Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Thursday. August 12th. VI. CFA Thursday. August 12th. VI. CFA
Thursday. August 12th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography. This is the commencement of the easy part of this term. But little more to do except these miserable lessons in Topography which I do not understand, and which consequently require but little study. After breakfast, I wrote my Journal up by a strong effort upon myself. I overcalculated my strength of mind and perseverance when I commenced this book. And indeed I have not exactly pursued the primitive intention, as I first wished to write whatever I thought in my book, and not have any precise points to arrive at in writing. As I read so little at this season, I can make no observations upon that subject, and I am not thrown sufficiently often into new company to be frequent in characters. My observations are principally drawn from myself. I finished my Journal and then went to the Reading room where I sat until dinner time reading a little Novel called Highways and Byways,1 in other words a collection of stories. I do not like the style and think the incident simple and hardly worth relating. This I have just found is quite a pleasant place to sit and read.

Cunningham came up and told me good news. Professor Everett has sent us an invitation to his house for Exhibition day. By us, I mean the College Company. We had been debating for a long while what 286we should do with ourselves with the present restrictions2 but now our trouble we find was unnecessary. The other division read Forensics this morning; After dinner, I drove the Captain to the Encampment of the Fusileers at Watertown in the new Chaise. I have seen this Howe3 before. His company being at Quincy last year. He is a rough unpolished man who wished to be exceedingly polite to us but could not succeed. He has not been in the habit of being in good society and, although I have no doubt he means well, I doubt exceedingly his power to please. We came up principally to give the Excuses of the Officers and to make arrangements with one of the band for our music next Thursday. We engaged eleven men being one more than we were allowed by the Government in the last regulations which were issued. This is an advantage which the students invariably take and the Government are most angry with.

We were glad to get rid of his formality and preciseness and hastened on to Boston over the Western Avenue meeting quantities of company going out there to visit them. Arrived in town, my first object was to go and see my cap, which is almost ready. I met Robinson in the street and found that George, whom I had come in to see, had not got back from Sandwich. I nevertheless went to the house but I found no individual here. I spent almost half an hour in his room doing nothing in particular, then sprung up, walked back to the Marlborough, met Cunningham and returned to Cambridge in time for Prayers.

After Prayers, we had a drill. The company generally did very well, my own part of it did not perform quite as well as common because my guide was absent and his substitute was not worth much, although he tried his best. I am afraid we shall not go through all the manoeuvres perfectly on Exhibition day. Cunningham has not been through one night yet without giving incorrect orders and we have but two more drills at farthest. The assessment was declared and appeared to excite some little murmur.4 After drill, The Officers had a Meeting and discussed the remainder of their business. We argued over the old questions of yesterday and decided differently on some points. The laws of the Government appear to trouble us most in two points, a return to Prayers and our Music. Of the former we have thought and thought but it is impossible to avoid it so that we shall attend and appear afterwards. The latter we have avoided by getting one piece of music written and making one play two pieces which will be almost as many as we generally have had. Some conversation concerning our arrangements to return the invitation of the Officers, and as usual a great variety of opinions upon the subject. There is sometimes a little warm 287squabbling between our Officers and one contemptible man has often shown himself deficient as a gentleman. Indeed I do think Otis is contemptible, he has shown a small spirit, for his honour in debts is not, and he suffers himself to be mortified by refusals at the different places in turn, without doing any thing whatever to reclaim his character or to resent the insult. He suffers himself to be trifled with by stable keepers most ridiculously and as the invariable consequence he lives his character in College. Adjourned, I went home and went directly to bed. XI.


Thomas Colley Grattan, Highways and Byways, London, 1823.


See entry for 17 June, above, for the new college rules governing the marching company on exhibition days.


Joseph N. Howe Jr., one of the captains of the Fusileers ( Mass. Register, 1824, p. 123).


The annual assessment for members of the marching corps was five or six dollars (Batchelder, Bits of Harvard History , p. 69).

