Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Saturday. 10th. CFA Saturday. 10th. CFA
Saturday. 10th.

My health is declining in spite of myself. The distress I endure every morning is something more than the vision of a hypochondriac. Yet it is aggravated by want of occupation. I know not what to turn my attention to but this I know that something must be done or I shall be very good for nothing.

Went to the Office and read Lingard — The Catholic account of the Reformation. Prejudiced but not with any appearance of intentional unfairness. He has hit upon the great truth without appreciating it, 396and without seeing the effect it produces upon the whole of his history. The struggle of Luther was the struggle of the human mind, for liberty, moral, religious, political and ecclesiastical. Its consequences are not yet fully developed, both in good and in evil.

A walk at one. I propose to adhere strictly to exercise this winter. Afternoon, reading Antimasonry. I read and read but am not yet master enough of the subject to compose. Discouragement in all my preceding undertakings gives me little hope upon this. Evening. Read to my Wife two or three interesting lives of Painters—Copley and Mortimer.1


A fourth volume of Allan Cunningham’s Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters and Sculptors had recently been published in the Harper’s Family Library edition (see above, entry for 11 March, note). John Singleton Copley, John Hamilton Mortimer, George Romney, William Owen, and Sir Henry Raeburn, whose lives CFA was reading during November, are all included in this volume, which CFA borrowed from the Athenaeum.

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

Beautiful weather. My father and mother are much favoured. Attended divine Service all day at the Church in Chauncy Place. Heard Mr. Frothingham, but my habit of inattention at Quincy has fixed upon me so much that I have all the old ground to go over again. My feelings were so bad also that I did nothing with zeal—A regular day of indigestion and suffering. Yet I took a long walk too.

Read a Sermon of Massillon’s upon the immutability of the Law of God. Text from John 8. 46. “If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me.” He considers three objections commonly made to the practice of Christianity. One drawn from the mutable nature of human affairs, one from the inequality of ranks in society, and one from peculiar contingencies and positions. To all he makes the same reply. Truth is eternal. The necessity of forming the invariable division of his Sermon drives him to repeat his idea in three distinct dresses. The first is the general position, the third is the particular position, and they both involve the second. I did little else.

In the evening read several of Marmontel’s Nouveaux Contes Moraux. His style is charming. What could I do better than try to imitate it? I will attempt it, and take le trepied d’Helene for my first attempt. My labour was paralyzed by a head ach.

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

Another fine day. I felt better than usual. Went to the Office and found there a letter from my father at New York announcing his safe 397arrival in that place on Saturday.1 And I saw in the Newspaper the account of the arrival of the Fornax here which is also good.2

This was the day of Election for State Officers and Electors with us. It was passed quietly enough. I voted the whole Antimasonic ticket with the exception of the Governor, one of the Senators and one of the Representatives.3 My mind is now made up to vote uniformly against the influence of that Institution. It’s effects in New York and Pennsylvania are strikingly perceptible in the late election.

Read Lingard and felt interested in his partial account of the Reformation. I am much afraid that here I must leave him in opinion. Afternoon at home—Digesting my notions of Antimasonry. Evening at Mrs. Frothingham’s. Conversation respecting natural magic. The death of Dr. Spurzheim is now confirmed.4


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


In August JQA and LCA wrote asking that JA2 send the cases of books “which have been more than three years packed up at Washington” and their prints, pictures, &c. The cargo was later sent by the steamer Fornax (JQA, Diary, 11 Aug.; JQA to JA2, 11 Aug.; LCA to Mrs. JA2, 21 Aug., both letters in Adams Papers).


The Antimasonic candidates were last in each contest. The whole National Republican ticket received majorities over the Jackson and Antimasonic tickets (Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 14 Nov., p. 2, col. 1).


Dr. Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, German physician, anatomist, and craniologist, a principal expounder of the new science of phrenology, died of typhus fever on 10 Nov. in Boston. From August to November he had delivered there and in Cambridge to large, distinguished, and enthusiastic audiences a series of seventeen lectures on phrenology. At the same time he delivered another series of lectures to the Boston Medical Society on the anatomy of the brain. His funeral at the Old South Church was the occasion of a great outpouring of persons. His impact upon the community had been profound. JQA recorded (Diary, 2 Nov.) that “Dr. Spurzheim is turning all our meditative brains by his Lectures. Since the days of Whitfield there has not been such a frenzy.” (Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 30 Oct., p. 2, col. 2; 12 Nov., p. 2, col. 3; 19 Nov., p. 2, col. 1; John D. Davies, Phrenology, Fad and Science, a 19th-Century American Crusade, New Haven, 1955, p. 16–20.)