Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Thursday. 4th. CFA Thursday. 4th. CFA
Thursday. 4th.

Rain with Easterly breezes. This was the day appropriated for the regular Fast—A custom of Puritan origin which has gone somewhat to decay.1 It being observed far more as an occasion for feasting and excess.

I finished the Account of the French Revolution. Attended divine service at Mr. Frothingham’s where the collection of persons was somewhat small. Mr. F. preached from Proverbs 20. 1. “Wine is a Mocker.” His subject was Intemperance, which he announced to be 62peculiarly appropriate to the day, as probably this of all the year was the occasion of the greatest excesses. A singular though perhaps a correct assertion. He considered it as the prominent National vice. Much had been done to check it, though occasionally with a somewhat injudicious zeal. “Wine is a mocker” because it deceives in every respect. It presents itself in the attractive form of social enjoyment until it destroys the spirit of society. It promises strength and gives weakness, it seems to sharpen while it actually dulls the faculties. It is the purpose of this day to amend by the consideration of one’s faults. Let every man reflect upon this and so regulate his conduct. A very good Sermon and I am sorry there were not more to hear it. Afternoon, Mr. Parkman.2 Psalms 106. 3–4. “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people. That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.” The Preacher reproved us a People, for a somewhat excessive self-complacency, for a tendency to worldliness and for slander and party spirit. All of which is true and fair enough.

I remained at home afterwards, reading Voltaire’s Correspondence which is the luxury of idleness. But not being satisfied, I began Botta’s account of the Revolution.3 My Wife took tea at Mrs. P. C. Brooks Jr. Mr. Degrand called in for half an hour. I went for Abby at 9. Supper. Gorham Brooks and his Wife there. Return at ten.

1.

On the custom in New England, see vol. 3:208–209.

2.

Rev. Francis Parkman, on whom see vol. 3:51, 204–205.

3.

CFA was reading Charles Botta’s History of the War of the Independence of the United States of America in a version in English by G. A. Otis (below, entry for 6 April). In MQA are JQA’s copies of two editions of this translation (3 vols., Phila., 1820; 2 vols., Boston, 1826) as well as one in French (4 vols., Paris, 1812–1813). The copy of the 1826 edition had been GWA’s.

CFA returned from time to time to Voltaire’s correspondence. The 16-vol., 1785, edition in MQA, which in the note at vol. 1:139, above, is said to be of the Oeuvres complètes, is of the Correspondance only.

Friday. 5th. CFA Friday. 5th. CFA
Friday. 5th.

I did intend to have gone to Quincy this morning, but the weather being misty and the roads wet, I also having a pretty bad cold, the design was abandoned. Went to the Office. Engaged in various occupations, of Accounts, writing &c. all my time. With not much apparently to do, I yet find that I have no time to read. This always was a great puzzle to me. Took my usual walk. The weather became warmer and the afternoon was clear.

I began my Afternoon on a new plan. Read Botta for two hours, 63and German for one, and found that it answered infinitely better. Evening. Read to my Wife, part of the Parvenus and the close of the Merry Wives. It is rather a mediocre play. Evening, I became interested in a guide book of the City of Paris. The Account of the Rogues and thieves there is extraordinary. But it was rather wasting time. Architecture or Painting will do far better.