Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 6

Thursday. 19th. CFA Thursday. 19th. CFA
Thursday. 19th.

Morning snow and rain with the Streets under water. I continued reading the Bride of Messina which appears to me to be a fine subject for an Opera but it will not bear so well performing. It does not sustain Schiller’s positions. I went to the Office although the day was such as to render it somewhat imprudent to do so. And after I got there my time was not very well employed. Read a treatise of Diderot upon Education in which he advises the studies of every year from eight upwards.1 This is a matter of extreme difficulty and one which must soon press itself upon our attention. I did not walk today. Finished the Ibis and with it all the works of Ovid. I have been about eleven months in reading them and have enjoyed them quite. It has been my rule for a long time past to devote an hour to the Classics daily. What shall I take up next?

Mr. Brooks had company to dine. Professor Silliman, Mr. W. Dalton, Dr. Wainwright, I. P. Davis, Mr. E. Everett, Mr. Frothingham and Edward Brooks. A very pretty dinner but I was very awkwardly placed and was suffering so much from my cold and cough that I did not enjoy it. The conversation much of it political, and of a description which I do not at all sympathize with at the present moment. 100The incidents of the last Winter have so utterly disgusted me with this arrogant, self-sufficient Whig party that I have no wish to see them successful in any thing. The company left quite late and I could do very little afterwards. Read some pages of Grimm and of the Bride of Messina. Read aloud to Mr. Brooks Mr. Binney’s Speech in Congress upon the French question,2 but I felt quite poorly.


The essay is in vol. 1 of Collection complète des oeuvres of Denis Diderot, 5 vols., London, 1773, which CFA had borrowed from the Athenaeum.


The speech of Horace Binney of Pennsylvania in the House during the debate on the French question on 2 March was printed in the National Intelligencer, 14 March, p. 2, cols. 1–4.

Friday. 20th. CFA Friday. 20th. CFA
Friday. 20th.

A fine mild day. I felt a good deal better this morning and although my spirits are somewhat depressed yet I was less uneasy upon this cold which has been so severe. Office. Received a letter from my father requesting me to attend to the reception and deposit of the body of my late brother which he has caused to be shipped from Georgetown in a Schooner.1 I returned an answer by this Mail and wrote to Wm. Spear to secure the services of the Sexton as soon as I should have occasion for them.2 All these things produced so much occupation that I had little or no time to continue Diderot. Walk. Then home where I finished the few fragments remaining of Ovid.

Afternoon, continued M. Guizot. I am pleased with his style which is easy and clear. He confines himself rather to views of the juridical policy of the French Kingdom and an examination of the effect of it’s various Systems of Law. Evening at home. My Wife is much depressed as she always is shortly before a confinement. I am very anxious on this subject myself. Grimm and the Bride of Messina.


JQA to CFA, 15 March (Adams Papers). The schooner was the Velocity, Capt. Luther Hammond; she was scheduled to dock at T Wharf.


LbC of CFA’s reply is in the Adams Papers; the letter to Spear is missing.

Saturday. 21st. CFA Saturday. 21st. CFA
Saturday. 21st.

Fine morning. I went to the Office after finishing the Bride of Messina. There is a great deal of very beautiful Poetry in this play and a pretty close imitation of the character of the ancient Greek Theatre but I do not feel convinced of the truth of the argument for it’s restoration. The Chorus can be introduced with the least propriety1 only in 101scenes of a public character, and even in these they only give utterance to a series of bald commonplaces. But these make fine Poems dressed up with the imagery allowable to the lyric style.

Office. I did not remain long as I was obliged to go to the Boylston Market for the purpose of making up a long neglected record. This kept me until my usual time for a walk. Home. Having finished Ovid my hour is now unemployed. I read Grimm to fill it up. Finished the volume of Mons. Guizot but I am not certain whether I shall follow him through the six others.

My time is now drawing to a close at this House. On the first of May I propose to return to my own and I confess I look forward to it with some pleasure. To be sure it has it’s cares, but then on the other hand it has the pleasure of independence. Evening, read some of the letters of Lord Bacon particularly to the Earl of Essex but his character wants more study than I can give here.


Thus in MS. Probably impropriety was intended.