Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Sunday. July 18th. VIII.

Tuesday. July 20th. VI.

Monday July 19th. VI. CFA


Monday July 19th. VI. CFA
Monday July 19th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography this Morning. I 247was not taken up as usual. I returned home and after breakfast attended a Lecture of Mr. Channing’s. It was upon the way of writing. He said it was not wonderful that it was an amusement so little popular, for that it required much exertion. A man when he undertakes to write must sit down and first drive away all other thoughts from his mind, he must think upon his subject exclusively, he must not give himself any range in ideas, but must wait and work for his production. It was not proper however when the moment for writing had come to stop the current of the thoughts, as was the case with some in order to correct what had gone before, a person should write upon the impulse of the moment. Nor should he stop until he was to look over the whole for the sake of correction. Nature is the best auxiliary to powerful writing. It was the habit with some to write very quick he said, and they were able to do so from practice and because their ideas always lie on the surface. They have a few common places to say on every subject. Writing of this kind was shallow and weak, however this was not uniformly the case for there were some who could write from the inspiration of the moment as strongly and as richly as they ever would be able to do. These were great and uncommon geniuses, and not very frequently occurring. He expressed himself as fully believing the dictum of seasons of inspiration or at least that men could write much better at one time than at another, which Dr. Johnson speaks so severely of. This man however is no admirer of Dr. Johnson in any thing, and when he does allude to him does not do it with much respect. Though I myself do not think much of Mr. Channing’s method. Study does exceeding well to form a style but practice is as good and, if one can write handsomely without deep study, I think it has more effect. For my own part if study is to form style I do not think I shall be so fortunate as to become a good critic.

As soon as he had finished, I returned home and studied my Paley until recitation time. I have had some idea of making an analysis of this book but on the whole I hardly thought it worth the trouble. He writes in a style so simple that I shall not be afraid to trust it to my memory. At ten we attended recitation and I on being called upon acquitted myself very handsomely. After it was over, he detained us with a very dry lecture upon the subject very little varied from Dr. Paley and an explanation of his system of Utility which we have not yet seen. This over, I spent the rest of the morning in looking over the lesson for tomorrow.

After dinner, I spent an hour at Otis’ looking over the lesson in Trigonometry which was quite long. At two, I attended Mr. Nuttall’s 248lecture upon the Roots and Stems. He gave us examples of the different roots, but the afternoon was so oppressively warm, that I could do nothing. My attention was not in my power. His lecture was very long and detained us until after three. I hurried home, and spending a few minutes more in going over the lesson, attended the recitation. He was so concerned with others that it was not in his power to give us more than a few minutes attention, not enough to approach me with his quizzical face. He has the most singular countenance when he is in the least interested that it is with great difficulty that I can avoid laughing. At last I obtained a respite. This is the most busy day in the week with us, and I have not one moment of leisure time from the Prayer bell in the morning until four o’clock. We have but three more of these however and then enter upon our last College Year. A most august situation in my former recollections when I little thought of being here so quickly. The remaining hours until Prayers were devoted to the writing of my Journal which before I had not been able to touch.

After Prayers I drilled my section but was very much dissatisfied with mine, they never conducted themselves in so shameful a manner since I have had them. They at last made me exceedingly angry and I gave them a lecture individually upon the subject which made some impression upon them. I was afraid that I should get the character of harshness which would very probably be the case from what I have been told as the impression I first make. I was therefore too lenient and appeared too well satisfied with moderate efforts. When I had piqued them they began to do exceedingly well. I was obliged then to dismiss them having recovered my good opinion of them. This is probably the last time they come out together under me. After drill I spent an hour with the Commandants as usual. When I came home, looked over some hard sums without doing them, read my Bible and went to bed. X:40.