Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Friday. 28th. CFA Friday. 28th. CFA
Friday. 28th.

Morning at the Office. The weather having very much moderated, is no trifling source of satisfaction to me who am not fond of the excessive cold. I was busy this morning in my usual pursuits and read a portion of Enfield. Two or three visitors interrupted me for very short periods—Mr. Curtis about the application to the College, Mr. Quincy with his Seal requested by me for my father1—and I went out to see Mr. Harding’s Picture of Mr. Webster, in company with Mr. Peabody. 411It is a great likeness and will I think do Mr. Harding much more credit than his picture of Judge Marshall. I saw also several other pictures at the same place of men whom I had formerly seen often enough. They were generally good likenesses but a little flattered I think. That is to say, the wrinkles are a little smoothed from the faces of Mr. Monroe and John Randolph. I was on the whole well pleased with the specimens I there saw of his painting excepting in the resemblance of my father which I abominate.2

Took a walk and returned home to dine, after which I finished the review of the Oration for Roscius, quite an able effort. The reading of these instead of giving me courage plunges me into despair. What can I do, that is not mawkish when I think of this. Evening a visit from Edmund Quincy. Finished Vossius and read the Tatler.

1.

Toward the end of 1830 JQA conceived the idea of having an heraldic design made for a copper plate that would contain, within its shield, elements from the seals of the Adams, Smith, Quincy, and Boylston families. It was his intent that the engraving should be “a memorial to my children of my father and mother” and that he would use impressions from it as his bookplate. He thereupon employed William J. Stone, Washington engraver, who had executed the 1823 facsimile of the Declaration of Independence, to design and execute the plate (JQA, Diary, 30 Dec. 1830; 14, 27 Jan., 1, 4 Feb. 1831). For Stone’s use, JQA wrote to CFA for wax impressions of the Smith and Quincy seals, most recently in his letter of 15–16 Jan. (Adams Papers), in which he wrote, “I wait for the Quincy blazonry of Magna Charta.” The plate was completed on 17 Feb. (JQA, Diary), and on 28 Feb. JQA sent to CFA an impression of it stamped on the upper portion of the first sheet of his letter paper. To this he subjoined an explication of each of the elements of the seal (JQA to CFA, 28 Feb., Adams Papers; printed along with a reproduction of the bookplate in Catalogue of JQA’s Books , p. 142–144).

2.

The portraits by Chester Harding (1792–1866) were currently held in high esteem. Harding had made his residence in Boston since 1826 and at this time had his studio at 22 Beacon Street ( Boston Directory, 1830–1831). During 1828 he had spent several months in Washington, where a large number of persons prominent in public life sat for him. At that time he did portraits of JQA, of Chief Justice John Marshall, and of Daniel Webster, among others (Margaret E. White, A Sketch of Chester Harding, Artist, Boston, 1890, p. 182–183, 194). However, it is probable that the portraits of Marshall and Webster to which CFA here refers were not those done in 1828. The Boston Athenaeum in Jan. 1830 commissioned Harding to do a full-length portrait of Marshall standing, paid him $350 upon its completion, and exhibited it at its Gallery later in the year (Mabel M. Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery 1827–1873, Boston, 1940, p. 118–120). The Webster portrait which CFA here reports seeing for the first time is probably the full-length one of Webster standing which Harding exhibited later in 1831 at the Athenaeum Gallery, which was then purchased by several subscribers for $500 and presented to the Athenaeum, and which was badly damaged in 1848 and repainted by Harding in 1851 (Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery, p. 120). A smaller version of this portrait is now at the Massachusetts Historical Society and may be closer to the larger painting in its original state than the repainted one at the Athenaeum. It is possible that CFA is referring to an altogether different portrait of Webster by Harding, for Webster was a favorite subject of his; nine portraits of Webster by 412him were listed in 1883 (MHS Procs., 2d ser., 2 [1885–1886]:261–262), and others have since come to light. The Marshall portrait, still hanging at the Athenaeum, is reproduced in Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery, facing p. 118; the MHS’s Webster is reproduced in Guy C. Lee, History of North America, Phila., 1903–1905, 13:259.

Harding painted at least two portraits of JQA, one in 1827, and another, partly from life and partly a copy of the first, in 1828. CFA’s earlier verdict was that though a likeness it was “not an agreeable one.” See vol. 2:160, 177; also JQA, Diary, entry for 20 Feb. 1828. One of the two is probably the portrait now at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, Rhode Island. It has been reproduced in Frederic A. Ogg, Builders of the Republic (The Pageant of America, vol. 8), New Haven, 1927, p. 240.

Saturday. 29th. CFA Saturday. 29th. CFA
Saturday. 29th.

Morning at the Office. My time as usual frittered away, for what with one thing and another, I did not sit down to write to my father which was designed to be the business of the morning until too late to finish the letter. Yet the only solid part of the morning to me was the portion occupied in that way.

I then went to the Athenaeum to get a book or two which makes the usual alternation from my morning walks. Thence home where I passed my afternoon in reading over Guthrie’s translations of the two Orations I have read. They are tolerable but not first rate. They show the laborious student but not the powerful genius—The reader of Cicero but not the spirit to grasp him. I was surprised to find how long it took me to read them in English, and could only account for it from the diffuse nature of the English Language when compared to the Latin. I believe now that I am very fully master of those two Orations and shall proceed to the rest with more confidence.

Evening attended for the first time for some weeks the Meeting of the Debating Society. The question the permanency of the Union. I did not intend to take part in it, but I did, and spoke without premeditation, with uncommon fluency. Home late. Read the Tatler.

Sunday. 30th. CFA Sunday. 30th. CFA
Sunday. 30th.

Morning chilly but fair weather. I went to Meeting all day, accompanied by my Wife in the morning. A certain Mr. Putnam preached,1 in the morning a Sermon full of Common Places upon the mutability of human affairs. Quite a Common place, and totally useless Sermon. He is a young Man, my Junior in College, without much ballast. His discourse in the afternoon was upon the use of the world, and encouraged decidedly the disposition of men to attend to temporal matters. This I thought also indiscreet, the human mind is always prone enough to be engrossed with the love of the things of this world, and needs no 413authorized stimulus from the sacred desk. Let the fact be as it may, the actual operation of such language from a Preacher as this young man used, is to make all who are avid of gain still more so, with the further encouragement which their conscience quieted gives them. The love of Money is not perfectly in unison, with Charity or any of the expensive Virtues. A young Man may do Mischief when he treads upon doubtful ground.

I finished and copied a long letter to my Father, which engrossed the whole day, being the longest I ever wrote.2 Evening finished the book upon Spain, and after my Wife retired, made progress in Middleton’s Life of Cicero, also read the Tatler.

1.

George Putnam, Harvard 1826, was Congregational minister in Roxbury ( Mass. Register, 1831).

2.

CFA to JQA, 29 Jan., Adams Papers. The letter is largely a part of the continuing dialogue of father and son on Cicero and rhetoric.