Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

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).



Saturday. May 15th. VII:30. CFA Saturday. May 15th. VII:30. CFA
Saturday. May 15th. VII:30.

Arose considerably refreshed although feeling still quite feverish in consequence of which I determined to absent myself from the College Exercises until I should be able to get my name out. In order to preserve myself from a severe attack I took some Medicine, we making quite a party of it, for Tudor and Sheafe accompanied me. The morning I spent in a very desultory way. I read two parts more of Night Thoughts. This is a remarkable poem. Perfectly original and perfectly 140gloomy, it gives us a picture of human life which could very easily influence every man in a state of misfortune to destroy himself. For me it is very much against the present state of my feelings to read it, they are sufficiently affected at present without wishing to make them worse. I have also got so well satisfied with the world that I am inclined to think this man’s representations of it are very much strained nor am I desirous to believe that we must guide all our life in the course which should lead to a good death, the sole end of our existence. Death is but a moment and although a painful one it does not require much more preparation than that which sickness gives. As to deathbed repentances which men make so much noise about I do not estimate them of any value for it is the most convenient way of going when there is no choice left. And although when a man is suddenly killed, he is said to be hurried into eternity I doubt not but he has as fair a chance of getting a good decision as if he lamented his sins when he could perform them nomore. In my opinion a man who dies at something over sixty and very suddenly is perfectly to be envied. The anticipation of it is much worse than the thing itself. I also wrote one page of my Journal and copied two or three short extracts into my Common Place Book.

The rest of the Morning was wasted in conversation with Tudor, Richardson, Wheatland and Sheafe. Our tempers are all very much soured by the extreme length of the term and by the disagreable temper of Richardson—who is perpetually quarrelling with Wheatland, put up to it by the foolish representations of the rest of the Members of the house. Independence is not in the nature of this young man, he therefore at this time only makes a disturbance which puts all out of temper without giving them a higher opinion of him. Tudor has been until today in this week more unpleasant than I ever saw him before. Sheafe is dreadfully affected by the affair of the other night. Otis has gone to town. I was obliged to keep myself on a diet all day today for which I expect presently to feel much better. Though I cannot but allow that I purchase it at a considerable rate.

In the afternoon I read two more parts of Young’s Night Thoughts and took a walk to the Bookstore with Tudor in order to assist my Medicine in its Operation. We met Lothrop who appears to be quite well. Young managed to extend his ideas to a most unreasonable length. In fact with all his sublimity he makes every one wish he could be more concise. I could not help remarking the great degree of study which prevails. Almost every line is a period which tires much, a man merely reading Poetry for his pleasure.


At supper we were informed of the expulsion of three of our classmates. Allen 2d., Dewey1 and Fessenden. The course of this last has been remarkable. And as I have had something to do with him in my life I shall mention it. I knew him first at the Latin School in Boston in 1817. A boy then of pretty good parts, excellent nature and very studious. I knew him for two years during which he was very diligent indeed. The next time he came under my notice was just before we entered College when I thought, I perceived a relaxation, he having become too easily the first at that School. From associating with Langdon and Loring2 he obtained dissipated tastes and was envious of me because I had command of Money and of dash. This I too plainly perceived and was the first mark by which I thought ill of him. He entered College and lived with Loring. This was his ruin. Loring in fifteen months by a terrible course of dissipation ruined himself for this world. Fessenden by falling into this society was not possessed of sufficient energy to withdraw and fell. The most notable example, I have ever met of blasted hopes and merit destroyed by a concurrence of ill fated circumstances. Although I long since quarrelled violently with him, I am sorry to think of his fate. He deserved his punishment for he had been guilty of many vicious deeds and had lost all sense of shame. He had been seen riding between two women of the town on Sunday afternoon before the Colleges.3 Allen and Dewey are not worthy of so much notice. They are the remains of a gang which has long infested our class and which has of late bid fair to corrupt half the class.

In the evening, not having any thing to do I paid Tudor a long visit and talked on the subject of religion for some time. Perhaps I disclosed my opinions rather too freely before Wheatland, for he might take an estimate of my character which would injure me as he is unrestrained in his temper and malevolent in his disposition. X:15.


James Allen, of Boston, and Edward Dewey, of Williamstown ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


Elijah J. Loring, of Boston, who is not listed among CFA’s classmates after this academic year (same).


The three Harvard dormitories were called “College Houses” or “Colleges.” See Harvard Annual Cat., 1823.