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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0009-0004

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-08-04

Wednesday. August 4th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography but was not taken up as usual. After breakfast, we attended a Lecture from Mr. Channing. He talked today of the unity of figures. He said it was important to preserve unity in figures in so far as that they should not be incongruous. There were few however who came up to the exact critical definition of unity, but this was not necessary. He then referred to Shakespear who was seldom within the exact rule although his figures are beautiful. The fact was that with him, he never was bound by rule, he followed his thoughts wherever it would lead, he cared not whither. This was a fault. But then who would think of being able to imitate such faults. Shakespeare stands alone, and when we talk of his faults, we speak of them as of things which we shall never fall into. How was it with Milton, who as he had studied the rules, should have been confined within the strictness of an epic poet. If we go according to Blair’s definition however, he1 is not often correct, which is that the figure should be such as a man might sketch with a pencil. It is not necessary however that we should follow this, as there are many things which the mind can perfectly imagine which the pencil cannot delineate. He is very happy in his figures and his mind appears so rich that it throws forth one after another in continued succession, the last more brilliant than the first. It is his great power so to illustrate by { 273 } a figure as to render it doubtful to the reader which to admire most, the description itself or what he compares it to. He then made one or two quotations or extracts at least, the resemblance of the host of angels in hell to autumn leaves strewed about the ground, a pleasant subject to draw a resemblance from, but one which in this situation creates a greater feeling of horror in the mind than the strongest language could have done. This was a fine lecture so far, the rest was a mere close of the subject by hurrying over the different parts of the subject as to the directions where to draw figures and how to keep them distinct. He gave some instances of incongruous metaphor in which he thought the mind was unconsciously impelled to form these figures not considering the general end of the sense but the particular idea in the passage. Two or three instances such as untying an intellectual knot with a beam of light &c. &c.
After Lecture was over, I returned to my room and studied my lesson in Paley until recitation. The day’s lesson was upon different sorts of contracts. I think his remarks upon debtors are very just as I never have had my mind made up as to the matter. Much has been said in this country on the subject of making a law for debtors but I am in doubt whether it will be of any advantage. It is one of those questions which may be handled with much argument on both sides. I recited what Dr. Paley had to say upon the subject and as I had read it carefully, I did very well. After recitation I came home, wrote my Journal and felt joyful at the end of the week’s labour.
In the afternoon, I went to recite to Mr. Farrar, finishing Spherical Trigonometry excepting a short note. I have succeeded much better in this than I had any idea that I should. I came to my room. The Boston Light Infantry came out and as I wished to see them, I ran down and round by which I missed them as they went by my room. I wished to see their caps. My curiosity being excited concerning military appearance. I did very little I must confess for Dwight happened to come along and we had some conversation concerning the prospect for the Knights which is rather dark as Murray, Bonaparte and Jouve 2d were dissatisfied on account of the late affair in the other club. This course of the Government’s has frightened every body as by this it appears no body is safe from their vengeance. Our club stand their ground pretty firmly however. Few seem to be much frightened. I then had some conversation with Otis upon the same subject. This was stopped by the bell for Prayers which we obeyed.
After tea, the Company drilled without music for the drummer disappointed us. We managed to perform much more without his { 274 } presence than we should, had he been here. Cunningham was not tempted to move them so much. Some of our performances were not so exquisite, particularly the single favourite of the Captain’s. We at last succeeded in performing it to his satisfaction. We did much more, progressing almost to my satisfaction. I made but one mistake and that of very little importance. We were nevertheless considerably dissatisfied with Cunningham. We had a meeting of the Officers afterwards at which we were pretty harmonious. The upper Officers retired before we did, so that we had some opportunity for conversation which did turn out in a resolution I will hereafter mention. Adjourned, I came home and retired. XI.
1. Milton.