Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Tuesday. 18th. CFA Tuesday. 18th. CFA
Tuesday. 18th.

Fine day though exceedingly cold. I went to Boston. Finding that my time was much wasted by my way of life, I went to the Athenaeum and got the second Volume of Marshall,1 which I propose to look over for the political events of the period after the close of the war. The History of the course of Washington is among the astonishing Romances of life. There never was a man before in such a situation to do good to the world and never one before so much disposed to improve it. Patriotism may derive a shining and a warming light from his example. It teaches that all is not hollow pretence, that there can be public virtue and that the world will appreciate it. I was very much struck with his address to the army officers, notwithstanding the very dry style of the biographer. Mr. Curtis called on me for a moment, about a paper to be drawn up for Mr. Boylston’s Estate.

I returned to Quincy, and passed my Afternoon reading Mirabeau’s 109Letters. A singular genius of whom I must learn something more. What a diversity of human character is to be found in this world. No two persons are alike when you see them in history, and although the common mass of mankind resemble each other sufficiently to pass together in a general view, yet a careless observer will note the differences between the individuals who compose it. Mirabeau was a genius and a rascal, an active and an indolent man, quick to see beauty and fitness, dull to practise it. Unprincipled and yet full of sentiments the most exalted. What a contrast to Washington. Passed the evening at home. Read a few of Madame de Sevigné’s letters and the Observer.


John Marshall’s Life of George Washington, probably in the revised edition, 2 vols., Phila., 1832.

Wednesday. 19th. CFA Wednesday. 19th. CFA
Wednesday. 19th.

The day was fine. All the family drove into town this morning, in the Carriage. I went first to the Office and spent an hour without doing much. The remainder of my time was taken up with the ladies at the Athenaeum. It is a pleasant and a profitable thing to spend time studying the efforts of genius in one great line of art. There is nothing more striking than the decline of art as exemplified in the ancient and modern pictures. The colours which in the one seem laid on with singular truth and propriety, look patched from droppings of the rainbow in the other. I passed an hour in the reading room, and thence to Mr. Frothingham’s where we all dined. Mrs. Gorham Brooks was there, and Mr. Brooks came after dinner.

We returned to Quincy safely after a tiresome day. In the evening, we went by invitation to Mrs. E. Miller’s, a Quincy party with no variety to mention. Home by ten. We saw Mr. Beale who has returned quite pleased from his tour.

In conversation with my father today, I obtained more information respecting his property, which very materially altered my ideas upon the subject. Instead of gaining ground, it seems he has been able barely to hold his own. And judging from the prospect I should expect that my former impressions were justified. This must rouse my slackened attention to my former plan. It must warn me not to trust too implicitly to present indications of wealth, and to look hardly and sharply to the future. But my father, his futurity I do not like to look forward to.

Thursday. 20th. CFA Thursday. 20th. CFA
Thursday. 20th.

Fine day although cloudy. I remained quietly at Quincy as much to get over the fatigue of yesterday as to do something in the way of 110literary occupation. I read Horace, the remainder of Neale’s Account of the Reign of Elizabeth, and a little of Hutchinson. These are all exercises of the mind but they are hardly as active as they should be.

I ought to be writing to keep my hand in practice. The Account of Hutchinson ought to inspire me with a subject than which I hardly know a finer. At any rate, I ought to meditate it. My father who is the person to do what is requisite seems to hang off from the undertaking, and to be disposed to plunge into any thing else which will give distraction to his mind.

In the afternoon, I read the second volume of Mirabeau which is not so interesting as the first. It has far more of the appearance of bookmaking. This with a little Indexing engrossed my time. Evening read some of Madame de Sevigné. And two very good numbers of the Observer upon the truth of the Christian Religion and the character of the Moral it inculcates. Conversation also with my Mother about General Jackson.