Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

327 Wednesday. 11th. CFA Wednesday. 11th. CFA
Wednesday. 11th.

The clouds and mist continued with occasional heavy rain during the day. I went to town contrary to my wishes, principally for the purpose of accommodating Gorham Brooks. This compelled me to go to my House, after which I went down to an auction of pictures at Mr. Cunningham’s. There were a few good Paintings of landscape in the Dutch style, among a great many ordinary ones.1 They were not sold for very high prices and yet they went beyond my mark. I am on the whole quite glad of it as I have no place to put more if I bought ever so many or few, and on the whole it is an idle taste. My whole morning was thus pretty much exhausted.

Returned to Quincy fortunately having the rain behind me. Miss Smith and Miss E. C. Adams dined here and celebrated my father’s anniversary. He is sixty six.2 Afternoon, read Seneca upon tranquility of mind, somewhat negligently to be sure. Evening quiet at home.

1.

“72 oil paintings just imported from Antwerp ... several fine landscapes by Ruysdael, Teniers, Berghem and others” (Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 11 July, p. 3, col. 5).

2.

CFA was in error. The birthday was JQA’s sixty-fifth. The celebrants would have been cheered by the report of JQA’s health and spirits contained in a letter written on 30 June to a friend in Boston by a “New England man and sojourner in ... Washington” and printed two days before JQA’s birthday:

“I have never seen Mr. Adams look so well these ten years. He was much indisposed about the third year of his Presidency, which his friends thought was, in a great measure owing to his habit of cold bathing.... Every body, ladies and all, say he looks younger and sprightlier than when he stood at the head of the nation.... [T]his delicate and ungrateful business [the Bank investigation and the tariff] he conducted with a steady calmness and coolness that I hardly expected; but, at the same time with a promptness and decision characteristic of his patriotic predecessors of the same name, illustrious for their steady habits. He certainly, at this time, stands on an eminence deservedly high”

(Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 9 July, p. 2, col. 2).

Thursday. 12th. CFA Thursday. 12th. CFA
Thursday. 12th.

It rained occasionally throughout the day so that I concluded to remain quietly at home. Time taken up in reading Thucydides whose first book I finished and reviewed a considerable part of it. This makes rather an introduction to his History, than any part of the History itself. I think it valuable for its matter and manner, although a strict copy of it in these days would hardly be popular. The present age calls for more breadth as people take less time to think upon single subjects.

Afternoon read Seneca upon tranquility of mind. It is unfortunate for this author, that all his contempt of riches, and love for the most complete absence of cares arising from such a source, is set off against the fact in his life that he was himself immensely wealthy. Perhaps, 328abstractly considered there may be justice in his reflections. But I cannot help thinking the exercise of moderation in poverty, whether voluntary or involuntary, much easier, than in the possession of abundance. It is true that man’s course is more sure and safe from avoiding temptation, but it is certainly more honourable to resist it. I believe Seneca has the greater merit. He was rich and yet frugal, not from a saving or accumulating spirit, but from a feeling of moderation. In the evening, I read Ludlow and the usual Ramblers.