Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

230 Sunday. 29th. CFA Sunday. 29th. CFA
Sunday. 29th.

A snow storm. The temperature of the air much milder of course. Read a little of Fuseli. His Aphorisms are striking, but there are two defects. The one a straining for effect, a desperate exertion to force grandeur out of words and ideas which gives a very artificial appearance to the style. The other a consequence of this, the use of far fetched and pedantic words.

Attended divine Service all day. Heard Mr. Frothingham in the morning from 1. Peter 3. 8. “Be courteous.” It was a very good Sermon. He expatiated upon the advantages of courtesy in the treatment of others distinguishing what he meant from the heartless external civility enjoined by the rules of the world, as it operated to produce internal softness of disposition while the other created only hypocrisy. He then regretted the change that had taken place in the manners of youth towards age, alluded to the decaying class of people called the old school, and inclined to think that this was not one of the improvements of the age. The Afternoon Discourse was from 4. Galatians 18. “It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.” The purpose was an examination of the charge often made against the sect of Christians of which the Preacher was one, of coldness and want of zeal. He endeavoured to shew that this was an error. Unless they were disposed to adopt with the zeal of other sects their creed which impelled them to the work of proselytism as an article of duty. That a man should seek his own salvation by acting upon his Neighbours was one of the doctrines which he could not see the propriety of, but he had no objection to, or rather he was clearly in favour of his turning the direction of his efforts towards himself.

Read afterwards a Sermon of Massillon’s. Text. Luke 16. 24. “I am tormented in this flame.” Or in other words the Story of Lazarus. He endeavoured to show from it the character of the Rich man, not guilty of positive crime, but of negative character. In other words guilty of being rich, of luxury, of indolence, and of no virtue. This was what subjected him to the severe punishment described in the Text. A punishment the more acute as there was a compensation in it, that is to say the rich and the poor changed places. The former was to feel the contrast of pain the more strongly as he perceived the contrast of pleasure existing more strongly in the latter.

Read also in the evening the larger part of Fletcher’s Play of the Faithful Shepherdess. Which I have nearly forgotten.1 As usual, the regular book of the Odyssey and the Guardian.

1.

CFA had read the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher over a period of several 231months in late 1825 and early 1826; see vol. 2:18–33. JQA’s bookplate is in the edition at MQA published at London in 1811 in 3 volumes.

Monday. 30th. CFA Monday. 30th. CFA
Monday. 30th.

The Snow of yesterday changed to rain today and the Streets were in consequence in a shocking state. I went to the Office as usual and after the regular duties went on with Gibbon as far as the close of the reign of Valentinian. On the whole this history begins to enter the dreary barren waste in which man was probably at his extremest state of ignorance and depression. There is little to relieve the eye or the mind. Even Christianity sinks to a mere cover for sensual indulgence and sloth. The Monks degrade it by misunderstanding the spirit of it’s doctrines.

Returned home and read Quinctilian, finishing the first and I hope the driest book. Some of the reasoning however upon early education is to me conclusive. The mind must not be left without exertion. Had mine been trained by care and experience, what might I not now have been. Memory is my deficiency. In the evening, read to my Wife from Northcote’s Conversations. A great many substantial ideas. Afterwards, Fuseli’s Account of Michael Angelo. The fourth book of the Odyssey and the Guardians.

Tuesday. 31st. CFA Tuesday. 31st. CFA
Tuesday. 31st.

Morning pleasant. I went to the Office as usual and did not occupy myself much. My mind was running upon the possibility of obtaining a Newspaper or some employment in order to write and secure me an occupation which now I want.1 For this purpose I went to Carter and Hendee’s to see if I could not make a little acquaintance with them to this end.2 But I lost an hour. Read a little of Gibbon and then took a walk. I thought I would go down and see the new buildings going on in the North part of the town, especially the new Hotel built by Mr. Williams which is to be sure a pretty great establishment.3

Afternoon, reading Quinctilian but my progress was slow. I was thinking of other things. And my period of study was shorter than usual, inasmuch as it was the day we were invited to go to Mrs. Gorham Brooks’, a regular family party. Mr. and Mrs. Parkman, Miss Hall, and Miss Frothingham the only persons not immediately connected. I forget Mr. Shepherd. The time was not particularly agreeable but it did very well. Returned home at ten o’clock and had time to read the fifth book of the Odyssey over besides the usual numbers of the Guardian.

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1.

On an earlier plan to the same end, see above, entry for 19 Sept. 1831.

2.

Carter & Hendee, at Washington and School streets, were publishers as well as booksellers and stationers ( Boston Directory, 1832–1833).

3.

Perhaps the reference was to the Chelsea House, late the mansion house of Thomas Williams, located in Chelsea at the mouth of the Mystic River facing on Boston harbor, now greatly enlarged and improved, with spacious gardens, bowling alleys, and livery stables, ready for leasing beginning 1 April (Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 26 Jan., p. 2, col. 6).