Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Tuesday. December 1st. CFA Tuesday. December 1st. CFA
Tuesday. December 1st.

Morning at the Office a little earlier than usual. I find that I waste so much time as to make it necessary for me to attempt a little reformation in this particular. I was occupied after getting there in continuing the translation which still hangs upon my hands. I accomplished enough today to leave only a little more behind. My time was also much taken up in the usual round of Accounts for my Father. Mr. Wells the son of my new Tenant called and paid me one Month’s rent, thereby contradicting Orcutt’s story,1 and showing what may be often seen in the world, that those who talk much and against others are not perfectly clear themselves. I have not heard from Orcutt for a long time and suspect he has run away.

My time was consumed effectually so that I was obliged to return home and from thence to Abby’s brother Edward’s where I had agreed to dine. It was entirely a family party, consisting of us four and the dinner was as dinners usually are, good without any thing 93remarkable. Edward Brooks is a singular man with singular opinions and therefore does not pass for so much as he is worth. He carries his notions perhaps to an extreme and therefore affects his character, but on the whole I think him less known than he ought to be.

I returned home and it being too late for Greek had only time to read the article upon the Seven against Thebes, in La Harpe, to read all that Brumoy has to say upon the three plays already read,2 and to begin the Agamemnon of Aeschylus. This piece has many beauties, to my taste. The opening of it is so picturesque. The solitary watchman, the appearance of the flame after long and tedious vigils had made it doubtful if it ever would appear, and the description of the Communication of fire signals by Clytemnestra, with the beautiful Chorus upon the flight of Helen seem to me to have been seldom exceeded in grandeur in subsequent times. I was obliged to stop to go down to Mrs. Frothingham’s to the regular weekly Meeting of the family where I did not enjoy myself over much.

1.

See entry for 23 Oct., above.

2.

Pierre Brumoy, Le theâtre des Grecs. JQA owned an edition published at Amsterdam in 6 vols., 1732, now in MQA.

Wednesday 2d. CFA Wednesday 2d. CFA
Wednesday 2d.

Morning at the Office. Engaged in making my Translation, which on this morning I completed, and read over the Whole with some gratification. It satisfies me better than any thing I have ever yet attempted, and shows that I have been imperceptibly improving. But there is still much to do. We may express tolerably well the ideas of others long before we shall be able so to dress our own as to make them attractive or powerful. I must strive to do this, for here and in speaking lie the great powers of man. All the rest is the mere trash of the mind.

I was occupied the rest of the time in reading rather an uninteresting article in the Edinburgh Review upon the Utilitarians and Mr. Bentham’s School.1 Just as I was about leaving my Office, Mr. Jones came in from Weston to pay a portion of the Money for the Wood sold the other day at that place. This was very agreeable as I had been exceedingly in want of Money on my Fathers account. I could not wait to talk over much of matters as it was my usual time for dinner. I went to the House and found that Mr. Brooks had been so kind as to make a present to us of some Fenders which was exceedingly obliging in him.2 My father sent in his Trunks. I was obliged to attend to these things so much as again to lose my Greek studies which was 94very provoking. At this rate I shall never come to an end. I succeeded in reading the rest of Agamemnon and all the Commentaries upon it. I do not agree with La Harpe and do admire the piece, though I cannot altogether judge from the translation which makes sense sometimes of what I suspect is at this day thoroughly inexplicable. The latter half does not please me so well as the first, though the prophecy of Cassandra is noble Poetry. But the Chorus makes one laugh in the midst of terrors by the coolness of it’s reasoning and the simplicity of the dialogue.

I had barely time to finish my avocations when my father arrived in town and I went down to see him. He had decided to go off tomorrow morning, and I made arrangements with him in regard to the future. He leaves me this Season with an unusual share of responsibility of which I hope not to prove unworthy. He transferred to me a share of the Quincy Canal, and treated me so kindly as to make me feel, how differently from what I had done.3 Dr. Parkman called for a few moments to see him.4 Otherwise quiet.

1.

The review of Mill’s Essays on Government, 1828, in the Edinburgh for March 1829 (49:159–189), had provoked the Westminster Review to reply. The articles on utilitarianism in the June and October issues of the Edinburgh (49:273–299; 50:99–125) were rejoinders.

2.

Mr. Brooks, in recording the purchase of the fire screens for ABA, describes them as “2 elegant brass fenders for her parlors” (Waste Book, 29 Dec. 1829).

3.

Thus in MS. See above, entry for 4 Sept. and note.

4.

Probably Dr. George Parkman, Harvard 1809; see vol. 2:158.