Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Friday. July 9th. VI. CFA Friday. July 9th. VI. CFA
Friday. July 9th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Enfield but was not called upon, Mr. Hayward very seldom troubles me with questions now, a very singular but certainly not disagreable circumstance. I had intended after breakfast to have given my squad a drill, but forgot all about the matter and so did they. I then wrote some of my Journal and attended Mr. Channing’s Lecture, the final one upon Oratory. He commenced by wishing to know what Oratory was, and why one Man would please without much talent, while another who was really an able man would be dull? It depended he said upon a natural gift far above art with which some men were able to act with greater force. Art might remedy faults but nothing but nature could make great beauties. He then made some observations on extemporaneous speaking. It had in former times been a habit with the ancient Orators to write their Orations elaborately and when any particular passage pleased to repeat it at other times and in different situations with equal applause. If such a thing were to be attempted now, the man would only make himself ridiculous. The principal part of our Eloquence is composed of speeches at the bar or in Assemblies where they are almost entirely extemporaneous. A good Orator is supposed to be prepared for every subject and ought to act as if he had anticipated every question before it came into notice. He then made a few observations concerning the reasons why extemporaneous eloquence should have such effect with which he closed all he had to say on Oratory. These observations, I do not recollect. Much of this last lecture was a repetition of what had formerly been said in the different parts of the subject. Now he has completed this part of his course, I should wish to know whether I have gained one single idea from every thing he has told me. Whether there is any thing in all these lectures which a man would not of himself, almost immediately observe. Having done with this, I returned home and employed myself all the morning 230writing &c. My letters to and from home have been strangely neglected of late but my Journal and my pleasure has been a pretty incessant occupation. I refer every thing like business to be done, until after next Tuesday which is the day on which we become the highest class in Harvard University.1

After dinner I attended a lecture from Mr. Nuttall concerning flowers which was very interesting but which I could not understand quite so well as I wished to owing to the heat of the room. I returned home at four o’clock and read a Chapter in Mitfords Greece giving the history of Greece until the time of Cimon. Themistocles made the policy of Athens maritime and was among the first in wealth and power to a nation, to arise from Commerce and naval strength. In those days it was still more advantageous than now because few people were prepared to resist a force of this kind. It is surprising to reflect on the power always acquired in this way by a people, and at this day we can hardly cite a people as flourishing who do not depend very much upon navigation. The English are a striking example of success, as the nation without continual supply in this way could never have supported half what it has been called upon to contribute. The Athenians, hitherto unknown, by embracing this course became powerful and rich and by these means gave that encouragement to literature and elegance which has continued them to this day.

I had scarcely finished my reading before Brenan came in and we conversed concerning the characters of individuals, their ambition, &c. very pleasantly all the rest of the afternoon. He is very agreable when he does not undertake to conceal his natural character for that of a morose man which he seems most singularly to covet. Prayers were delayed half an hour this Evening, on account of the funeral of Gray2 which was attended by the Senior Class. He died this morning after a sickness of about a fortnight. I believe he was a very excellent fellow. The President gave a very feeling Prayer concerning him this evening which seemed to have a remarkable effect upon the students in general. After tea, My section came out with guns the first time and did very well considering. The Evening was a very beautiful one and I spent some time out talking with Tudor, Sheafe &c. concerning the contemplated excursion tomorrow. I then read my lesson over and my Bible but my night’s sleep was not sound. X:40.


Seniors were allowed to retire from college on the seventh Tuesday before commencement (in 1824, on 13 July); commencement was held on the last Wednesday in August. In the absence of the seniors, the juniors obviously became 231the highest class. See Harvard Annual Cat., 1823, p. 16.


John M. Gray, of Cambridge ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).

Saturday. July 10th. V:30. CFA Saturday. July 10th. V:30. CFA
Saturday. July 10th. V:30.

Arose and after reading over my lesson attended Prayers and recitation in Enfield in which as usual I went to sleep. The day was not a fair one although at first there was little appearance of rain. After breakfast we dressed and prepared ourselves for an extraordinary dash. Tudor and myself had agreed to go to Nahant today in a tandem, and accordingly made up a party among our acquaintances to go down. This consisted of four besides ourselves, Dwight and Chapman together in a Chaise and Sheafe and J. Otis. It was the first time Tudor had been in a tandem and I was a little anxious to see his driving but the horses were so well trained and Tudor was so careful that we had no sort of difficulty. It is the most pleasing way of driving in the world I think because it is the most novel and the most scarce. They appear handsomer from the Chaise, I think, than they do as they pass, they certainly make a Chaise go very much easier. We stopped a few moments at Linn Lynn to give them breath and then went on again. It began to rain slightly just as we got upon that fine beach over which it is perfect pleasure to ride, and we got to Nahant at about ten o’clock, two hours from the time we started, a distance of about seventeen miles.

Arrived, we immediately went fishing but had not gone before the rest of the party arrived. We all went together but did not remain more than an hour on account of the rain which came on now with violence so that we retreated quickly to the Billiard room. Two Freshmen, Potts and Pringle,1 were there, and as the tables were engaged, four of us went to a bowling alley and spent two hours there amusing ourselves in this way. The tables or alleys are remarkably fine, made of the hardest wood and very accurately smoothed. To a person accustomed to play upon other boards these are exceedingly difficult and I could not calculate upon them in the least in the first part of the time, afterwards however I did better. Chapman and myself beat Dwight and Sheafe very easily. Thus went the morning and we went up to the great hotel with appetites not in the least diminished by the air of the place which is proverbial for being hostile to all dinners &c. No wonder therefore that they charge more.

We sat down to dinner with about twenty five people, certainly not more, perhaps less. The dinner was not equal to my expectations and to my exquisite astonishment there were no silver spoons on the table. 232Heavens said I, is it possible that our good friends the Boston people should be so condescending as to take any thing from something less than silver at one of the most fashionable and the most exquisite places under the sun. The dinner was an inferior one as no company was expected. On the whole I was considerably disappointed in the quality of my dinner considering what I had to pay for it. I came down here to be an epicure and could amuse myself in no way better than if I had stayed at the table of our good hostess at home. I made the best of it however and, as I had an excellent appetite to support me, I did not reject the meal such as it was. For the meats although not delicious were well dressed and tender. Dinner done, the gentlemen called for wine and as it was a particular occasion, we ordered the very best and some cheese. The latter was excellent. The former, although the most particular, was not good by the decision of the Company and we ordered some of another sort. This latter was in my mind much the best and I enjoyed this and a very fine cigar very much better than any thing else during the day.

We did not sit long at table but went off to the billiard room, where we spent the afternoon as we could do nothing in the rain. Otis and I being the only players on one table, were going to enjoy one when Dwight and Sheafe insisted upon being admitted. As these were serious, we could have no pleasure, and it only provoked me as I knew it was my fate to be beaten. Chapman came in and took my side which made the matter worse. I was beaten both ways and now came to play off with Dwight and Chapman. This was a matter of interest to me as the bill had now become a pretty large one. I played first with Dwight, and played remarkably well but got beaten by a lucky scratch. I then played with the other and beat him easily. We then found it was time to return which we did. Tudor bought a dog which we carried home. We arrived safe and after a very few words at Wheatland’s I went to bed. X:30.


Hamilton Potts, of New Orleans, and John J. I. Pringle, of Charleston, S.C. ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).