Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Wednesday. 27th. CFA Wednesday. 27th. CFA
Wednesday. 27th.

The Child has not appeared well within a few days. She shows sickness almost immediately. I know no anxiety equal to that which any symptoms of that kind in her create. My trust is always in a higher power, and yet I feel as if I was almost too deeply attached for this world. It brings it’s own punishment in the care it occasions.

39

Mild weather in the morning, but it cleared off cold at night. Went to the Office but my time was wasted. I had not my regular work, so I began a letter to my father but did not go on with it. Somehow I cannot write as I used to. The rest of my time was passed in destroying the remainder of the loose papers which had been in a box in my other room, and which I perceived today had been ransacked in all probability by some of my Office boys. A troublesome set which would joyfully be dispensed with by me if I could hit upon any other mode of getting my work done. Poor George. He had many, many good qualities. And when I remember what he might have been, it makes me feel more deeply the singular weakness of humanity.1

Walk. Afternoon, Anquetil. I find he was a Catholic priest which dissipates my wonder at his notions about religious liberty. Voltaire. And Alison. He lays it down that nothing in this world is in itself beautiful. Is this true? And if it is, does it not fundamentally destroy the argument of the existence of a deity from his works, or in other words, natural religion? To say that things are beautiful or sublime merely because the mind of man associates certain qualities with certain things, leaves every point to the decision of human caprice. If there is nothing beautiful or sublime in the material world but what is arbitrarily pitched upon by the fancy of man, it will be hard to deny the same assertion when applied to the moral universe. And where will this lead? But I am plunging deep into metaphysics.

My Wife took tea out. Family party at Mrs. Frothingham’s. P.C. and Gorham Brooks and ladies, Edward, Miss C. Dexter and Wife and myself. Tolerably pleasant. Returned at ten and got upon Architecture and building.

1.

The destruction of the mass of papers left in the Court Street office by his brother George (GWA) was an occupation to which CFA frequently returned, and almost always with melancholy reflections on GWA’s unrealized talents. See, for example, vol. 3:xxxi–xxxii, 6–7, 217, 219, 347, 364.

Thursday. 28th. CFA Thursday. 28th. CFA
Thursday. 28th.

Our changes of weather are abrupt enough. It was severely cold this morning. I went to the Office where I pursued my common avocations. Read a little of Mr. Sparks’ Memoir of Gouverneur Morris which is flat and dry enough. The fashion of unadorned prose is very prevalent in the present day but I cannot say that it strikes me as particularly charming. I want something to stir people up. I want to see the higher kinds of style.

40

Went to the Athenaeum and was therefore very considerably abridged of my walk. N.B. Never to go there at or near one o’clock.

Afternoon, Anquetil. Account of the murderous conflict in the suburbs of Paris, between the armies of Turenne and Condé. Very interesting. Read more of Voltaire. The Parliament of Paris. He hardly is distinct as to the present constitution of it. He wrote for such as were familiar with it. Evening quiet at home. My Wife was suffering with a head ach and the Child has hardly been well all day. Read Alison whose argument is ingenious but hardly convincing.