Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Monday. 16th. CFA Monday. 16th. CFA
Monday. 16th.

The fog still continues thick and heavy, without rain. I passed an hour in reading the criticism of La Harpe upon Esther and Athalie, together with occasional dipping into the Volumes of Voltaire whose inexhaustible variety supplies the place of depth and judgment. By this last word I mean that consistency of a mind which forms opinions upon thorough reflection and adheres to them stubbornly. At the Office—My time not spent very profitably. Two or three interruptions. My new Tenant among others who adheres tenaciously. A true bore, I fear. Nothing of consequence took place. I went home after calling upon a Tenant.

My Wife went out of town to see Mrs. Gorham Brooks who is confined. I finished the Oration for Caelius. It is as Middleton calls it, amusing, but its general character does not recommend itself to my judgment—Abuse of vice and justification of it in the same breath. Evening, read Athalie over again to remember it. It seems the perfec-50tion of melodious versification. Read the Life of Racine in the Dictionnaire Historique, and Two Spectators.

Tuesday. 17th. CFA Tuesday. 17th. CFA
Tuesday. 17th.

Morning foggy with a cold easterly Wind, but it afterwards became clear and pleasant. I went to the Office after reading a little of Voltaire’s Orphelin de la Chine. This suggested itself to me by the reading of Grimm, whose criticism on its first appearance reminded me how very defectively I had read it. My morning was spent quietly in continuing the “Bibliotheque de l’homme publique” with a consideration of the influence of Montesquieu upon the Revolution. These papers all have the particular spirit which brought on that catastrophe, and a person looking back at this moment feels a singular sentiment in reflecting upon the result as compared with the earnest prophecy.1 Took a walk after attending to two or three applicants for Houses.

Afternoon, feeling as if I had better wind up some things that had been troubling my patience for some time past, I devoted to pasting my father’s papers and preparing books for the binder—Pamphlets and old things that have been in my way for some time.

Evening, took a walk with my Wife, and called to see Miss A. S. Adams who was not well enough to come down, and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Brooks, paying them the long promised visit. Read La harpe’s Criticism of Voltaire’s Orphelin de la Chine, and Two Spectators.


CFA’s marginal animadversions accompany “De l’autorité de Montesquieu dans la révolution présente” in vol. 7 of Bibliothèque de l’homme public.

Wednesday. 18th. CFA Wednesday. 18th. CFA
Wednesday. 18th.

The day was very beautiful being clear and warm. I was occupied in making the final arrangements for leaving the City on our short summer residence in the Country. At the Office where I read over the Paper on the influence of Montesquieu. It seemed to me not to destroy one of the positions attacked, for in not a single instance did it meet them fairly. The attempt to destroy the Aristocracy of France, of which this was a part, succeeded, but it brought no such advantages with it as were anticipated.

At one o’clock I started with a horse and gig to Quincy leaving my Wife to go in the Carriage. Reached there some time before her, and found the family much as usual. My Mother seemed to be in very good health and spirits, but my Father from some reason or other seems dull.1 I am a little apprehensive about him. Quiet is not his 51sphere. And when a legitimate scene of action does not present itself, it is much to be feared that he will embrace an illegitimate one.

My time was not occupied very usefully. Mr. and Mrs. Cruft and Mr. F. C. Gray called in the afternoon.2 I read two or three Sections only of Cicero, and felt on the whole dissatisfied and unsettled. Took a walk in the Garden which looks very well. Evening, Conversation with my Father about the Judge’s Affairs. The Spectator as usual.


Although he had been able to resume his daily reading on the 13th, JQA continued to be troubled by various physical ailments; on the 14th he began regular horseback-riding for his health (JQA, Diary).


Francis Calley Gray, counselor, who is identified at vol. 2:158, had his office in Barristers’ Hall and lived at 18 Summer Street. He had failed of reelection to the state Senate and was currently devoting considerable time to the affairs of Harvard College and to his horticultural interests ( Boston Directory, 1831–1832; JQA, Diary, 18, 24, 27 May).