Friday. August 13th. VI:10. CFA Friday. August 13th. VI:10. CFA
Friday. August 13th. VI:10.

Arose too late for Prayers, to which I trusted last night to copy the sums which were this Morning’s lesson. I nevertheless determined to encounter the risk rather than not attend, and went. I was called upon, and passed off very poorly indeed. Mr. Hayward has been more gracious to me than is usual or pleasing of late. After it was over, I was comforted with the idea that we had no more to do this day. I wasted the morning in a foolish conversation on the subject of political parties and talked with Otis about the difference between the terms Federal and Democrat, which is not very perceptible at present.

We then went to Lecture which was contrary to custom in the Chapel, as a Committee were examining the philosophical apparatus. I was distracted from the newness of the situation in that I was unable to bear in mind so fully his observations of today. He1 began with some observations upon Poetry. A man who wrote, he said, could very properly be called a Maker, and in this way it had been customary to define a Poet from very ancient times. Invention, he said, was one of the principal characteristics. And in it was generally shown the power of the Author. Take Othello, for instance, and require a Narrative or Epic Poem to be made of it. You would observe the method the Poet takes, the arrangement of his incidents and the way he describes. These are the qualities which make a distinction of Poetry from Prose and, without them, we have nothing but measured prose. It was this power which had made Milton, Shakespeare and so many others Poets. He said that Poetry was a combination of Passion and Imagination. These were the acting powers in all the poetry of Byron and Scott. 288All the description was set before one in such vivid colours that the mind cannot help being struck with the pictures. This also in prose fiction distinguished the author of prose fiction who so accurately delineated his scenes that no one could avoid for long the effect of them. He was inclined to believe that this was not all the man’s own doings. That every man immediately pictured to himself a scene where any thing is passing even though no accurate descriptions are used. He has one more lecture which I shall not be able to attend probably. He took notice of the different sorts of meter today merely to pass over them as being out of his limits. I do not think he has filled this part of his subject.

The rest of this Morning, I employed in cleaning my fowling piece and putting all my sporting apparatus in order. I also attempted to end an Article in the Edinburgh Review concerning the West Indies2 but I did not get very far before the dinner bell summoned me. After the meal was over I did nothing for an hour but write my Journal and then attended Declamation. There were as I understood eighteen or nineteen speakers which made it very long. I found much to my surprise that I was to come on at the next time. Walker3 declaimed pretty well but taking it all in all I think the Class is a very inferior one in this point. The exercise was amazingly tedious. I spent the rest of the day at my room as we had another thundering day. It rained also with amazing violence. I wrote my Journal, and was visited by Richardson and Sheafe for an hour. The conversation as usual was insipid. Pacts and College scholarships. These two men are exceedingly amusing to watch. They eternally derive their opinions from others. Sheafe is considerably influenced by me and Richardson, sometimes, when his jealousy or envy at least does not prompt him, and then I have an easy way by arguing against my own opinion. Stability never was the prevailing quality of either of them. The only and the important difference between them is that one has a fine temper and the other has a bad one. We were stopped in our discourse by Prayers which we attended.

It afterwards cleared off but the Company did not drill this Evening. I was quite satisfied on the whole at this decree as we saw the good inclination of the company last evening in it’s vote and those who were of an opposite opinion were not compelled to come out. There was a Meeting of the Knights of the Square Table this Evening at which I attended. It was upon important business. Our future course as a club. After much argument, not much resulted, a committee was appointed to revise the laws at the head of which I was placed, and 289to report next Meeting. Lowell was initiated and we adjourned, The first day Meeting I have ever had the honour to be present at. After this, we, (the members of the Lyceum) adjourned over to the Lyceum, where we played cards4 and drank till eleven o’clock. Cunningham was initiated tonight. We adjourned quite fatigued. I came down, read my Bible, and went to bed. XI.


Professor Channing.


“Negro Improvement and Emancipation,” Edinburgh Review, 39:118–140 (Oct. 1823).


Timothy Walker, of Wilmington, Mass. ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


Whist (D/CFA/1).