Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

1824. Saturday. May 1st. V:30.

Monday. May. 3d. V:40.

Sunday. May. 2d. VI. CFA


Sunday. May. 2d. VI. CFA
Sunday. May. 2d. VI.

Missed Prayers, but I arose notwithstanding and immediately sat down to my journal for yesterday which I did not complete until it was time to go to Chapel. We had a thunder shower this morning which made me averse from going, but on the whole I determined that I would. Sheafe asked me to go to Mr. Heyward to excuse him which 111I did, and was much amused with his manner. He asked me to sit down but as it was time to go and I wished to drop in to Bartlett’s for a minute I would not stop. I came to inquire the Dr.’s health after his fatigue and debauch of Tuesday.1

We went to Chapel and heard as usual Dr. Ware in the Morning and the President in the afternoon. It is not my intention here to make critiques upon Sermons, as I will frankly confess I never attend to them. After many trials without success I have given up the attempt and although I may occasionally make a remark, it is only “en passant.” I was amused this afternoon with a part of the President’s discourse which was much in character, for it seemed somewhat disjointed from the rest.

I read today Moliere’s Comedy of “George Dandin.” It does not appear to me a good attempt. In the first place I have the same objection to this that I had to the one yesterday, it is on a subject altogether improper for the stage. But what is worse, it takes the immoral side by justifying a faithless woman. The poor man is a fellow of no spirit but still had nothing in him to deserve this sort of treatment. Family Pride is well exposed in the Sotenvilles, and perhaps it is good advice to men, not to marry above their degree. Although this scarcely justifies a woman, even the want of generosity which he shows and which is awkwardly put in does not suffice. I read to day Thomson’s Spring, A beautiful poem.2 I have always been pleased with this, partly from the associations which are connected with the first perusal, as it was for the first time, that my romantic feelings were excited at all by reading Poetry. I was not naturally formed a lover of it and it was only by a concurrence of circumstances that I have become attached to it. My reading it every day of late has increased this feeling, so that now I could almost give up every other pursuit. The pleasure of man’s life is increased greatly by it and he will never repent of his choice.

I continued reading Mosheim this afternoon and Evening and read the history of the Church during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. The crusades which had excited such immense zeal at first were now finished, as the expense was found to exceed the good efforts produced. The increase of the Church does not appear to have been very considerable and was caused not by the original method of persuasion but by force. The spirit had departed and human nature was left. It is worthwhile to read this book if it is only to discover the excesses which man will run into. There is nothing too extravagant for him and nothing too ridiculous. It is not wonderful therefore to 112find that this religion lost ground in Asia. A more dazzling one had taken it’s place, a more voluptuous one, and now a more simple one. Letters had now come to their lowest point of declension and began to rise with some rapidity at the close of the fifteenth. Aristotle gave way to Plato although it might have been better had neither ever existed. Disputation was the reigning power, took the place of reason. Judicial Astrology was now in fashion and ignorance commanded. The Quarrel between Philip the Fair of France and Boniface which caused the residence of the the Popes at Avignon was a proof that some kings still had spirit to resist. These may be considered however as causes of the reformation. Complaints were breathed forth loudly, and Wickliffe in England raised his voice against this usurpation. Huss and Jerome of Prague excited the flame by their death. Indulgences and corruption could be born no farther. Three supreme heads of the Church at the same time exposed themselves to ridicule and Alexander the Sixth finished the Climax. The council of Constance and afterwards that of Basil attempted a reformation but were frustrated by the ambition of the Popes. And the Greek Church separated for ever from the Latin. Roscoe speaks differently of Alexander and Savonarola but I am inclined to think him prejudiced in favour of one and against the other. This finishes the third volume.

Brenan came in, in the Evening and we had some Conversation. He is a pleasant young man, injured much by circumstances; of a social temper he suffered himself to become gloomy and suspicious. But he is most to be praised for having subdued his vicious or dissipated habits and become a studious sensible young man. He is a strong friend of mine and one of whom I shall always think with pleasure.

I read today the third Canto of Childe Harold. Remarks I shall make tomorrow. Looked over Enfield. IX:30.


George Bartlett received a medical degree in 1830 ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ).


JQA’s copy of James Thomson’s Works, 3 vols., London, 1788, is in the Stone Library, as is a set of Thomson’s Poetical Works, London, 1786. But CFA probably read the selections printed in Aikin’s British Poets ; see entry for 6 May, below.