Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Friday. July 23d. VI. CFA Friday. July 23d. VI. CFA
Friday. July 23d. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography, and then came home and dressed myself for I am exceedingly hurried in the morning now. At study bell I attended Parade at the arbour and remained there until Lecture time. Indeed I have found what I expected would be the case, that what with the company itself, the preparations and the thoughts, my time will be very much injured. I have lost two valuable mornings in this week by this way. I attended lecture. It was upon the use of words. I was in no state of mind to attend to it consequently shall give a very brief abstract of it. He said a great deal depended upon the right use of words. That in the first place, words were formed according to necessity and on this account it is that we 254have so many synonyms. Our words are almost all of double meaning and refer as well to the mind as to external objects. It consequently requires some study to understand their application and full meaning. A man should study his mother tongue thoroughly. There are many varieties in the fashions of words although it will not do, to be too bold, to introduce obsolete ones or coin new ones, there are many fashionable writers who will give currency to their own words. The first is that it is becoming more and more usual to draw from the earlier sources of the English language. Formerly the use of literature and language would have been dated in the age of Anne but now we refer to the time of Elizabeth. He then made some observations upon the language of this country. It had been stated that we could not preserve the purity of a language at such a distance from the source of it, that we should only become possessors of a sort of provincial language. It was true that many new words had crept in, such as from the nature of the country must arise, and the mixed state of population might injure it a little, but the very fact that we read all english publications and imitate them is sufficient to prove that we have undergone no material alteration and we are now proving that we can write as well as the English. There are many in this country willing to hazard their reputation for writers upon mere essays in periodical publications. All our exhibitions of talent circulate in this way as we have not yet become a Pamphlet writing or book making country. The lecture was a dry one and the heat oppressive.

After lecture I came home and wrote my Journal which was all I did until dinner time. After this was over I wasted an hour until Declamation. Another division of the Sophomores declaimed today, few did well, Goodwin1 was the only one. I did not attend Mr. Nuttall’s Lecture this afternoon, it was so exceedingly warm, I was overpowered. I spent some time in Dwight’s room, and amusing myself there, after which I returned home and literally wasted the afternoon drinking lemonade at Sheafe’s room. My thoughts were running in any direction but one proper to read in so that I with regret shall be obliged for the present to break a fixed habit at the risk of not reobtaining it. The summer term is not one in which we can speak decisively of ourselves.

This was the evening appointed for the first regular drill with all the Officers, and we discussed the probability of rain to the last moment. After Prayers, it did sprinkle a little, but it only delayed us a half an hour. When we were all ready, and joining the Parade, I was most exceedingly frightened and when I took my station before the 255ranks, I could hear my heart beat as well as feel it. We went through it very well and then marched round the town as usual with us to salute the Professors on the first night of the new company. After a warm march we came home having made about two or three mistakes a piece. My finale on the Evening parade was wretched but luckily no one saw me, it was so very dark. From here, I went immediately up to the Knights meeting. It was quite pleasant this Evening. I obtained Sheafe’s admission and afterwards we admitted some of the Sophomores for the first time and one Freshman. I went as a Committee to see Atherton and Phillips2 who both joined. This was what I wished as we have some intention if possible to raise a Northern party in that class. And as the late discussion in the Porcellians has blown the whole of the Southern proceedings, we have a desire by means of the Club to form an opposing power. After they were all initiated, I spent a sociable hour and3 from the idea of such a trouble over with good success. I then went and took a walk with some of the members of the club and returned home to bed, not reading my Bible this Evening. XI:30.


Hersey Bradford Goodwin, of Plymouth ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


John Charles Phillips, of Boston, a sophomore (same).


A word or more was probably inadvertently omitted by the diarist here.

