Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Sunday. 15th. CFA Sunday. 15th. CFA
Sunday. 15th.

The day was really lovely, much like the weather we frequently used to have at Washington as the first notice of Spring. I went to Meeting all day. Heard in the morning Dr. Lowell from Ecclesiastes 11. 9. “Rejoice, O young man in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, but know then, that God will bring thee into Judgment.” This is only one half of the verse and that so chosen as entirely to vary it’s meaning from the original intention. I have many doubts how far this is allowable or proper. The principal object of preaching is to expound the Gospel. Now this is altering it. The verse as it stands, conveys a warning to the young to abstain from such indulgences as will subject them to the justice of the Deity. Dr. Lowell made it mean an encouragement to the joyful character of youth. A doubt of the expediency of forcing a premature gravity of thought and action. The Sermon was Common place but on the whole sound. My only objection would be that he might have found a more suitable Text. Mr. Frothingham drew his Afternoon’s Discourse from Mark. 7. 37. “And they were beyond measure astonished, saying, he hath done all things well; he maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak” but I must candidly confess that further than the text, though I listened with some attention, I made nothing out of it whatever. This I consider as quite a misfortune. But I can devise no way to remedy it.

Returned home and read a Sermon of Massillon upon the Esteem of the world. Text from Matthew 23. 5. “But all their works they do for to be seen of men.” His division was three fold. 1. The crime of neglecting duty for the sake of worldly regard. 2. The folly of it from its temporary nature. 3. The incorrectness of it as the world finally respects the man more who acts independently. Perhaps there is no kind of subject which deserves so fully to be treated as this. I regret my time was so short I did not give this Sermon its full weight. In life, every man meets with occasions in which there is a conflict between his duty and his interest. Most men overlook the former, but on the whole do not gain any thing by it. Yet it requires some character to bear even the temporary alienation of one’s fellows.

In the evening I read to myself one of Barrow’s Sermons upon the duty of honouring God and the reward of it. Afterwards, resumed my 222letter to my father, but became disgusted and left it.1 Read Homer’s Iliad and the two last numbers of the Spectator.

1.

The letter remained uncompleted. CFA to JQA, 21 Jan. (Adams Papers).

Monday. 16th. CFA Monday. 16th. CFA
Monday. 16th.

Morning delightful. This weather must be a monstrous relief to poor People whose supplies of wood have been so freely drawn upon by the unusual coldness of the preceding month. I said last evening that I had finished the Spectator by reading two numbers regularly since the month of March last. It is the first time I ever went regularly through them. And on the whole I think I have gained something. It has given me a more correct idea of the beauty of Addison’s style, although I am yet far from impressed with that admiration of it which is common. I like a more flowing, forcible current.

Went to the Office and wasted my time. Read a long Debate in the Intelligencer1 and took a long walk as my head was a little out of order. After dinner, I was obliged to attend a Meeting of Directors of the Boylston Market to consult upon a Plan for certain alterations to be made, and this kept me there the whole Afternoon. The last Director’s Meeting this Year, and I decline the position next year.

Evening, went over and paid a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Gorham Brooks, found them at home, and Mr. Brooks came in soon after. On the whole a pleasant Evening. Returned early, read the 21st book of the Iliad and two numbers of the Guardian.

1.

In the House of Representatives on 5 Jan. on a motion to recommit to the Committee of Claims the bill for the adjustment and settlement of the claims of South Carolina against the United States, the debate was opened by JQA and joined by Messrs. McDuffie, Speight, Everett, Burges, Williams, Reed, Drayton, Davis, Barbour, and others. The remarks of each were printed at length in the Daily National Intelligencer, 9 Jan., p. 2–3.

Tuesday. 17th. CFA Tuesday. 17th. CFA
Tuesday. 17th.

Another very agreeable morning. I went to the Office as usual but owing to the want of a book again wasted my time. My last number appeared in the Daily Advertiser this morning and adds one more to the list of my labours of love. I wrote my Journal and went over Accounts which with more than an hour consumed in other occupations out, as going to the Athenaeum and Commissions for my Wife, on the whole made away with the time.

Mr. Brooks and Mr. Frothingham dined with me upon venison and we had a very pleasant time. The former incidentally asked me who was the Author of the numbers upon the Treasury Report in such a 223manner as to be highly flattering to me. On the whole this little trifle pays me for the labour I have taken. After dinner, I read the first book of the Rhetoric to Herennius and found it a meagre summary of the various Works of Cicero, having little or nothing original to recommend it.

Evening. Read to my Wife a part of a Canterbury Tale. After which I read over the 21st Book of the Iliad and began a short biography of Fuseli the Painter.1 Nothing further excepting the usual numbers of the Guardian.

1.

That contained in John Knowles, Life and Writings of H. Fuseli, 3 vols., London, 1831, which work consisted largely of Fuseli’s lectures. See above, entry for 8 Nov. 1831; below, that for 22 January.