Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Wednesday. 18th. CFA Wednesday. 18th. CFA
Wednesday. 18th.

Morning cloudy but as mild as Summer. I went to the Office and was occupied much of the morning in giving an opinion upon the 79Deed of Mr. Curtis as opposed to my Deed, in drawing a Quitclaim Deed which I could approve of, and in making a process of Foreign Attachment in Henderson’s case. All which I did and moreover translated a portion of Pufendorf as usual but not quite so much to my satisfaction. I was not this morning quite so much in the spirit of it. Called to see Mr. Kinsman and Mr. Davis.1 Conversation with them upon various subjects, particularly with one upon the Note of the City Guards, with the other upon the news of the engagement to be married between Mr. Webster and Miss Le Roy of New York. He has been so long talked about that it is desirable to have some end put to it.2 Mr. Curtis called for a few moments and took all the papers which had been left with me. I was thus quite glad to have had an opportunity to have given an opinion in defence of my own deed, and devolving the responsibility of it upon another. I am satisfied as I get my perquisites also.

Returned home and after dinner, read as usual my portion of Aeschines besides bottling a very considerable portion of Whiskey, a duty I am obliged to attend to now that I have a House of my own and things to keep, though not over agreeable. In the evening I continued reading to my Wife a portion of Clarissa Harlowe, commencing the letters of Lovelace, which are amusing enough though rather broad. Being desirous of becoming acquainted with the Older Authors rapidly, I began late this evening Potter’s Translation of the Tragedies of Aeschylus, with his Preface.3 My only complaint is that I cannot find time enough for all my avocations.

1.

Henry W. Kinsman and Thomas Kemper Davis had read law along with CFA in Daniel Webster’s office at 33 Court Street. Kinsman was farther along in his career than the others, having been admitted to practice by Oct. 1827, a full year before CFA, and remaining afterward with Webster (vol. 2:170; Fuess, Webster , 2:319). CFA took Kinsman legal questions on which he had had experience.

Davis, first in his Harvard class (1827), was still a year or more away from admission to the bar ( Mass. Register, 1831). CFA’s conversations with him were nonprofessional, often on literary matters; CFA valued them and regarded him highly. See, for example, the entry for 28 April 1830, below. Thomas Kemper Davis is frequently referred to in vol. 2 (1964 edn.), but he is erroneously identified at 2:199 and thus in the index as Timothy K. Davis.

2.

Since the death of Webster’s first wife in Jan. 1828 there had been rumors linking him to several ladies; see vol. 2:360; Fuess, Webster , 2:383–384. His marriage to Miss Caroline LeRoy, 17 years younger than he, took place in New York on 12 Dec. (Fuess, Webster , 1:358–360).

3.

Of the two editions in MQA of the Tragedies translated by R. Potter and published at London, that of 1779 in 2 vols. has JQA’s bookplate, that of 1809 contains a note in CFA’s handwriting.

Thursday 19th. CFA Thursday 19th. CFA
Thursday 19th.

My days now pass in so regular a routine, that I feel as if it was hardly necessary in my Journal to do more than repeat. I went to the 80Office as usual and translated and read a portion of Pufendorf as usual. I then read over what I had done and was satisfied with it. On the whole it appears to me clearer than the original from which I took it. This is not saying a great deal however in this particular instance. I paid my father’s Tax and service for this year and settled with Mr. Clapp, the Mason who has done my Father’s Kitchen at Quincy. This leaves me exceeding little of his Funds in my hands and a good many debts to pay. I wish his Tenants were better pay, and gave me less trouble. Mr. C. P. Curtis called upon me to inform me that Captn. Rogers whom I had sued on Henderson’s Account had accepted a Draught for one hundred dollars from Henderson and was therefore desirous of being discharged.1 I was very sorry for this as I had fully expected to obtain this Money. But in this present case the costs will be considerable and probably the satisfaction nothing. I returned home a little dull about it.

Afternoon occupied in reading and translating as usual in Aeschines and found myself at the close of the dry Argument upon the time when and place where a Crown should have been conferred in Athens, which constitute the two first points of the Oration. The remainder being more to the Character of Demosthenes and History of Greece will be more amusing, though I confess I think already he has made a good attorney’s case. As Abby was gone out to drink Tea, I took the time to read Potter’s Translation of The Prometheus Chained of Aeschylus. It appears literal and correct, and gives me a better idea of the piece than I could get from the original. I read La Harpe’s Opinion and that of Cumberland in the Observer. The former considers it as an Epic fragment rather than a Play, to which he says it has no pretensions, the latter admires it’s wildness and striking imagery. Such may be considered the distinct tastes of the two Nations which these Individuals represent, and a good comment may thus be afforded upon the Standard of Taste. I think myself the middle the best ground. The play is essentially poetical and not dramatic, but not more so than most of the ancient plays which have no possibility of assimilating themselves to our present notions of the drama. I called at Mrs. Dexter’s for Abby where we sat for a little while.2 It was rather dull and I was glad to get home.

1.

A reconstruction or the action in which Henderson was defendant must be conjectural and incomplete. Scattered entries in the Diary indicate that CFA, acting under instructions from Thomas Tarbell, who was himself acting for an unnamed principal, had entered suit against one Henderson apparently for debt. Henderson, in turn, seems to have been a creditor, being owed by Captain Rogers, among others. A trustee had been appointed to handle his affairs, but CFA had tried, apparently, to collect directly from his debtors some of the moneys due 81Henderson. His efforts in this direction were thwarted by Captain Rogers’ acceptance of Henderson’s draught for $100, thus making Rogers free of indebtedness to Henderson or to Henderson’s creditors. Having failed to obtain this money and not confident of his case in court, CFA finally offered a settlement of the claim for one-half the amount plus costs.

2.

Mrs. Catherine (Gordon) Dexter, whose late husband Samuel Dexter had been secretary of war in JA’s administration, was particularly fond of ABA; see vol. 2:160, 342. Mrs. Dexter’s residence at this time was at 1 Franklin Place or 28 Beacon Street ( Boston Directory, 1829–1830, 1830–1831, and entry for 20 Dec., below).