Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Saturday June 19th. VII. CFA Saturday June 19th. VII. CFA
Saturday June 19th. VII.

I missed Prayers and recitations this morning unintentionally how-195ever as I had intended to have been up at all events, my number of misses not being small already. I have failed egregiously in my intention not to miss another recitation until Quarter day.1 I received a letter this morning from my father on the subject which I have written so peremptorily to him. I felt rather fearful before opening it and let it remain on my table until my last morning duty was performed before opening. It was very mild, but at the same time informing me gently that he had a smaller opinion of my prudence than I held, that he had considered my proposition and had some inclination to agree to it but that he wished me to transmit an account of my debts to him in the first place that he might arrange them before he began upon a thorough agreement. I have the satisfaction now to announce to him my freedom except from that at Hilliard’s which I have no reason to be ashamed. I will pursue this new system if he gives me an opportunity although I shall be compelled to retrench my style of living considerably. The change will be a beneficial one to me as it will teach economy, a quality which I only want because I am allowed to run on. I take no care of the matter for whatever I do creates no responsibility on my part whatever. I read over the letter attentively twice, it was short and simple, and determined to answer it fully tomorrow.2

In the mean time I read Cowper’s Poem on Conversation and two or three occasional ones. I might by him be styled one of the impious but I cannot help thinking that few minds have that happy medium which he speaks of, and that it is but too natural for the world to degenerate into bigotry and fanaticism when once their minds have been acted upon by religion, with most people I might call it superstition. I have had but little experience in religious matters, but I do think that I have seen certainly as bad if not worse feelings cherished under the cloak of sanctity than in the reckless character of vice. Not that I would support either but the base hypocrite is far more disgusting to a young man than the criminal. Herein, old people say, lies the danger but for my part I hope I know it well on both sides.

I engaged some days since to go over with Tudor and spend the day at Savin Hill3 which I accordingly did, we went from here at about half past ten and arrived there in a little less than an hour, the day was exceedingly warm and the billiard room to which we immediately repaired was a perfect oven being built of thin wood without plastering, the sun came directly through and made it quite unpleasant. I have not touched a cue before for a year and a half with the exception of a few moments at Nahant, last fall vacation, so that it was not surprising that I played very poorly before dinner while Tudor played 196as well, after dinner I improved and reduced his difference to me materially. It is a very amusing and fascinating game, when one just commences playing well but perfection in it I should think would soon generate dislike. I felt but little interested today for the cues were very poor and the table is hardly worth much, so little care has been taken of it. It used to be quite good when at Neponset4 where I have often played on it with my brother. We dined here and smoked, drank and played all the afternoon. As I improved I took more interest in the game but I was not on the whole very sorry when it became time to return. I was surprised to see the quantity of company here this afternoon all the bowling allies being full, nobody disturbed us however. As “we had only come for a week” to use Tudor’s expression, we paid no immoderate bill although not a small one and at half past seven o’clock we returned home.

I seldom have felt more fatigued than this evening from the continued and unusual exercise of walking round the table. Although this was the case, at ten o’clock Tudor and I went and took Supper at Mr. Willard’s establishment. I was hungry and partook considerably although I was headachish, dreadfully tired and indeed never felt more generally distressed than to night. Returning home, I read my Chapters and sat down a few moments cogitating upon my father’s letter. I found myself nodding so often however that I determined upon going to bed directly. I paid for this however as I had two hours of feverish dozing and was troubled in the night with a horrible dream. XI.


The last Friday in June, the day Harvard students’ bills were due ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823, p. 16).


CFA had repeatedly asked his father for a monthly allowance, to be paid to him directly and not through his uncle, TBA. JQA thought the sum he requested was more than he could afford or CFA should require. The proposed allowance was, he said, at least double JQA’s own college expenses and half again as much as GWA or JA2 had been given. But before making a final decision, he asked CFA for an account of his expenses, particularly of his debts (JQA to CFA, 12 June 1824, Adams Papers).


In Dorchester, three miles from Boston City Hall ( Bacon’s Dict. of Boston , p. 132–133). Savin Hill is still a stop on the Dorchester-Cambridge subway.


Present Neponset Circle, near the Boston-Quincy boundary line.

Sunday June 20th. IX. CFA Sunday June 20th. IX. CFA
Sunday June 20th. IX.

