Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Monday. 17th. CFA Monday. 17th. CFA
Monday. 17th.

Cloudy day. I went to the Office and was engaged the whole morning with Tenants. Finding my finances now alarmingly low, I made a sweep around the Tenants on Saturday and they answered the call bravely. Mr. Conant came in and we were for a considerable time engaged in getting through the terms &ca. of the new Lease for five years—After which it was signed and sealed and that business finished.

Walk. Afternoon, copied and despatched the Letter to my father.1 Finished Terence’s Eunuch. Its close is not happy. It seems to fall short in the character of the boaster, but there are more original strokes of humour and vigor of thought in it than in the Andrian. The parasite is admirably drawn. His double meaning in every speech construed by his patron as a compliment and by others as a sarcasm is very well done.

I went to the Theatre this evening with my Wife. Rule a Wife and have a Wife. Miss Kemble as Estefania and her father as Leon.2 The play is one of the most licentious of those very licentious authors Beaumont and Fletcher, and in order to make it tolerable about are one half is taken out of it in the representation. Still there is a deal of wit in it and that sort of dramatic action which keeps attention fixed. The first character in it, Michael Perez was performed by Mr. Smith who though tolerable was not as good as he might have been. Miss Kemble as Estefania performed with great spirit, and there were fewer of her drawling airs than I have seen in any of her parts. He is admirable in this line. The poets have left it doubtful what Estefania is, but the course of the action betrays her to be totally destitute of all moral principle and of shame. In those days morality was not the fashion, wherein it must be admitted we have improved. I must give as my general conclusion that I came away pleased, without inquiring narrowly into causes. Afterpiece a new one called Woman’s worth and Woman’s ways, written to show one performer in several characters. Miss A. Fisher who has spirit and animation went through well, but she overexerts herself, loses the ease which is all important for effect 265in an Actress, and gives the auditor an impression of pain for her suffering. We returned home before ten o’clock—An arrangement which I think very well of. Read a little more of Dubos.


17 Feb., Adams Papers. Stimulated by JQA’s favorable comments on the review of Hutchinson’s History, CFA reflects on the difficulties facing one who would write on the country’s history: “American History cannot be written very fairly in this Century because ... no man is brave enough to encounter the opposition which a fair judgment of individual character would probably create. Any qualification of praise towards Otis, Hancock or S. Adams would yet be regarded as enmity in this State, and the same would happen elsewhere upon touching Jefferson, Hamilton or Franklin. Mr. Sparks is filling the Country with eulogies for the simple reason that he compiles for the popular taste.... There is no going a step among the original papers without observing that ... the passions worked as vehemently in those days as they do now.... A concealment under the garb of general perfection at once removes the age from us into the regions of Hercules and Theseus.”

CFA also reports on the current economic distress in Boston, and discourses on A. H. Everett’s difficulties in the Harvard Board of Overseers, with the North Amer. Rev. , and on the political scene.


This renewal of Kemble appearances at the Tremont Theatre was begun on 4 Feb. and was to conclude on the 18th (Columbian Centinel, 17 Feb., p. 3, col. 4).

Tuesday. 18th. CFA Tuesday. 18th. CFA
Tuesday. 18th.

Weather singularly mild and pleasant. Our whole month of February has been quite uncommon. I went to the Office and was engaged for some time in affairs and in writing my Diary. A little of the Parliamentary Debates, some talk with Mr. Walsh and a walk made up my morning.

Afternoon, reading Dubos, whose critical reflexions are very excellent generally, but who nevertheless manifests his French notions now and then. The fact is not a little singular that the French people who generally are not so remarkable for method and rule in small affairs, are yet perfect slaves to ideas of convention in all matters of thinking. The English, perhaps the most exact business men in the world, are bold and irregular in their intellectual exertion.

Began the Heautontimorumenos1—A Latinised Greek compound. The Romans were in their Literature prodigious borrowers. Evening, being disappointed in getting tickets for the play, we sat at home and I finished the Absentee. I resumed the study of German this evening.


Of Terence.

Wednesday. 19th. CFA Wednesday. 19th. CFA
Wednesday. 19th.

My morning was wasted in reading over some English Newspapers. There is something quite charming in the appearance of comfort and 266solidity which one finds in them. I should like exceedingly to live in England, provided I had a very large fortune and no roots in this Country. America is a fine Country and to people of middling circumstances a paradise, but the spirit of change is too active, the blast of unlimited democracy too furious to make it agreeable to the classes who happen to be exempted by circumstances from labor. In a regular democracy there should be no property. I can imagine no state of things in which any thing like equality can otherwise be secured. And this would prove an equality of misery.

At the Athenaeum, nothing particularly new. Walk. Afternoon, Dubos, who manifests his French opinions more and more as he goes on. I cannot imagine why people should be so anxious to put the human intellect into a strait Jacket. Fiction is fiction, and it matters little whether we regard it one way or another provided it touches the heart. That is the true test of the good. That is the point from which to start in investigating causes. Terence. Evening, Emilie de Coulanges. Miss Edgeworth understands the heart. German.