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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0007-0013

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-06-13

Sunday. June 13th. VII:30.

My excessive fatigue of yesterday made me sleep until the break• { 184 } fast bell had announced the hour which makes the limit. I found scarcely any one at breakfast. Wheatland and Otis were the only ones who had been there. I spent the morning in a very lazy way. Cunningham came to Otis’s room and I dropped in, we talked for some time on general subjects and I liked him again. His manner injures him very much in the estimation of students, he appears so studied in all his movements, that he excites much displeasure and though desirous to have popularity he scarcely knows the way to gain it.
I had a little conversation with Otis on the subject of the Porcellian Club, after his visitor had gone. I have been anxious for some considerations to get into this society as it has long made me feel angry to have a number of men take any superiority over me on a point which they certainly have but little right to. I am conscious however that things change materially in the world and that I for one take a station as soon as I enter it which is equal in advantages to myself if not superior to any in the class. I find myself well supported by my own friends and therefore care but little as to the local prejudices which have kept me out.1
After some private talk, I attended Chapel to hear Dr. Ware as I did in the afternoon to the President, both exactly according to usual way. I was according to custom, very inattentive. I read the third book of Cowper’s Task and wrote my Journal, this employed me all day, rather lazily, to be sure but I am in the habit of spending a great deal too much time in the latter employment so that I make it a task and a loss of time instead of an improving lesson. My last three days it must be confessed have not been spent in the most edifying manner but I have allowed myself some indulgence for the first half of this term. My father has not chosen to give me anything for employment,2 he may crush my ambitious feelings by this but I have nothing to be accused of, warmly as I am acted upon by my desire of distinction and knowing so well that I am called upon particularly to act as becomes a member of a high family. I feel this responsibility and feel myself naturally able to bear it but how it may result I know not. I read my usual Chapters and part of the Introduction to Anacharsis which is a romantic account of the heroic ages of Greece.3 X:15.
1. Southern students, who went to Cambridge in increasing numbers during President Kirkland’s administration, gradually came to dominate the prestigious Porcellian Club. The club elected more Southern than Northern students in 1820, when JA2 became a member; in 1821 it chose half again as many Southerners as Northerners; in 1822 there were almost twice as many Southern initiates as Northern. Though the new members of 1823, who were sophomores in CFA’s class, included one more Northern than Southern student, { 185 } the club was still heavily weighted against the Northerners. In 1824 seven Southern sophomores and only two Northern ones were chosen. Later nine of CFA’s class, all Northerners, and CFA himself were invited to join, but CFA and his friends refused. Other Northern students then asked to resign but were refused permission, and later seven more Northerners were chosen to fill the vacant places. For CFA’s role in creating and leading a Northern party among the students, first to storm the Porcellian citadel and then to build up the Northern-oriented Society of the Order of the Knights of the Square Table, see entries for 24 and 25June, 23 July, and 3 Aug., below. See also Catalogue of the Honorary and Immediate Members of the Porcellian Club of Harvard University, Cambridge, 1831, Harvard Archives; Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard , p. 197–199.
2. In this reference and a later one (see entry for 11 Aug., below), CFA bemoaned the fact that his father was not encouraging and enriching his education by guiding his reading. Only after CFA returned home to Washington to read law and, later, was a student at Webster’s law office in Boston, did JQA become his son’s mentor.
3. The work referred to is doubtless the Voyage du jeune Anacharsis en Grèce, first published in Paris, 1779, in 7 volumes and an atlas volume. The anonymous author was Jean Jacques Barthélemy, a spokesman of the Enlightenment; his production, though cast in fictional form, with the sages and heroes of Greece taking speaking parts, contains a mass of geographical and archeological information that made it popular as a manual on Greek antiquities. There are two editions of the Voyage in the Stone Library: one in 9 volumes and an atlas, Deux Ponts, 1791; the other in 7 volumes, Paris, 1810. A 1790 edition of the work, published in Paris, is among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library, but the atlas is missing ( Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 21).