Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

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.

Tuesday. 9th. CFA Tuesday. 9th. CFA
Tuesday. 9th.

The day was cloudy with rain. I went to the Office and busied myself all the morning in learning my share of the German Grammar. I found upon a review of the substantives a very considerable difficulty in ascertaining the distinctions drawn between the declensions. This is not over clearly explained in my Grammar. I therefore took up another, that of Gottsched,1 to see if this would answer better. But I could not accomplish enough to judge, as I was forced to attend to advertising Mr. New’s Estate in Cambridge Street which is again to be sold. This accomplished, I started upon my usual walk for health, 359tedious but necessary. “There is no enjoying life without thee” so says Ben Jonson I believe, and whether he does or not, so says the truth.

After dinner occupied with Cicero de Oratore, and reviewed about twenty five sections with much pleasure. Eloquence is a fascinating study, if Lord Bacon’s Maxim be true that Knowledge is Power, the only way to understand it is by the implication of the proper means to convey it. Knowledge lying locked up in a man’s head is as inert and useless a mass as so much gold in its primitive bed. It is circulation that gives both power. They differ in one thing alone, that the first has influence increasing in proportion to the attention bestowed to the shape in which it is circulated, the other seldom rises above a certain fixed value, attached to the native metal in its roughest state. But a truce with speculation. Evening passed in reading Corinne with my Wife, and a visit from Mr. Degrand who has again much against my will, showed his face at my House.2 I finished the second book of Milton’s Paradise Lost, reading with attention the famous Allegory of Sin and Death, and closed with two numbers of the Tatler.

1.

J. C. Gottsched, Le maître allemand ou nouvelle grammaire ..., Paris, 1763.

2.

See above, entry for 29 Nov. 1829.