Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Saturday. October 23d. VIII. CFA Saturday. October 23d. VIII. CFA
Saturday. October 23d. VIII.

Missed Prayers again this morning. After Breakfast attended Mr. Everett’s Lecture. He began this morning with Solon—whose name constitutes an era in the literary as well as in the civil history of Greece. In his own country he was for a great length of time looked up to with esteem and affection, for his disinterestedness in refusing the sovereignty when it was in his power. His fame as a statesman has excelled that as a poet although it is only in this latter capacity that we consider him here. Solon flourished in the beginning of the sixth century. A short account is given of him in the synopsis which it will not be worthwhile to extract. At this period, when man was just rising from a barbarous state, the division into different nations took place, and although the word philosophy was not known yet, men were employed in forming laws and different systems of government. Those who excelled were called wise men as may be proved in the history of the famous seven wise men of Greece. They were all rulers or counsellors. The first incident in Solon’s life was one which obtained great popularity. A law had made it death to any individual to advise a war against Salamis in consequence of their numerous losses in former wars. He however, feigning himself mad, 417rushed into the market and advised the measure. The war was undertaken and the result was successful. He afterwards travelled and upon his return he found Pisistratus endeavouring to overturn his government. He remonstrated but without effect. He may be considered however as having been some check for he retained the essential parts of Solon’s laws and resorted to his counsel. Solon had learned early a tradition concerning the Atlantic Islands and devoted his old age to the composition of a poem on that subject. Plato began a dialogue on the same subject, but both works were left incomplete. This last work embraced such a variety of incidents as no fiction ever contained before. This subject is interesting to us, as it is the only ground which we have for a supposition that the ancients had any knowledge of our country. Solon’s passion for learning remained to the last. It is pleasant to see him in his old age resigning all the vices of the world and devoting himself entirely to literary pursuits. It is probable that he lived to the age of eighty at Athens and died in tranquility. Mimnermus was contemporary with Solon: a native of Colophon in Ionia. There is exceedingly little to be said upon him more than is contained in the account of him on the ninety first and second pages of the pamphlet. Anacharsis was a contemporary of Solon and native of Scythia, he travelled into Greece and became intimate with Solon. He is occasionally numbered among the wise men. He is said to have invented many mechanical instruments but it is probable that he only introduced the use of them among his countrymen. They, being jealous of him it is said, destroyed him. He is said to have written works but none of them remain. Nine epistles are extant attributed to him but there is no proof of their authenticity. He has been brought more into notice since the publication of the Younger Anacharsis’ adventures by Barthelemy. This is a fictitious character, made the base of a sort of plot. It contains much careful and interesting information. The part of it which was intended to enliven the work is very burdensome and insipid to the scholar, and the plan is faulty as he could only relate the history of events down to the time of his characters and he can give no account of what has happened since. The Athenian Letters, a work published in England, written by Sir Philip York, is much it’s superior in interest and vivacity though less valuable as a work of learning on Greece.1

After Lecture I went to the reading room where I found nothing but politics and made a resolution not to read another paper there until the election is over. On my return home I was delighted with the receipt of two letters from home, one from my Mother and the 418other from John.2 The former writes in moderately good spirits, and speaks with much heartfelt feeling upon the subject of the approaching contest. There is a sublime religious tone in part of her letter which has affected me much. John is lively and more affectionate than usual, he speaks much from the heart and as I wish him to. On the whole, I was relieved much from my dull feelings during the day. I occupied myself upon my Journal and read the remaining book of Akenside’s pleasures of the Imagination which contains more poetry I think than either of the others. In the Evening I wrote an answer to John3 and reviewed my day as well spent. I then went with Richardson and Sheafe to Mr. Willard’s to take some supper. We made out to satisfy ourselves upon some small chickens and some porter. I miscalculated the time by two hours and therefore we sat here until late. I was obliged to go to Richardson’s room as my fire was gone and I remained here for a little while in conversation with him. I then came down and retired immediately. XII:30.

1.

The work alluded to is Athenian Letters; or, the Epistolary Correspondence of an Agent of the King of Persia, Residing at Athens during the Peloponnesian War, first printed for private circulation, 4 vols., London, 1741, but afterwards published in numerous editions and translations. The work was actually the product of a number of hands, Sir Philip Yorke (1720–1790), afterwards 2d Earl of Hardwick, and his brother Charles being simply the most prominent contributors. See DNB under Sir Philip Yorke.

2.

The letter from JA2 is missing.

3.

Missing.

Sunday. October 24th. VIII. CFA Sunday. October 24th. VIII. CFA
Sunday. October 24th. VIII.

Missed Prayers as usual and went to breakfast after having enjoyed a delightful night’s rest. I employed my morning in reading Don Juan, a copy of which entire, I bought yesterday. It is a work which contains an amazing deal of poetry and still it is vicious in the extreme. I cannot help admiring some of its magnificent descriptions although I should be condemned by the moral world. I attended Chapel and heard Mr. Walker1 preach a short sermon. I was pleased on many accounts. In the first place he was a little variety to our monotonous course, in the second place he was short and lastly he was pretty good. His text was, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” It must have been striking or I should not have recollected it. He abounds in corresponding sentences and striking remarks. He first spoke of what liberty was; he said it could not exist without restriction. He then argued that restriction was not inconsistent with liberty and then applied his ground to the text arguing that when we had become accustomed to the restrictions of religion, we were then free. An argument which was easy to answer. At least I thought so. In the 419afternoon I was employed all the time in writing my Journal. I finished the longest Lecture I have yet taken off and was rejoiced. I attended Chapel again in the afternoon and was as usual very much edified by a Sermon from the good old President Kirkland. He is an intolerable bore.

In the Evening I wrote a letter to my mother2 and my low spirits returned again. I cannot tell what it is which weighs me down so completely. I have not felt such desolation for a long, long time. I will trust in God for he is my only support. The rest is but weakness. I relieved myself however very considerably by writing in this way, as she certainly has a right to know all my feelings. She however is so tender and fragile herself that I feel almost as if I was obliged to support her instead of her relieving me. After this was over, I went to Richardson where I conversed with him for the remainder of the Evening. I have to convict myself of drinking so unphilosophical a liquor as Gin to night, but so it was, I took quite a large dose. We conversed for some time upon different subjects, few of any purpose, but there is something pleasant in him, which makes me feel agreably, particularly in my want of society. Retired early. XI.

1.

Presumably James Walker, a Congregational minister in Charlestown, Mass. ( Mass. Register, 1824, p. 85).

2.

Missing.