Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 6

Tuesday. 11th.

Thursday. 13th.

Wednesday. 12th. CFA Wednesday. 12th. CFA
Wednesday. 12th.
New York—Philadelphia

Arose early and got every thing in preparation so that we started in the boat for Philadelphia at 7 o’clock. Such a crowded boat. The company has a monopoly in the Railroad from Amboy to Bordentown, and they have dropped all the lines but this. There were more passengers and more baggage than could be accommodated. Among others I met our companions of yesterday, and Governor Knight of the Senate and St. Clair Clarke. The Post Office Committee of the Senate of which the last is Secretary and the other a member sit in Philadelphia tomorrow.

We travelled very quietly in the Railroad Cars the distance from 8Amboy to Bordentown in two hours and thirty five minutes which is quite reasonable going, the distance is I believe about thirty five miles. My mother bore the riding quite well though somewhat fatigued. We reached Philadelphia at a few minutes after three.

After an ineffectual attempt to get in at the United States Hotel we went to the North American kept by a Mrs. Yohe’s, and found ourselves on the whole pretty comfortable, so much so that I advised and my Mother concluded to remain here tomorrow.

The late dinner we had took up the afternoon, and as I had nothing to do, in the evening I thought I would drop in at the Theatre almost opposite our hotel and see Matthews give one of his “at homes.”1 The house which is a pretty but not a convenient one was quite filled. Matthews is now rather old, and after many experiences has come out for the second time to this Country to see if he can fill his pockets as well as he did the first. If I might judge from the entertainment of tonight he will hardly succeed. For he certainly was quite tiresome. His jokes are old, and no imitations however good can put new life into them, while his age shows itself in frequent repetition. After all it must be doubted whether he has not consulted his pocket at the expense of his reputation. For as a comic actor to perform a part assigned, he was excellent and still remains so. For as Nicholas Frefoil in a short afterpiece with the rest of the company he was admirable. His acting is the nature of a man sensible of great comic power—No straining after the applause of the vulgar, by buffoonery. As such I remembered him and was glad though so late to recognize him, but I could not sit out all the performances.

1.

Charles Mathews, the elder, English comic actor and monologuist, who had appeared in the United States as early as 1817, had returned for the first time in many years to give what turned out to be his final performances (Odell, Annals N.Y. Stage , 4:8–9). His Philadelphia engagement was at the New Chestnut Street Theatre (“Old Drury”), built in 1822 to William Strickland’s design, located on the north side of Chestnut Street between 6th and 7th streets in the same block as Mrs. C. Yohe’s North American Hotel. (W. J. Thomas Scharf and Thomson Westcott, History of Philadelphia, 3 vols., Phila., 1884, 2:994; Amer. Philos. Soc., Trans. , 43 [1953]: 315–316.)