Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Sunday. July 11th. VIII. CFA Sunday. July 11th. VIII. CFA
Sunday. July 11th. VIII.

Arose considerably refreshed this Morning, and took breakfast. Found Cunningham here, an addition to our number at the table, and I forgot that Silsbee had been here ever since the death of Gray, and the consequent dispersion of his mother’s boarders. The table is in consequence rather larger than I wish it and I shall not be content until the Seniors leave and reduce it. The character of Cunningham I 233have never given which is surprising as he has always ranked among my friends but the reason is that I find it difficult to judge of it myself. That he is a man of talents of a superior sort, I am exceedingly inclined to doubt, that he is a would be fashionable and lady’s man, I am certain and therefore think less of him, that he is stiff and affected I am also certain, but at the same time I believe he has many good feelings. His friendship is not to be slighted, because he will do a man a service and he is pretty firm. There are sundry reasons which I cannot myself tell, which make him agreable and as he is now endeavouring to correct his faults which certainly want it.1 His habits are acquired and if they once are broken he will become the same natural man which he ought to be.

This morning, I wrote my Journal and attended Chapel, where I heard the President deliver a sort of a farewell funeral Oration. It was a queer mixture of the Lord knows what. In the afternoon Dr. Ware delivered an excellent sermon to the Seniors as parting advice. It was plain and simple and extremely pleasant to a man’s feelings, I should imagine, who was about to leave College. There is a pleasant and at the same time a melancholy sort of feeling in seeing this class depart. Why should I be sorry to stay here, where I enjoyed myself as much as I ever shall in any part of my life, perhaps more? It is because I wish for home as it is now and when I think that soon all the pleasure of that home will be gone, even before I get out, I cannot help feeling sorry. There is a happiness for a social being in the bosom of a family, which I am afraid it is my lot never hereafter to enjoy perhaps, but all things are in the womb of futurity and however anxious I may be to know them, I must e’en content myself with the maxim “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Such has been the state of my feelings today. I am glad when I think that we stay here but one year more and sorry when these Seniors come to my remembrance. At the same time I am attached to Cambridge and should scarcely feel less melancholy if I had directions to leave it tomorrow, with a degree. My only desire is to rush into the world. I wish to be acting my part like other men and feel now like a small dog trying to leap a wall while the larger ones pass over and squeeling his soul out in a fret because he cannot succeed. This is my first set figure in this book, and perhaps not the most consistent with the rules of style. In writing however I am a racer overleaping all obstacles and never returning over the course. This is my second, and indeed I feel so metaphorical this evening that I shall run over every thing so I will e’en return to my subject.

234

After tea I took a walk with Richardson, in which we had some conversation concerning Wheatland with whom he has had a quarrel. He appears to be considerably exasperated against him, on account of an affair about the Major’s detur2 in which I must confess from Richardson’s account of it, I do not think that the former has acted as consistently with honor as he ought to have done. But we must always make allowances for him. Every one who chooses to overstep the rules of honor and good breeding will take the consequences upon his own head. And I believe it will be found that as long as a man preserves them he will pass easily through life. Our walk was a long and a pretty pleasant one as he was in a humour which forbid his making so much of a fool of himself. Indeed could I have the tutoring of that man without the intervention of any body else, I doubt not but what I could make him at least tolerable. I could make him equal to Howard in manners and his own sense, which is a little superior to the other’s, would assist him and make him do. His natural wit, a good deal of which he has, would make him entertaining.

After our return, I went and did some business concerning the Knights with Mr. Willard then came up and read over my lesson and Bible and then went to bed. I did not get to sleep for some time however, as Tudor and Elliot were drinking Champagne, in the third story. X:15.

1.

Punctuated thus in MS.

2.

A prize of books given annually at Harvard College to meritorious students.

Monday. July 12th. V:30. CFA Monday. July 12th. V:30. CFA
Monday. July 12th. V:30.

Arose and attended Prayers and recitations. I was taken up this morning but it is exceedingly singular, Mr. Heyward gives me but three lines to recite. I do not know what to make of this man’s conduct to me, it is remarkable. After breakfast I attended lecture. Mr. Channing commenced with some notice of the design of criticism and it’s utility. He here diverged from his subject by talking of the few minds governing a whole nation. The impulse which it gives to its feeling and it’s tone. After having said enough concerning this, he brought it to bear upon his subject by tracing the similarity in the school of criticism. A few people of fine taste governed the rest, he said, and by this was meant the general voice commonly expressed upon matters of taste. Comparatively very few of the whole mass of the world know any thing about the matter, the voice of literary men has the power to fix reputation upon a work. Shakespeare it has been said would not have been so great a favourite were it not that Garrick had set him off 235to such advantage, but he thought that the voice of men of learning in general so concentrated, that his reputation might have been retarded, it never could have been finally depressed. It may have been a question, why these men should form themselves into a tribunal to judge of all works peremptorily, and if there was not danger of abuse in this power?1 A few cold hearted critics might exert a dangerous influence upon literature by discouraging even merit, under the influence of private feelings of dislike to the author. He thought though that this could not be the case as there were always men enough to indulge different opinions and that there could be scarce a sufficient coalition to render any injustice. The public voice could not be suppressed by such means as these. It was on the whole not a very bad lecture, his observations were generally just and although rather common place, I expect it. As we had finished Greek Testament we had nothing else to do this day but prepare for a lesson in Paley’s Moral Philosophy this being our next, last, and most important branch. We attended to a get a lesson set but obtained a miss very unexpectedly so that we shall have no morning exercises for this week, a thing not much desired by me as our term is easy enough without it.

I employed the rest of my morning in writing my Journal. I forgot to say that the Bowdoin prizes were declared this morning, one was given for a dissertation on China by Emerson and another for one on the Classics, by Whitman of our class.2 The parts for Commencement were assigned during our absence on Saturday. The first Oration being given to Emerson, the second to Newell.3 The dissertations were read today one in the morning and another in the afternoon but I did not attend either of them as I presumed they would be long and probably dull.

In the afternoon, I attended a lecture of Mr. Nuttall’s at three, it being postponed on account of Emerson’s Dissertation. It was a very good one on the compound flowers, but I had some difficulty in keeping the track with him. He is so rapid in his manner, he gives no time for the examination of the flowers, he himself proposes to you. Returning home I found a message from Mr. Farrar directing me to attend him at his study this Evening but regret that my military engagements detained me. I do think however that this is somewhat of an authoritative step, to call for me when I wish to be absent. I spent an hour talking with Otis upon the subject and then came down stairs again to write up my Journal which now seems to take up nearly all my time. Thus I was going on until Prayers which I attended and gave my squad a drill. They performed the Manual exceedingly well 236and received the credit of the whole company. I think fairly speaking they are the best drilled in the company nor do I take much credit to myself for it, as in my own humble opinion the others do much less than they might. Any thing like telling them is an injury to their feelings, and Lothrop tonight appeared considerably affected because Cunningham told him the plain state of the case. We sat at Mr. Willard’s until nine o’clock, the time appointed for a meeting of the officers at the Captains. We employed our Evening pretty carefully and went through all the evolutions correctly, which we have been accustomed in the former company. We then spent sometime in talking over the affairs of the Company and in discussing the materials before us, so that it was eleven o’clock before we adjourned. I then went directly to my room, read my lesson and Bible and then went to bed. XI:30.

1.

A question mark after “peremptorily” has been eliminated, but CFA’s questionable grammar has been left intact.

2.

Jason Whitman, of East Bridgewater, Mass. ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).

3.

William Newell, of Boston (same).