Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Sunday. 19th. CFA Sunday. 19th. CFA
Sunday. 19th.

A very clear, fine day. I read Chateaubriand for an hour after which attended divine service and heard Mr. Frothingham preach from 1. 187Timothy 6. 4. “Evil surmisings.” A very excellent discourse upon the bad constructions put upon conduct, so general in the Community. This is perhaps one of the prevailing defects in our lives here. We are quit of the grosser vices in a degree to indulge more largely in the smaller. Afternoon Ecclesiastes 3. 10. “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.” Mr. Walsh accompanied me in a walk and afterwards dined.

I read a discourse of Dr. Barrow from Ecclesiastes 3. 17. “I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked.” Upon the necessity of a future state of rewards and punishments as a corrective of the manifest injustice of this world. Dr. Barrow does not see the merit of the old Platonic doctrine of the self compensating power of virtue. He thinks nothing of the rewards of this life as an incitement to good action without the notion of the future state. This is a topic almost too extensive for human skill. What the system of divine justice is cannot be comprehended, but that it is so utterly inactive in this life, I am by no means disposed to believe. Evening, at Mr. Brooks’ with my Wife. Nobody there. We had a quiet time and then home.

Monday 20th. CFA Monday 20th. CFA
Monday 20th.

I arose uncommonly early this morning for the purpose of being ready when called for to go to Cambridge. Shortly after eight the carriage stopped for me on it’s way. Our party consisted of Judge Merrill, T. K. Davis, G. S. Hillard, and myself. We reached the recitation room about nine and found there F. Cunningham, another member of the Committee.1

The examination was of two sections of the Freshman class in the fifth and sixth books of Herodotus. They came in divided into four portions and consumed all the morning. The mode of examining was for the Tutor to specify a passage which was translated by the Scholar, the dialects then marked and any questions asked by the examiners which they thought proper. The members of the Committee took part, rather unequally in the examination, Judge Merril being fond of etymology and inclining to that branch. I got through with my share tolerably well. I thought Hillard seemed disposed to display knowledge. This is the first time I have met this gentleman and the impression he gave me was a very mixed one. The youths acquitted themselves very well, and I thought manifested a decided average above what it was in my day. But there was a want of fire, or deficiency of enthusiasm which was very striking. The genius which inspires is wanting.

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We dined together in the Corporation room, President Quincy being with us, and then home. I was amused at the development of character made at the table. I find Merrill an ultra Tory of the most violent stamp, endeavouring to conceal it under the garb of submission to our republican Institutions. On the other hand, Hillard is an Abolitionist and a perfectibilian, at complete odds therefore, while Davis and I lean to rather liberal opinions. The President is an ultra Tory also, with liberal feelings. How we shall get on, I do not know. The dinner done, we returned to town which we reahed at about three and I immediately went out to occupy myself with the printing. Home late.

Evening to the Theatre for the first time this winter. The Hunchback. Miss Ellen Tree as Julia. The performance appeared to me very good. Miss Tree performs very correctly and in perfect taste. She appears to me deficient in the highest power, but to be well calculated for the performance of the characters she takes. I have seen three performers in this part. Miss Vincent, Miss Kemble and Miss Tree. Miss Kemble’s was the most unequal and yet the most powerful. Miss Tree’s the most proper and Miss Vincent’s the least artful of them. I think the piece a very pretty one.2 Home early.

1.

James Cushing Merrill, Harvard 1807, at this time was a Suffolk co. justice. George Stillman Hillard, Harvard 1828, was an attorney and later a Harvard overseer. Both would become members of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Rev. Francis Cunningham was CFA’s classmate (1825).

2.

For CFA’s earlier attendance at performances of Sheridan Knowles’, The Hunchback, see vols. 4:413–414; 5:291. On Ellen Tree, who had made her American debut in New York two months earlier, see Odell, Annals N.Y. Stage , 4:120.