Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Tuesday. July 27th. V:30.

Thursday. July 29th. V:20.

Wednesday. July 28th. V:15. CFA


Wednesday. July 28th. V:15. CFA
Wednesday. July 28th. V:15.

Arose and studied my Topography, after which I attended Prayers and recitation in it. After breakfast we attended Mr. Channing, he continued his observations in purity and precision in language recapitulating considerably. He said that synonyms as they were called should be studied, as there were very few which did not express something peculiar to themselves, and varying in a slight degree from each other, to give, for instance, to bestow, to grant, to yield and many others had some little singularity in their meaning, so that it would hardly be proper to substitute one for the other. It was the knowledge of these 262distinctions which it was so necessary to obtain, the niceties of language would preserve a man always from ridiculous blunders. It might be asked however, what was the use of such minuteness when one could be understood perfectly well without. To this we can answer that correctness distinguishes the gentleman and man of learning from the ignorant and it is the great barrier in society. Having thus closed with this part of his subject, he went on to the discussion of figurative language, first asking what definition there was, he said he had seen none sufficiently correct. Figurative language, it had been said, was a direction of external objects to the mind in order to illustrate and adorn. He thought this hardly distinct however as there was much figurative language which could not come under this application. The lamentation of Eve in the eleventh book of Paradise lost at leaving Paradise is highly figurative but it is all description or at least can not come nearer than that here. The true definition of figurative language in his mind was that which is perverted from its original meaning in order to affect the passions by some striking position. This was one of two which he gave, the other was not sufficiently clear to remember. This neither obviates his objection nor example, in my opinion. He then stated the general use and pleasure of metaphors, and other figures. They gave a finish to style and refreshed the mind by bringing up agreable images. Words are all made to express some particular quality or object and those who keep these remembrances best in mind will take the greatest pleasure in this sort of imagery.

I returned to my room when this was over and studied my Paley until recitation time. It was upon Property, an easy lesson, and I acquitted myself moderately well at recitation. I think his first Chapter upon Property is not a correct statement of things. I see no resemblance at all to our state of society. We collect no heap for one, reserving only our sustenance for ourselves. Every man collects for himself, to be sure, he collects for and pays others, but these do him assistance in turn by which he is enabled to attend to his business more exclusively. And when one robs, he is punished not for robbing or taking from one in particular, but he would suffer the same punishment, if he took from any other.1 I cannot help seeing a great deal of erroneous representation here. Such a state would not be desirable even with the reasons he gives. Thus I employed the morning, and in the afternoon I studied a lesson in Spherical Trigonometry and recited it remarkably well to Mr. Farrar. I know not how it is but I can get along much better with him in the Geometrical parts of the works than with Mr. Hayward. He has more of the spirit and less of the form. I employed 263the rest of the afternoon in writing up my Journal which in this cool weather I have almost succeeded in doing.

Cunningham was taken sick today and went to town, consequently the Company could not parade this Evening. Consequently, Prayers and tea being over, I went and took a long walk with Richardson for a Companion for want of a better. We went to Sweet Auburn2 for the first time this year. Walking there we met Dwight, with whom we came down. As the difficult part of the week was past, which is a great relief to such a student as he is, he was correspondently elated and made the proposition for a sociable game of cards. We accordingly went to Richardson’s where we sat down. As nobody was in the house to fill up the table, we were obliged to send for Chapman. Dwight also sent for a bottle of Old Madeira and we spent a very sociable, comfortable evening. Otis and Sheafe came up afterwards. This was a little like last Winter, except that it was rather pleasanter as it was more close and compact. It was also unexpected. We adjourned after an exceedingly pleasant state of enjoyment, and I came down, read my Bible and retired. X:30.


Paley, in his Moral Philosophy, stated that men gathered property in a heap, reserving nothing for themselves but the chaff and the refuse, and they kept this heap for someone, often the weakest or worst member of the group, who spent or spoiled it. Further, if one of the group stole from the hoard, he would be hanged. See Paley’s Moral Philosophy: with Annotations by Richard Whately, London, 1859, p. 103.


A picturesque woodland in Cambridge which attracted romantic young people even after it became Mount Auburn Cemetery in 1831 (Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard , p. 207).