Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Wednesday. 28th. CFA Wednesday. 28th. CFA
Wednesday. 28th.

The morning was cool but agreeable. I went to the Office and occupied myself as usual, in doing little or nothing, yet I seemed employed. Called upon Mr. Kinsman to know whether any thing further had dropped from Ayer, found nothing. Sat down and got involved in a conversation with Mr. Davis about literature which kept me there sitting until after twelve o’clock. He is one of the few young men here of uncommon mind who has known how uncommonly to apply it. And it is a pleasure to have to do with him.1 It is not a little singular that in a Community abounding so richly in all the means, there should actually exist so little of the end of education, literary excellence. Our system is perhaps slightly superficial in this respect, giving to all some thing and to none a great deal, but if it is so, the general advantage more than counterbalances the particular disadvantage.

I passed the rest of my morning in settling my money operations with my father’s books, and in paying Hilliard and Gray, my Mother’s subscription to the Juvenile Miscellany which I have stopped.2 I took up a number of the Quarterly review which contained an Article upon the Speech of Mr. Brougham upon Law reform,3 but I did not finish it before dinner time. In the afternoon, I wrote with great steadiness upon this Article which I am resolved to complete out of hand and make an experiment. It is well to get a foot hold first and much good may be done afterwards. I have been better satisfied myself than I ever was before, and have found no great occasion to alter or correct. The Evening was passed as usual in reading aloud from Eustace whose enthusiasm in Italy never ceases nor does his hatred of the French, but his style though too pompous is attractive. The glare4 is tedious and description too much the same, but he pays for it in energy and vividness of colouring. Two hours are thus spent every night when we are at home, and two hours more are devoted to my Work.

1.

Thomas Kemper Davis (1808–1853), son of Isaac P. Davis, and CFA had literary interests so similar that CFA repeatedly records his delight in Davis’ company; see, for example, above, entry for 18 Nov. 1829. It was only in later years that Davis applied himself more closely to the law. Early and late his enthusiasm for classical studies was such that upon his death it could be said that “he had read with studious attention every classical author, in the entirety of his works.” Also, though he gave little attention to the modern foreign languages and the literature in them, “his acquaintance with English literature was perfect and exhaustive.” To his learning and a “prodigious memory” was added a fluency that allowed him “to pour forth at will a perfect cataract of talk.” Flavoring all was “a dash of eccentricity of thought and manner, controlled by thorough kindliness of heart and good temper.” (A List of the Classical Books of Thomas Kemper Davis, given to Harvard College Library, 2241855, by his mother Mrs. Susan Jackson Davis, together with a letter of transmittal from Josiah Quincy to Pres. James Walker and an obituary notice by Edmund Quincy, MS, MH-Ar.)

2.

A bi-monthly magazine, it had been founded in 1826 by Lydia Maria Child, who continued as its editor.

3.

Quarterly Review, 38:241–297 (July 1828). Henry Brougham’s speech on the “Present State of the Law” was delivered in the House of Commons on 7 Feb. 1828.

4.

That is, ostentation, showiness.

Thursday 29th. CFA Thursday 29th. CFA
Thursday 29th.

Morning delightful. Went to the Office as usual and passed my time in reading with little interruption. Miss Wells only came to pay a month’s rent for her Mother and to tell me that it was probable she should not leave the House. I am glad of this as she is the most punctual Tenant I have, and it makes all the arrangements of my real Estate fully and clearly settled. I now have a clear control and hope to go on swimmingly. My difficulties have been considerable owing to the loose mode of carrying on business heretofore pursued, and though I still fear there are black spots yet I hope to be able to prevent the preceding losses from happening at least so heavily again. The road once got smooth it is my fault if it becomes rough again. One of the Conants came from Weston with one of the Horses sick. I immediately had him carried to Mr. Forbes’ Stable to be taken care of, but he did not seem to me to be in a very bad condition.

I went to dine according to appointment at Mr. Frothingham’s and spent the afternoon in the Athenaeum verifying my authorities. I found them all correct, and had some time at my disposal beside, which was passed in rather desultory reading. At the Post office where I obtained a letter from my father inclosing Deacon Spear’s Notes which should be paid on Saturday.1 I did not read it directly, but went for my Wife, and passed an hour eating Oysters. After returning home, occupied some time in reading and writing over my Essay. I begin to think it very superficial.

1.

JQA to CFA, 23 April (Adams Papers).

Friday 30th. CFA Friday 30th. CFA
Friday 30th.

Morning lovely. One of those warm days in which the body feels languid but not unpleasant. They are rare in this Climate, but we have had several of them this Season. I went to the Office as usual and passed the larger part of the time in bringing up my Account Current with my Father for the month. Called upon Mr. J. H. Foster and paid him his bill for six months past which was no trifle,1 exceeding one third my estimate of it. These repairs have been enormously 225expensive. But what was to be done. The Houses could not stand empty. And I do not feel as if I had done more than was absolutely necessary. My father’s Agency Affairs require much time and attention, and the responsibility they impose is no trifle.

Called in to see Mr. Brooks for a moment and received a visit from Richardson at my Office. He was dull and I was dull. The fact is that I am getting sobered down. The serious part of life has already set it’s hand upon me, for I do not find that elasticity of mind which formerly supported me. Perhaps my present happiness is of a nature more durable and less unequal. But it is a melancholy reflection to see the shores pass as I sail by and to think that I am never to see them again. The bright spots in life and the dark ones, happiness and misery all sink soon into one confused and undistinguishable mass in the distance, and every step closes a part of the view.

I read an Article upon Paley in a number of the Quarterly.2 It was not very interesting. Another upon De Roos which I had no time to finish.3 At home. Upon reviewing my Essay, I found a passage that did not please me and so I concluded to write it over again. This consumed one sheet and my Afternoon and Evening. Disgust with me always follows writing, and I liked my words little, but the change momentarily gratified me. Read Eustace to my Wife. Weather very warm.

1.

$115.15 for wallpapers (M/CFA/3).

2.

Quarterly Review, 38:305–355 (Oct. 1828), an essay-review of The Works of William Paley, 7 vols., London, 1825.

3.

Same, 37:260–297 (Jan. 1828), an essay-review of Lt. Fred. Fitzgerald de Roos, R.N., Personal Narrative of Travels in the United States and Canada in 1826, London, 1827.