I devoted nearly two hours to Gibbon and felt quite well pleased with myself in consequence. The rest of the time passed as it usually does. I accomplished a walk also in very wet streets, but it was not half as long as it should have been. Mr. Brooks dined with us, but did not appear to me to be very lively.
I was very superficial in Quinctilian. The truth is I have read enough 241about the Theory of Oratory. It has become so tedious and dry as to benefit me little. I have some notion of giving up the study of it, having accomplished six books being one half of the Work. But the truth is I am not clear what to do next. Perhaps I may take up Livy, perhaps Virgil or go back to a minuter analysis of the Orations of Cicero.
Quiet evening. Continued Leigh Hunt. His imprisonment for a libel, his opinion of himself &ca. On the whole, he seems a tolerably amiable man to have seen so much difficulty. His book was made up however to sell.
The Cold seemed to be coming on again today. I was in hopes it was going away permanently. Occupied nearly all the morning in trifles so that I gave only a short time to Gibbon. I must plead guilty to half an hour of pure indolence. A thing by the way I feel to be growing upon me. I have not the energy to shake it off entirely. I took a long walk after it reflecting upon vanity and vexation of spirit.
In the afternoon I felt so disgusted with Quinctilian that I laid him aside and returned to the Oration in defence of Cluentius which is admirable. The Narration is a peculiarly brilliant part of this effort. It has all the merit of terseness, vigour and elegance which ought to belong to it. I find however that my previous reading was pretty thorough.
Evening, the family of the Brooks’ came to pass the usual time with us. There is not much cultivation among them. I must say for this that I have not fallen exactly into a connection of like taste with my own in this regard. But they are on the whole educated and though not so agreeable as a man might form persons in his fancy, yet more so than you generally find them in life. They went at ten. I did not read any of the Odyssey. The rest as usual.
A return of sharp cold upon us this morning. The Winter is long and trying to people who are not in good circumstances. I accomplished a good deal of Gibbon at the Office not having quite so many Newspapers to read. But the detail of the breaking up of the Western Empire is dull. Nothing but a series of rapine, and devastation with the greatest barbarity. The effeminacy of civilization contrasted with the energy of untaught nature. Took a walk and enjoyed the day cold as it was.242
Afternoon, engaged still upon the Oration for Cluentius, the examination of the condemnation of those Judges concerned in the trial of Oppiancius. Argumentative and as it seems to me very satisfactory. I believe when I read it before, the Account of the crimes of Oppiancius and Sassia is the only thing very hard for me to swallow. It seems scarcely conceivable that such a man and such a woman could be kept in Society at all. Much less in Rome famous for it’s Laws.
Evening quiet at home. Read the latter part of Hunt’s book to my Wife, into which he throws every thing he can muster. His account of his trip to Italy is in some respects better than any of the rest. It has his faults but more beauties.