Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Saturday 5th. CFA Saturday 5th. CFA
Saturday 5th.

Morning at the Office. Finished the remainder of the Edinburgh Review. This publication is carried on with much talent and power, but not in the very best taste. The articles have a grandiloquence about them that is injurious to them when analyzed, though it makes an effect apparently. This occupied all my morning with the exception of only a short time that I was occupied in making inquiries upon the obtaining a Certificate for a poor Pensioner at Quincy, Rufus Davis by name, who by an accident lost his some time since—A business committed to me by my Father.1 I only ascertained the steps it would be necessary to take. I then went to see to the purchase of some Liverpool Coal and purchased a Chaldron at twelve dollars, which is very cheap, considering that in the last Spring I was obliged to give at the rate of eighteen, one third more. Thus went the morning.

I occupied my afternoon in pursuing the study of Aeschines which as far as I have gone, has been pretty well analyzed, though it takes so much of my valuable time that I think I shall be unable to continue in the same path. I must remain satisfied with translations. My field is wide, and only now do I begin to feel the incitements of a powerful ambition. It excites me at every moment with an indefinite preference which seems to remind me that I ought to fulfil the duties to which my station designs me. But it is wrong to be carried away too fast, there is time, and there must be opportunity.

In the evening I went down to the Meeting of the Debating Society but found that we were shut out, the consequence of which was that 97the Members who came were obliged to return home and this unfortunately for the Society which is on it’s last legs. I had gone prepared to oppose the resolution which I apprehended Quincy would make to put an end to the Society, instead of which I returned home and very quietly read Clarissa Harlowe to my Wife.


JQA had undertaken to help Rufus Davis, a veteran of the Revolution, recover his pension by filing a new certificate, but the process had not been completed when JQA left for Washington (JQA, Diary, 17 Oct. 1829).

Sunday. 6th. CFA Sunday. 6th. CFA
Sunday. 6th.

The morning opened fine and mild but continued not in the same mood. The heat of the weather soon formed Clouds, and the atmosphere became thick and hazy. I attended divine Service all day and heard Mr. Frothingham preach, without giving the attention he seemed unable to command. I cannot help thinking when in a Church that I could read the man’s own Sermon much better than he could himself and that perhaps had I the opportunity I might rapidly acquire reputation. But this opportunity is probably not soon to be afforded me and this may be all for the best, by the time which it may give to mature what is yet only in weakness and unformed. But my visions are now so strong that I must at least attempt to dispel them, and then perhaps the result will show me my dreams like a Cloud in the distant prospect, fast vanishing into thin Air.

I wasted the day. My wife seemed anxious for my Company and I could not deprive her of it, although I omitted Jeremy Taylor, who has not been altogether so well used heretofore as I could have wished. Miss Julia Gorham dined with us but remained a very short time afterwards. I read in the Evening a part of Clarissa Harlowe to my Wife. The Story is becoming very deeply affecting. It has much more power than I had imagined.

Monday 7th. CFA Monday 7th. CFA
Monday 7th.

Morning at the Office. Weather cloudy with mist. I began reading over Mr. Williston’s Book of the Eloquence of the United States.1 It is a large collection and it seems to me something of a labour to undertake to read it through. Indeed I do not know that I shall entirely succeed, but I hope to do so at least sufficiently to be able to attempt something in the shape of an Essay upon that subject even though I should not endeavour to print it. My time is now coming when to be successful I must at least dare. I suffered from no interruption during 98the morning and was thus enabled to go on with great and unaccustomed rapidity.

In the afternoon I read Aeschines and translated but the spirit has gone from this business as I feel that I am not sufficiently master of the Language to be able to go through with such a translation as I should desire to make. The Evening was spent in reading Clarissa Harlowe to my Wife excepting an hour in my Study when I attempted to embody some of my thoughts on the subject of Eloquence, but without any result in the least satisfactory to myself. They say perseverance will conquer all things, if I possess any talent so it shall with me. The evening was warm and misty, so that I sat in my study until past eleven o’clock.


E. B. Williston, compiler, Eloquence of the United States, 5 vols., Middletown, Conn., 1827. JQA’s copy, with marginal notes in CFA’s hand, is in MQA.