Saturday. July. 24th. VI. CFA Saturday. July. 24th. VI. CFA
Saturday. July. 24th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography. A very remarkable thing indeed after a meeting of the Knights, as I do not recollect doing such a thing before for a very great while. I have however of late been so exceedingly regular that I am desirous of forming a habit. I find that one miss leads on to another until one gets very much out of his reckoning. I have already indulged too much this quarter. The exertion also after all is not exceedingly great and there is a satisfaction in having done properly which compensates for the trouble. This over, I went to College to see if any thing was going on, found nothing particular except that rooms in Holworthy1 had been distributed to our class, this was not materially interesting to me as I had not applied for one. Dwight obtained a very good one. The day was a rainy one, and after a few minutes at the Bookstore, I went and took a bath—the heat and exertion of yesterday having given me that unpleasant feeling of distress which arises from great perspiration. This over I returned to my room but felt so languid and fatigued from want of sleep, that I could do nothing so that I went to sleep until dinner time. I tried to read a little of Mitford and Plutarch but when I found my-256self sleeping over the book, I very wisely concluded it would do me no good to read so.

Wheatland came up today and moved his furniture, he appears in good health and in a pleasant, quiet state of spirits. I am more happy to see him so than an inmate of the house. I forgot to mention that Walley had declined coming here since he had been given to understand the sentiment of the house. I am glad he has declined, but I am really sorry for the way we have taken, for he must certainly have felt very severely, the treatment he has experienced from us. It was open and direct insult. It was a thing which would have made me suffer most intolerably, and I do not think that in this case, he has deserved it. We all confess we know nothing about the man’s character, and after the fashion of the College, we abuse him, and will probably ruin his character. I know too well the injurious effects of this course of conduct, to be willing myself to doom a man to the fate of my first prejudice without the slightest pretence to impartiality. I think it is the worst fault of College young men.

After dinner, I employed some of the afternoon in writing my Journal, it hangs exceedingly upon the hands and I am more afraid of my resolution for it, than I ever have been. Perseverance however is my motto and with it I hope to succeed. My duty done, I went over and paid Brenan, a visit of half an hour. We began conversing upon the usual subject, the differences existing in College. He was elected a member of the Porcellians at a Meeting last Night or at least in the afternoon and in his own true spirit declined. He is certainly the most singular man I have met with for a long while. With pride sufficient to fight a host, he has no idea of being subjected to the caprices of a pack of self constituted judges of character. I admire his conduct although I do not think I should have imitated it. Mr. Cenas gained his admission yesterday, a man who never would have got in, had I been a member, or had the club existed as it did some little time since.2 The society has not taken a more proper step than this to injure itself in public estimation. I have become of late exceedingly interested in the politics of the lower class as I wish to countermine all the working of a scandalously arrogant party with inferior means in the Sophomore class. Brenan is a good fellow, very impartial or at least as far as he can be. And I think when he makes an attachment, he is fully sensible of it’s value. I was talking very earnestly with him when his chum and Richardson came in which entirely broke it up. We talked afterwards much in the usual way.

I attended Prayers and then after tea took a pleasant walk with 257 Billy Dwight as I call him very foolishly. We had an unusual conversation concerning future prospects and I sounded his feelings more on the subject of his own intention than I ever have yet. His mind is by no means made up and he has not that fixed, settled ambition which I once thought he possessed. He is a young man of remarkable mind, strong, sensible, acute and though carried off by very violent passions, I like his feelings the more for it. I returned and after some silly conversation at Richardson’s I went to bed. X:30.


Holworthy Hall, completed in 1812, was the “most desirable place for undergraduates to room” (Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard , p. 215).


The meaning of this passage is puzzling, both because Cenas had been initiated into the Porcellian Club in 1823 (Catalogue of the Honorary and Immediate Members of the Porcellian Club of Harvard University, Cambridge, 1831) and because CFA himself had only recently declined election to the club (see entries for 25 and 27 June, above). Perhaps in his reference to Brenan CFA is repeating the sentiment he expressed earlier (see entry for 28 June, above) that the South Carolinian must have found it hard to decline an invitation to join the prestigious, Southern-dominated club.