Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Saturday 10th. CFA Saturday 10th. CFA
Saturday 10th.

The morning was clear but a little cold, and brought with it the close of my stay at Quincy. It has been in some respects agreeable, but in others it has been otherwise. My absence from home and my wife has made me anxious and uneasy, particularly as she left me unwell. I accordingly was glad when the time came for John to take me into town in my father’s Chaise. Abby shortly after my arrival came in and was much pleased to return. I was glad to come home and find myself again fixed comfortably in my usual avocations.

I went to the Office soon after and there attended to my father’s affairs; Drew the Dividend for October upon his Shares in the Neponset and West Boston Bridges.1 This together with the arrangement of my Accounts consumed a considerable portion of the morning and the rest I devoted to Abby at home. As the weather was fine I walked out with her in the afternoon to make one or two purchases for the House after accomplishing which and leaving her at the turning to Mrs. Frothingham’s I walked down again to the Office. It was a lucky walk as I found Mr. D. L. Child there just ready to pay me for the Uniform which he purchased some time since. I confess I was agreeably surprised and received the money with great satisfaction as it enables me to arrange all the smaller accounts of my brother’s Estate directly. He is not famous for punctual payment and this made it the more gratifying that he should relieve me from difficulty so soon. Returned home, and employed myself in writing my Journal which my absence had thrown in the Back ground. The Evening was passed at home and I read aloud to Abby the Life of Richardson taken from Scotts Biography of the Novelists, which seemed to please and interest her considerably.2


The dividends were $54 on six shares of the Neponset Bridge and $25 on five shares of the West Boston Bridge (M/CFA/3).


In choosing to read aloud here and during the succeeding ten days from Sir Walter Scott’s Biographical and Critical Notices of Eminent Novelists, CFA was selecting material he thought likely to interest ABA from his earlier reading (see 42vol. 2:389–391). The lives are in the third volume of the Boston edition of Scott’s Miscellaneous Prose Works, 6 vols., 1829, CFA’s copy of which is in MQA.

Sunday. 11th. CFA Sunday. 11th. CFA
Sunday. 11th.

Morning cloudy and clamp. Arose and passed an hour in my study in writing. After which I went to Meeting at Mr. Frothingham’s and heard him deliver a Sermon not a single word of which remains in my memory. He is not a good Preacher for he has not the quality of taking hold of the Hearer’s attention. This is a tact only possessed by some men and it is the great secret of seizing one’s mind whether voluntarily or not. Some men do it almost instinctively, and without forcing nature, others by artificial means such as startling paradoxes or new doctrines but whether in one or the other, they all need it to keep up reputation. Mr. Frothingham is an exceedingly amiable man and he is also a man of talents but he has misconceived his line. He has not the art of fascinating public attention like some of his Brethren.1

After dinner as Abby still had too much Cold I went alone and heard another Sermon which interested me as little. I am sorry for this as I esteem Mr. F. and feel the exertion he makes to please, but it is impossible to correct the facts. The remainder of the afternoon and evening was passed at home, part of it passed in finishing the Life of Richardson by Scott. It is very light stuff. Scott is rather a pleasing but an exceeding shallow writer. His reflections all lie on the surface and have only their simplicity and their showy qualities to recommend them. After Abby had retired, I read La harpe’s remarks upon the Ancient Comedy in which I thought him much too severe upon Aristophanes, to whom he allows a very small share of merit. I am not a very competent Judge but from what I have read of the translation by Mitchell of his Plays I think they have merit to redeem the unquestionable objection which exists in their coarseness.2


Frothingham’s qualities as a writer of sermons and as a pulpit orator are the subject of CFA’s comments on many later occasions. See also JQA to CFA, 13, 21 Feb. 1830 (Adams Papers).


Thomas Mitchell, translator, The Comedies of Aristophanes. CFA’s copy of the Philadelphia edition in 2 vols., 1822, is in MQA; but see below, entry for 25 Jan. 1830.

Monday. 12th. CFA Monday. 12th. CFA
Monday. 12th.

Miss Oliver, the Tenant of the House in Hancock Street called to pay me her rent for one quarter before I had left the House this morning. This with the various other sums of money I had received on Saturday made a considerable amount which I did not know what to 43do with as I could not deposit it in the Bank—A portion of it being money which the Bank will not take.1 I was on that Account compelled to go round and pay Bills of my Fathers, my brother’s Estate and my own in order to get rid of it. This and the arrangement of my Accounts consequent upon it occupied a very considerable part of my morning. But I accomplished much, for I made great progress toward a final settlement of the affairs of George which have been so long delaying upon my hands. My Money Accounts are now a little complicated for I have three different tracks to keep of money received and expended, and in paying small bills I draw from what I have in my pocket which makes the transfer from the several deposits difficult, to preserve precisely correct. I made a settlement with Milliard and Co. which is final and not unfavourable. This is the last of a series of dreadfully heavy bills which my poor brother inflicted upon himself at that Store and to them may be traced partially his state of mind in his later days.2

The afternoon was passed partly at the Office and partly at the House but I can recollect little of any consequence which happened. The evening went with more use and pleasure. The first part of it was passed in reading to Abby Scott’s Life of Fielding which was tolerably interesting, the second was more jovial but not quite so agreeable to my own taste. Mr. and Mrs. Frothingham came in with Mr. and Mrs. Everett and passed the evening pleasantly enough. Now and then a sip of some warm Whiskey Punch served to enliven us and to chase away care. They left us shortly after ten o’clock to our meditations, and I then read a Chapter of La Harpe upon the Ancient Comedy of the Romans, Plautus and Terence.


JQA’s account was in the United States Branch Bank Boston (M/CFA/3). It was the policy of the Bank of the United States during the presidency of Nicholas Biddle, 1823–1833, to refuse to accept state bank notes not redeemable in specie.


The booksellers, Hilliard, Gray & Co., were paid $65 (M/CFA/3). It was, perhaps, with thoughts similar to those of CFA, that JQA, in contemplating his father’s and his own lifelong passion for books and their acquisition, reflected that collecting “must be associated with vigorous economy, with punctual accountability, and with judicious and untiring industry” (Diary, 17 Oct. 1829).