Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Friday. 23d. CFA Friday. 23d. CFA
Friday. 23d.

Pleasant day, not so cold as it has been. I read two hundred and odd lines of Virgil’s sixth Book of the Aeneid before going out and hoped it was a sign of improvement for the future. Finished Gibbon’s seventh volume at the Office which was also quite a gain. I again remained at my Office all day for the purpose of seeing my Tenant and he did not come. I lost my walk thereby and did not feel so well for it.

Afternoon I progressed very successfully in Spanish, and pretty well in Italian. I think I shall succeed in acquiring both languages. My Afternoon’s are thus pretty fully taken up, yet I cannot help recollecting my Grandfathers injunction to me, “studium sine calamo sommium.”1 I am doing nothing for my reputation.

We went in the Evening to a party at Mrs. A. Thorndike’s.2 Small but very pleasant. I have no great taste for such things now, but my neglect of them has had the effect of making me a stranger in my native town. This will not do. Returned before Midnight. Omitted Paley.


Although it is not known precisely when JA enjoined CFA to record what he learned or suffer it to be lost altogether, JA did use the same quotation in a letter to CFA’s brothers as they were about to leave Boston to join their parents in England (JA to GWA and JA2, 3 May 1815, Adams Papers. The sentence is quoted in its full context in L. H. Butterfield, “The Papers of the 267Adams Family: Some Account of Their History” in MHS, Procs. , 71 [1953–1957]:334).


The Augustus Thorndikes lived at 1 Otis Place ( Boston Directory, 1832–1833).

Saturday. 24th. CFA Saturday. 24th. CFA
Saturday. 24th.

Beautiful morning. I went to the Office after reading a considerable portion of Virgil’s beautiful sixth book of the Aeneid. This on the whole is I think the masterpiece. The imagination, the description the versification combine wonderfully. My time at the Office was somewhat wasted from the want of another volume of Gibbon I had left at the House. I dawdled until I found nothing to do had brought me to my walking hour. Deacon Spear called to see me and let me know about the Farms. I find the people at Quincy have great respect of persons, but it is rather Reversing the common apprehension of things.1 An agreeable walk.

Afternoon, reading the Moorish Letters in Spanish, and the Peruvian Letters in Italian, a translation of Mad. de Grafigny’s work.2 I think I make progress in both.

Quiet Evening. Read a few anecdotes of Johnson. After which my usual work upon the French Revolution. My mind is quite enlightened on this subject since I began. I do not realize my progress in knowledge.


CFA’s meaning would be clearer if following the comma he had written, “and this rather reverses what is commonly thought to be characteristic of small-town social attitudes.”


Françoise d’Issembourg de Happon-court de Grafigny, Lettere d’una Peruviana, tradotte dal francese ..., da G. L. Deodati, Avignon, 1817. The copy at MQA bears the notation in CFA’s hand: “Finished reading this book—the first Italian I ever attempted. April 25, 1832.”

Sunday. 25th. CFA Sunday. 25th. CFA
Sunday. 25th.

Another fine day. Attended Divine Service and heard Mr. Bulfinch1 preach Sermon taken from 2. Timothy 4. 6, 7, 8. “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” It was upon the truth of the Christian Religion, drawn from the character of Paul. The substance of the whole, a repetition of the old argument, that it was more difficult to disbelieve the evidence of his disinterestedness, than to assume it. A pretty ordinary production, I thought.

Mr. Frothingham’s Sermon in the Afternoon was from 2. Timothy 3. 15. “That from a child thou hast known the Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.” This of course he said referred to the Old Testament. He proceeded to illustrate the value of the read-268ing the Bible as a whole. He considered it beneficial in three points of view. 1. As it expresses more forcibly the divine Commandments 2. As it proposes bright examples for imitation 3. As it sets forth a clear promise of reward in a future state. A sensible Sermon.

I read Massillon in the Afternoon. The Text cited was from 4 John 5 “Then cometh he to a City of Samaria which is called Sychar,” but the subject in fact extended to the whole story of the Samaritan Woman. From her replies to the various inquiries of Jesus, the Preacher draws several moral reflections. He considers the obstacles to the operation of divine grace to be fairly represented by them. They form excuses of these kinds. 1. Excuses of condition. That is that Persons are not in a state fit for grace, as the Samaritan Woman pleaded her being of a different Community. 2. Excuses of difficulty or want of means as she objected the depth of the well. 3. Excuses of confusion, in other words, that from the endless jarrings of sects and doctrines it was not of any use to attempt to follow the subject. This gives a singular view of that passage in the Bible, and as I said of that last Sunday, to me not a natural one. The Woman appears to have been ignorant and sinful, but there is no evidence that she intended to resist the effort of divine grace to save her. She meets an unknown person at a well. That person is of a Sect who refuse all connection with her own, and she naturally wonders at the unusual advance. It is not until the third question is put and he tells her of what was known only to herself, that she can form any idea of the character of the person addressing her. And she then declares it. All this is simple enough. It is just the natural working of a common mind. There seems no intentional resistance of grace about it. And the whole of the preacher’s ingenious edifice falls to the ground. Apart from the Text and its application however, the moral of the Sermon is very well. Quiet evening at home.


Perhaps Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, who had graduated in divinity in 1830 ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ).