Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

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.

Sunday. May. 16th. VII:30. CFA Sunday. May. 16th. VII:30. CFA
Sunday. May. 16th. VII:30.

Arose feeling considerably better, but not clear of the burning feeling which has been affecting me of late. I did not attend any exercises all day. In the morning, I read the seventh part of the Night Thoughts. This is an interminable work. And the books grow longer 142as we get to the end. I am in no humour to read gloomy books at present and do not relish this man’s morbid state of temper. He does make some good reflections and when he condescends to get out of the vapours becomes quite agreable. My negligence in not getting the sixth volume of Mosheim from the Library has deprived me of the power of finishing it now, and it being too late to commence any thing of importance I sat down to read the last Novel of the Author of Waverley called St. Ronan’s Well.1 I finished it in the course of the day and evening. It is remarkably interesting having a great variety of incident and character. Etherington is a representation of one of your fashionable scoundrels so often described in Novels. He takes rather a queer step in marrying Clara Mowbray who is represented as a wild woodgirl with an amazing quantity of sensibility about a marriage which could easily and lawfully be got over as she married Francis Tyrrel and not Francis Valentine Bulwer Tyrrel, which appears to be the name of the counterfeit. This part of the incident I can not exactly suppose to be according to full probability. Indeed this novel is much more interesting while one is reading it than it seems to have been on recollection. Touchwood is almost too odd not to be strained. The scenes at the St. Ronan’s ordinary are the most natural. It is just the bustle of a small watering place. Lady Penfeather is quite well, so is Mr. Winterblossom and although I must confess I never met with any quite so desirous of arranging matters amicably as Captain McTurk, Lady Brinks is seen enough to compensate. The author always manages to throw a gloom over his pictures by selecting the remnants of a fallen house for his story to turn upon. He leaves a mystery also over the conduct of Clara in her last meeting with her brother which would have been better cleared up as if she must die, it is not necessary that her innocence should be doubted. The novel closes as if there was some deficiency. The reader feels as if there was some female wanted to close up with satisfaction for it must be allowed that he has given us prudes, sullens and mad women but no novel heroine for a young man at least to observe of. I retired immediately after finishing it. X:15.


Sir Walter Scott, St. Ronan’s Well, 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1824.