I this morning requested of Mr. Parsons his opinion, whether it would be most advantageous for me to pursue, the professional study in those hours, when I should not attend at the office; or whether it would be best to devote those of my evenings, which I shall pass at my own lodgings, to other purposes, and a diversity of studies. He answered by observing, that I could not attend to any useful branch of Science, in which I should not find my account; he would rather advise me, to read a number of ethic writers: it was necessary for a person going into the profession of the law, to have principles strongly established; otherwise, however amiable, and however honest his disposition might be, yet the necessity he is under of defending indiscriminately, the good and the bad, the right, and the wrong would imperceptibly lead him into universal skepticism. He advised also Quinctilian, and the best writers upon Christianity; He himself, he said, was convinced of the truth of the Christian religion; he believed revelation, and it was his reason, that had been convinced, for he entered upon the world rather prejudiced against revelation.320
It stormed in the afternoon, I pass'd part of the evening at Mr. Parsons's, and the remainder with Townsend at his lodgings.
Weather remarkably mild for the Season: I have been rather unwell for a week or 10 days back, which prevents me from applying myself with so much assiduity as I should wish to.
I passed this evening with Thompson and Putnam at Little's. We were very sociable, and cheerful. At 9 we return'd to our respective homes. The weather before this, had cleared up, though in the afternoon it had threatened to be stormy.
The events of the day were quite uninteresting. I had however an opportunity to observe the effects of the Passions. How despotically they rule! how they bend, and master, the greatest and the wisest geniuses! T'is a pity! 'tis great pity! that prudence should desert people when they have the most need of it. Tis pity, that such a mean, little, dirty passion as envy, should be the vice of the most capacious souls. Human Nature, how inexplicable art thou! Oh, may I learn before I advance upon the political stage, (if I ever do) not to put my trust in thee! This grave apostrophe, with the lines that precede it may be mysterious to you sir, but if so, remember that it is none of your business. And so I wish you good night.
I went in the forenoon, and exhibited my complaints to Dr. Swett, but he told me, they were not worth speaking of; and so I will e'en let them take their chance.
This afternoon Townsend, and I, went down to Mr. Tracey's, upon a disagreeable piece of business, but which we got through quite comfortably. Ben Hooper called on me in the evening. I have again begun upon Gibbon's roman history, and hope, I shall this time go through.1 I read the first volume last Spring; but at that time my avocations were so numerous, that I could not proceed in reading the book. I admire the style, and in general the Sentiment, though I think there is sometimes an affectation of 321wit in the one, and sometimes a glaring tinsel in the other, which are far beneath the majestic simplicity of nature.
JQA's 32 pages of MS notes from his rereading of Gibbon, begun on 19 Nov., and 54 pages of sources used by Gibbon, undated but presumably made at the same time, are in M/JQA/46, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 241. In addition, there are random notes from Gibbon on blank pages in the almanac JQA used for his line-a-day Diary from 11 Jan.–31 Dec. 1788 (D/JQA/13, same, Microfilms, Reel No. 16).