My excessive fatigue and uncomfortable night made me delay my time of rising until very late which made me miss Prayers, a most remarkable number of which I have neglected this last week. Indeed dissipation of any sort has become exceedingly irksome to me as I always feel more contented staying here and doing what I know to be 197my duty. Was not the time of Tudor’s residence here so short and my amusement to stop immediately upon his going away I certainly would not feel desirous of any thing of the sort. I do not wish any more the society of students. My feelings are in a singular state. I feel alienated from all my friends and in their society my nerves are continually jarred. I am again disgusted with the boorish temper of Richardson, with the meanness of Otis, with the narrow mindedness of Wheatland, the obstinacy of Dwight, the rough pawing of Tudor and the nonentity, to use such an expression. It is well for me that I keep such a book as this to vent my angry feelings and not to show dislike except to one. They all have redeeming qualities to counterbalance their peculiar faults except the infinite foolishness of this one who has not even the good temper which I once gave him credit for. Enough of this subject. It is grating to think that I never could continue esteem to any particular individual after I had seen a certain quantity of him. Tudor, I like most because to me he exhibits none of that which makes him appear badly in his conduct to others. I have repulsed even such advances in intimacy as would make me too familiar with any person. I think it the only way to keep respect from others, and good will to companions. A man will not be so much liked but he is raised by tacit consent and always spoken of in terms of respect in like or dislike. There is a good stanza in Cowper on this subject which is too long to quote however, and I know it sufficiently well without.1

I spent this Morning in writing an answer2 to my father’s letter of yesterday which took me considerable time. I stated to him an accurate list of expenses here and informed him that I could not reduce my demands a bit at present. In case I found that more money was on my hands than I expected, I would return the sum whatever it was or count it as in my hands for which my honour was responsible. I wish for this as a trial. I wished for the Knight Accounts3 as one and I thank Heaven I am able here to say that I have acted the part of a good Steward.

Dr. Ware preached in the Morning which was rainy and unpleasant, Mr. Jenks4 in the afternoon, his Sermon was highly metaphysical in it’s Commencement, and rather too demonstrative, by this I mean mathematically so, in its close. It was too much of an attempt ending I am sorry to say in a failure. I regret it because I respect the man as being one of my schoolmasters whom I thought well of and almost the only one. He implanted or strengthened in me an early taste for reading by a simple method which I should always recommend to a good schoolmaster. After having got my lesson, he used 198to permit me to read a Plutarch which he kept on purpose in the school and gave it to me as a mark of distinction and scholarship in this way exciting me by every motive which can act upon a boy to gain instruction. I believe it is to this I owe my clear ideas on the subject of history.

I also finished the tenth and last volume of Aikins British Poets today by reading Beattie5 who closes the collection. I have been now three months and five days in it in which I have taken but two holidays and those unavoidably. Of this regularity I have reason to feel proud since it ensures to me that method which is of such great importance in future life. Perhaps I have not adhered to my resolution of noticing critically every author but I found it more than I could do upon a first reading which was the case with many of them, at least to give a good one, so that I thought it much better to give a good one at some future time when I could discover all or most of the beauties which have escaped. My comparison in Cowper has made me ashamed as I find that I have not got so much taste as I thought, and also that I have been somewhat negligent in the second perusal as I found out but half the beauties which I observed the first time.

I spent a little while in the Evening with Otis but my day had been so much employed that it was not until late that I could close my Journal. If I only had a little more of my time at my own disposal and less at that of the governors of the institution I should be more willing to remain here. I am however pretty well satisfied even now. At half past nine I read my Chapters which continued this Evening the song of Moses on the overthrow of Pharaoh. I then spent a little while in looking over my Enfield which has become rather toilsome and disgusting now however and went to bed noting also that I resisted an invitation of Tudor’s. X.


Doubtless CFA referred to the lines in William Cowper’s “Friendship”:

“The man that hails you Tom or Jack, And proves by thumps upon your back How he esteems your merit, Is such a friend, that one had need Be very much his friend indeed To pardon or to bear it.”



CFA was the self-appointed treasurer of both the Society of the Knights of the Order of the Square Table and the Lyceum Club. See entry for 7 June, above.


Francis Jenks, Harvard 1817, a former usher at the Boston Latin School, who was at the Divinity School in 1824 ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823; Materials for a Catalogue of the Masters . . . Who Have Belonged to the Public Latin School . . . , Boston, 1847, p. 4).


James Beattie (1735–1803).