Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Saturday. 25th. CFA Saturday. 25th. CFA
Saturday. 25th.

Christmas day and a very stormy one. It did not prevent me from going to the Office as I considered that staying at home was impossible from the danger of smoke in my study in such a day. I was entirely uninterrupted and passed my time in examining the sayings of the seven wise Men found in Enfield’s History of Philosophy and copying them with my own reflections attached to each.1 They appear to me to embody much real wisdom. I also wrote to my Father a letter which engrossed all the rest of the time left to me.2 The afternoon was also spent in copying the same, and in reading some few Pamphlets connected with the History of the Revolutionary Struggle. This took up all the Afternoon.

Evening passed partly in reading one of Jouy’s publications3 with my Wife in which however she did not take so much interest as I hoped. We were interrupted by Edward Brooks who again came in and talked very pleasantly during a part of the evening. He has latterly come here a great deal, and I am very glad to have him. For he talks pleasantly enough. I finished a volume of my Catalogue this evening, and read two Numbers of the Tatler.

1.

Certain of the apothegms of the so-called seven wise men of Greece were entered by CFA in a commonplace book originally used by GWA (now MGWA/9 in Adams Papers). To each he added a paragraph of commentary or reflection; to the whole he gave the title “Elements of Knowledge.” This was the same title which GWA had given to the entries he had made in the commonplace book, and it is clear from CFA’s note between GWA’s entries and his own that he intended his to be a continuation of his brother’s and something of a tribute to him:

“This volume is one of the remain-389ing memorials of an unfortunate brother, and presents at its commencement one of the best specimens of his mind within my knowledge. O! si sic omnia. Had perseverance only been his to fill the sketch he was so fully able to lay out, perhaps he would still have been among us, our pride and support. But since it was not the will of Providence that it should be thus, all that remains to me is to benefit as much by his good purposes as I can, and supply the deficiencies which in him prevented their execution. I therefore adopt here all that has been inserted and shall continue the extracts, varying only my method of making them as I think may be most advisable. Boston, Decr. 25th 1830”

(Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 295).
2.

CFA to JQA, 25 Dec., Adams Papers. For this letter, see below, entry for 29 Dec., note.

3.

Copies of a number of works by Victor Joseph Etienne deJouy are in MQA, particularly those which are descriptive of countries or cities and in which the central figure is a solitary or wanderer.

Sunday. 26th. CFA Sunday. 26th. CFA
Sunday. 26th.

This was a lovely day more like the softer air of the Spring Season than the weather common at this time of the year. My Wife went with me to Meeting in the morning, and I went alone in the Afternoon. The Sermons by Mr. Frothingham were in the morning upon the nativity of Christ as a moral lesson in it’s Anniversary, in the afternoon, the close of the year. I thought neither of them in his best style. He labours too much. The finish of every sentence is the close of an idea, so that the next comes after it, without any absolute dependence upon that which has preceded it. My own notions of beauty are so different, they depend so much upon what I call flow in which the ideas seem almost to suggest themselves in a train of harmony, that I cannot listen long to Mr. F. without feeling fatigued.

At home I was occupied the remainder of the day and evening in reading Middleton’s Life of Cicero over,1 and I was surprised to find how little impression it had made upon me before. If this is to be always the result, I can think of no other fate but that of the daughters of Ixion. Am I right? for it is so long since I am forgetting mythology and have no means here of ascertaining.2 My Wife read her usual portion of French this evening. I could not continue my Catalogue having no blank book but I read the Tatler.

1.

CFA had read Conyers Middleton’s Cicero in Jan. 1828; see vol. 2:200–210 passim.

2.

Perhaps CFA is thinking rather of the story of Ixion himself who, despite divine favor and forgiveness, repeated and magnified his earlier transgressions, profiting less from experience than any other figure in mythology.

Monday. 27th. CFA Monday. 27th. CFA
Monday. 27th.

The day was one of heavy and constant rain and very dark. I went to the Office as usual and enjoyed a very quiet uninterrupted morning. 390I passed my time in finishing my Accounts and settling their several balances for this Quarter, and in writing some more Notes upon the sayings of the Ancient Wise men. My plan was at first merely to transcribe them but afterwards extended itself to commenting upon each. Perhaps it is of no value, but it gives me room for reflection upon what I read. And this is the thing I want. I then sat down and read in the same style two or three of the Essays of Lord Bacon, one on Despatch, another upon Studies, which are wonderful concentrations of wisdom. This power of embodying thought, is the only thing truly valuable. The rest is secondary.

After dinner, I continued my review of Brutus which I had commenced two or three days since and progressed very considerably in it. Most of the early part however is hardly worth a review. Evening, with my Wife reading L’Hermite en Londres.1 John Gorham, Miss Julia’s brother came in soon after and spent the evening. I began the second part of my Catalogue and read the two Numbers of the Tatler.

1.

L’hermite de Londres ... is one of the works by deJouy in MQA; 3 vols., Paris, 1821–1822.