Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Monday. June 14th. V:30. CFA Monday. June 14th. V:30. CFA
Monday. June 14th. V:30.

Attended Prayers and recitation this morning, read my two Chapters as usual and the fourth book of Cowper, the feelings upon which I have described in my observations on the first part of the same book. I attended a lecture also from Mr. Channing. He went on to examine the subject of eloquence. He said that it did not consist of perfection in any particular quality but in a union of all in such a way as to produce sensations purely pleasing. I do not know what the reason was but my thoughts wandered here and I did not gather all that I ought to have done, he did not appear however to progress much, as he is very general in his language. The style is a pretty one, he is neat and even elegant at times, but there is not much mind displayed and what I am surprised to see, not much classical feeling. The truth I imagine is that this is a quality he is not in possession of. Dr. Ware had a review of the class in Paley instead of the Greek recitation which is now a morning exercise. I did not attend the evidences though for I intend to trust altogether to Providence in my examination.

In the afternoon I read a little of Mitford containing the history of Lacaedemon, of the Institutions of Lycurgus and of the Messenian War. It gives us an astonishing instance of a government which never has since and probably never will again see its equal. The people be-186came a remarkable one and is an astonishing record of the most persevering and successful victories over the weaknesses and passions of nature. I attended a recitation also in Mathematics in which I was called upon and much to my surprise, passed off quite successfully. I had a little conversation with Mr. Farrar concerning this subject and made an arrangement to study a plainer treatise in case one was necessary. He is a remarkably obliging man and really appears to be more desirous to do good to the constitution of the College by affording the students real instruction, than any one of the rest. I then went to Cunningham’s and had some conversation with him on the subject of his quarrel with Dwight; it is a disagreable circumstance which really I wished over and have made a half day’s exertion but it is too stubborn.

In the Evening, I had intended to have done something but Brenan, Rundlet and others came in so that it was impossible and I was obliged to entertain my good companions with Northern and Southern pacts and the numerous rebellion.1 After the Bible I retired. X:10.


This semilegible passage apparently alludes to the sectional rivalry in the Porcellian Club; see note on preceding entry.

Tuesday. June 15th. VI. CFA Tuesday. June 15th. VI. CFA
Tuesday. June 15th. VI.

Attended Prayers but as usual had no recitation this Morning. I read my Chapters in the Bible and wrote a Theme this Morning on Spring Vacation, quite a pleasant subject. At nine o’clock we were called in to the usual annual examination. This being our third and last but one.1 Few attended, Dr. Porter and Dr. Fiske2 I believe were the only two. Our examination commenced with Enfield and I was taken up among the first on a part which I had not seen. I managed by keeping the book open to read it off and passed decently. We next came to Tacitus in which I was taken up first and came off moderately well. Next came Metaphysics which I most dreaded, the class recited wretchedly until dinner time which suspended my fate. I was however not so badly off as I expected although I have not much to boast as to the goodness of the recitation. Dr. Ware examined us next in Paley and called upon me first by which I was able to recite very decently well. Still I owe part of it to my class mate Ames3 who was sitting behind. The old mole Allen has not the quickness of a tortoise and though desirous, he is ill timed. I am very sorry for the first of these young men, it is matter of great regret that his finances will not suffer him 187to take the situation in his class which both his feelings and his character require. He is a gentleman and an honourable fellow and is more respected among the upper class of young men than any one I know. He is one of the very few in the class who are not directly in our society, whom I like. Professor Willard then examined his four scholars in Hebrew to the amusement of all the rest of the class after which Dr. Popkin closed with Homer which I passed quite well. On the whole, the examination was a decent one, it was not creditable as it showed that the studies had been very poorly conducted. Our good scholars did not do half as much credit to themselves as usual and our bad ones were in character. For my own part I performed my duty decently and that was all. Comparing it with that of the last year it is rather better as I did not go through without a dead set4 in Blair.5 This was given me by the malignity of Mr. Channing who asked me questions which few could have answered. If this was bad, I recited well in Logic, and in Greek, so that perhaps taking the two I was very much as usual in this one. We had no speech and were dismissed at about half past six o’clock.

After Prayers and tea, we as usual with us on the evening of Examination went to Fresh Pond to a Supper. Our party was composed this time, of Richardson, Rundlet, Sheafe, Brenan, Lothrop and myself. Of these the three first and I went up immediately and spent the Evening, bowling by candlelight. Richardson and I beat the other two. This is quite good amusement, and much more interesting than I used to think. It is not equal to billiards though which I think is the most delightful of all mere amusements. At half past nine o’clock the rest of the party had joined us and we sat down to a supper quite as handsome as I wished. It was much superior in quality to the last one and looked really fit for any person to sit down to. I know not what was the reason however but my appetite was not good and I was not able to eat at all to my satisfaction. As I was fixed upon a sober time, I determined to be prudent, influenced partly by the feelings which I saw excited at home, as our members expected to have a crow over us and partly as I saw Brenan was fixed upon the same. And I was not going to expose myself before him unless it was the same on his part with me. My feelings warned me in time and I refused all drinking after this. The conduct of Rundlet and us two influenced materially the joviality of the table and, although very near intoxication, the other three managed to pass off with only muddled brains. I recollected so well the effects of the excessive debauch of last year that I rejoiced much at the course of this. After many a song and poor toast 188we arose and having paid his bill of thirteen dollars we returned home.

The walk was an exceedingly pleasant one. Lothrop and Rundlet were very amusing and although Brenan was too prudent as he was fearful of a discovery, which I thought was not risked in the least, we came home pleasantly, and all retired in very good humour. Rundlet stayed at Sheafe’s. On the whole I rejoiced very much to find this had been a rational supper, which among young men is but too seldom the case. Although some of our party were considerably exhilarated none of them were in such a state as to be unable to take care of themselves. This evening for the first time, I was compelled to neglect reading my Bible but there being no light in the house I retired without. II:30.


By college rule juniors at Harvard were examined on the second Tuesday of the third term ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823, p. 16).


Eliphalet Porter, Harvard 1777, a Fellow and Overseer of the college, and Thaddeus Fiske, Harvard 1785, another Overseer ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ; Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


Seth Ames, of Dedham ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


“A complete failure in a recitation” ( Dict. of Americanisms ).


Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. JQA’s two sets of the work, published in London in 1793 and in 1796, each in 3 vols., are in the Stone Library. Another copy, also in 3 vols., published in 1789 in Basel, is among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 29).