Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Sunday. 11th. CFA Sunday. 11th. CFA
Sunday. 11th.

The Child seemed today decidedly better. And it is the first day upon which my pleasure has exceeded my anxiety for her, since her sickness. The Wind was cold and raw, the sky clouded. I attended Divine Service all day. Heard Mr. Putnam a young man settled in Roxbury. His Morning’s Sermon was from 97. Psalms 1. “The Lord reigneth.” But I did not find that he made much of the subject. At least my memory is a blank about it. I did rather better with the Afternoon. The text upon that occasion was from 1. Peter 12 “which things the angels desire to look into.” The argument tending to show the intellectual character of the Christian religion, and based upon the authority of the greatest minds making it a study. This young man however does not direct his powers to any object of value. Milton, Hale,1 Newton, Jones2 and Locke though all of them undoubtedly men of first rate mind, yet did little or nothing to sustain the character of Christianity, for the simple reason, that the religion was at once adapted to the simplest and poorest comprehension, and set at nought all the distinctions of mental power. I of course mean the practical doctrine without reference to the mystery which equally defies the greatest and the smallest comprehension.

On my return home I read a Sermon of Massillon’s upon luke-258warmness in religion. Text from Luke 4. 38. “And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever and they besought him for her.” As it seems to me with very little propriety. He spoke of the dangerous effects of lukewarmness as it makes our rectitude of purpose uncertain 1. by retarding the endeavour to attain perfection, 2. by confusing in the mind the consciousness of crime or sin, 3. by making charity doubtful.

I had a very quiet evening. Read to my Wife a part of the Lives of British Painters, those of Opie and Morland.3 They are interesting. Other studies as usual.

1.

Sir Matthew Hale (1609–1676), Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench and immensely learned in law and religion ( DNB ).

2.

The reference would seem to be to William Jones (1675–1749), mathematician and early expounder of the Newtonian philosophy, or to his son, Sir William Jones (1746–1794), orientalist and legal scholar, who enjoyed a reputation in England and America almost unrivaled for breadth of learning in literature and science; see the notices of each in DNB .

3.

Allan Cunningham’s The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters and Sculptors had recently been republished in Harper’s Family Library, 3 vols., N.Y., 1831–1832. The lives which CFA chose for reading on this and the following evenings all appear in the second volume. On John Opie (1761–1807) and George Morland (1763–1804), see DNB notices of each.

Monday. 12th. CFA Monday. 12th. CFA
Monday. 12th.

Rain with occasional claps of thunder. I went to the Office as usual and was occupied in my Journal and a variety of small duties all day. Wrote a letter to my Mother which took more time than it ought to have done.1 On my return home I found that Hull had received such information from Quincy as rendered it necessary for him to go there. I am fearful his father’s end is approaching.

Passed the afternoon at home and began another attempt upon the Spanish language. I have made several, and my principal difficulty has always been that it seems too easy. It defies application and yet can not be read without the labour of a Dictionary. But I will now make a persevering attempt by reading some of it every day. I began again the Moorish letters and read the Preface.2 Quiet evening at home. Read a part of the life of Barry the Painter.3

1.

The letter from CFA to LCA is missing unless the letter from and to the same, dated 9 March (Adams Papers) is the one referred to.

2.

CFA had studied Spanish as a junior at Harvard and in Washington during 1826 (vol. 1:100–133; 2:37–51 passim). The copy at MQA of José de Cadalso, Cartas Marruecas, Tolosa, 1820, has CFA’s bookplate.

3.

James Barry (1741–1806), member of the Royal Academy ( DNB ). His life appears in Cunningham, British Painters, at 2:54–123.

259