Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Wednesday. May. 12th. V:25. CFA Wednesday. May. 12th. V:25. CFA
Wednesday. May. 12th. V:25.

Looked over my Astronomy with more care than usual, attended Prayers and having spent the half hour in writing my journal, went to recitation but was not called upon. The Morning being the busy one, I did not accomplish my Journal till late, my Spanish lesson employing me until late. Mr. Sales was not well attended today, this was not the case however with the Lecture from Farrar. For that was very full. He gave us the theory of Thunder and Lightning today. The great fault with this man is that there is no originality in him, his experiments are precisely those we read in Enfield not varied in the least and illustrated almost in his words. He gives us also much repetition of the simple steps which tires one very much. He has a great deal of recapitulation. He closed his lecture by showing us a few experiments in Opticks exhibiting by the power of the solar microscope, a number of flies magnified and some crystallizations which were very beautiful indeed. He is not generally successful in his experiments however.

Returning home I finished Shenstone and Churchill1 in this collection. I also read “la Gloire du Val de Grace,”2 the concluding poem in the works of Moliere. I passed quickly over the softness of the first poet and read with great delight the Rosciad. It is admirable satire—piquant, just and well directed. The lines have remarkable force in them and the sentiments on the subject are correct. It is forcible and this is the great end of Poetry. The lines are strong and come together 134uniting meaning with sound. Indeed I have not relished any of this kind of writing remarkably until I came to this, and have marked it for frequent reconsideration. As to Moliere’s Poem, I do not see much meaning to it, it appears to be a panegyric upon the work of some carver and may be said perhaps to be prettily turned. It has a great deal of Boileau’s “clinquant” in it though. At least such was my impression, which may be unjust as I will confess I read it superficially. This finishes his Works. I have been very well pleased in reading them. He ridiculed the foibles of the age with a great deal of happiness and introduced some improvements of consequence in the public taste. For his wit and comic effect he will deservedly remain a favourite with the French and a standard in their language. I have read all his plays in exactly one month. My daily portion has been missed but once and that was on a day which I had allowed myself a holiday. It was on last Exhibition.3 This has been beneficial to me as it has proved my method and resolution and also it has opened to my examination the beauties of one of the first authors in the French or in any language. I speak now in my own person and therefore drop the objection of moral tendency.

I had intended to have spent the afternoon in reading but Tudor came in and staid here. We conversed for a considerable time. This is a singular man, I have attempted once or twice to draw a correct character but find myself unable. His fine feelings, his variableness, his love of contradiction and his obstinacy when engaged on a side make up a chaos which it is impossible to arrange in a continual and regular series. The fine points of his nature far out-balance the bad ones. He is generous, he is affectionate, and openhearted. Positive and this arises from youth, obstinate and this comes from feeling. The truth is that he has lived without obtaining or endeavouring to obtain any command over his passions, he gratifies all his desires without hesitations. Still he has some principle, for though dissipated he never drinks to excess and ardent he indulges but little in women. Of this latter quality one might be led to doubt his possession. But on the whole I incline to think from his complexion and temper it is but want of temptation which makes him appear the contrary. This principle if I will speak correctly, I must allow is not from a sentiment of moral wrong but from the dislike of the consequences as affecting himself. Thus have I been as fair and impartial as possible in this account. He is my friend.

I read ninety pages of Mosheim today—to become disgusted by his partiality, and the contentions which he describes. Had I not gone so 135far in this work, I should throw it up in disgust, and that would injure my perseverance. We attended the Dudleian Lecture this afternoon in the place of a recitation. It was delivered this year by Mr. Flint of Salem.4 The subject, the force of revealed religion. This makes the fourth we have heard since entering College. There was not a great deal of argument in it as his proofs were simple, reducing himself to two or three plain but pretty powerful dilemmas. His close was eloquent however, in his address to the students he spoke with much feeling and his unaffected manner had considerable effect. It was on the whole quite an agreable disappointment. The rest of the day was spent in finishing my portion of Mosheim, writing a sketch for my tomorrow’s theme and studying my lesson. At nine o’clock, Richardson and Tudor came down and we drank a bottle of Champagne Wine together. We (the Lyceum Club of whom I shall speak hereafter) had bought a hamper and therefore to try its quality we three took one of the Society.5 It was very delicious and after some conversation we all retired, I being moderately exhilarated, very slightly however. The Wine was very fine. XI.

1.

Charles Churchill (1731–1764).

2.

“La gloire du dôme du Val-de-Grâce.”

3.

By college rule this would have been the last Tuesday of April (or 27 April).

4.

