Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Tuesday. 28th. CFA Tuesday. 28th. CFA
Tuesday. 28th.

Rode to town. Went to the Gallery for an hour and to the Athenaeum. I sat for an extremely large proportion of the time looking at the picture said to be by Guido of Judith with the head of Holofernes. The expression of her face is admirable, decision, religious heroism, masculine daring in her attitude. Such a picture as that gives me some idea of the excellence of the Ancient Painters. I also greatly admired a warm landscape of Gaspar Poussin.

At the Office, I did little or nothing but prepare a draught of a letter to Mr. J. Angier. He does not keep his books precisely.1 Returned home. Afternoon read M. de Burtin. A mere Hollander who talks about his Collection, and looks down upon the far nobler efforts of the Italian Schools.

In the evening, read Madame de Sevigné. Her letter are the merest whip syllabub2 that ever was frothed, and yet they are pretty. Their 96little apt phrases and gentle expressions give them to readers a charm, far more substantial books never possess. I find a good deal of satisfaction in Cumberland’s Observer.

1.

The letter to John Angier, husband of TBA’s daughter, Abigail, and Medford schoolmaster with whom TBA’s son, John Quincy, was enrolled, was finally written and sent on 3 June (LbC, Adams Papers). Angier’s bills for schooling, for which JQA had assumed the payment, were a recurring source of irritation to CFA (vol. 4:170).

2.

Ordinarily written as “whipped” or “whipt” syllabub. See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:127: “whippd Sillabubs.”

Wednesday. 29th. CFA Wednesday. 29th. CFA
Wednesday. 29th.

The weather was so doubtful that I did not go to town. Time occupied partly in reading some of Horace and partly in attention to my gardening and planting projects. This is, all of it, vanity and vexation of spirit. But I have persevered through all sorts of discouragement until at last I have a little prospect of success. My principal difficulty here in Quincy consists in the desultory character of my occupations which prevents all pursuit of any definite purpose. Residence here is the most quiet thing in the world. We have no interruptions from abroad, and live almost as much to ourselves as any family can be supposed to do. The monotony of existence is such that my Journal can barely be kept along. Yet I waste my time just as much as if I was in the middle of dissipation and tumult.

Afternoon, read Mons. de Burtin. I believe I continue with him because I have no other subject to turn to at present. I do not admire his taste or his doctrines which flow from it. Evening Madame de Sevigné and the Observer.

Thursday. 30th. CFA Thursday. 30th. CFA
Thursday. 30th.

Dull morning but it afterwards cleared away. I remained at Quincy. In the hope of improving my time better, I this day moved my place of study to the Office, and devoted a considerable portion of the morning to reading the first Chapter of Neale’s History of the Puritans.1 My winter’s examination of English History has given me a pretty good idea of the subject of this book. Yet I may here pick up bits.

I take up the work as preparatory to a general view of American History which it is highly necessary for me to take. The very extraordinary slowness of my father in doing any thing with the Papers which were a legacy to him for the purpose of using, and his perceptible 97advance in age warn me of the necessity of gathering what I may for some distant occasion.2 My present leisure could not be better employed.

I have finished the Epistles of Horace and begin the Epodes. Afternoon, a walk to Payne’s hill in quest of rent. I pick it up by driblets. It is hardly worth the trouble—I mean my Commission for which I do it. Evening, Madame de Sevigné and the Observer.

1.

Daniel Neal’s History of the Puritans ... to 1688 is in MQA in an edition in 5 vols., Newburyport, Portsmouth, and Boston, 1816–1817.

2.

Upon his retirement from the Presidency, JQA had projected as an occupation for himself the writing of a biography of JA and had in a desultory fashion, under CFA’s persistent urging, composed some of it. However, he never summoned the necessary enthusiasm for the task and was drawn ever farther away from it by his return to the political arena (see vol. 3:257; 4:175, 352).