Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Monday. May. 10th. V:15. CFA Monday. May. 10th. V:15. CFA
Monday. May. 10th. V:15.

Arose and after again looking over my Astronomy attended Prayers. Did the same between Prayers and recitation it being our turn to go in last. My Journal being thus delayed could scarcely command enough time to day. I spent all the leisure part of the morning upon it which to be sure is not much as I was employed learning and reciting my Spanish lesson. Mr. Farrar’s Lecture takes up more than an hour a 129day. Today he exhibited to us a solar microscope and tried some experiments with it. The day was not a good one for although it was clear, the wind was high and shook the mirror very much. The magnifying power though was astonishing exhibiting the finest fibres of a small portion of the finest of animals that is to say the most delicate. The lecture was a beautiful one and drew a much larger audience than usual although the students could not avoid showing their boyish propensities. The darkness of the room made a return of light very painful and I walked home with my eyes shut.

Entering my room, I found to my no small surprise, my brother George sitting here. He had come with my Uncle from Quincy and was going to Boston. As it was the second time I had seen him only, I fell immediately to talking of every subject which I had been asking him in my mind for some time. I have been to town to see him but it is impossible to find him there. Having talked of Washington and Quincy for some time, My Uncle came in and arranged accounts between himself and me, treating me very generously. I like very much some of this man’s qualities and am sorry that I have been at times so violent but my patience has been so severely tasked at times when my character for credit was less established that I could not help bursting out. They left me at dinner time.

The afternoon was spent in reading some pieces of Ambrose Phillips particularly his translation of Sappho which is quite good and all the poems of Collins in this collection. Of these I prefer three which in my mind are equal to any thing of the kind in the language. The Ode to the Passions I need only mention as it’s character is too high to need remark. His dirge in Cymbeline and the ode to Thomson are really beautiful.1 There is a tinge of deep melancholy spread over these which gives them great richness and a tender, plaintive tone which goes to the heart instantly. He wrote with feeling and he wrote with force. His life is a melancholy story like that of many of his equals, he died miserably. I was very much pleased with these productions today. But from some cause or other I had not accomplished any thing today except what I have mentioned at three o’clock when it was necessary to study my lesson in Tacitus. We commenced the dialogue on Orators today but I did not read over the whole of the day’s lesson before the bell rung. As it has been usual for Mr. Otis to call upon me first on Mondays I determined to make up my lost time by carrying Moliere into recitation. This was amusement for recitation as my expectation was answered. I read “la Comtesse d’Escarbagnas.” It is but a small work and nevertheless rather diverting. Not 130much point to the Play but as usual some severe satire. The women had reason to abuse Moliere for he was continually ridiculing them. His plays turn generally on their foibles. The countess is an aping fine lady taken off pretty well, but with not much exertion, as it seems as if it was thrown together for an afterpiece.

After recitation I paid a visit to Cunningham’s2 room with Otis, for the first time this term. My negligence has been great towards him. But circumstances have affected our intercourse. He has not been here so often since his quarrel with Dwight and I have felt less interested in him since I have seen him less. This difference is a very unpleasant affair to me and as it has been very silly I had hoped to be able to decide it but they are such tempers that I despair. Nothing could be done while Otis was with me so I made a formal visit and returned home. From thence went to the Book store where I lounged until Prayers. After attending these I returned home with the hope of having a good reading evening to myself but I had hardly got myself comfortably seated before J. Otis3 and Rundlet walked in to pay me a visit. This broke up my evening entirely so that I did not read a word. Allyne Otis came in also and we talked all over the old affairs of our Freshman year. I recollected my dissipation, melancholy and waste of time and had more to reproach myself of than usually agrees with me to recollect. The worst of this world is that in times past we recollect only the bad actions as the most striking and the good ones being a mere matter of course are suffered to run on unnoticed. My Journal had I kept one would have told me all, but I think the negligence of that is the very worst sign of all. I recollect billiards, drinking parties and riding as the principal concerns of that year. With my sickness, my ideas fortunately changed and I came back a new man. Perhaps I am too free now but at least there is not this fear that I shall go to lengths which will be destructive to me hereafter. I trust not. J. Otis is one of the most remarkable instances of resolution I have seen, his health though has contributed as much if not more than his inclinations to the destruction of his applications. They left me at nine and after a little talk with Mr. Saunder’s I went to Wheatland’s where as usual I met a pack of Seniors who kept me there till after ten o’clock when I came down and could give but a superficial look at “Twilight” this evening. X:15.


Several selections from Ambrose Philips (1675?-1749) and William Collins (1721–1759) are included in Aikin’s British Poets .


Francis Cunningham, of Boston, a junior ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


Joseph Russell Otis, of Boston, a junior (same).