Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Monday. 6th. CFA Monday. 6th. CFA
Monday. 6th.

Cloudy with an Easterly Wind, which in the afternoon produced heavy rain. I went into town, accompanied by James Field, the son of Mrs. Field, the child’s Nurse, who had come from Boston to see her. I had a quiet morning reading Major Hordynski and one or two of the Essays by Mr. Southey lately published in a separate volume. They are very amusing.1 I also read Mr. Slade’s Speech in the House of Representatives which is a severe invective upon the Administration of Gen. Jackson.2

Notwithstanding this account of my time I feel sensible that I am doing nothing for the benefit of myself or of others. But I do not clearly see any mode of amending my ways. The thing must be endured until some opening shall take place by which my labours can have a direction.

Dined at the Tremont House and went from there in a shower of rain to the Boylston Market, where a Meeting of the Directors was held according to custom. As usual a discussion arose which lasted until nearly six o’clock without any prospect of a termination. I was obliged to make a move, so that the business was transferred to a Committee.

Heavy rain during my return to Quincy. Quiet evening. There was an alarm respecting the Cholera in Boston in consequence of sickness at the State Prison.

1.

Robert Southey’s earlier periodical contributions were collected and published as Essays, Moral and Political, 2 vols., London, 1832. Dr. George Parkman had lent the first volume to JQA a few days earlier. JQA’s opinion of the essays differed from CFA’s initial response to them: “They are like the withered flowers of a hortus siccus. Like stale Champaign wine. Like an almanack of a year long gone by. Like an old letter of my own writing. Like anything that once was fresh and lively and brisk and now is obsolete, flat and unprofitable. He 342republishes them as if they were the vaticinations of Cassandra” (JQA, Diary, 7 Aug.).

2.

The Speech on the Resolution Relative to the Collector of Wiscasset (Washington, 1832) by William Slade of Vermont in the House of Representatives on 5 May, which proceeded from a consideration of the case of the Wiscasset, Maine, collector to a general attack on official corruption, was listed in CFA’s catalogue of his pamphlet collection (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 326).

Tuesday. 7th. CFA Tuesday. 7th. CFA
Tuesday. 7th.

Clouds and occasional rain. I remained at home today. Began reading a Biography of Oliver Cromwell with the view of making something out of it.1 I was led by it to look into the Parliamentary History and to make a kind of Analysis of the facts in the beginning of the Revolution.2 I have thus cleared my ideas still more. Perhaps I should have written some passages of my last Essay differently at this time. But vox missa nescit reverti. I must stand the test of my own offering. My whole morning was taken up in this manner.

Afternoon, finished Seneca’s second book of benefits. I certainly am agreeably disappointed in this work. He makes a great deal out of it. And what is more he hits upon a doctrine of extraordinary purity. He considers generosity as it’s own reward, excepting so far as gratitude on the part of the benefitted heightens it. This gratitude acquits the debt. Though a kind of obligation yet remains, to be valid for the return of benefits, provided the thing is possible.

Evening, continued Mr. Canning. My life on the whole at Quincy is a studious one. I accomplish a good deal, though somewhat of a varied nature. It may fairly be questioned how far my plan is beneficial to me, but one thing is certain, that I know not how I can at present better myself. Perhaps if I was to write more and read less, it might be more useful, but I do not feel like taking so much trouble unless under the incitement of publication in prospect. This is a suggestion however worth thinking over again.

1.

Mark Noble, Memoirs of the Protectorate-House of Cromwell. CFA’s bookplate is in the edition published at Birmingham, 1784, in 2 vols., now at MQA. However, only the day before, CFA had borrowed a copy of the work from the Boston Athenaeum.

2.

An edition of The Parliamentary or Constitutional History of England by Several Hands, 24 vols., London, 1762, with JQA’s bookplate is now at MQA.

Wednesday. 8th. CFA Wednesday. 8th. CFA
Wednesday. 8th.

Weather continues showery. I remained at home and continued very earnestly reading the life of Cromwell. I finished the rapid Summary of events which the biographer places in the beginning. And I made a little abstract of them for my more clearly understanding the 343time. He will now proceed to develope the application of Cromwell’s personal character to these events. I believe that a great deal can be said on this subject. My only interruption this morning was a bath.

Afternoon consumed without much profit—Pasting labels in my father’s books, and a few pages of Seneca.

In the evening, continued Mr. Canning’s biography—Account of the difficulties between Portugal and Brazil. He seems to have had full enough in his hands. In looking over the accounts of European diplomacy, it is curious to observe the intricate network which is laid over the whole division of Europe, and through Europe, of Asia and America. Is this necessary, or is it of the thousand and one puzzles of the human brain to enlarge itself.