Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

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.


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

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

Clear and cold east wind. At home in study all day. My mother and the rest of the family took tea and passed the evening. Some time lost in the morning from an immethodical examination of MS letters at the old house, so discouraging I hardly know where to begin with them.

Read Lessing’s Laocoon 104–172. Some books weaken the effect they first produce as we go along. This seems the case here Lessing is an acute critic and often right, but not in those cases most clearly which he labours the most. Lucretius in review. Book 1. l 185–450, much more distinct in this reading. Bayle’s Letters. Vol. 2, p. 456–508, numbered as one volume.

Tuesday 21st. CFA Tuesday 21st. CFA
Tuesday 21st.

Warm and clear. Morning to town. Afternoon taken up by company. Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Brooks to dine and spend the day. My father and Mary to meet them. My mother came in the evening. Of course my day not very productive. Read nothing.

One difficulty which I experience here this year is the revival of the desire for study which makes me feel as time wasted that which I cannot devote to it. I have therefore not attended so much to external exercise as I ought, and find in myself an increasing propensity to give up to indolence of motion. This will not do. The winter is the season for study, and the summer for that kind of relaxation which best prepares it.

Wednesday. 22d. CFA Wednesday. 22d. CFA
Wednesday. 22d.

Clear and warm. Two hours devoted to my article, one to a play of Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, and two to Lessing’s Laocoon. Dinner as usual at the other house. Afternoon, reading and watering plants. Evening again at the Mansion.

The article goes very heavily indeed. I have no zeal and therefore it cannot be good. With respect to Marlow I took him up to see if I could find any Jewels in him, but quickly satisfied myself he was but a botcher of pewter. Lessing 172–208. continues interesting and in many respects just. Lucretius l. 450–578.


Such my reading for one day interrupted only by social meals. This is rather a poor account to give of valuable time. Joseph H. Adams and Elizabeth dined at the house, and the latter passed the evening.