Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 6

Wednesday. 14th.

Friday. 16th.

Thursday. 15th. CFA Thursday. 15th. CFA
Thursday. 15th.

My morning was exceedingly short and yet fully occupied. I went to the Office and was engaged in Accounts as well as Diary, but I never make up the Arrears. My Wife wished me to join her on a visit to Medford at twelve so that I was today more than usually hurried. I started about that time with her and my child Louisa in the Gig. The day was fine and I had a very pleasant ride.

We found Mrs. Frothingham at the house quite alone, Mr. Brooks being disappointed in coming by necessary attendance at the General Court about the Warren Bridge.1 Here is a question that would come across me as a legislator in a most unpleasant manner. I would support the principle at all hazards, and yet the act would forfeit half the votes even of the best disposed towards me. I must lay it down as a rule of action to decline all invitation to take Office. Perhaps this may be an error but if so it is at least an innocent one. The rule may be laid down safely and if upon any occasion the country should really do me the favor to call for my services in a manner perfectly unequivocal, then will be the remote day for forming an exception.

We had a pleasant but a very quiet time, and returned early for the purpose of attending the Theatre. Opera of Fra Diavolo—A charming thing, full of sweet music. But Miss Cushman as Lady Allcash spoilt two or three of the concerted pieces,2 and the choruses were all feeble. I was enchanted with the night scene, “Silence befriending,” as well as the ballad, his song in the last act and the charming song 244which she sings as she goes to bed. After piece, No song, no supper, but my Wife was tired and could not stay.

1.

On the Warren Bridge case, see vol. 2:264; 3:130–131.

2.

This appearance of Charlotte Cushman in a minor role with the Woods at the conclusion of their current Boston engagement must have been one of her last attempts at opera. Vocal difficulties seem to have early asserted themselves; during the summer of 1835, while singing in New Orleans, Miss Cushman’s voice failed completely. There is some evidence that responsibility rested with Maeder, her singing coach, who also had charge of casting, and who had her sing soprano roles that taxed her natural contralto unduly. When she made her New York debut at age twenty-one in 1836, she had become identified entirely with the dramatic stage and remained so throughout her career. Her tragic gifts were early employed effectively in Shakespeare and became notable after she had the advantage of Macready’s tutelage in 1843. In 1845 this “plain, very plain girl, with nothing in her favour,” essayed to do what no American actress had done before successfully: she invaded London. In but a brief space she was acclaimed “as the greatest tragic actress in the English-speaking world” (Odell, Annals N.Y. Stage , 4:86–87).