Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Saturday. 6th. CFA Saturday. 6th. CFA
Saturday. 6th.

Morning at the Office. Occupied myself in writing, making up Accounts, and reading Mons. Meisel. Took a short walk and by accident met Mr. Degrand with whom I had some conversation. He recommended to me some shares in the Suffolk Insurance Company, and I from a feeling of impatience at the difficulty of investment took them at the great advance of fifteen percent.1 I felt the imprudence of the Step but not until it was too late to retract. It is imprudent not only as to the price paid, but as to my means to pay it, for it anticipates all my means for six months. But the advantage of this course on the other hand is that it prevents waste, it saves me from wild speculation, and it is a chance of Investment in the older Companies which will occur more rarely hereafter as the probability increases either of the payment of any of our claims on Europe, or of the prospect of a general war.2 So that even the excess I may pay over the real value of the Shares, is not equal to the advantage I derive from investing well in small sums—Always a difficult operation. The management of money is a difficult and yet a fascinating business. It requires a coolness of head which belongs to few, and a closeness of calculation that sees beforehand as well as behind. This is not my strong forte, for I am frequently sensible of the danger in which I should be placed if I 357was tried, and by such a hazardous step as this, I am made sensible that sometimes one may be too hasty.

After dinner I went to the Athenaeum to consult Winthrop’s Journal upon a particular point in relation to my review. And afterwards spent the evening until seven o’clock reading the English Newspapers, after which I attended the Meeting of the Debating Society. It was the largest assemblage I have ever seen and was upon the question of expediency of the Dissolution of the Society. The question was well discussed and decided in the negative. I returned home and read two numbers of the Tatler.

1.

CFA purchased ten shares in Suffolk Insurance Co. for $38.33 a share (M/CFA/9).

2.

The July revolution in France was followed by unrest and demonstrations in Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Low Countries, &c., which seemed to augur the overthrow of regimes which in turn could well lead to intervention by the great powers. In this situation the threat of a general war was much discussed; see, for example, Boston Daily Advertiser, 9 Oct., p. 2, cols. 2–4.

Sunday. 7th. CFA Sunday. 7th. CFA
Sunday. 7th.

Morning dark and cloudy, so much so that I doubted the expediency of starting for Quincy, but considering on the whole that it was of some consequence I concluded to go, while my Wife went with her brother, P. C. Brooks Jr. to see Horatio at Fresh Pond.

I arrived at the House just as the bell was ringing for morning service, and I found my Mother rather better than I anticipated in health though evidently a little touched. I tried to discuss the matter of her determination with as much management as I could, and I went over all the ground that I could think of to do it, but my discourse did not produce a decided effect. Perhaps it may hereafter. I also talked with my father about his determination to go to Congress, and generally upon matters of a political character. This state of things is curious, but I sincerely hope that it will not last. I discussed matters as long as I was able and left them at five to return home.

Found my Wife had reached home before me, we spent the evening quietly, having a visit from Mr. Edmund Quincy to enliven the evening.

Monday. 8th. CFA Monday. 8th. CFA
Monday. 8th.

Weather dark and gloomy. I went to the Office as usual and occupied myself first in writing and making up my Accounts, afterwards in beginning upon the German Grammar, which I had brought from 358Quincy yesterday, for the purpose of executing the scheme already alluded to here. I read that part of Mr. Meidinger relating to the substantives and on the whole derived a degree of benefit from the hours.1 This ought not to be a language entirely new as once it was very well understood by me.2 Indeed occasionally an idea seems to come back upon me like an old acquaintance.

But the state of my health is now becoming a matter of considerable alarm to me. My difficulty seems to be some obstruction about the heart, and makes itself felt by some kind of palpitation. The proper remedy for it, is air and exercise, which I propose in future to adopt. I began today by walking an hour, from one to two o’clock.

Miss Julia Gorham dined with us. I returned to Cicero de Oratore, and began a review of the first book, having been so long away as to lose the chain. Accomplished twenty sections. Evening, Corinne with my Wife, and some portions of Hazlitts Extracts from the English Poets.3 After which I accomplished part of the second book of Paradise Lost. My purpose in reading this Poem over slowly at this time is to make myself master of the feeling which predominates in it, to understand perfectly the tone by which such a conception could have been sustained. Yet I find the Commentaries rather bald reading. Parallel passages from preceding Poets may be curious as exemplifying the manner in which different minds turn the same subjects, but to suppose that Milton had in his mind all these distinct passages strikes me as absurd. Two numbers of the Tatler.

1.

JQA’s copy of J. V. Meidinger, Nouvelle grammaire allemande-pratique, ou méthode facile et amusante pour apprendre l’allemand, Liege, 1797, is in MQA.

2.

After the arrival of the Adams family in St. Petersburg, CFA, then two years old, was put in the care of a German nurse or governess and, as a result, soon acquired some skill in the German language. See Duberman, CFA , p. 8.

3.

William Hazlitt, comp., Select British Poets, London, 1824.