Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Tuesday. June 8th. V:15. CFA Tuesday. June 8th. V:15. CFA
Tuesday. June 8th. V:15.

Arose and after reading two Chapters in Genesis, attended Prayers, after which I looked over the Review of Enfield which was set us as a preparation for Examination. I was not at Cambridge while it was learnt so that I could make but little of it. I was not called upon however. After breakfast I wrote my Journal and employed the Morning as well as I could. We have news of a call of the Legislature of New York and the probable consequence a change of the Electoral law. I doubt this latter event very much though.1 Politics are assuming more an appearance of action and less of Newspaper controversy than formerly.

We had no lesson for the morning as a miss is always given at the Commencement of a book. We now begin Trigonometry a part of 175Mathematics from which I would willingly be excused as it will be impossible for me to understand an advanced branch not knowing the previous steps. I did not attend today and regret it because I might have had an opportunity of speaking to him which I may not now obtain. I read the poems of the two Wartons2 today and was much pleased with the sprightliness of the verse and its melody. The younger is the finer poet of the two although I think there is not very material difference. I like the short and rapid verse in which they write, very well. The ode to Melancholy is a sweet thing and describes feelings which to me are well known and which certainly are the sweetest or pleasantest that man here enjoys. They destroy him in life but certainly they are the most delicious for an epicure in mind that he can indulge in.

In the afternoon it being very warm I took some Porter and lounged the afternoon most lazily away, Richardson being here also. It was from the same reason that the morning was as we went to Dr. Popkin for a lesson in Greek Testament with which we close our Greek studies at Cambridge. I then went to Brenans where I spent an hour conversing concerning the character of different individuals at Cambridge. We were talking principally of Miller3 when the gentleman made his appearance. After some trivial talk, I came away and did nothing at my room until Prayers. After these I walked to Fresh Pond with a number of our house. The New hotel is very prettily situated and would make quite a sweet summer habitation. Returning, I spent an hour at Otis room talking then came down, read two Chapters in the Bible and went to bed after having spent one day in almost utter idleness. I am quite ashamed to insert such a notice here. X:15.


The critical New York legislature was almost evenly divided between the supporters of JQA and Crawford, with Clay’s friends holding the balance of power. Admonishing his New York followers not to make any deals, JQA urged them to delay the legislature’s decision as long as possible, so that pro-Adams sentiment could gather, and to work for a new election law, which would allow the people to vote directly for the state’s electors. For an earlier report on the New York political situation, see entry for 25 Jan., above.


Joseph Warton (1722–1800) and Thomas Warton (1728–1790).


William Miller, of Philadelphia, a junior ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).

Wednesday. June 9th. VI. CFA Wednesday. June 9th. VI. CFA
Wednesday. June 9th. VI.

Attended Prayers, but was very late in getting up. My walk of last Evening had fatigued me so much, that I slept more soundly than usual. As I was absent during nearly all the day’s review I excused myself to Mr. Hayward and consequently made up my Chapters in 176the Bible in the interval. At study bell we attended Mr. Channings first Lecture. It was an introductory one detailing the dangers to which students were liable—they were likely to become too proud of their knowledge and therefore sceptical. He adverted to the danger of falling into a way of studying not for the sake of improvement in their own happiness but to show their acquisition, to be actuated by motives of ambition, and not read books for their sake as pleasure and gratification but as a path to become distinguished. In this way he said the heart became callous to the finer feelings of nature and wholly engrossed in the pursuit of fame. The things which were most to be dreaded by persons in pursuit of knowledge in short, he said, were pride which leads to scepticism, and ambition which destroys all good and moral feeling. He was highly moral throughout. The style is easy and pleasing, the manner is not tolerable. He has never been possessed of the graces and has sundry peculiarities which are certainly not pleasing, I might say, disgusting. I had to complain of his want of purpose in this lecture as I saw nothing in the Essay which had a direct reference to the matter in point. In future I propose to take notes at the time and write his sentiments more fully as I propose to compare them with those of my father on the same subject at some future time. I wish to judge as fairly of Mr. Channing as possible. I have no reason to admire the man and therefore shall be cautious.1

I returned home after a few minutes at the reading room, and prepared myself for a recitation to Mr. Farrar in Trigonometry. He is much of a scare crow to students as he has a greater desire to make them learn really and truly, than any other members of the government. I recited to him not very well however. As this is a study which I do not wish to pursue, I am not anxious. I had intended speaking to him today but I was so hurried by the next division that it was not in my power. I am fixed however in doing this soon as this is certainly nothing but lost time. I might as well undertake to study Hebrew without Grammar or Dictionary. It is sufficiently difficult with2 in either case. We do not come again until Monday.

I finished writing my Journal and read the poems of Mason together with some of the first of Cowper’s.3 I did not think the first very remarkable although the lines to his wife are certainly sweet and pretty. I will not pretend to criticize though as I have never read them before. These of Cowper are very pretty, there is something very interesting in them as they refer themselves to our simplest feelings and are sure to touch them with effort. The little piece on Friendship 177which I read today is as true, as striking as any thing could be made yet it is all drawn from what we must know by the every day experience of human life. It is this power which has made this Author so popular with all classes and which makes him seen oftener on the table than any Poet we have. Some there are who are looked upon with reverence and respect but he is always read and always admired.

I began my course in Botany this Morning with a Lesson in Mr. Locke4 and commenced Mitford’s History of Greece5 by reading the First Chapter today. This is principally taken up in a geographical description of the country, and an account of the fabulous ages to the time of the Trojan War. He gives the appearance of history to the stories of the Poets and gives Homer high authority as a Historian. He runs over their origin, which he argues from Egypt, their method of life which was according to all account sufficiently piratical, and their gradual civilization particularly in Attica. One chapter bears considerably on politics as it shows us that at least in this age Despotism was not known or thought of. The accounts of Minos and Theseus give us reason to suppose that this was the original contract if there ever was one in society. To ensure order, a head was necessary, but for that head to have absolute power was as far from their ideas as the cutting off their own heads. I also read my Greek Testament and attended recitation after which I paid a visit to Fisher and came home. I next attended Prayers, after tea Otis and myself went round paying visits at least with the intention of doing so but we found no one at home except Howard. I smoked a cigar with him although he did not appear perfectly glad to see us. Why, I know not. We then returned, having heard nonsense enough, and I spent the remainder of the Evening in reading Plutarch’s Life of Theseus and studying the obscure chronology as well as I could. Finishing this I read two Numbers in the Spectator for amusement and my two Chapters as usual. X.


JQA was the first Boylston professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard, holding the chair from 1806 to 1809. He had opposed the appointment of E. T. Channing, the third occupant of the chair. When Channing failed CFA on his Harvard entrance examination in Sallust, JQA appealed the decision to President Kirkland, reminding him that the professor might have been motivated by resentment. JQA was given permission to attend the second examination, and this time CFA passed (Duberman, CFA , p. 18).


Thus in MS.


William Mason (1725–1797) and William Cowper (1731–1800).


John Locke, Outlines of Botany, Boston, 1819.


JQA’s set of William Mitford, History of Greece, 8 vols., Boston, 1823, is in the Stone Library. CFA, however, apparently bought his own copy. See entry for 29 June, below. A first edition of Vol. 1 (published in 1784) is among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 170).