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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0006-0008

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-05-08

Saturday. May. 8th. VII:30.

Owing to my being up so late last night I did not arise quite so early this morning and therefore missed Prayers and recitation in Enfield. I immediately sat down to write my Journal for the preceding day. There being no Exercises after the Morning, I had it for leisure time and read in it the fourth part of “Liberty” and Moliere’s tragicomedy of Psyche. Of the first I can say but little more than I did yesterday except that I like it a little better. Some fine sentiments and just observations and occasionally quite a bright passage. This is too severely criticised by a very few words in Dr. Johnson’s life of him, saying that when it came out he had not been able to get through it and he never should. It is not a subject or a title to please him very much. Psyche is rather a representation drama than a reading comedy. There is great room for scenery and beautiful women. The Gods being the principal actors, the whole goes by machinery. I could imagine the effect of it on the stage but I should not incline to read it again. La Fontaine has written a beautiful little story on this subject which although considered by Roscoe as a failure, I beg leave to differ, and think well of. I am not a judge but I recollect being very much pleased in reading it.
I received also a very good letter from John1 in which he tells me his disappointment in a party to Mount Vernon in a very amusing { 125 } way. Thus was I occupied all the morning, so constantly that I could but just steal ten minutes before dinner to go to the reading room. Not much news. The memorial of Mr. Edwards is printed and makes considerable noise.2 I think Monsieur’s chance is gradually improving. This affair may assist Crawford materially however. Each man to his turn however to clear up these accusations. My father has been through the ordeal with success. Let others go on also. The Boston party of republicans are very rash and headstrong, attacking the federalists, like fools. Had they been more moderate, they would have had much less opposition to their measures.
The members of the house were all absent today except Tudor and myself, so we dined alone. After dinner my time was most egregiously wasted but not voluntarily, for Tudor was here one hour and a half and after him Brenan for another hour so that at four o’clock I had accomplished very little. Tudor then insisted upon a walk to the bookstore which I had promised, so that I went and lounged there sometime. We had intended to ride but changed our minds when the wind rose—the roads also were not sufficiently good. I returned home at a quarter past five but could do nothing owing to Tudor and Wheatland and Sheafe until we attended Prayers.
I read only about one hundred pages of Mosheim all day. It treated of the commencement of the seventeenth Century, and has become less interesting to me as it comes to more known ages. The system of Missions was commenced and carried on in this century. The Catholics adopting the measure. The Jesuits acting a conspicuous part in these scenes. This sect became terrible as it obtained power and as it was under the influence of no moral restraint could affect even the Pope himself. They became hated and persecuted in some kingdoms and it has now become so proverbial that Jesuitical signifies to the world generally, every thing that is bad. I am not inclined to be so quick in condemning them in America, as historians speak of the Paraguay missions as models for the peaceful civilization of the Indians. I have never been able to make up my mind concerning the efficacy of proselytism, and less concerning the expediency of talking so arrogantly about our religion—“the light of the divine ray,” “benighted regions,” are the expressions of almost all Christians. They believe themselves to be right and are so without doubt to us. But if there was no doubt in the minds of pagans they would all embrace our religion upon perceiving its truth that is to say immediately. And it would be unnecessary to make converts by fraudulent means or to make any exertion by missionaries. Let this divine truth act for itself. { 126 } Perhaps if we inquire rigidly into the matter we shall find that these rays were not introduced so as to convince, for even the most pious allow that had not the religion been a remarkably good political system it would not have obtained so general an acceptation. If the religion is one so convincing why make so violent exertions in its favour, if not it is not worthwhile to spread it. I have nothing more to notice except the great spread of philosophy. This being the age of Gassendi, Descartes, Bacon, Galileo and Newton.
I have to blame myself this afternoon for becoming too angry in a conversation with Tudor. My position was right for he was exercising most intolerable arrogance over Sheafe but I was wrong in becoming angry. My passions are not things I know to be trifled for if excited to a very high degree it might cost my antagonist and myself our life. I have not been in a passion since my unfortunate affair with Fessenden.3 I governed myself very well finally and walked to Prayers with Tudor in very good terms. In the Evening I walked with Dwight with some delightful conversation. On returning I wrote a letter to Mother in rather a plaintive tone being somewhat affected by an expression in hers.4 This detained me awake until late. XI:20.
1. Missing.
2. See entry for 1 May, and note, above.
3. Benjamin Buekman Fessenden, of Boston, a former schoolmate of CFA’s at the Boston Latin School and a junior at Harvard, was expelled on the 15th. See Boston Latin School Catalogue , p. 154; Harvard Annual Cat., 1823; and entry for 15 May, below.
4. Letter missing.