Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Monday. 22d. CFA Monday. 22d. CFA
Monday. 22d.

Morning cold but calm. I awoke with a headach which was a little discouraging. Walk to the Office, but was not able to do much. Mr. 385Walsh came in and talked away about himself. He still means to adhere to the Navy provided he can get just such a birth as will suit himself. I think he is a little too obstinate but as this is matter for him to judge of entirely I took no part in the conversation. Walk.

Home where I began the study of Sophocles by reviewing the play of Oedipus.1 This is an agreeable variety from Herodotus, and will keep me a little in poetics which I want.

My head ach left me at noon but I felt hardly in my usual way during the remainder of the day. Revised my lecture and heard my children their lessons as usual. Evening, read to my Wife from Lockhart. W. Dwight came in late and spent an hour talking of general politics.

1.

At MQA are four editions of Sophocles’ plays in Greek: Glasgow, 1745, 2 vols.; London, 1747, 2 vols.; Oxford, 1809, 2 vols.; and London, 1824, 3 vols. The last belonged to CFA.

Tuesday. 23d. CFA Tuesday. 23d. CFA
Tuesday. 23d.

Cool, but on the whole as fine a winter’s day as we have had of it. I received a notice from Mr. Brooks of his intention to go to Medford in which case I had expressed my wish to go with him. He accordingly called very soon after breakfast. My object was to call and see Mrs. T. B. Adams who is at Mrs. Angier’s. I found her there exceedingly distressed and knowing little of any species of comfort. I do feel very much for her and would gladly do any thing to console her if I knew how. But such cases as this are beyond man’s medicine. I could only feel sorrow and be silent.

Returned to the Office by twelve and home shortly afterwards. Sophocles which I find easy. Afternoon, gave my Lecture a final examination and prepared myself to deliver it.

After tea I went down to the Masonic Temple. A company of about two hundred present, a considerable number of whom were personal friends who had come to support me. I felt as if the experiment was rather a critical one, and although success might produce little, failure would be discreditable, so I exerted myself, and if silence and profound attention are any tests I certainly must have succeeded. The reception I met with from my friends at the close showed clearly enough that they felt relieved by the result of my experiment.1 Mr. Frothingham accompanied me home, where his Wife had been sitting, and they finished the evening with us.

1.

The lecture delivered at the Masonic Temple in Boston as one of the series of public lectures undertaken by the Massachusetts Historical Society was largely a recital of selected letters exchanged between JA and AA, and quoted in extenso 386(the holograph text is in the Adams Papers, shelved as M/CFA/23.3, not microfilmed). It is notable as marking the first occasion on which any considerable number of letters from the Adams family archives were communicated publicly. It should be thought of as prelude to CFA’s publication in 1840 of Letters of Mrs. Adams, the preface to which is in large part a restatement of the views expressed in the lecture:

“John Adams was one of the many actors in the public drama whose course must abide a scrutiny from other hands than mine. But he had a wife to whom he communicated much of the secret emotion of his soul, and who reciprocated the confidence in a manner which it may be advisable to disclose not from the poor vanity of exalting her, but from an earnest desire to present to the attention of those among the living who value historical memorials, an illustration of the connection between the domestic feelings and the public principles of the Revolution.

“It will at once be understood that I propose nothing in the way of eulogy or biography, that I consider any contribution which in my own person I could make in the way of general essay or dissertation, to aid the objects of the Historical Society as a cipher in comparison with the ability to resort to ancient papers never before seen, and that I draw from such papers only with a view to the illustration of an age that is past.”