Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Wednesday. 7th. CFA Wednesday. 7th. CFA
Wednesday. 7th.

I have begun by way of a little variety to read the Oration of Demosthenes accusing Aeschines on the matter of the Embassy to Philip. I did not think I should have begun upon him again, but the more I see, the more I am satisfied that the knowledge of the force of Eloquence is only to be got from a study of those specimens in which it is most displayed. I will get the mastery of the Greek Language if it can be done, by perseverance. Rode with my Wife as far as Brookline, making nearly six miles. She seemed to bear it pretty well.

At the Office, but Isaac Hull Adams soon came in to inform me that my Mother and Miss Roberdeau1 were in town at the Athenaeum Gallery. I went to see them and consumed a good proportion of the morning. My Mother informed me of the illness of the Judge my Uncle, and urged my going to see him. After leaving her I saw Mr. Foster and Edward Miller and their Account dissuaded me, for I can be of no use.2

Returned home and in the Afternoon read the Letters to Atticus which are pleasant but degrade the character of Cicero very much. It is impossible to deny it. He was a very weak great man and as for his patriotism it was not the patriotism of Cato. Read Bacon’s Essay on 131Empire in which he shows the same profoundness of mind which always distinguished him, mixed with a little of the weak prejudice of the age. Translated Cicero and read the Spectator.

1.

Mary Roberdeau, of Philadelphia, had several times during JQA’s Presidential term paid extended visits to the Adamses in Washington. She had arrived at Quincy on 31 Aug. for a visit of some weeks. Her presence occasioned a number of evening gatherings that, because she sang prettily, were frequently musical. JQA, Diary, 3 Sept.; above, vols. 1 and 2 passim; LCA to Mrs. JA2, 27 Sept. (Adams Papers).

2.

TBA had been in declining health for some months. Currently his illness was diagnosed as a nervous fever, characterized by involuntary convulsive motions of the limbs and delirium. Unexpectedly, his condition took a favorable turn on the 8th and he became for some time thereafter convalescent. JQA, Diary, 4 Sept.; JQA to JA2, 9 Sept. (Adams Papers).

Thursday. 8th. CFA Thursday. 8th. CFA
Thursday. 8th.

As the Judge is so sick, it is on the whole lucky that I invested the last remnant of T. B. Adams Jr’s money yesterday,1 for after his TBA’s death I imagine there will be no further opportunities.

The day was cloudy with rain so that my Wife did not go out and I read Demosthenes very slowly and imperfectly gathering the Sense from a first perusal. Then to the Office.

I had three Clients today. One, Mr. Curtis to draw a Deed which occupied me all the Morning. One a tipsy Baker who had just been sued and came to me to know what it meant. The third Mr. J. Minot, a reformed Custom House Officer,2 who came in consequence of my letter of Collection. He seemed to think he had suffered enough on my father’s account not to be troubled by the Son. I felt sorry, but how can I mend the matter?

Returned home and read Cicero making no great progress. The Letters to Atticus are excessively difficult, from their concise style and the allusions to subjects now forgotten. If I remarked the same upon the familiar Letters how much more I have occasion to do so now.

Evening quiet at home. I finished a rough and literal translation of Cicero de Optimo genere Oratorum.3 How hard any translation is? Read Bacon on Counsel and the Spectator.

1.

CFA bought for Thomas B. Adams Jr. one share of State Bank stock (M/CFA/3).

2.

John Minot had been an inspector for the Custom House in Boston and Charlestown during the Presidency of JQA ( Mass. Register, 1828), but he had apparently lost his post upon the change of administration. On the use of “reformed” in this sense, see above, entry for 29 May.

3.

CFA used two editions of Cicero’s Opera: the large-paper edition published at Oxford in 10 vols. in 1783 and the typographically undistinguished but more useful one edited by Ernest and published at Boston in 20 vols, in 1815 (see above, vol. 3:328, 364–365; below, 132entries for 11 and 12 Jan. 1832). His practice seems to have been to translate from Ernest’s edition, then compare the text with the Oxford edition, entering errors or variants in the margin there and even his translation itself (below, entry for 13 Sept.). The “De optimo genere oratorum” is in vol. 3 of Ernest’s edition; in vol. 1 of the Oxford edition, the copy of which at MQA contains CFA’s translation in his hand (p. 540–544). See above, p. xvi–xvii.