Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Friday. 15th. CFA Friday. 15th. CFA
Friday. 15th.

Weather misty, and in going to the Office, I found the sidewalks so slippery as to be in a degree dangerous. I stopped at Mr. J. H. Foster’s to decide about a paper for the Entry and rooms in Court Street, talked with him a little and made a selection which might by some be thought tolerably pretty. Overlooked the workmen as they were going on, and felt satisfied on the whole with the Work. I have hurried them pretty rapidly and feel tolerably content so far. I then finished the draught of the Lease and delivered it to the proposed Tenant for reflection and consideration. He seemed so willing to take them that I could hardly entertain a suspicion. But in this world caution is an essential thing. I recommenced my Letter to my Father, but had only time to write one half of it before dinner—The time having passed thus rapidly without my being able entirely to account for it’s passage.

I was reminded that I had engaged to dine at Mrs. Frothingham’s. So I went at the appointed hour, and found assembled Mr. and Mrs. P. C. Brooks, Abby, a certain Miss Emily Lee and myself as the company. Being between the two latter I felt a little awkward and so did not enjoy myself over much. I felt much anxiety also weighing upon my mind in regard to this Agency business. After dinner I went down to the Athenaeum without much purpose and so I did very little. I looked over books and wondered how little I had read. My principal end however was to obtain a Catalogue1 which I did. I then read a large part of the third Volume of Captain Hall’s Travels and consumed my time until seven when I went in to hear Mr. Alexander H. Everett deliver his second Lecture. My opinion is very well settled that this is not his line. As a Writer he has few equals but his defect is that which is universal, in manner. I returned to Mr. Frothingham’s and after a little Supper we went home.

134
1.

See entry of 30 Dec. 1829, above. An earlier catalogue of the Athenaeum’s books added before 1827 had been published in that year.

Saturday 16th. CFA Saturday 16th. CFA
Saturday 16th.

I find I have omitted a day. These two records must therefore be transposed in future readings.1 The weather was misty but no rain. I went to the Office, when it soon after began, and continued all day. My time was much taken up in paying off Accounts and settling my Affairs which I did pretty satisfactorily. I was also overlooking the Workmen in the House in the rear, this together with the finishing my Letter to my Father and copying it2 engrossed every part of my disposable time before dinner, so rapidly does it go. I do not know that I ought to blame myself but it does seem to me as if I could not employ all the time I ought to and yet bring about so little. I felt pretty well satisfied too, with this day, for little of the time had dropped through my hands.

Returned home and in the afternoon occupied myself in copying out my Essay with great alterations, though I feel now as if I should not print it but merely write for my own satisfaction, as an attempt to handle a subject in a continued manner. I had the afternoon and evening all to myself and continued busy in my Study, Abby having gone out, to pass the evening with Julia Gorham. I finished the Oedipe of Corneille and began reading Lord Kaimes.3 The Oedipe of Corneille is remarkable as displaying the contrast of the French character with that of the Greeks. The subject is handled by the latter in the stern spirit of ancient liberty, the former on the contrary, introduce the gallantries of love, and the courtly maxims which are the results of a spirit of haughty despotism. Voltaire did much to set this matter in it’s proper light subsequently, and by doing so damned this play, but after all the French are not proper subjects to understand the spirit with which the ancient Greeks wrote. Few of them are not something tainted with the radical foibles of the Nation. In commencing Lord Kaimes I am adding to my burdens, but I feel convinced that it is essential to me to read him.

1.

The editors have placed this entry in its proper chronological sequence.

2.

15 Jan. (LbC, Adams Papers).

3.

Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1762.

Sunday. 17th. CFA Sunday. 17th. CFA
Sunday. 17th.

Morning cloudy with rain in the afternoon and evening. It was warm and not exactly seasonable weather. I attended Meeting and heard Dr. Lowell preach a Sermon.1 It was not very interesting. My 135own thoughts were much occupied with the letter which my father wrote me received yesterday; and the advice which it contains.2 I have set about reading Lord Kaimes Elements of Criticism though with so many other things begun upon, I feel a little puzzled by this great diversity of things but hope in time to be able to accomplish all that I propose.

Much of my time was taken up in writing a Letter to my Mother.3 She was so low spirited in what she wrote that I think it only a duty to do what I can to assist her. I begin to suspect that all is not precisely agreeable at Washington to her, that the scene presents much she cannot admire and much she is not fond of thinking about. I aimed therefore at being light and airy in my style and at expelling blue devils from her mind. Perhaps I shall succeed as badly as heretofore for every letter I have yet written has brought me a very maussade answer.4 If so I must give up writing.

I heard Mr. Frothingham in the afternoon but was overpowered by drowsiness. The remainder of the evening was passed in reading the Continuation of the Life of Christ in Jeremy Taylor, Clarissa Harlowe to my Wife, and Lord Kaimes after she had retired.

1.

Charles Lowell was the minister of the West Church, corner of Cambridge and Lynde streets (vol. 2:395).

2.

11 Jan. (Adams Papers). Pursuing his suggestion that CFA read more of the theoretical writers on rhetoric, JQA had recommended Lord Kames along with The Philosophy of Rhetoric by George Campbell (2 vols., London, 1776), and the works of the Abbé le Batteux.

3.

A reply to her letter of 27 Dec. 1829 (both in Adams Papers).

4.

That is, sulky or cross. CFA is referring to the correspondence between them since his marriage. His efforts on this occasion seem to have been more successful; see entry for 29 Jan., below.