Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Thursday. August 26th. VIII. CFA Thursday. August 26th. VIII. CFA
Thursday. August 26th. VIII.

Arose a Senior Sophister at Harvard University. Although the day was not fair, company began to flock in from all quarters. And the society began to show their medals. I got a place to hear some of the prize speakers but there were none worth hearing, it was the most inferior exhibition of declamation which I had ever heard at this institution. I could not hear the whole. I went out, visited Silsbee and returned again, but where Mr. Everett was delivering his Oration before the Φ B K1 the press was so very great that it was impossible for me in any way to endure it. I heard him for about twenty minutes and then came off. I think it is a shameful thing that the students at a literary institution should not have peculiar seats provided for them at literary exercises. It appears to me that Collegians themselves are much the most to be attended as their taste is to be formed, and they ought to have full power of forming it. They have not it now as it is impossible for them to obtain any situation of any sort. I could hear no more of Professor Everett and therefore gave up all idea of it. This I regretted as the passages I had heard were really fine and I had understood, since, his final close was quite affecting. He hailed the general La Fayette who was here again today, with remarkable beauty. His oration lasted two hours. A small poem of Mr. Ware’s which came previously lasted about twenty minutes. It was also spoken well of. I was invited to dine at Whitney’s, so immediately afterwards I went up to his room, but I had been paying my devoirs so faithfully to Silsbee’s table that I could eat nothing. I saw my Uncle, and Aunt and George there, sat with them a little while and then came off. I then went and heard some of the toasts at the dinner of the Society2 which is so remarkable for men of talents. There was a remarkable flash of wit kept running on, and for once I wished myself a member of the society. It was but a passing wish and it is only when you see the gold shining 302among the dross that you value it, the dross at Cambridge, at other times is rather supereminent. I then went home and found Tudor with whom I strolled about the tents, saw gambling, cheating, swearing and drunkenness exhibited in their most attractive veins, visited Silsbee’s again for a few moments and returned home to bed. XI.


Edward Everett’s address, “The Circumstances Favorable to the Progress of Literature in America,” was published in his Orations and Speeches on Various Occasions, Boston, 1850, 1:9–44.


Phi Beta Kappa.

Friday. August 27th. VIII:15. CFA Friday. August 27th. VIII:15. CFA
Friday. August 27th. VIII:15.

Arose but much too late for the Stage in which I intended to have gone. I just gave Tudor a farewell. He is going now and will perhaps not meet any of his friends for many years, if ever. He appears to me, from some reason or other, not to be in his usual tone of spirits but I shall recollect him with pleasure, as one of these high souled generous spirits whom one seldom meets in this world. I went to the Athenaeum and, having spent a few minutes there, I went to see the Freshmen who are examined today for admission. I could only think of the time when I was trembling before the Cambridge Government as a suppliant for their favour. I am now under unpleasant shackles but, thank God, I see my way. The class is a small one and not very interesting.1 College is degenerating, it appears to me. I could not sit here long so I went to Brenan’s and spent half an hour with him conversing much in the usual strain. He feels more bitterly on the subject of party differences than he used to, owing to the ridiculous speeches of Cunningham. He told me some things which really showed this man’s folly extremely. I am satisfied with my estimate of the man’s character and am sorry to say my opinion is a poor one.

From here I went home and arranged my room as well as I could. I have managed in the course of the past week to get through a long life of Burns written I believe by Dr. Curry.2 The account given of this man is astonishing. His remarkable powers of mind, his prejudices, and his failings afford one of the most striking pictures for study and observation that I have ever seen. Melancholy as the account is, it affects me more, as with less talents I have seen another example of the same misfortune. It is a subject which has made me think often but it is scarce one to be talked of or written of.

After a Whitney dinner, I got into the stage where I found fifteen and went to Boston, stopped at George’s room scarcely a minute before the Quincy stage arrived, in which I went off. After an unusually 303tedious time of it, we arrived and I found the family much as usual. My Grandfather exceedingly weak, he is evidently departing, I think. I spent rather a dull evening and went to bed early. X.


Numbering only 46 members, the incoming freshman class was smaller than usual. The five previous entering classes had ranged from 81 in 1819 to 63 in 1821. See Harvard Annual Cat., 1819–1824. Incoming freshmen were examined on the Friday after commencement ( Mass. Register, 1825, p. 129).


CFA’s copy of Burns’ Works, with a “Life” by Dr. James Currie, London, 1824, is in the Stone Library.