enough if no noise be made about it. Pity, respect and esteem, would arise in case such a matter were but suspected and one had no room to go further. They are a talking set though and cannot conceal the pride of superiority in any respect.

I attended Chapel and heard Dr. Ware in the morning and Mr. Colman2 in the afternoon. The former was uncommonly long this morning, creating a smile throughout the Student seats upon his sixthly and lastly. This is not the fault of the old gentleman generally however. The latter person preaches here but seldom and is generally considered fearfully having dosed us at times. He was short however today, and although I did not think his Sermon extraordinary, I was quite pleased with the variety of his imagery and the strength of his expression. The seats are no places however to attend to a Preacher with Patience. I sometimes think it would be the worst penance a Student could be put to, if he were set there for any length of time. An anthem was sung but not very much to my taste as it appears to me that they howl more than formerly, having lost the good way of singing, they formerly possessed. I came away rejoiced as probably it is the last Sunday, I attend this Term.

I could not touch Mosheim until late in the Evening owing partly to my being obliged to answer the letter received yesterday from John which took some time; as he writes full letters I consider myself compelled to answer in the same style whether I possess material or not.3 I principally amused him today with an account of the late expulsion. The other cause which detained me was a visit from Tudor and Richardson in the Evening. I must confess that finding myself so much interrupted by the visits and parties of the Students, I have been seriously considering the expediency of obtaining some other room next year. Were it not that it would be inconvenient to me on account of my books, the great superiority of accommodations, I think I should be decided in favour of this step. Whatever the pleasure may be, I am conscious of a higher end in coming here than amusement. My temper 128is naturally jovial and is liable therefore to be exposed to temptations which would make me extravagant and dissipated. My conversation with Richardson was not of a nature to soften these feelings in the least. He is the most irritating young man in his manners that I ever met with and that so unconsciously that one becomes the more provoked because he can blame him less. A perfect facheux with as good a disposition as I have seen. Weak however as possible he seldom knows when he is straining most the feelings of his companions. He bears me astonishingly. I am conscious of my arrogance towards him and wish I could correct him or me, but it is no affair of mine and talking with him always makes me feel humbled.

They stayed until eight o’clock so that I could read but fifty pages of Mosheim this day. The Catholic religion gained ground in this Century by a reaction and many princes were reconverted perhaps more from policy than belief. These princes also commenced their system of persecution. The Moors, the Huguenots and the Germans suffered from the effects of this bigotry which returned upon themselves with tenfold injury. Spain has never recovered the step taken at that time for the industrious portion of the people were expelled. The power of the popes and their direction of temporal affairs was no longer tolerated, it became what was first intended, merely acting over spiritual matters and even those in a moderate degree. They could no more pretend to the supreme dominion over the world.

Having copied an extract into my Common Place Book, I went up and spent some time at Wheatland’s room, all the Lyceum were collected there. Payne and Lunt,4 Seniors, and Day a Yale Student5 were also there. After being amused at some stories some of which were excessively blasphemous I came away. I was rather ashamed so having read Enfield, retired. X:15.

1.

See entry for 3 May, above.

2.

Henry Colman, the Congregational minister in Salem ( Mass. Register, 1825, p. 86).

3.

Both letters are missing.

4.

William Edward Payne, of Boston, and George Lunt, of Newburyport ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).

5.

Edgar Burr Day, Yale 1824 (Dexter, Yale Graduates Later than 1815 ).