Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Monday. 19th. CFA Monday. 19th. CFA
Monday. 19th.

Cloudy with heavy fog. I went to the Office and my whole time 402passed very busily in copying Letters and Accounts written yesterday, so that in fact I did not waste a moment. Indeed, since my return to town I have felt considerable satisfaction in the confidence that as little of my time is unemployed as reasonably can be. Perhaps I do not occupy myself in the most useful manner, but as to that who is to judge. If I do as well as I can in my best way of forming an opinion what more can be expected from me.

Took a walk, part of the way with Edmund Quincy. His talk is of small things. He has narrowed his intellect from giving it a mistaken and frivolous direction.1 Afternoon, writing upon Anti Masonry. Draughted No. 1 with important alterations. Evening with my wife, reading Marmontel and lives of Painters, and then the Tripod of Helen.

1.

What diversion had proved temporarily absorbing to Edmund Quincy is not known.

Tuesday. 20th. CFA Tuesday. 20th. CFA
Tuesday. 20th.

Fine morning. Clear and windy as the day advanced which very rapidly increased the cold. Morning at the Office for an hour, arranging Papers, and draughting Accounts. I then went down to the Athenaeum and to see two Pictures of the State of Man in Paradise and his expulsion; by a man named Dubufe said to have been painted for Charles 10.1 They are good, the figures of the man and woman seem to me to express every thing that can be imagined of beauty in the human form. But I do not like the appearance of the Snake, the idea is that Satan is whispering into her ear, but there is no corresponding expression in her face. Purity and love, implicit faith in her husband are expressed but nothing like a conception of sin. The other and less pleasing picture is disfigured by a similar introduction of Satan. This may claim the greater technical merit as a powerful specimen of foreshortening. It seems to me however to be liable to greater objections. The scene is an unpleasant one. It represents a storm, but there is no clearness in the background. No one can tell whether it is the sea or a river or any thing but water, and clouds and smoke. The effect of the light is however very well done. I passed an hour there and was gratified. These pictures however commonly meet with an objection here, that I do not urge because I do not think it sound, their indelicacy. We have vastly too much of the “seeming pure.”

After a walk and dining, I rode to Quincy, examined the state of the things, gave orders respecting them, and returned home to Tea. Cheerless enough is the Country in winter. Mr. Brooks came in for a 403few moments. He goes to morrow to Washington. Finished, le Trepied d’Helene.2

1.

Probably Claude Marie Dubufe (1790–1864), whose work was included in later exhibitions (Mabel M. Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery, Boston, 1940, p. 221).

2.

CFA’s translation, “The Tripod of Helen,” from Marmontel, first contemplated on 11 Nov. and begun on the 15th, is in the Adams Papers (Microfilms, Reel No. 318). The project may have initially suggested itself to CFA during his recent reading of some of his father’s contributions to the Port Folio (entry for 15 Oct., above). In the issues for 8, 15, 22, and 29 Oct. 1803 is a translation, “The Tripod of Helen,” which in JQA’s copy of the Port Folio now at MBAt is initialed as having been made by JQA. CFA began to read Marmontel on 6 November.