Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Saturday. 23rd. CFA Saturday. 23rd. CFA
Saturday. 23rd.

Another delightful day. I went to the Office. Read my father’s Speech1 and pored over the Intelligencer until I was weary. Then read more of the letters of Gouverneur Morris. I find I appropriate only an hour or at most two of the morning in any reading. Another, for walking, and the rest divides itself into writing, Accounts and Newspapers. Is this working to the best advantage.

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I walked and went to inquire about Wood, but found it high. Returned home and thence to dine at P. C. Brooks Jr.’s with my Wife. Nobody else. Returned at four and read Anquetil. This is a book that does not require much study, but I began Alison on Taste which cannot be read superficially to any purpose. Returned in the evening to bring back my Wife. Supper. I did little afterwards.

The last week has been given up far too much to dissipation. It unsettles my mind and disorders my body. It injures my taste for that simplicity of life which is after all the great end of human existence, or rather I would say, the true means, by which the great ends are accomplished.

1.

On the tariff, delivered in the House on 4 February.

Sunday. 24th. CFA Sunday. 24th. CFA
Sunday. 24th.

The day was cloudy with mist, rain, hail and finally snow. I passed the morning in reading Alison on Taste. A correct idea of the principles of taste is essential to good writing. I think I have not got it. Mr. Alison resolves it into a train of simple emotions occasioned by the association of certain qualities with certain objects or subjects, in the imagination. Why is it that any such association takes place? I must read Mr. Burke’s Essay over again.1 It is wonderful how little I gain by reading.

Attended divine worship. Prof. S. Willard. Genesis 2. 3. “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” Upon the institution of the Sabbath, the importance of sustaining it, and the medium to be drawn between the rigidity of Puritanic observance and the laxity of that of the Catholics. We are such regular observers of the Sabbath that upon this subject time is almost thrown away. Certainly so, so far as the arguments brought forward in this discourse are concerned. For the rest, the Sermon was dull enough.

Afternoon, Mr. Frothingham. James. 1. 27. “Pure Religion.” The words are taken arbitrarily from their connection. A short discussion of what it really is, not theology, not a dogma or ecclesiastical ceremony, but a belief in the superintending government of a divine being. It is true that men often err in their ideas of the true nature of religion. There are extremes on each side, and that which totally decries the usefulness of the external ceremony is far the most dangerous. Read a Sermon of Massillon. Text, John 1. 23. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord.” Subject, the 37pretexts for delay in conversion: 1. the want of grace which is making the Deity assume our fault, 2. the indulgences of self, the pleas of youth, the violence of the passions, the difficulty of a change of life. I was not struck with the Discourse.

Evening. Read a little of a British History of the United States2 and Alison on Taste. My German again lags.

1.

CFA had read Edmund Burke’s essay on taste in 1824 and again in 1828; see vol. 1:383; 2:285–295passim.

2.

In Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia, vols. 103–104; see vol. 4:108; below, entry for 17 March 1833.