Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

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


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


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.

Wednesday. 21st. CFA Wednesday. 21st. CFA
Wednesday. 21st.

Morning quite sharp. Upon going down to the Office I found the whole street in commotion, in consequence of a fire which had taken place in the City Hall and the opposite side of the Street. It seems that this morning a fire was discovered in the building in State Street occupied by Mr. Derby and other Lawyers — That it got in under the Slates and spread over the whole Roof. The loss is considerable to the City, as much from damage in extinguishing it as from fire—For in such cases the violence of two elements is about equally to be dreaded.1

Read Lingard very industriously today and compared him with Hume. He certainly makes a specious case. Walk before dinner. Afternoon, writing upon Antimasonry. Evening reading to my Wife. After which I dawdled over German grammar and four Stanzas of the first Canto of Ariosto.2


The fire had been discovered at 4 a.m. in the building numbered 14 and 16 State Street, owned by the heirs of William Dehon and occupied by E. Haskett Derby, Cornelius Coolidge, and other lawyers and brokers. By 6 o’clock the fire had spread to the roof of the City Hall and was not extinguished for three more hours (Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 22 Nov., p. 2, col. 1).


CFA’s earlier reading of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso had been in an English translation (above, entry for 18 Feb.). The poem in the original Italian is in the first and second volumes of the edition of the Opere published at Bassano, 1771, in 4 vols., now at MQA. JQA’s bookplate is affixed.

Thursday. 22nd. CFA Thursday. 22nd. CFA
Thursday. 22nd.

Cloudy and dark with rain. I went to the Office as usual, but a considerable part of my morning was engrossed at Cunningham’s Auction Room whither I went to buy a German Dictionary. I do not think that I made much by my bargain. In my opinion bargains are not very often made at auction. I did not succeed in getting any thing else I wanted. Walk notwithstanding the rain.


Afternoon, finished No. 2 on Antimasonry. I think it good. At any rate the occupation makes my time light enough upon my hands.

Evening quiet at home. Read with my wife part of the little Tale of Undine in French taken from the German.1 And afterwards hung over the German Grammar, with a stanza or two of Ariosto. The acquisition of language is tiresome. I detest the mud of the Grammars. Received letters from both my parents who are safe arrived at Washington.2


La Motte Fouqué’s Undine had been translated into French by I. Montolieu and published at Paris in 1822 as Ondine.


JQA to CFA, 15 Nov. (Adams Papers). The letter from LCA is missing.