The Dudleian Lecture was an annual rotating theological discourse. The Rev. James Flint’s sermon was later published in A Present from a Pastor to His Young Parishioners, Boston, 1844; the manuscript is in the Harvard Archives.

5.

Thus in MS.

Thursday. May 13th. V:30. CFA Thursday. May 13th. V:30. CFA
Thursday. May 13th. V:30.

Arose and studied my lesson, both before Prayers and in the Interval. Mr. Hayward would not call upon me however, much to my regret. I accomplished my theme this Morning on the subject of “Money answereth all things.” The discussion of it is very easy so that I was quite early in carrying mine up. Mr. Channing1 made but few remarks on my old one, he complains principally of my obscurity, which is owing to my indolence and disinclination to develop an idea. It is too much trouble and not much variety. I did nothing besides except read a paraphrase of the book of Job by Young2 and the two first parts of his Night Thoughts. Of the first production I thought but very little, the latter is a gloomy, wretched picture of life. It diffused its mournful strain over my feelings and made me melancholy indeed. The Wine which I had drunk last night had a great effect upon me today, causing some languor, this together with the weather had such effect upon me. At dinner I made a great exertion to obtain my usual spirits which succeeded at the time but only threw me into 136worse vapours in the afternoon. I took up Mosheim and closed the fifth volume before Prayers. I did not make many observations upon what I read as I have got displeased with the work. The author so evidently manifests his feelings and the translator in his notes sometimes shows a little malignity particularly to the Quakers. Whatever their tenets may be they are now a very regular and moral sect consequently no just cause of complaint can be given. The argument concerning their leader or founder has nothing to do with it’s present organization. Perhaps they are wrong in opposing a law firmly established but this should be treated in a way by which obstinacy, the great point in man’s weaknesses, is taken off. In short, the milk of human kindness is quite deficient in this Man. After some agitation I determined to attend the lesson in Tacitus, and was called upon second in a section which I had overlooked by some accident as it fell through between the lessons. I however got through with it, and reconciled myself without much difficulty to the idea of having recited for the last time in Latin at Harvard University. That this task which has been on me incessantly for nine years almost is now taken off and that in future my reading will be voluntary. There is something in this feeling certainly very comfortable for I am tired of working like a mill horse. After tea I read over my lesson and then took a considerable walk with Richardson. I had some conversation with him but it was of the provoking sort. Indeed now, there is not much which does not jar my nerves in him.

Thus the Evening went, and at nine o’clock, I attended a Meeting of the Lyceum Club at Sheafe’s. This is an Institution of our own, formed at the commencement of this term. Composed of the Members of the House,3 Otis, Richardson, Sheafe, Tudor, Wheatland and myself, together with Chapman, Dwight and Lothrop. Its purpose is entirely festive and consequently immediately upon organizing we went into Committee of the Whole which is the form, and sat down to Whist, at two Tables, Wheatland being out of the game. We had all of us been in terrible spirits during the day, Tudor was sick, Dwight was in bad temper so was Wheatland and so was I. Our different tempers were considerably developed in the course of the night. The great length of the term also had soured us much, so that I can easily account for the feelings of the company. The fact is that we were set in for a debauch and one long expected. After the first rubber had been played, the Champagne Wine which was the provision, was produced and one bottle placed before each man. It was unfortunate however that one table finished Whist so much before the other, as they soon 137became noisy and boisterous. Richardson also, acting under the influence of the wine lost all the good qualities he does possess and became to us, most disagreable. This noise on the one side and silence on the other, excited a spirit of discontent between the tables which was still more brought into action by a vote which we five, (inviting the President, Wheatland) carried against them concerning the breaking of the Glasses which we decided should be paid for by the breakers. I voted for this, because I thought it would be a guard upon some of the weak men in the society. This vote irritated Dwight to a high degree which increased by the liquor he had taken, he flew into a violent passion and refused to have any connection with us until we retracted. His obstinacy was astonishing and very unpleasant. At last after finding relief from his bursting feelings by tears by which he affected Richardson in the same way they came over and we formed a circle around the large table where we sung many songs, and finished the Wine. The rest of the scene was all riot, Sheafe employed two to hold him down. Tables, Chairs and some glasses were tumbled down. The excitement was general with the exception of Wheatland. Dwight made up his differences with the closest hugs. We then went to walk, and returned in a rolling walk. For myself I was sick before the close as this agitation affected me. Upon my return I found every body retiring so I went myself. Our friends all staid over here, Chapman sleeping with me. I morning.4

1.

Edward Tyrrel Channing was Boylston professor of rhetoric and oratory from 1819 to 1851 ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ).

2.

Edward Young (1683–1765).

3.

Mrs. Saunders’ house, where most of the members roomed.

4.

1:00 A.M.