Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Thursday. 22d. CFA Thursday. 22d. CFA
Thursday. 22d.

The weather again severely cold. The Season is unprecedented. We have had more sharp weather during the month of December than during the whole of our ordinary winters. This comes at a time of scarcity in fuel and of extraordinary sickness, so that on the whole the suffering in the poorer classes must be severe.

I went to the Office and passed my time in drawing up my second Article upon which I sickened a little of the whole job. Davis does not publish and the thing is getting stale.1 It takes me a good deal of thought to write a Paper of this kind and I get no pay in money or in reputation. So it is. My efforts all turn out poorly yet I will not be discouraged. Went to the Athenaeum, and suffered more on my return home than I have before this Winter.

Afternoon, Read Cicero’s De Fato, which is a species of supplement to the rest, as a refutation of the Stoic doctrine of Fate. Perhaps this is the most puzzling point human ingenuity has ever exercised itself 203upon. This has come down to us only with a different name. The question of predestination and free will amounting to about as much.

Evening, my Wife spent downstairs and I read to her part of Harriet Lee’s Canterbury Tales.2 Afterwards Homer’s 12th Book of the Iliad, a little of Gibbon and the Spectator.


The extensive space being devoted in each issue of the Boston Patriot to the race for the Boston mayoralty, preliminary to the election on the 22d, crowded out all communications on other subjects, including CFA’s first number on the Treasury Report. It was published on the 24th; see the entry for 17 Dec., above.


Harriet [and Sophia] Lee, The Canterbury Tales, 5 vols., London, 1797–1805. All were by Harriet Lee except “The Young Lady’s Tale” and the “Clergyman’s Tale.”

Friday. 23d. CFA Friday. 23d. CFA
Friday. 23d.

Morning at the Office. Weather still holding on very cold. I passed my time for the most part in writing off my second Article upon Mr. McLane’s Report. But it does not altogether please me. The strength of the argument does not seem to be fully laid down. And I have doubts about some part of it. I thought I would go to the Athenaeum to look at the Debates of the period, but I so dawdled away my time as not to have any of consequence for my purpose when I got there. Returned home.

In the Afternoon, read Cicero’s first book “de Legibus,” which is but a repetition of what has already been said in the books de Finibus. But the treatise is a noble one. It conveys an idea of Law far above the grasp of petty Attorneys.

Evening, Mr. Brooks drank Tea here and spent an hour in conversation. He is a singular man. I respect his practical good sense and unassuming manners, but I do not feel at ease with him from a want of union in Taste. After he went, read to my Wife, part of the Canterbury Tales, and afterwards Gibbon, Homer and the Spectator.

Saturday. 24th. CFA Saturday. 24th. CFA
Saturday. 24th.

Morning at the Office. Weather changed this morning to a heavy rain and complete thaw, so that the Streets were in pretty wretched condition. I was busy part of the morning at my Office, but being desirous of some information in regard to the Arguments used in favour of the Charter of the Bank, I passed much the largest space of time at the Athenaeum. The Debate was but poorly reported. I saw enough of it however to satisfy myself that Mr. McLane’s view was not correct, and I went home determined to modify my Article already written a little, in order to introduce what I had found.


After dinner I read the larger part of Cicero’s second book de Legibus which is a species of Commentary upon the Institutions of the Romans respecting Religion. And the work is curious as displaying the policy upon which the greatness of the Romans was founded. Upon this subject I must read Montesquieu again. In the evening I read to my Wife a part of the Canterbury Tales. They are written with a pleasing flow of style, and are easy, light and amusing. Afterwards, read the 13th book of the Iliad over, a little of Gibbon, and the usual numbers of the Spectator.