Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Tuesday. 23rd.

Thursday. 25th.

Wednesday. 24th. CFA Wednesday. 24th. CFA
Wednesday. 24th.

Clear day. I went to the Office after reading an hour of Horace. My time taken up much as usual. Made some progress in the continuation of Mackintosh although I could not say that I felt the spirit in reading that I have done heretofore. The writer has not the same philosophical mind, he leans more upon authority, and he has not the sharpness of discrimination.

Walk as usual, and I called in at the Athenaeum. Afternoon quietly at home. Read Botta and made some progress in reading over German but I am very slow.

My Wife and I went to the Theatre again tonight, the Play of Venice Preserved. Jaffier, Mr. Smith. Pierre, Mr. Kemble. Belvidera, his daughter. The first man ruined his part, an essential one to the effect of the piece. Kemble’s conception of the character of Pierre was good, but it seems to me that it wanted the full force of the character. He is a jealous, vindictive, haughty character, concealing his private griefs under the mantle of public spirit, and at the same time high spirited, full of sentiments of honor according to the world’s definition of the term. She was rather cold at first. I did not wonder at it. For to lavish the prodigality of married love upon Mr. Smith, is not easy for 75a young single woman of any delicacy.1 Afterpiece, Blue Devils, poor enough. We got home early.

1.

To find even such minor faults in the performances of the Kembles was currently judged churlish in Boston: “They are of that captious race, who labor under the impression that it argues the quintescence of taste and judgment to find fault. Such morbid beings would imagine blemishes in perfection itself, and the best efforts are lost upon them. It would be well for such persons to reflect a moment, whether the imperfections which haunt their imaginations, are not rather the spectres of their own diseased faculties, than the defects of these accomplished performers.” (Columbian Centinel, 24 April, p. 2, col. 4.)

For most of the audience in the theater, apparently, the impact of the performance was so great that the critical faculties were overwhelmed. One in that audience, sixty years later recalled that “When [Miss Kemble] as Belvidera, shrieking, stares at her husband’s ghost, I was sitting in front, in her line of vision, and I cowered and shrank from her terrible gaze.” (Henry Lee, Atlantic Monthly, May 1893, p. 664.)