Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Thursday. 2d. CFA Thursday. 2d. CFA
Thursday. 2d.

Cloudy and mild. I did little or nothing at the Office as I felt a little indisposition from head-ach. Engaged in writing and Accounts, after which I took a walk to get the air. My principal difficulty appears to me now to be want of some interesting occupation. I wish I had some inducement to the exercise of the powers I possess. But it is of no use to wish, and perhaps the best way is to let things take their course. My best plan is to keep on exercising myself to prepare for trial.

Returned home and read after dinner the latter part of the second book of Quinctilian. Whether Rhetoric is an Art. The question is tolerably absurd. It does not affect things the least in the world which-233ever way you settle it. While Eloquence is a means of power it will be sought, whether by acknowledged high road, or by cross paths is no kind of consequence. Of such a kind are half the arguments in the world. They turn upon words.

Evening quiet at home. I felt glad to get back again to my own fireside, the pleasure of which is more fully felt by now and then departing from it. Finished the Conversations of Northcote. His share of them I like. Hazlitt’s I do not. And he closes with an opinion about Cicero which is shallow enough. Afterwards, the Odyssey. Fuseli and the Guardians.

Friday. 3d. CFA Friday. 3d. CFA
Friday. 3d.

Morning exceedingly mild. I went to the Office as usual and passed my day with the same degree of indolence which is usual with me. Received a letter from T. B. Adams expressing his satisfaction with my Accounts.1 Read a part of one of the numbers of the Farmer’s Series upon the Horse, with which I was pleased. I have purchased the set and consider it as more valuable than the general Series published by the same Society.2 But I must turn over a new leaf in the employment of my time of a morning. Took a walk to the Athenaeum thence home.

Afternoon continued Quinctilian Book 2 and 3. The division of Rhetoric, the Account of the Authors upon it and their particular theories, none of which is either interesting or peculiarly valuable. I came across an idea of perspective which seemed to me to settle the question whether the Ancients knew it or not.3

Quiet evening at home. Read to my Wife part of Leigh Hunt’s book about Byron.4 It is evidently a thing for sale, containing mean anecdotes and grovelling doctrines stuck on to distinguished names. The writer having had opportunities to see a little of some famous men in his day. Afterwards, finished Fuseli, read over the 7th book of the Odyssey and the usual Guardians.


The letter is missing.


The Horse; with a Treatise on Draught, London, 1831, was the first number to appear in the continuing Farmers’ Series of the Library of Useful Knowledge, published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.


CFA entered the passage from bk. 2, ch. 17 of Quintilian in his literary commonplace book, p. 234 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 312).


Lord Byron and Some of his Contemporaries; with Recollections of the Author’s Life, Phila., 1828.

Saturday. 4th. CFA Saturday. 4th. CFA
Saturday. 4th.

Another mild day. I went to the Office as usual and passed my time in the same way. It was cut up today partly by attending a Meeting of 234the Directors of the Middlesex Canal for the purpose of organization for the next year. I had also one or two interruptions. Took a walk to the Athenaeum. On the whole nothing to boast of in my morning. Read part of Quinctilian in the afternoon containing his distribution of the various species of Oratory and the subdivisions of which it is capable. In my opinion a great deal of time consumed in trifling matters. The subject of Rhetoric seems to me to have been very much mystified in former days. The division is simple enough, into deliberative, demonstrative and judicial. Though the second name hardly applies to the class it intends to cover.

Evening at home. Mr. Brooks took tea and spent two hours in conversation. So that I did not read. Afterwards I wrote a short letter to my father for the purpose of telling him what Deacon Spear requested as to the state of his farms at Quincy.1 But my Correspondence with him this Winter has amounted to nothing at all. Afterwards, the Odyssey and Guardians.


CFA to JQA, 5 Feb. (LbC, Adams Papers).