Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

Saturday 18th. CFA Saturday 18th. CFA
Saturday 18th.

On this day I count myself thirty one years old. The change into middle life is now complete and I bid adieu to it’s spring time. Well, I have had more than a common share of enjoyment and feel grateful to God that I have reached this day with health unimpaired, and with more of the blessings of this world than fall to an ordinary lot. I have striven to deserve them with not so much success as I had hoped. Indeed my remembrance of my own errors is always keen, and though it has not always the effect to correct them, very much moderates my propensity to ambition of worldly distinction. The desire to be useful is one thing, the anxiety to be prominent is another, and perhaps the task of a conscientious man is greatest when he strives to draw the line which divides the duty consequent from the first from the selfish variety prompting the last.

My time was quietly passed in reading in the morning, MS, and Lessing. Afternoon, Lucretius and Scott. Evening, took Tea at the Mansion. Mrs. Frothingham’s two sons, Octavius and Edward are with us.

My plans for improving my Diary have all failed, yet I am mortified by its present insipidity, and propose to try another from today, of this kind, first in memorandum form to notice the weather, then my gen-96eral employment of the day. Visitors if any of interest, and upon the plan of Gibbon a statement of my reading, and remarks if I have any to make. Perhaps I may fail in this new scheme, but any thing is better than this monotony of trifles.

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

Day clear and cool. Divine Service both parts, and a walk to the Quarries to show the Frothinghams the way of getting stone, the evening at Mrs. Adams’s to see her daughter Mrs. Angier. Walter Hellen1 here with his Sister. He looks much improved since he was here before, and is to make a visit.

Mr. F. A. Whitney, a son of our minister preached. Texts. Matthew 20. 26. “Whosoever will be great among you let him be your minister.” The morning discourse was rather ambitiously written and divided. He took up the origin of the idea of greatness. Supposed it first to have attached to physical power, then to wealth and lastly to moral power as displayed in Christianity. But he passed over the most uniform rule of human judgment respecting greatness which worships intellectual power in all it’s manifestations, whether as controlling the sources of wealth, or those of beauty or of strength. Hercules would have been ridiculous if represented as an idiot. A miser never secures influence over his fellows. It is the guiding and directing mind which occasions the power, the rest are merely means. Christ did not introduce a new element in morals, he merely sanctioned and perfected what was dimly understood before. All this may be true but if so, it upsets Mr. Whitney’s Sermon which was well for a young beginner, notwithstanding the introduction of personal compliments somewhat out of place, to the memorable names in the town.

Read Paley. Horae Paulinae p. 208 – 284. He is rather unequal in his argument, occasionally making a good point but appearing to labour too much for the sake of multiplying them. Sermon of Dr. Clark. Isaiah 5. 20. “Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” The original difference between good and evil insisted upon as the natural and safe guide for the regulation of life.

Finished Lockhart’s Life of Scott. he has thrown all his strength into the last Chapter which is a good one. There is more of moral in Scott’s history than one is able at first satisfactorily to unravel. A great mixture of good and evil example, of the strength and the weakness of the human mind. On the whole Mr. Lockharts volumes are very inter-97esting and will make a standard work of biography as Boswell has done.

1.

On Walter Hellen Jr., LCA’s nephew, see vol. 5:355, 395.