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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0007-0011

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-06-11

Friday. June 11th. IV:30.

After a very sleepless night, from what cause I know not, I arose, dressed myself and read my usual number of Chapters and the first book of Cowper’s Task. This is a pleasant poem but as it is a commencement of a subject not the most excellent for a Poet’s pen, we must wait till he obtains room for more excursions. I read this Poem just before I commenced Aikin and recollect the great pleasure which I had in it. I am now very curious to see whether my marks will be the same as formerly. I doubt much the strength of my natural taste and consequently shall see what is the variation. I then attended Prayers and after looking over my lessons, recitation. I then returned home got a lesson in Botany and wrote my Journal.
At ten o’clock I attended Mr. Channing’s second Lecture. His style is certainly quite good, he treated today of Rhetoric as a branch of study. He distinguished from Ethics and Logic by embracing parts of both but giving a more extended surface. The one he said treated of moral obligation of the duty of man to God, to himself and to the world, but Rhetoric was connected with their passions and although it’s effects were caused by touching the sense of rectitude which existed in every man, they acted upon those passions of men which Moral Philosophy is intended to bind. He said it was different from Logic as that was merely a dry search after Truth in methodical formulas whereas this was designed to apply these very rules clothed in the beauty of language and all the richness of imagery which the mind of men can comprehend. He then went on to discuss the subjects in which Eloquence existed. Some people had said that Eloquence arose from the subject and that in Law and Divinity it was impossible to be eloquent but it was his opinion that Eloquence existed every where and that it was in the power of a naturally eloquent man (for it is his opinion that it is natural) to be eloquent on every subject, that he could exert his powers of imagination even on things the most dry. This is all just observation and I saw it powerfully exemplified in the case of Mr. Emmet on the Steam Boat question last Winter.1 I did not hear however what was said to be his very finest part which was the close of his speech. The subject was as dry also as any which could have been agitated.
I read a considerable portion of Mitford’s Greece. He treated of the Oracles, the Games and the council of Amphictyons, the three great links, as he thinks of the Grecian people. These gave them a consistency which otherwise they would not have possessed and made them have the appearance to others at least of being a people. The { 181 } influence obtained by the Oracle was not surprising considering the state of the people. The institution of the Games was very good for them as it gave them a character, it promoted taste and elegance for which they were afterwards so noted. I finished this early and copied a piece in my Common Place Book before dinner. Afterwards, I read Mitford’s Appendix on the subject of the Chronology of these times which to be sure is obscure enough. I shall not attempt to make dates but merely to keep the course of events. These to be sure are doubtful enough but I am inclined to believe them. Mr. Mitford is pretty positive in his style of speaking or writing, nevertheless he is a very pleasant author to read. The last Chapter which I read was on the history of the smaller States of Greece which he gives merely to prepare for his great subject.
I then attended Declamation and spoke myself Byron’s beautiful ode to the Greeks in Don Juan. I tried my best but hardly gave the full force of the sublime production. It was difficult. Mr. Channing criticized my rapidity by which I lost some force, of this I was conscious but I am still in a flurry on the Stage, which it is impossible for me to get over. I am happy to think of my own improvement since I entered College and have no fear of any appearance when warmed by my subject. This was the first time that I have ever felt in the least carried away, I wished to be more so but was afraid of extravagance in action.
After this our Lyceum members made a party and went to Fresh Pond where we spent a very pleasant afternoon in bowling, we returned soon after tea time, missing Prayers. I made arrangements with Mr. Wyeth for Tuesday. The Lyceum Club, the regular Members met and went through the regular business of the term. I was elected President, Richardson Vice P. and Otis, Secretary. The same irregular Members were elected for this term. I then called upon Brenan and a few minutes on Dwight—and after settling some Club Accounts with Mr. Willard, I retired—having read my Chapters. XI:15.
1. See entry for 4 Feb., above.