Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Wednesday. 20th. CFA Wednesday. 20th. CFA
Wednesday. 20th.

Very cool indeed. I went to the Office and was busy in reading Milton although not with a great deal of profit. Called upon Mr. Hallet and had a conversation upon political affairs. I asked him to withdraw my name from the Antimasonic list of Representatives. He demurred. I told him how I was situated, that I did not wish positively to refuse but that if it was a matter of indifference to the party, I would rather have it taken off. He said he would see how the thing was received and if he could do it easily, my request should be complied with, but that they wanted names and especially Lawyers. My Law is a vast thing to be sure.

Received a letter from my father with a caution about the Post Office. It seems, one of my packets came quite open, but whether forced open or merely worn through, I cannot say.1

Miss Julia Gorham dined with us. Afternoon continued Bacon, and read three hundred lines of Virgils fifth book. Evening, Tom Jones, and Racine’s Andromaque. I have now finished all Racine’s best tragedies. I admire them as fine specimens of versification, and strong personation of passion and character, but I regret the clogs which the stiffness of the French taste has embarrassed him with. All Plays in 217French are alike. They all turn upon love, and they all have heroes and heroines out of nature, with each a confident or confidente to work out the plot with. And this in the face of the fact so often stated by the “Grand Condé,” that no man is a hero to his Valet de Chambre. They use no bigger words than the mass of mankind. What call is there to elevate them out of nature?


JQA to CFA, 16–17 Nov. (Adams Papers). JQA was less willing to suspend judgment: “It had been broken open ... I suppose they will do the same by this. So write me nothing by the mail which you are not willing to see published.... Look to your Jackson-Masonic Post-Office, but make no complaint. The Post-Office here is in the very lowest depth of corruption, insolvency and swindling, and so are others if not all the Departments of the Government.” Having vented his wrath, however, in a postscript he had second thoughts, noting that the broken cover was of flimsy material.

Thursday. 21st. CFA Thursday. 21st. CFA
Thursday. 21st.

Morning milder and more pleasant. I went to the Office and passed an hour in occupation. Mr. Peabody came in and asked me to walk with him. I accordingly went, and on my return went to the Athenaeum to select some book for my morning’s exercise. I find some difficulty in selecting a suitable subject for my morning meditations. I picked up a volume of Parliamentary debates of the time of the American War, which I thought might clear my ideas a little as to those times. But I must turn my attention more definitely to that subject if I take it up at all.

Walk. Afternoon, having received a letter from my Mother, I answered it and wrote one also to my father1—The subject generally political. There is a clue yet to be unravelled which I do not understand. Evening quietly at home. I began the Account of the life of Racine prefixed to his works. A man killed by the critics, which is bad enough to be sure. When he probably was worth all the critics together that ever touched his works. There is much to profit by in this Account. Hewlett and the Bible as usual.


LCA’s letter (17 Nov., Adams Papers) reports the illness of herself, John, and Mary. CFA’s letter to JQA is in the Adams Papers, but his letter to LCA is missing.

Friday. 22d. CFA Friday. 22d. CFA
Friday. 22d.

Cloudy with a heavy rain through the most part of the day. I went to the Office and passed most of my time in reading the account of the Parliamentary debates upon the American affairs. The difference in the mode of reporting and speaking since that time is prodigious. 218The public is the Auditor now and the consequence seems to be harangues of great length and very moderate substance. I do not perceive that the Orators of the British Parliament very much excell our’s. Perhaps the taste of the Speakers is better, but their productions have not so much matter.

Walk in the rain as I was suffering again from slight indigestion. Afternoon, busied in copying my Letter to my father, which I executed and sent. Evening, Tom Jones and the Life of Racine. Heavy rain in the night.