Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Tuesday. 22d. CFA Tuesday. 22d. CFA
Tuesday. 22d.

Upon opening our eyes this morning, we found a most tremendous flurry blowing hail and rain and snow together, and lasting only a few minutes after a Clap of thunder. The atmosphere afterwards became decidedly more chilly. I went to the Office but my time was wasted even more than usual. This is a melancholy state of things from which something must come soon to relieve me or I shall become a drone. Several persons called to see me upon various matters of business and I went to the Athenaeum afterwards where I wasted the time when I should have walked. The neglect of exercise in my present condition 183is as bad as the neglect of study, for it makes the latter less likely to be performed when greater occasion may call for it.

Afternoon, finished the 5th book De Finibus, which is on the whole an interesting Dissertation though it settles nothing. I completed my Copy of the letter to my Father and sent it.

Evening. Read to my Wife a part of the Romance of the Italian which Mr. Alston’s Picture has brought up again.1 I am rather inclined to think the world has lost nothing by allowing these books to sleep on the shelves of Circulating Libraries in Peace. They consult2 Passions and terrors which are hardly beneficial to man. I continued a sketch for future use which I think I mentioned as begun a few nights since and read the Spectator.

1.

CFA had read in The Italian, Mrs. Ann Radcliffe’s novel, in 1824; see above, vol. 1:293.

2.

Thus clearly in MS; probably in the sense of “have an eye to” ( OED ).

Wednesday. 23d. CFA Wednesday. 23d. CFA
Wednesday. 23d.

Morning clear with a high wind from the South West. I went to the Office and passed my time after the usual matters, in reading Moore’s Life of Sheridan which I have never examined before.1 The thing amused me exceedingly. Sheridan’s is a fascinating character. The brilliancy of his Wit is charming while the generous nature of his feeling makes one sympathize in all his fortunes. Nevertheless Sheridan had very little in his personal character which entitled the man to respect or esteem. He had no fixed principles of conduct, no sterling qualities. His life was a course upon a boundless and agitated Sea without chart or compass to guide him. Took a walk.

Afternoon, reading the first book of Tusculan Questions, upon Death. It is curious as the Argument of a Heathen Philosopher upon the Immortality of the Soul unaided by Revelation or any thing but the light of his own Reason.

Evening, the Italian to my Wife after which I continued my sketch, the materials for which grow upon me. I think better of it as I advance. Not what it is, but what it is capable of being made. Read the Spectator.

1.

Thomas Moore, Memoirs of the Life of ... R. B. Sheridan, London, 1825.

Thursday. 24th. CFA Thursday. 24th. CFA
Thursday. 24th.

Morning clear and cool. I went to the Office and was occupied in my usual way. First in my Diary and Accounts and then in the Life of Sheridan which afforded me a great degree of amusement. His at-184tempts when compared with his subsequent performances are enough to encourage writers like myself who have no great confidence in themselves. He pruned and polished with a care which is not consistent with the general character of indolence sustained by him. Took a walk.

Afternoon finished the first Tusculan upon Death, which is one of the most pleasing to me of all Cicero’s works. I like the spirit in which it is written, the philosophy which it inculcates and the acquaintance with nature it displays. Cicero is the first remarkable instance in Antiquity of Versatility of Powers. He was a Poet, a Philosopher, an Orator and a Statesman. In three of these he reached the first rank, and his claim in the other is not settled. Perhaps he may be considered as the only instance for Voltaire was no Orator, not much of a Statesman and though dealing in many things was superficial in all but his Poetry.

Evening, reading the Italian, to my Wife who is suffering from a Cold. After which I continued my sketch, the substance of which is much better than the way it is managed. Read the Spectator.