Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Sunday. 20th. CFA Sunday. 20th. CFA
Sunday. 20th.

Attended Divine Service all day, at Mr. Frothingham’s Church. The day fine for this month but a little windy. Mr. F. preached in the morning a Sermon which I did not see the end of. It was refined and drawling. My ideas of Eloquence are running away with me. They carry me into an enthusiasm which makes me feel unreasonably disgusted with the attempts of others. Mr. Motte preached in the afternoon.1 I recollect him well, as the Classmate of my brother George and at one time his College Chum. He had a reputation there which like nearly all those formed at that place disappoints when brought to the trial of the World. I think he has some ability but not of a kind to produce the greatest effects. And who among us has, when we consider what the Pulpit is, and the great field for the most magnificent effects of intellectual power. But I will think no more about this. It is foolish to speculate when it is necessary to practise.

I wrote a short and very indifferent Letter to my Father today,2 and read a Discourse of Jeremy Taylor upon the Nursing of Infants.3 Taylor was a sensual man by nature, or his imagination could not have been so lively, upon subjects which cold men cannot make themselves eloquent upon. He is quaint and very obscure, and this discourse on the whole did not please me. I afterwards read the portion of the Furies of Aeschylus not before read, reviewed the whole Play, and then went in with my Wife to see our Neighbour Mrs. Dexter.4 Mr. W. Foster came in during our stay there.5 And in conversation a singular mistake occurred. He made an allusion to the cold and reserved manners of my Father in a manner rather surprising to me. I presume he did not recollect who I was. But it was rather an awkward 111affair to the poor man as he made several attempts to recover it which only plunged him deeper. I pitied him and tried to help him out. But the thing was unpleasant. Returned early.

1.

Mellish Irving Motte (d. 1881), Harvard 1821, was the minister of the South Congregational Society, Washington Street ( Boston Directory, 1829–1830).

2.

Letter in Adams Papers.

3.

That is, Discourse 1: “Of Nursing Children, in imitation of the blessed Virgin-Mother” (1:52–65), a part of the section on the Nativity in Taylor’s Life of Christ.

4.

Mrs. Dexter had lately moved to 28 Beacon Street ( Boston Directory, 1830–1831).

5.

Perhaps the William Foster who had been a neighbor of Mrs. Dexter on Franklin Place and now lived at 55 Beacon Street ( Boston Directory, 1829–1830, 1830–1831).

Monday. 21st. CFA Monday. 21st. CFA
Monday. 21st.

Morning clear and mild as the middle of Spring. I went to the Office and busied myself as much as possible with my few Law affairs and my Accounts. My Journal being transferred to my Office takes off a considerable part of my available time. I wrote and tried to read a little of Williston but Richardson came in and sat for half an hour, and I went down to see Degrand about my Stocks for another half. He does not succeed in making a disposition of them. I regret this for I had hoped to have done well in that business.

My afternoon was taken up in copying my Letter to my Father and again attempting an Article upon Eloquence. The result does not satisfy me. I wish it would. My feelings impel me strongly to write, but nothing that comes from my pen comes near the idea I have formed of excellence. It is all tame, languid and dull. Under these circumstances I begin to doubt whether I shall ever succeed in this line of pursuits. The patience is not in me to study that excellence which is necessary to distinction. I grasp too high at once, my hold is not firm, and I find I have caught at a slender twig which will not support my weight. The evening was spent in continuing Clarissa Harlowe to Abby, and afterwards, continuing my writing.

Tuesday. 22d. CFA Tuesday. 22d. CFA
Tuesday. 22d.

Morning clear but rather colder than it has been. I went to the Office as usual and was occupied in my common avocations. I read a considerable portion of Williston with interest, though the Speeches did not strike me forcibly. They are of too temporary a character to please me. A part of my time was taken up in early preparation for sending in my Account Current, to my Father. I design it to be very thorough and satisfactory. The account was prepared as far as possible 112on one side, but nothing done in respect to the Letter to accompany it. My time was a little interrupted by the visit from Mr. Jones of Weston to bring me a little more of the proceeds of the sale of Wood at that place. This money comes in tolerably well. I do not know that now I shall want to receive any more, as the sum in my hands of my father’s is now quite large enough, and nearly all demands are satisfied. He gave me some unpleasant News about the Horses, saying that one of them was unwell. I am glad I did not take him and have the trouble of him. But I feel sorry that they should be getting sick. This is the worst of Horses.

I returned home at dinner time and in the afternoon studied Aeschines again after a lapse of some time. It grieves me exceedingly that I am unable to go on as I wish, but obstacles seem to be throwing themselves in the way constantly which only fret me to death. Patience is an essential requisite to a man, and although I had supposed that my experience in life had given me no trifling share of it, I do yet find myself frequently mortified by my want of it. I could not quite accomplish my regular purposes, as I went down to see the family, the regular meeting of whom happens once a week, and for this week with my Wife. These meetings are not pleasant from the circumstance that there is no community of feeling in the family. Edward and his Wife are entirely different from Chardon and his, and they all have no points of resemblance with mine. This consideration is deeply painful to me, for I see little in future so far as they are concerned to encourage my natural and good feelings which burn to disclose themselves.1 My own family are now removed from me and they have in some measure lost that interest in me the want of which I feel though my age deprives me of it. But enough of this. It answers only for a Journal, perhaps not for that. The time was passed tolerably.

1.

His dissatisfaction with his aloof posture at these gatherings of the Brooks family in Boston and Medford led CFA to believe that he was considered by them “a great nothingarian who has no better amusement than to sit silent, communing with the stars” (CFA to LCA, 13 Dec., Adams Papers).