Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Saturday. July. 17th. VI.

Monday July 19th. VI.

Sunday. July 18th. VIII. CFA


Sunday. July 18th. VIII. CFA
Sunday. July 18th. VIII.

Missed Prayers this Morning, as usual with me, this being truly my only morning of rest in the week. As I have not been excused this term, I determined not to attend Chapel today, and seated myself very leisurely to spend a pleasant day at home. In the morning I wrote my Journal and read some of the North American Review. This publication appears to be pretty ably conducted nevertheless and this number has two or three redeeming articles. There is a very amusing review of the late American Novels, giving them the lashing they deserve.1 I do think, the public have been drawn on to encourage some of the most wretched stuff by giving it the name of American. It is my opinion that we have no good writers of a light style in our country with a few exceptions, a very few. All who are good devote themselves to divinity and to politics. We have not become so populous a nation as to make a large tribe of authors, the most miserable beings in existence. Every one can obtain surer and better means of livelihood either from his profession or else from some subordinate one which he privately pursues. Politics engross all the attention of the talent of the country and young men who have ambition have easy means of encouraging it as this people is particularly open to impression.

In the afternoon, I continued with Mitford and finished the Second Volume which brings the History down to the application for peace by the Lacedaemonians. The history of this war is a melancholy account of human nature, cruelty exerted and unbridled, licentiousness of a mob encouraged. The moral sense of the age was not delicate, revenge was indulged to it’s full and society was destroyed. It is melancholy to think of men who really did possess noble qualities destroying themselves for no purpose on earth but the satisfaction of a wretched jealousy. Had this been a united people, it could have governed the world. Valour, heroism, greatness of mind, and love of country were distinguishing traits in their general character. They 246called all foreign nations, barbarians, although they themselves occupied but a very small portion of the globe known as it was at that time, and the noble answer to the Persians dictated by Aristides is an illustrious example of their firmness. The race of illustrious men had now passed away and we now find Athens under the influence of Cleon and fast declining to her ruin. The rest of her tale is but a melancholy account of misconduct, and misfortune. I like the style of this History very well and think the author is desirous to do justice to all parties. He gives as fair an account as possible although he may be influenced a little too much in favour of Herodotus and prejudiced against Plutarch. I do not know that I can speak so certainly on this matter but it appears a little so to me.

Having done this I finished the afternoon with Plutarch’s life of Aristides. As this is all appertaining to the same history, my remarks remain the same. In looking back, over all my employment, I am surprised to find no Poetry or light reading of any sort except Salmagundi for a few days. I am now uncertain which to commence, Cowper or Pope in their unread Poems. My avocations are so numerous now however that I am not certain whether I shall commence till the course of Botany is finished. I read my first lesson in Paley over today. The subject is certainly an interesting one and, treated in so simple a manner as it is by Dr. Paley, I cannot help being pleased with it. I enter into this course with no reluctance and hope sincerely that my good resolutions will not give way in this. I read it carefully over twice and intend every day to pursue the same plan.

In the Evening, I took a walk with Dwight and had some conversation with him on the subject of the Knight Club, on the expediency of admitting any Sophomores. I am decidedly in favour of the measure and he as much against it although I think I can bend him considerably. I returned home and having smoked a couple of cigars at Richardson’s, whom I like better since the Seniors have gone, I read my Bible and went to bed. X:20.


The anonymous reviewer of Boston Prize Poems, Boston, 1824, felt that many of the verses “seem to have been written without the aid, and sometimes we should fear without the entire approbation of the muse.” The plot of Hobomok, a Tale of Early Times, by an American [Lydia Maria Child], Boston, 1824, was considered “not only unnatural, but revolting ... to every feeling of delicacy in man or woman” (North American Review, 44:256, 263 [July 1824]).