Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Friday. 26th. CFA Friday. 26th. CFA
Friday. 26th.

Morning fine and day cool. I remained quietly in my study, writing, reading some Odes of Horace and looking over old Papers. This last engrossed most of the time.

I have been led by my examination into an idea of methodizing most of the Correspondence of my grandmother at least so far as related to herself and her husband. Much that I find is useless and valueless yet I do not feel myself authorized to destroy. This it is that gives the excessive tedium to this duty, for the chaff is constantly re-appearing and embarrassing. My examinations have disclosed to me the days of prosperity and those of adversity in about equal proportion—Some periods of public and others of more bitter private suffering, some hours of great elation for success produced by individual exertion for the public good and others of as much for the rewards which were reaped for it. Such is man’s life in every scene in which you may place him. The hewer of wood and drawer of water has his sorrows just like the rest of us, but no man will take the trouble to lay open the record of it. Events sustain men, yet events themselves are just the same when once you understand the art of discriminating their grades. Love, Hatred, Virtue and Vice are developed with the same certainty that sounds will come when you touch the keys to which they belong. A truce with further morality today.

My Afternoon was passed in the same occupation until I was summoned to go to Boston with my father and the ladies. We stopped to take tea with Mrs. Frothingham prior to going to hear the French Opera Company which is performing for a few nights. The piece was Zampa, a kind of Don Juan story; the hero, a Pirate gets possession of 135an old rich man’s castle and forces the daughter to marry him. But at several periods, a marble statue of a girl this man had seduced gives signs of animation, particularly as this fellow in jest at a banquet, puts a ring on its finger in token of marriage. Just as he is to consummate his marriage, his bride in marble carries him off. We returned by midnight.

Saturday. 27th. CFA Saturday. 27th. CFA
Saturday. 27th.

As the day was likely to prove a hot one and I had no leading object to carry me to town, I passed my time very quietly looking over old Papers. A packet which I opened contained the love letters of the old gentleman in 1763–4, just before his marriage.1 They were mostly written during the period of three or four weeks when he went up to Boston to be inoculated for the small Pox—At that time considered as a great exertion, not without much of personal hazard. The subject of course is an odd one for lovers, but they both seem to be so honest and simple hearted in discussing it, that after all these letters are far more true to nature than the sophistications of studied refinement. I do not find much to answer my particular purpose.

As I lost so much sleep last night, it was made up this afternoon, the rest of which was wasted in reading Puckler Muskau. I finished the volume. It is far better than the other one which I read and not wanting in reflection of a profitable kind. Some of his predictions appear not unlikely to prove true.

I was not quite well in the evening, and the child gave us another night like that passed at Medford on the first. I was not quite so uneasy from the fact that we had more assistance at hand. Slept a few hours on the bed in the study.


The first volume of Adams Family Correspondence includes these letters (never printed by CFA) as well as those noted in the following entry.

Sunday. 28th. CFA Sunday. 28th. CFA
Sunday. 28th.

Morning warm, although a high wind dispelled all the inconvenience one might otherwise have experienced from it. I attended divine service all day and heard Mr. Whitney preach but without much benefit to me as one of his hearers. I rarely find any thing in his Sermons which is not a repetition of the most commonplace popular notions. Mr. Whitney is a worthy man in his life and conversation I believe, but it is difficult to pay him that degree of respect which he perhaps deserves.


Read a Sermon of Massillon’s upon St. Stephen. Acts 6. 10. “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.” His uniform mode of treating these subjects is by urging the example. To be a defender of the truth requires that a man should be enlightened, intrepid, and full of the spirit of charity. St. Stephen became so from the possession of such qualities. This is cause to exhort others. I think Massillon understands reason far more than most panegyrists.

A considerable period of time was passed in reading some of the letters of J. Adams to his Wife 1774–6. Many of them are admirable and richly merit publication. I have a great mind to make a collection. At any rate, the more valuable ones I must copy. Evening at home. I read a little of Captain Hall’s book of travels,1 and a couple of Observers which I did not like.


Probably Basil Hall’s Travels in North America or his Fragments of Voyages and Travels, in both of which CFA had read earlier; see vol. 3:116; 4:355.