Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Sunday. July 25th. VII:30.

Tuesday. July 27th. V:30.

Monday. July 26th. V:10. CFA


Monday. July 26th. V:10. CFA
Monday. July 26th. V:10.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography. After breakfast attended Mr. Channing’s lecture upon the right use of words. I trusted too much to Richardson’s notes and as he took none, I have very little to recollect. The first part was very much of a recapitulation of what was said in the last lecture, he again spoke of our desire to return a part of the obligation which we have received from the Mother Country and again adverted to our improvements. His general subject in this lecture though has entirely escaped my mind and I merely recollect some observations upon the application of words. He said that there were few words so common place that they could not at times be applied with singular force. He said he thought it was from this that the cold but studied and elegant declamation in well arranged sentences had so little success when compared with the natural effect of a speaker or writer of but common words. From thence he made some strictures upon the Irish Eloquence which has of late attracted so much notice. He regretted it had obtained so much currency here, he feared the taste of the people would be corrupted, it was gaudy, without the least substance. He was happy to say that its effect had not been such as he had supposed at one time it might be. As to the application of words, he illustrated it in Shakespear’s famous expression of “Not 259a jot, not a jot” which he said was more powerful confessedly than an elegant circumlocution could be. His other story or rather observation was concerning a French writer, who in making observations upon Shakespear came to the dialogue in Hamlet where they exchange the watch, and censured the answer to a question “Have you had quiet guard,” “Not a mouse stirring.” He said it ought to have been a long declamation concerning Neptune, which would have in effect made the play a stupid piece of bombast.

After lecture, I came home immediately and read my lesson in Paley over until ten o’clock. He discussed the reasons of Moral Obligation and gave us some specimen of his doctrine concerning utility. I think his argument is generally powerful but I cannot agree with it, there is something debasing in the idea that interest is the only motive which should influence us to a correct course. I wish to have the ground taken which we saw in a previous chapter, that vice gives no more happiness than virtue, and to form on this a system of morals which shall equally apply to all men. I think that this however is a very good system for practical purposes as most men will be governed by what they suppose their interest. I attended recitation but was not taken up. After it was over, I went home and read over my lesson as usual for tomorrow. I believe this to be an excellent plan and I have always wished to practice it but never could succeed until now. I went to Mr. Nuttall’s Lecture at two o’clock. It is a pity he does not adopt the system of questioning more, it would be of infinitely greater advantage, as I can testify, as I certainly learn more in the little while before he commences than all the time that he is talking. The day was exceedingly warm so that it was fortunate our lesson to Mr. Farrar was nothing material or I could not have got it. I attended recitation and as usual recited a very small portion in a very short time. On returning I wasted some time drinking Lemonade at Richardson’s after which I came down and met Whitney here from Quincy with an agreable note from my Uncle to me in which he amply provides me with ammunition to carry on the campaign with success.1 I had a little conversation with him upon the people at Quincy. Mrs. A. has gone to Haverhill. Mr. A. is to follow.

I then employed the rest of the afternoon in writing as much of my Journal as I could, but this weather completely overcomes a man. I could do but very little. After Prayers and tea, the Company came out and drilled for an hour and a half. They performed many manoeuvres but not very accurately. I became considerably flurried by the quick succession of orders but made but few mistakes. The weather 260looked threatening so that we were soon dismissed. After it was over we went down to take some refreshment as is customary with us upon such occasions. The Evening was spent pleasantly. Amory,2 the former first Lieutenant two years since, happened to be caught by the rain here which came on with some brilliant Lightening. He came in and staid with us half an hour. I was much pleased with him, and his conduct, it was perfectly judicious and showed him a thorough man of the world’s best “ton.”

Returning home I spent a few minutes at Sheafe’s conversing with Richardson. I have discovered some thing new in this man’s character since our expedition to Nahant. He is malignantly envious, his little mind dwells with feelings of the worst sort upon the trifling superiority of any one in the smallest thing, and in his foolish way, tries to say things which he intends shall bite. He has got into that way of insinuating faults and qualifying praise which is the sure sign of an envious man. This way of his has a pretty sore effect upon me, and as I am so unfortunate, as to be his superior in fortune, family and education among our friends, I am exposed to a great deal of his insolence. He had a double share this Evening. And as I had felt a little word omitted in the Company, a sort of feeling of loneliness came over me when I came downstairs which made me most exceedingly unhappy for a few minutes. I know not how it was but it was one of those moments which are the only things a young man here is exposed to make him feel wretched. They arise from a want of a brother or some family friends in whose wishes for your welfare, you can be perfectly confident. I have many friends but none whom I would trust or confide in at such a time as this.

I went to bed and soon lost myself in sleep.


Missing. The “campaign” was presumably CFA’s effort to secure enough money to pay for his uniform and to provide entertainment for the officers of the Harvard Washington Corps.


Presumably William Amory, of Boston, who graduated in 1823 ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1822).