Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Friday. 13th. CFA Friday. 13th. CFA
Friday. 13th.

A very lovely day. I went to the Office after making some progress in the reading of Virgil though not so much as I wished. I did hope to finish Virgil this week. My day was somewhat wasted. The weather was so fine I could not make up my mind to remaining at the Office. Received an urgent letter from my father inviting my Wife and myself to spend the Summer with them. I suppose I must accede to it. If it was not for the inconvenience that it puts us to I should like it very much.1 Spent an hour with Mr. Davis in which we had very pleasant literary Conversation. His mind is unusually cultivated. Took a walk, but the heat of the Sun was absolutely oppressive.

Afternoon. Read as usual but found my Spanish uncommonly hard. My only purchase yesterday was of a copy of Vasari’s Works which I consider a great bargain.2 But the consumption of money in these cases is quite prodigious.

Evening quiet at home. I read a little of the introduction to the first 279volume of Vasari. My Wife was out. Afterwards, I was interested in the account of the disastrous expedition to Russia in 1812. And the Rambler.


“[Y]ou are necessaries of life to us, during the summer.... It is my ardent wish to devote the ensuing Summer to the memory of my father, and if I am permitted so to do, I shall want your assistance more than ever. I depend upon you for aid in my labours and for company in my Solitude.... [Y]our wife will be as necessary to the happiness of your mother, as you will be to mine”

(JQA to CFA, 10 April, Adams Papers).

The handsome set of Giorgio Vasari’s Vite de’ più eccelenti pittori scultori e architetti, 16 vols., Milan, 1807–1811, now at MQA, has CFA’s bookplate pasted partially over the bookplate of William H. Eliot.

Saturday 14th. CFA Saturday 14th. CFA
Saturday 14th.

The weather cannot last fine a great while at this Season. The Wind was Easterly today and of course unpleasant. After reading Virgil, I went to the Office. My whole disposable time was taken up in writing a letter to my father.1 This was hardly accomplished before two. The reason of this is that I had a long interruption in the shape of a woman who looked fond of the bottle and certainly talked to match her look. She was a kind of beggar. But I got along with her quite easy. My only loss was my time.2 Deacon Spear also called and talked but I got no Money. I have never known a Season when this Article came in so sparingly.

Afternoon quietly at home. I read a little Spanish, but the largest portion of my time was devoted to transcribing my letter and accompanying it with the necessary papers. I was ashamed of it as a composition, yet was glad enough to get it finished at all. Evening short and quiet at home. I felt indolent. Mr. Nathl. Hall paid a short visit here. He is one of the perfectibilian tribe.


LbC in Adams Papers.


CFA recounted the visit at greater length in his letter to JQA, above:

“Distinguished public characters reflect a little of their lustre upon persons nearly related to them in such a manner as those persons do not sometimes altogether relish. It is now an hour since I began writing to you, during which period my name is responsible for a shocking bore inflicted upon me in the shape of a tipsy woman by name Armstrong, who has been dilating upon all manner of things and sure all the time that if you was only here you would sustain all she says.”

Sunday. 15th. CFA Sunday. 15th. CFA
Sunday. 15th.

Raw and cloudy with Wind still East. Passed the morning in finishing the Aeneid with which I have been very much pleased. The thing seems to me to be an honour to the human intellect for imagination, for pathos, for perfect harmony, for beauty. And there is moral in it so far as the Ancients allowed themselves to have moral.


I attended Divine Service all day. Heard Mr. Frothingham preach. His Text, “Isaiah 21. 11–12. “He calleth to me out of Seir. Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman saith, the morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.” He explained in the first place the literal meaning of the Text. And then applied the words to the present state of things, to the future, and to the chance of death. The Sermon was admired but it did not strike me. His afternoon’s discourse was much more simple, Nehemiah 9. 6. “Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens with all their hosts, the earth and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all.” It turned upon the attribute of God as a Creator, the doubt that had been early expressed by a particular sect of his having to do with so corrupt a thing as matter, and the belief drawn from phrases of the New Testament that the Saviour was the Creator of all things. He inclined to the construction of the spiritual creation of all things. It was useful but dry.

Read a Sermon of Massillon upon Scepticism, John 7. 27. “Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth, whence he is.” Turning off from the discussion of the main question as to the truth of the religion, he considered only the motives for doubt of it in many cases. 1. Dissoluteness which resorts to disbelief as a protection. 2. Ignorance of a wilful kind. 3. Vanity of knowledge. He treats of them successively with great power. Evening quiet at home.