Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

[Titlepage] CFA [Titlepage] CFA
No. 13. Diary 1 January 1839 23 May 18411

“It is not worth while to be concerned, what he says or thinks, who says or thinks only as he is directed by another.”


“Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.”

1. Cor. 9. 25.
Would you then learn to dissipate the band Of these huge threatening difficulties dire, That in the weak man’s way like lions stand, His soul appal, and damp his rising fire? 164 Resolve, resolve, and to be men aspire. Exert the noblest privilege, alone Here to mankind indulg’d: control desire: Let godlike reason from her sovereign throne, Speak the commanding word, I will—and it is done. Thomson

Titlepage of D/CFA/13 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 65), which begins where D/CFA/12 ends and in which are contained all the journal entries CFA made between the terminal dates indicated here. An explanation of the discrepancy between CFA’s numbering of his Diary volumes and the Adams Papers serial numbering is given at vol. 1:xxxviii–xl. For a description of this Diary MS and of the other MSS from which the printed text of vols. 7 and 8 of the present edition is derived, see the Introduction.

January 1839. Tuesday 1st. CFA January 1839. Tuesday 1st. CFA
January 1839. Tuesday 1st.

Here is a new volume with which to begin the New Year and a very fine opportunity to moralize upon the passage of the years, the prospects of the future and the vicissitudes of this world, all of which new and interesting topics might furnish some pages of reflection. To each man, this new subject never loses it’s interest. However often he may have seen and heard the truism that time flies, he cannot yet resist the chain which binds him to the recollection of its force upon him. The words of Terence carry their moral with them, that which appertains to the lot of humanity as a race cannot lose it’s attraction to the individual. He feels himself changing from year to year without the power to resist or to control it. The hair will turn grey and the flesh will grow harder, inspite of the wishes or the prayers of millions.

For myself I can say with truth and sincerity that my anxieties are not upon such matters. I am now in my thirty second year and as yet have done little either for myself or for the world. I have picked a little hole in the sand wherein I have attempted to lay small stores for future use, altogether doubtful as yet whether they will ever prove more than a buried treasure. The consolation always is to me that I have done my best to improve my opportunities of usefulness which have not been great, while I cannot say the same of the use of my means of instruction. Favoured as I have been more than is common, I have gathered only here and there a light faggot, where I might have got a tree. But repining is foreign from my nature. I have so much of the prosperity of this life that I would not be understood in wishing to be more useful, to wish myself more happy. This can hardly be. I am rich in the en-165joyment of domestic happiness and worldly fortune, and wish to add to it the earning of a good name rather to relieve myself from the inequality in the proportion between my acts and my rewards or gifts, between that which has been bestowed upon me and that which I have deserved. To this end I will still continue to try to the best of my abilities. I will endeavour at least to avoid the self reproach of not doing any thing at all of that great part which I ought perhaps to have done all.

We opened the year at the Ball as I noticed in my yesterday’s record. Up late of course and day distributed as usual. Evening at Dr. Frothingham’s.

New Year’s day is always a day of money transactions and a day of congratulations and mutual presents. Children delight in it often to the disturbance of their happiness. I worked as usual with little variation, upon accounts, upon Electra and the coins. In the evening the children of the various families met at Mrs. Frothingham’s and had a cake with a ring in it and a scramble for presents which diverted them much. The elder members of the society conversed as usual, and returned home before ten. Such is the record of New Year’s day in 1839.