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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0009-0011

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-08-11

Wednesday. August 11th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography. I was left in peace this morning for once. After breakfast, I attended Mr. Channing’s Lecture which was today a sort of treatise upon the question, how far criticism might be applied to style. There was some diversity of opinion as to this lecture, for my own part however good it might have been, I must confess I did not see a great deal of connection in it. He commenced with a few observations concerning the degree of criticism, or of intention to find fault as custom has almost translated it, with which we should sit down to a book. This, he observed, should be but small. A man must read a book to read it properly, as if not only there was no other copy, but as if he had never read a book before. From this he went off again upon the subject of literary reviews, their bad effects in prejudicing public opinion—literary decrees, he called them, issued periodically deciding the fate of all works. Here I lost him for a { 284 } little while and did not come up with him again until he applied the same power of criticism to poetry. He then commenced this question with some remarks upon the absolute requisites for poetry, but a perfect definition of the word could not in his opinion be given. He then said it was like genius, an inexpressible term but fully understood. He had read all the definitions but none came up to his idea of what it was. He talked some time about genius, then reverted to Poetry and extracted from the Edinburgh Review a definition of it by Dr. Jeffrey1 the Editor of the Work. It was to be sure complicated enough and proved that it is hardly possible to give a perfectly intelligible definition of every necessary quality in poetry. The Lecture on the whole was a singular one and made evident to me that he had patched it as he was in a hurry to close a long series of Lectures. This morning was entirely our own as Mr. Hedge had gone to Westford where he is a Trustee to a School. I spent part of it at Cunningham’s room where we went through a number of new manoeuvres. The Fusileers2 passed through today. They have a beautiful Uniform and appear exceedingly well, on the March. They are all Democrats but not very good Soldiers, nor very respectable or at least very high people, as that party here is generally among the lower class.
I employed the rest of the Morning in writing my Journal and talking foolishly with Richardson who was as unpleasant as usual. After dinner I prepared myself very quickly and attended recitation. As it was the last lesson I did not much care how I appeared. I certainly did not acquit myself very well. Thus have we finished with Mr. Farrar. A thing which has been a considerable bugbear without very serious injury. The studies of the Junior Year have almost closed and every man of my class can now look back and ask himself what he has done and how much he has improved. For my own part it would take some time for me to consider the question, and after all I should decide that I had not done as much as I could have done but, comparing myself with others, I have done a great deal. Had my father done as in my opinion was his duty I should have done more.3 My College studies have been moderate in some branches, in some entirely neglected, and in others studied intensely. I have been pretty wild this year, spent a great deal of money and look with a sort of dread upon the events of the next year. I know not but I have a presentiment of something unfortunate which I do not intend to indulge however. I returned home and wrote my Journal and for a rarity I got my lesson in the interval before Prayers. Blake drank tea with us, he has just returned from a Journey and is now ready to take his degree in all haste.
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We came out to drill tonight and I, already prepared for a difficult time, but we succeeded exceedingly well. All our4 difficult manoeuvres were done very perfectly. They were all new, this company was governed last year by an Officer of an amazingly indolent disposition, who did very little and who knew less. It has never been so well commanded, with respect to interest in the company, not even in Peabody’s5 company. The Officers appeared better being generally handsomer and taller men than we. I was perfectly satisfied tonight and attended the meeting of the Officers with pleasure. Much discussion arose upon different subjects which were all settled very easily, at last, and we adjourned very amicably indeed. I returned home, spent half an hour at Sheafe’s, came down, read my Bible and went to bed. X:10.
1. Francis Jeffrey (1773–1850), who was also a founder of the distinguished quarterly.
2. The First Regiment, Third Brigade, First Division of the Massachusetts militia, composed of Boston and Chelsea inhabitants ( Mass. Register, 1824, p. 122).
3. See entry for 13 June, and note, above.
4. MS : “are.”
5. George Peabody, Harvard 1823, who was the first commanding officer of the Washington Corps after it was reorganized in 1822. See Batchelder, Bits of Harvard History , p. 67; entry for 17 June, above.