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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0008-0012

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-07-12

Monday. July 12th. V:30.

Arose and attended Prayers and recitations. I was taken up this morning but it is exceedingly singular, Mr. Heyward gives me but three lines to recite. I do not know what to make of this man’s conduct to me, it is remarkable. After breakfast I attended lecture. Mr. Channing commenced with some notice of the design of criticism and it’s utility. He here diverged from his subject by talking of the few minds governing a whole nation. The impulse which it gives to its feeling and it’s tone. After having said enough concerning this, he brought it to bear upon his subject by tracing the similarity in the school of criticism. A few people of fine taste governed the rest, he said, and by this was meant the general voice commonly expressed upon matters of taste. Comparatively very few of the whole mass of the world know any thing about the matter, the voice of literary men has the power to fix reputation upon a work. Shakespeare it has been said would not have been so great a favourite were it not that Garrick had set him off { 235 } to such advantage, but he thought that the voice of men of learning in general so concentrated, that his reputation might have been retarded, it never could have been finally depressed. It may have been a question, why these men should form themselves into a tribunal to judge of all works peremptorily, and if there was not danger of abuse in this power?1 A few cold hearted critics might exert a dangerous influence upon literature by discouraging even merit, under the influence of private feelings of dislike to the author. He thought though that this could not be the case as there were always men enough to indulge different opinions and that there could be scarce a sufficient coalition to render any injustice. The public voice could not be suppressed by such means as these. It was on the whole not a very bad lecture, his observations were generally just and although rather common place, I expect it. As we had finished Greek Testament we had nothing else to do this day but prepare for a lesson in Paley’s Moral Philosophy this being our next, last, and most important branch. We attended to a get a lesson set but obtained a miss very unexpectedly so that we shall have no morning exercises for this week, a thing not much desired by me as our term is easy enough without it.
I employed the rest of my morning in writing my Journal. I forgot to say that the Bowdoin prizes were declared this morning, one was given for a dissertation on China by Emerson and another for one on the Classics, by Whitman of our class.2 The parts for Commencement were assigned during our absence on Saturday. The first Oration being given to Emerson, the second to Newell.3 The dissertations were read today one in the morning and another in the afternoon but I did not attend either of them as I presumed they would be long and probably dull.
In the afternoon, I attended a lecture of Mr. Nuttall’s at three, it being postponed on account of Emerson’s Dissertation. It was a very good one on the compound flowers, but I had some difficulty in keeping the track with him. He is so rapid in his manner, he gives no time for the examination of the flowers, he himself proposes to you. Returning home I found a message from Mr. Farrar directing me to attend him at his study this Evening but regret that my military engagements detained me. I do think however that this is somewhat of an authoritative step, to call for me when I wish to be absent. I spent an hour talking with Otis upon the subject and then came down stairs again to write up my Journal which now seems to take up nearly all my time. Thus I was going on until Prayers which I attended and gave my squad a drill. They performed the Manual exceedingly well { 236 } and received the credit of the whole company. I think fairly speaking they are the best drilled in the company nor do I take much credit to myself for it, as in my own humble opinion the others do much less than they might. Any thing like telling them is an injury to their feelings, and Lothrop tonight appeared considerably affected because Cunningham told him the plain state of the case. We sat at Mr. Willard’s until nine o’clock, the time appointed for a meeting of the officers at the Captains. We employed our Evening pretty carefully and went through all the evolutions correctly, which we have been accustomed in the former company. We then spent sometime in talking over the affairs of the Company and in discussing the materials before us, so that it was eleven o’clock before we adjourned. I then went directly to my room, read my lesson and Bible and then went to bed. XI:30.
1. A question mark after “peremptorily” has been eliminated, but CFA’s questionable grammar has been left intact.
2. Jason Whitman, of East Bridgewater, Mass. (Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).
3. William Newell, of Boston (same).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/