Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

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


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


Edward Young (1683–1765).


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


1:00 A.M.

Friday May. 14th. VII:40. CFA Friday May. 14th. VII:40. CFA
Friday May. 14th. VII:40.

Missed Morning Prayers and recitations all day. My feelings to day were not of a sort to feel proud of. My mouth felt very much parched and I felt myself considerably under the influence of fever. As Chapman and Lothrop could not boast much we tried a walk this morning, but I returned still having some of last evenings dizziness. In fact I never was so much affected by an affair of this kind in my life. I was not intoxicated for I went to bed perfectly conscious of my actions and with a perfect command over myself. But I had drunk nearly a bottle and a half of this Champagne Wine and felt quite loaded in consequence. Not being inclined to remain alone and the house appearing much like myself I paid visits at Greenough’s room and Brenan’s. J. Otis was at the former. Greenough looked suspicious and Otis con-138gratulated me on my appearance. After some very insipid conversation on subjects of no importance I returned home, spent half an hour at Wheatland’s and then attended Mr. Farrar’s lecture on Galvanism. He gave us some account of the instrument called the Voltaic battery and exhibited the effects of different metals on frogs. I should like to have attended more to this lecture, but I was so exhausted, I dropped asleep, although I made exertions to the contrary. My feelings were not of a nature to be envied. This volume is intended to portray my actions and passions to myself candidly so that I will conceal nothing. This has given me a lesson in this respect which I shall take care to notice. I accomplished nothing this morning. It was wasted in an attempt to introduce comfort again to my room. I could eat no dinner, trying a little soup—my stomach refused it and I was compelled to arise from table to throw it up. This had an excellent effect, had I taken warm water this morning I should have been saved all this. Although it was my turn to declaim this afternoon I felt myself entirely unable so I gave up the idea of attending and immediately went to bed. My exhaustion carried me to sleep in five minutes and I again awoke at four o’clock having derived much benefit from this. The rest of the afternoon was spent in a gradual recovery and by tea time I had very nearly recovered from my indisposition. My lips being now the only difficulty as they felt very dry still. This has been the case always after drinking wine of late which evidently proves my blood to be in a heated state. Indeed if I do not feel better I have made up my mind to ask leave of absence from the President for the rest of the term.

To amuse myself as much as possible, I took up the Sentimental Journey1 and read some pages in it but found myself entirely dead to all it’s sweetest passages and could not laugh at it’s nonsense. So I threw it up and tried the fourth Canto of Don Juan but this had as little power over me, the beautiful description of the death of Haidee sounded like lame Poetry to me. I fell into a passion with the stanza and was disgusted with the levity of my friend the singer. Satisfied that this was doing me no good I read a few letters in the first volume of Voltaire’s General Correspondence.2 They were written in youth and therefore of not much use or beauty. Now and then a striking remark but nothing to show a future Voltaire. I read two Chapters of the Bible today also, for the first time for a great while. I do not recollect having read one before for three or four years. By this variety I managed to pass through a bleak and cold afternoon. My appetite was considerably restored for tea.

Dwight went this morning. I had no time to see him and find what 139was the state of his temper. Although I should be sorry to have him recollect the circumstances of last night’s affair to make a difference today, yet I should not be surprised knowing his character as I do, if he did take this course. Indeed I think it a happy thing that he departs for in the vacation he will have time to reconsider his conduct on this Evening and repent his violence. I am not conscious of being an ungenerous man nor of grudging any thing when there is any satisfaction to be obtained on either side but I feared much the taking off a feeling of caution from one or two as I had heard of a similar case a few days back where one of a party destroyed every glass in the room for amusement. This could not be agreable to any of the rest. In such a scene as last night’s there was much to make each man sorry. Richardson for his unpleasant noise, Dwight for his obstinacy, Chapman and I for anger and so on. Perhaps we shall not be on such pleasant terms in future. I know nothing of this however, and if I have a trial, shall endeavour to suppress my injured feelings as much as possible.

In the Evening I was at Wheatlands with a number of Seniors who, it seems have smelt a rat and gave us strong intimations that they knew what we had been doing. After some conversation about craniology3 and nonsense I went down and spent the rest of the Evening writing my Journal. I did not read Young to night, because he was too gloomy for evening and the state of my nerves so I postponed until tomorrow. X:15.


JQA’s copy of Laurence Sterne’s Works, 10 vols., London, 1780, is in the Stone Library, as are two other editions which CFA acquired subsequent to this entry—one published in London, 1823, in 4 vols., but containing an inscription from John H. Richardson dated 1825; the other published in London, 1802, in 7 vols., containing the signature of P. C. Brooks, whom CFA did not know at this point.


The Stone Library contains two copies of Voltaire’s OEuvres complètes, one published at Deux-Ponts in 1791–1792, in 100 vols., the other, no place indicated, in 1785, 16 vols. A set of Voltaire’s OEuvres, 37 vols., Genève, 1775, is among JA’s books in tine Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 258).