Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

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.


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


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


William Newell, of Boston (same).

Tuesday. July 13th. VIII. CFA Tuesday. July 13th. VIII. CFA
Tuesday. July 13th. VIII.

Missed Prayers and recitation very unintentionally indeed, my drowsy faculties predominating. I heard no bell until the second to recitation which I took for that for Prayers and accordingly dressed and got half down there before I found out my mistake. I regret this as it injures my intention although I was entirely faultless.

We had no Morning Exercises owing to the departure of the Seniors and the consequent ceremony which takes place today. A Prayer was offered at nine o’clock by Mr. Burnap1 for the Senior Class as usual. I did not hear it however. I wrote my Journal at home and was getting along finely when Wheatland came down and gave me an invitation to go up to his room for the last time, and take some of his last offering. Such a call, I could not refuse, and I determined to let this day fall a sacrifice and the last which I should make to pleasure of any sort. I accordingly went up and found our class principally, Dwight, Cunningham and our few fellows. Wheatland, who usually is a damper, was no such thing to day as all fear of College censure was taken off, and made more noise than any of the rest. We sang a number of songs in high glee and finally created such a tremendous roar that Mr. Heyward sent over an extremely polite message, to caution us. It was fortunate for us that this was the case for otherwise we might have staid too long, but as it was just the time for the Oration to commence, we went off. I rather should say, they, because I staid at home a little 237while, then went up the steps of the Chapel, heard the Presidents Prayer which was enough for me and I immediately went away to the bookstore where I remained and read the papers at the Athenaeum until the time that the Oration and Poem were finished. On my return I found the students enthusiastic concerning them, Lunt got some credit for his poem, I am inclined to think these little things bubbles. As to the class’s crying, they, or some of them, are always sufficiently ready to make that appearance, but I was satisfied with the reality of this when I heard Barnwell’s three years since, which in itself never could make a man cry in this world. Nevertheless there were many who tried hard to show some feeling of this kind upon the occasion.

One of our visitors to dine today was Robinson whom I have not seen before for a long time, at least to address at all. He looks well and appears to be in moderately good spirits. I should imagine though, that a day of this kind would make him feel melancholy as he was the cause of the loss of so much enjoyment here and of so much life if I may so term it. He alluded to it but once today and then I thought with some feeling.2 After dinner we adjourned to Wheatland’s room, but did not stay more than a few minutes as some of us were going different ways upon business. I went to Dumont’s3 for some money for the Knights but could not find him. Dwight and Cunningham went to Boston in a Chaise. My mind was in such a state of excitement that I was not in the least able to get my lesson for this afternoon and as I understood this was the general sentiment of the class, I expected a miss somewhat. I consequently made an engagement with Lothrop to take a ride which we did and went that beautiful road on the border of Jamaica Pond and round the cultivated part of Brooklyne. It is one of the prettiest rides which I have ever seen in this Country, the ground is so rich and so beautifully cultivated. We stopped a few moments to refresh ourselves on the road but returned in full time for Prayers.

After tea I was giving my squad all the instruction in the world when a shower put us all to flight in a hurry. I returned to my room and meeting Tudor, we made an agreement to spend the last evening together. Wheatland went in the afternoon. We sent for some wine and spent the evening in a comfortable game of Whist at Richardson’s room. I enjoyed myself considerably as there was no more of that boisterous noise which troubles me so now. We had a comfortable sing but no noise. Our Class had a meeting, at least a number of them at the arbour, to perform the old ceremony of it’s christening.4 There is a powerful spirit of old custom in College even now which creates 238more difficulty to the Government than all the new inclinations of the students. I was glad to find that there could be a Class Meeting although I did not regret my absence as they are seldom pleasant. J. Otis and Dwight came up here, and staid a few moments. I heard the shout of the Class as we were sitting there. We broke up at eleven o’clock having spent our last Evening. I looked over my lesson and Bible. XI:30.


George Washington Burnap, of Merrimack, N.H. ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


A Robinson (possibly John P. Robinson of Dover, N.H.) was dismissed from Harvard in May 1823 for causing “disorders and outrages” (Records of the College Faculty, 10:27, Harvard Archives; Harvard Annual Cat., 1822).


John Thomas Philip Dumont, a senior from Boston ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


Possibly this was the class-day tree ceremony, during which shouting seniors, dressed in odd-mated clothes, scrambled for a wreath of flowers placed high in an old elm tree, located near Holden, Hollis, and Harvard halls (Cambridge Sketches, ed. Estelle M. H. Merrill, Boston, 1896, p. 91–92).