Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

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.

1.

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

2.

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).

3.

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

4.

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).

Wednesday. July 14th. VII. CFA Wednesday. July 14th. VII. CFA
Wednesday. July 14th. VII.

Missed Prayers and recitation again this morning, although I had cautioned Richardson last night to rouse me which he did, but sleep overpowered me and I fell back again and did not awake until I found Otis laughing at my surprise. I could not help doing so too although it was a serious matter. My negligence has been singular and nevertheless it appears to me impossible that it should have been less for I appear almost forced to every bit of it. I am marked for four recitations this week, two of them I could not avoid. I certainly preferred Mr. Nuttall’s Lecture to a recitation which could not profit me at all and yesterday I could not study.

After breakfast I attended Mr. Channing, who continued his subject of the different methods of criticism. He spoke of the class of Annotators to old books and poets, and also to books which had an immediate bearing upon the professions, these last were the most voluminous, they pretended to explain obsolete or difficult passages and terms, and also to give the sense of their author in their interpretation. This was not productive of much good as every man entertained his own opinion and laid it down in dry prose, so that it was of more injury than it was worth to a good author to break off in a fine passage to examine a dull dry note giving you no information in a great deal of words. The fact was that with these men, the difficulty was that they added notes where no information was wanted and gave no satisfaction whenever some was. He then passed on to notice Literary Reviews of the present day, he sketched their history 239and their influence. The Edinburgh Review he said had obtained an authority over all matters of taste and there were many advantages in it for they checked all incorrect style. But one disadvantage in the system was that it forestalled public opinion, it brought a fashion of superficial reading too much into habit. Persons were contented with extracts and satisfied with the representation whatever it was which the reviewer chose to give to his work. Here was an opening for injustice and a habit which was a bad one.

Tudor went this morning with his puppy and I felt singularly upon it for I have become quite attached to him, the traits of his character are so directly catching to a young man that it is impossible not to be pleased with him. His unpopularity at College has been singular, and has originated for the most part in Southern prejudice.

I have never given Wheatland’s Character. It is such a compound of vanity, Narrow mindedness, malignity, and benevolent feeling that I cannot exactly ascertain the true ingredients. His system of bullying, over Richardson and Otis, I did not like at all, and his weakness finally exposed him considerably. His envy made him angry with many here who were in better circumstances and made him slander many unfairly. He had no spirit of justice in his likes and dislikes, and would repeat stories concerning men, of a nature which he knew to be incorrect or exaggerated, without observing the cause however small it might be which made him say so. He was withal kind to inferiors, and to those who were sick, when his envy was laid by any mortification on another, his kind feelings predominated. His prejudices changed quickly when an opportunity offered for soothing them. He loved distinction, and therefore took the character of an eccentric man, or as they call it here, odd. He was in consequence visited respectably without having to support the expense. Above all his ruling passion was Economy. Thus much for him, I shall see him but little hereafter and shall remain content with the idea of having spent a year with him on friendly terms.

We went to Mr. Hedge this morning who read us a Lecture upon the subject of Moral Philosophy. It was attended to very much as usual, and I although I attempted something like it in the beginning, do not think worthwhile to detail it. In the afternoon we went to Mr. Farrar at three o’clock and he kept me up to go through two lessons and gave me something of a screwing as the students call it. He has so much rapidity in his manner that his enumeration of figures confuses a young man and his severity when you are wrong depresses considerably. The rest of the afternoon I spent writing up the Journal 240which has at last I believe got up to its proper regularity and I hope now that the Seniors are gone, that it will not again become a trouble to me. After Prayers, I drilled my Squad as usual, they did not perform at all well and I was quite in a bad humour when I went to the usual Meeting. After which I returned home, got my lesson and retired much on the usual hour. The Sophomores were fined four dollars a man for combination to be absent yesterday from Mr. Hedge. X:30.