Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

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.

1.

Professor Channing.

2.

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

3.

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

4.

Whist (D/CFA/1).

Saturday. August 14th. VI. CFA Saturday. August 14th. VI. CFA
Saturday. August 14th. VI.

Attended Prayers, but we were rejoiced this morning at finding that Mr. Hayward was absent and consequently we should have a miss. This is a thing which has not happened before for a very long while and was hailed with pleasure by all the class. I returned home and read my Bible. After breakfast I wrote my Journal which took me almost all the morning, the rest, I spent in finishing the article on the West Indies in the Edinburgh Review. It exhibits as dreadful a picture of slavery there as I have ever seen, the Government also is horribly corrupt. As to the plan of converting and civilizing the slaves I do not see how it can be done and they kept in the same way, but he gives some strong instances in favour of the supposition. It does appear to me, a free citizen of a free country, perfectly unnatural that any body else should be suffering the most extreme of torture without power to move in resistance. It is a shocking view of human nature when we look over the larger part, cannot I say all the world. And these men who are eternally crying up liberty and equality of rights are furious in putting them down. Nature is a paradox and daily exhibits examples of the truth of the assertion.

After dinner which was eaten with Sheafe only, I went to the reading room and took up the New Monthly Magazine, the greater part of two numbers of which I read. Not much interesting in it, for I fell asleep in the middle of an article upon the expedition to find a passage North of America.1 I returned home after taking a warm bath on this very cold day. I read a number of Pope’s letters.2 They appear to me by far too studied and cold, indeed they also sent me to sleep, which I did not get over until the bell rang for Prayers which I attended.

Dwight came to tea, he has been away for three days and I went up to his room where I had two hours conversation with him upon different subjects. I talked to him concerning the Knights, and wanted 290to say more but he on the whole turned the conversation. We had some laugh at his account of his adventures at Cohasset and some serious conversation on other topics. He is unquestionably the pleasantest man and the most sensible I find here. I returned home, spent a little while at Sheafe’s and then went to bed. X.

1.

John Dundas Cochrane, “Advantages of Attempting the North-East Passage Round the American Continent,” New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 7:393–403 (Jan.–June 1824). CFA probably read the Boston edition of this periodical, originally published in London.

2.

CFA’s set of Alexander Pope’s Works, 8 vols., London, 1812, is in the Stone Library, along with another edition of the poet’s writings, 6 vols., Edinburgh, 1764, and JQA’s copy of Additions to the Works of Alexander Pope . . . with Many Poems and Letters of Cotemporary Writer Never Before Published, ed. W. Warburton, 2 vols., London, 1776. Among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library are three sets of the Works of Pope. See Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 199.