Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

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.

Monday. 25th. CFA Monday. 25th. CFA
Monday. 25th.

A sudden change in the weather which has brought down the Thermometer again quite low. At the Office. I get no News from home. My father’s last Speech seems to have been quite a successful one.1 I hear of it from several quarters. Engaged this morning in writing and reading Morris as usual. He had made up his mind to a dissolution of the Union. And he was not afraid to say so.

Took a walk and ordered a further provision of fuel for the winter. It is extraordinary what an amazing amount of this I am in the practice of consuming. Nobody can live in this climate without considerable resources. This is the cause of the high price of labour, provisions &c. Afternoon, Anquetil whose book is drawing to a close—Not much to my regret for I am tired of intrigue.

Evening with my Wife and Mrs. G. Brooks to the Theatre. The White Lady of Avenel. Music of Boieldieu. “No” and the last Act of the Tempest for the benefit of Mrs. Austin.2 The Opera is pretty, the music is light and airy and in character with the Scotch scene to which it is adapted, the combined pieces are however of considerable difficulty and above the powers of the performers. The Auction Chorus at the close of the second act requires far more practice to give it, it’s full effect, and one or two trios entirely failed owing to the difficulty of the singers. Sinclair and Mrs. Austin sustained the piece. For the rest, it has neither the brilliancy of Masianello, nor the ringing melodiousness of Cinderella. After all, Rossini is my favourite.

Returned very late. We heard to day of the death of Mrs. Everett’s new born infant.

1.

“‘Il n’y a qu’heur et malheur dans ce monde’ says Jean Jacques Rousseau. Little did I imagine that my chiffon of a Speech upon the Southern Machinery, would have been the most popular thing I ever did or said. I never spoke upon any important topic, with so little preparation. I was too unwell to make any suitable preparation. I had given up the idea of speaking upon the Subject at 38all.... I had commenced it at an early period of the Session and had been obliged to lay it aside half finished despairing of being able to bring it to a close before the close of the Session. I was urged however by some of my Colleagues to say something”

(JQA to CFA, 13 March, Adams Papers).

2.

The program at the Tremont Theatre consisted of The White Lady, or The Spirit of Avenel in which Mr. Sinclair, Mrs. Austin, and Mrs. Barrymore sang; No, a farce, sung by Mr. Sinclair and Miss Hughes; and Mrs. Austin as Ariel in the last act of The Tempest (Columbian Centinel, 25 Feb., p. 3, col. 4).