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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


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

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-05-06

Thursday. May 6th. V.

Spent an hour this morning studying my Astronomy lesson, then attended Prayers and recitation, had the happiness of being called upon first which is a very great relief, after which I employed myself writing my Journal which takes me some time. I read for my portion of Poetry for today Thomson’s Castle of Indolence. A very sweet thing. I have become almost altogether attached to that sort of stanza. There is something so smooth in it. It is peculiarly well adapted to his subject and the tone of his style is such as to convey almost the very feeling which he is describing. His sentiments are just and his description of the evil consequences attending indolence, is such as would destroy the effect of the commencement. His description is exquisitely simple although I have not perceived the ludicrous appearance which Dr. Aikin mentions in the preface. In fact I do not know whether I should not hesitate to which of his productions I should give the palm. Blank verse although good for sublime subjects, does not on the whole convey so much feeling to me as rhyme. On examining Dr. Johnson’s life of Milton I find my opinion supported by him who says that where the subject is not able to support itself blank verse can never be used with advantage, and that though we may [be] astonished at the power we shall only be pleased with rhyme. Thomson supports his subject well, but it requires more exertion to read that sort of versification and admits of fewer rests not having the advantage of stanzas. I have been very much pleased however by the whole of this author which I have yet read. At a little after ten o’clock, I attended the forensic disputation, “Whether prescience be consistent with human liberty” of which I had the negative to support, which agreed with my opinion. The arguments were very similar throughout, the other side however did not make as much of the case as in my opinion could have been done. We were here as usual two hours. Mr. Hedge1 decided the case as far as it is worded in our favour although he did not deny human liberty altogether. It is an incomprehensible and irreconciliable ques• { 121 } tion so that I intend never to consider it again, if possible to avoid it. My mind has been made up, as I believe it to be the only course for a man to pursue in argument that when he becomes too inquisitive he should check himself and retire. His next subject is a philological one as it treats of languages. I went and paid a visit to Fisher’s2 room of a few minutes where we had some conversation concerning our old Carolina classmates, but the Dinner bell ringing I was called home.
I was not able to read as much of Mosheim today as I intended owing to a visit from Tudor and Wheatland, of almost two hours after dinner and one from Howard of half an hour after the Greek review. I have not appeared very well in these and find I know less of Homer than I thought. Howard was stupid and sleepy, threw all the labour of amusing him upon me which was more than I could do. Indeed I wished him many times any where else. He is one of those men with whom I can have no common subjects of conversation. I cannot talk to him of women for I know none, nor of men for they do not interest him nor of College affairs for he considers himself above them, nor of books for he knows nothing of them, at least of any of those with which I have any acquaintance. I was thankful when the bell called us to Prayers. From these causes it was not till very late that I read Moliere. The play today was the “Bourgeois Gentilhomme.” An admirable production although I can imagine how much more pleasant it would be in representation. The folly of Monsieur Jourdain so natural to a weak head and large fortune, and the violence of his wife are very well contrasted. He resorts however to his old system of cheating a marriage, being extremely unwilling to use any other means. Servants are the acting class and they are the very persons who would most willingly receive these impressions.
I read over one hundred pages of Mosheim principally concerning the differences between Luther, Melancthon, Zwinglius and Calvin, the leaders of the reformed churches. The author does not perform the part of an impartial historian in this account. Nature is such that it can bear no contradiction in this most important part. We all wish to believe our doctrine the most acceptable and consequently wish that others would embrace yours [ i.e. ours] or at least not arrogate to theirs the same. What seems reasonable in us appears very much the contrary in others. This I think is the origin of all the persecutions which have been continued ever since the origin of our religion. The account of these differences although they explain the doctrines of the separate parties are only of importance to the Minister or Theological student as I have no interest in learning the shades of distinction. { 122 } My end being only to obtain and facts and learn their causes in human nature.3 “The study of mankind is man.” Thus did the Evening pass and after studying or rather merely reading over Astronomy I retired to bed. IX:30.
1. Levi Hedge, Harvard 1792, who served as professor of logic and metaphysics from 1810 to 1827, later became Alford professor of natural religion, moral philosophy, and civil polity ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ).
2. Joshua Francis Fisher, of Philadelphia, a junior ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).
3. CFA undoubtedly meant: “My end being only to obtain the facts and learn their causes in human nature.”
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