Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Thursday. March 1st. CFA Thursday. March 1st. CFA
Thursday. March 1st.

Day fine though cooler than yesterday. I went to the Office as usual and passed my time pretty diligently. Finished a Chapter of Gibbon upon the origin and progress of the Monastic habits and also of the Christian religion among the Barbarians. Though he is very much prejudiced and consequently never altogether fair in his Account, there are yet some things of value in his criticisms. That the Religion of Christ has been abused to a most extraordinary degree will admit of little doubt. The visions of Plato have done something but fanaticism resulting from excessive ignorance far more. Took a walk with Mr. Peabody at one.

Afternoon at home. Read portions of the second and third Georgic. The author has handled ticklish subjects with considerable delicacy. 251But after all, there is not much to be said for the details of rural Economy. Like Mr. J. Randolph’s stud advertisement which amused me this morning, there is too much of sex in it.1

Evening, resumed Ariosto to my Wife. He rises as he treats of the storm of Paris. Indeed this is the only place where I have seen a great deal of vigour. The personification of Silence and Discord, the latter particularly is very good. Read Dryden’s Medal and the first part of the Hind and Panther.

1.

In the Daily National Intelligencer, 25 Feb., p. 3, cols. 5–6, there appeared a full two-column advertisement in the form of a letter signed by John Randolph of Roanoke. In announcing that his three stallions (Janus, Gascoigne, and Rinaldo) were at stud for the year, he provided in picturesque detail, of which a sample is given below, the information thought appropriate about each horse, with incidental comment on current taste and fashion:

“Janus has more of the blood of old Janus (his great great grandsire) than any other horse living, and his action surpasses that of any other animal of his species that the writer of this advertisement ever saw, his dam Frenzy only excepted.... He won several times—among others at Tree Hill, when Gen. Lafayette was there—but although a real racer, with great speed, he was a very unlucky one.... He beat the far-famed Henry ... the two first heats out of five, of one mile each, the best three in five; and could he have been kept back, so as to throw away a heat, it is believed that he would have won the race—(Such was the opinion, among others, of that model of the Old Virginia Planter and Sportsman, the late Edmund Irby, Esquire.) But ... his ungovernable temper caused his defeat.... Janus at sixty dollars and one dollar to the Groom; forty dollars the leap, to be paid at the stable door, before the mare is led away. ... Any mare not proving in foal shall be covered next season gratis by Janus or Gascoigne....

“[Rinaldo] is a horse of vast strength and great activity. He, too, was bred after the dam, most luckily, for easier trotters, or a more hardy and thrifty race of horses never existed; they will keep fat upon what will barely keep alive the leggy, long-backed Garsons that are now all the rage, and which are fit for nothing but a long race, or a collar and hames; whereas, the true serviceable horse is the quarter horse, being active, sure footed, speedy, and capable of breaking down the fashionable stock in a hard ride of fifty, or even five and twenty miles.... Rinaldo is of the best running blood, as will be seen. His neck was injured by too early smelling at mares. His body and limbs cannot be surpassed by any horse. His head is large and bony.... His feet are of the old horny and cupped description that distinguished the Virginia horse before Colonel Hoomes inundated our country with worthless Stallions, and introduced the flat, thin-soled, weak crusted foot that can hardly hold a shoe, and cannot travel five miles without one. Our old-fashioned horses never required shoeing except in hard frosts, or hard work on stony ground. The new stock must be shod when not at work, or they fall lame....

“There cannot be a higher bred horse [than Gascoigne], and he is of immense power.... He is a most beautiful creature, not tall enough to suit the present depraved taste for leggy horses.... As a stallion he is untried, having only covered last year privately. He is eight years old next grass.... He will cover at one hundred dollars.... Any winner or breeder of a winner of respectability shall be covered gratis.... And one hundred dollars will be paid to the proprietor of Ariel for permission to cover her, and to the owner of Reality also, provided she be not past bearing.... Profit, it will be seen, forms no part of the object of Gascoigne’s master.”

CFA’s allusion to the advertisement without naming the Intelligencer sug-252gests that he had taken to reading the Washington paper regularly, perhaps since his father’s term in the House began. This is confirmed by CFA’s general awareness, evident in his letters, of JQA’s actions and speeches in the House, even where no explicit reference is made in a journal entry. An example is JQA’s speech of 8 Feb. against a proposed revision in the ratio of representation in Congress to population, his first major oratorical effort in the House, printed in extenso in the Daily National Intelligencer, 28 Feb., p. 2, cols. 1–4.

Friday. 2d. CFA Friday. 2d. CFA
Friday. 2d.

Morning fine, but it afterwards grew cloudy and disagreeable. I went to the Office and found there a letter from T. B. Adams Jr. requesting me to appropriate his funds to the education of Joseph until he should go to Sea.1 This is generous on his part but hardly fair, for Joseph ought to pay his own expenses. Continued Gibbon and passed on the whole a fair morning. My time better occupied than heretofore. One or two interruptions of Tenants to pay Money. My father’s Affairs are now pretty easy here and would go to relieve him very much if he had not contracted such a debt from his speculation of last Summer as throws back every thing for some years. Took a walk with Mr. Peabody as usual.

Afternoon. Read parts of the third and fourth Georgic. There is an amazing sweetness in these Poems. They present agreeable images. Country scenery, quiet, innocence and peace. Not that the thing is real, for human passions are the same every where but the eye loves to rest upon a green spot, even if it is only an illusion.

Evening at home. Continued Ariosto, but my Wife votes it monotonous and a bore, so that I shall be obliged to drop it. Read the rest of Dryden’s Hind and Panther. A religious discussion in verse. I became drowsy over it.

1.

The letter is missing.

Saturday. 3d. CFA Saturday. 3d. CFA
Saturday. 3d.

Fine day. I went to the Office as usual and was occupied in making up Accounts after which I finished the sixth volume of Gibbon which closes the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West. A work in itself of immense labour and erudition. I admire it upon the whole. The disposition of the historian seems to have been warped by a sense of real injury done to virtue through the Agency of hypocrisy and fanaticism. He goes to one extreme from a dislike of the other. Attended a meeting of the Bar at one o’clock, and from thence went to the Athenaeum, so that I did not walk today.

Afternoon. Finished the Georgics and the story of Aristaeus which 253is considered as the greatest ornament. They are models for that species of composition, a sign of which is that all subsequent times have only imitated them.1 Quiet Evening at home. Read part of Goëthe’s Memoirs to my Wife.2

1.

At the conclusion of the section devoted to the Georgics in the London, 1824, edition of Virgil’s Opera at MQA, CFA has written, “These books have never been equalled.”

2.

An English translation was published at New York in 1824.