Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

Friday. 21st. CFA Friday. 21st. CFA
Friday. 21st.

Clouds and warm rain. At home all day in study. Evening at the Mansion.

Continued Locke’s Essay 300–352. Chapter of Identity and Diversity. The line between things comprehensible and things not so is so thin that it is very difficult to keep exactly within the former. All identity springs from consciousness, says Mr. Locke, but then of what are we conscious? for all ordinary purposes we have clearer evidence than consciousness in the fact of existence in a shape readily cognizable by the senses, and for extraordinary ones what do we gain by changing the word.

Lucretius, finished the third book and read 100 lines in the fourth. On the whole the conclusion of the third book is most of all to my taste. Had Lucretius grappled with a subject more susceptible of the introduction of the graces, he would have scarcely been exceeded by his borrower Virgil. But philosophical abstractions are a potion the bitterness of which to most readers no honey of poesy can make palatable.

Finished the first Chapter of Winkelman’s History of Art, which did not interest me. Also one or two Chapters in Bayle’s Réponse aux questions d’un provincial, which led me to examine in the Causes Cé-114lèbres the curious case of Martin Guerre.1 Nothing new from the conversation of the evening.

1.

This return to a reading of F. Gayot de Pitavel’s Causes célèbres et interessantes, which had interested CFA in 1831 and 1832 (vol. 4:174 and index), was directed to the case of Martin Guerre who, in the 16th century, was the victim of an extraordinary imposture perpetrated by Arnaud du Tilh (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ).

Saturday. 22d. CFA Saturday. 22d. CFA
Saturday. 22d.

Cloudy and warm. Morning spent in study. Afternoon in riding. My boy John five years old this day. Evening at the Mansion.

Continued Mr. Locke p. 353–393. His idea of the moral relations and of the force of law is very surely degrading to the notion of human virtue. If it is the mere consequence of arbitrary distinctions of right and wrong then are we poor creatures enough. I think the original theory is shaken through the bad deduction thus made from it.

Mr. Brooks came from Boston to pay us a visit. And my father and he dined with us. After dinner I took him a long ride to Braintree and Weymouth. Evening at the other house. Lucretius also, Book 4. 100–302.

My boy John was a little unwell on this his fifth birth day. I repeat the feelings with grateful adoration which prompted my entry of last year.

Sunday 23d. CFA Sunday 23d. CFA
Sunday 23d.

Day cloudy with occasional heavy showers. Attendance on divine service. Reading. Dinner at the Mansion. Evening at home.

At the Morning service, my third son was held up by me to Mr. Lunt for baptism under the name of Henry Brooks. This is at once returning to the source of the family in this hemisphere and remembering a valued son of Mr. Brooks now no more. Mr. Brooks had to this end come from Medford as he has always appeared to take a great interest in the child. May he live to be fruitful in good works.1

Mr. Lunt preached a sermon from Hebrews’2 and one from Mark 7. 11.12. “But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me: he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother.” The first of these discourses was an ingenious attempt to prove that sin was productive of as much ruin to the mind as to the moral of man. In short that sin was folly. I say this was inge-115nious but not convincing. The government of the world is conducted by laws beyond our knowledge or comprehension and the vicious man often makes a great use of the gifts of a fine intellect for purposes the most base and morally degraded. Mind is not Moral. If it was, the world would be a less difficult place to live correctly in. The second discourse was upon charity and the connexion between the practice of religious rites and the performance of religious duties. Very good.

It rained hard all the afternoon. I read a discourse in the English Preacher by Dr. Denne. Matthew 7. 12. “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” I am struck with only one thing in reading this choice of English sermons and that is the mediocrity of style and thought which runs through them. Began today Mr. Milman’s History of the Jews with which I was pleased.3 Spent the evening in conversation with Mr. Brooks.

1.

The present account of the baptism differs both as to locale and participants from Henry Adams’ own widely noted account with which The Education of Henry Adams begins.

2.

JQA, in his journal, identifies the text as from Hebrews 12. 14.

3.

Henry Hart Milman, The History of the Jews, 3 vols., N.Y., 1831, is in MQA.