Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Wednesday. 25th. CFA Wednesday. 25th. CFA
Wednesday. 25th.

Morning mild and foggy. I went to the Office and occupied myself much as usual. Tried to put a little more method into my private Accounts, a thing I have been in vain attempting ever since my Marriage. Read also a little of Gibbon embracing the account of the death of Julian and the accession of Jovian. He seems to slight the indiscretion of the former and to press upon the consequent misfortunes of the latter. Probably because he had taken his side upon the subject of Christianity and thus failed in the first duty of the historian. The weather was so bad I did not walk.

Afternoon. Concerned in bottling the rest of my new wine and in making some alterations in my Library with a view to a little more room and also to setting apart my Classical Department by itself. This consumed the whole of my time until it was the hour fixed to go to Mrs. Frothingham’s. The weekly parties of the family are to be resumed. Found there in the course of the time Edward Brooks, Gorham and P. C. and Wives, Mr. Brooks, Mr. and Mrs. Parkman, Miss Hall and ourselves. Mrs. F. was quite unwell. The time was pretty agreeable. 228Returned home in time to read the last book of the Iliad and the Guardians.

Thursday. 26th. CFA Thursday. 26th. CFA
Thursday. 26th.

Morning severely cold again. As an example of the variable character of our Climate, it may be stated that within twenty four hours the Thermometer had fallen more than fifty degrees. It was now below zero of Fahrenheit. I went to the Office as usual, but was engaged all day in making up Accounts, and was surprised to find that from some cause or other they did not come out right. What was worse I could not discover where the mistake was, and left it unfinished. Called in to see Alston’s Picture again rather to pay my portion to the exhibition than from any wish to see it. It did not appear to me so favourably placed as it was there.1 I think however that it is on the whole a very fair specimen of his powers.

Dined at Mr. Frothingham’s upon venison with Mr. Brooks, and Gorham’s Wife. The meat was not so tender as mine. But it was very good. Pleasant dinner enough. Returned home and found my fire gone out. The coldest day for a fortnight. Such is the luck. Read a little of the beginning of Quintilian’s Institute, of Eloquence2 but on the whole lost the Afternoon.

Evening. Finished the Canterbury Tales, and Fuseli’s Lectures. Finished also the translation by Pope of the Iliad of Homer with which I have on the whole been even more pleased than I expected. Read the Guardians.


Washington Allston’s painting, “Spalatro’s Vision of the Bloody Hand,” based on the 20th chapter of Mrs. Radcliffe’s The Italian, had been on public view at No. 2 Joy’s Buildings during January “for the artist’s benefit.” Painted for a gentleman in South Carolina, the work “from the circumstance of its size—it being but a cabinet picture”— had not been thought earlier “an object of sufficient importance to form of itself an attractive exhibition” (Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 3 Jan., p. 3, col. 4). Appreciations of the painting, together with the passage of which the painting is an illustration, appeared in the same newspaper, 21 Jan., p. 2, col. 6; 25 Jan., p. 2, col. 4. The whereabouts of the painting when CFA first went to see it is not clear; see above, entry for 16 Nov. 1831.


Three editions in Latin of Quintilian’s Institutes, each having CFA’s bookplate, are at MQA: Institutionum oratoriarum, Venice, 1521; Oratoris eloquentissimi de institutione oratoria libri xii, Paris, 1549; and De institutione oratoria, 2 vols., London, 1822. Also at MQA are editions in Latin, French, and English bearing JQA’s bookplate. However, CFA at this time was using the edition of P. Burman, published at Leyden in 1720, which he had borrowed from the Athenaeum.

Friday. 27th. CFA Friday. 27th. CFA
Friday. 27th.

Another severely cold morning. I went to the Office as usual and 229after looking thoroughly over my Accounts and discovering the cause of the error alluded to yesterday I sat down and made some progress in Gibbon. But the best employment of a morning does not give me more than about an hour of attention to reading. And this is not so thoroughly done as it would be at my study at home. I went afterwards to the Athenaeum and obtained some books for our evening’s occupation.

In the afternoon, I continued reading Quinctilian who is certainly exceedingly sensible. His argument on the merits of private and public education is a very pleasant one. It is so natural and clear. I do not accomplish much in an Afternoon. Indeed it is impossible to imagine a life of so much apparent occupation and so little real result as mine. I finish a few pages of easy Latin and that is all. Miss Julia Gorham dined with us.

Evening. Read to my Wife a part of Hazlitt’s Conversations with Northcote the artist.1 Some of the ideas are very good, others are merely striking. But Hazlitt presses his own into view full as much as he does his friend’s. Began Pope’s version of the Odyssey2 and read the Guardian.


William Hazlitt, Conversations of James Northcote, London, 1830.


An edition published at London in 1771 in 4 vols. is at MQA.