Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Wednesday. October 27th. IX. CFA Wednesday. October 27th. IX. CFA
Wednesday. October 27th. IX.

Missed Prayers and recitation this morning, being too fatigued to rise early. I was accordingly not up until quite late. After breakfast however I attended Lecture as usual. He treated to day of Phalaris. The age of Phalaris is fixed at different times by different authors. He was a native of Astypalaea, a city of Crete or of one of the Sporades. He was driven from here for designs upon the Government and went to Agrigentum. Here he was more successful, for managing to form a party among the artificers at the head of whom he had been placed to direct the public works, he seized the Government. His severities have rendered his name a proverb for severity. The most common incident is that of the brazen bull which an artist brought to him according to some, as an exquisite specimen for torture; according to others he caused it to be made. At any rate, he tried it first upon the artist. The accounts of this affair vary considerably, but we can not conclude very favourably as his character was certainly not remarkable for humanity. He sent this brazen bull to Apollo afterwards. He extended his government and patronized letters, in his reign of 28 years according to some, eighteen, to others. He perished at last in an insurrection of the citizens; it is impossible to say how deservedly. One hundred and forty-eight letters are ascribed to him. Their merit is as much questioned as their authenticity. Ancient authors are by no means distinguished for the striking display and contrast of character in this book, which has been praised but which at the same time is an argument against their authenticity. The authenticity of these letters has been the subject of a celebrated controversy in England. It is put down in the synopsis as much at length as Mr. Everett delivered. Indeed I have nothing more to put down concerning this discussion. It has been settled pretty 426decidedly in favour of Dr. Bentley. I have made a mistake in placing this Lecture under this day as it ought to give way to the conclusion of Aesop. I have been absent from town, and in making up the days shall be compelled to fill up tomorrow with today’s lecture. After Lecture I returned home and was obliged to amuse myself in writing all the morning. I then attended Mr. Farrar’s recitation and was called upon. I did not acquit myself very remarkably well but that is frequently the case.

After this was over, I returned home and the rest of the day was employed in a variety of ways. I studied my lesson in Paley this afternoon with much attention and was taken up. I did very well. After Prayers, as I understood, Miss Kelly,1 a new actress had arrived and that the School for Scandal was to be the play, I went to Boston with a party of Students composed principally of our society. I had a difficulty concerning my ticket as I was turned out of my regular box and was obliged to take a distant one. On the whole however I incline to think it improved my enjoyment as I understand there was a great deal of prompting—the play is a new one on these boards and the parts must therefore have been committed lately. The play is such an admirable play that almost any acting will carry it through and this was by no means bad. Miss Kelly took the part of Lady Teazle and performed pretty well, not that I do not think she could have thrown a little more variety in her manner, but she had some knowledge of style, her appearance is rather commanding for a woman of fashion and she has some dignity. Mr. Finn was excellent as Sir Charles Surface. He has made himself a very good comic actor and has been sufficiently wise to drop tragedy almost entirely so that now he is quite an attraction for the Boston stage. Mr. Kilner2 also was very exceedingly good this Evening, he mouthed less and repeated less than usual. But Mr. Clarke3 except in one scene, made wretched work of poor Crabtree; he mistook the part altogether. On the whole however, although the scandalous circle was very much below mediocrity, I was extremely gratified with the play and have scarcely ever been to the Theatre when I received more pleasure. The afterpiece was the Romp.4 Mrs. Henry played the part of Priscilla Tomboy and any thing is good coming from so beautiful a woman. I can hesitate but little in giving her the decided palm over every other woman I have ever seen. As something quite uncommon, Richardson was of our party tonight. We supped at the Marlborough where I heard an amusing conversation concerning politics, at present raging. We then returned home and Chapman and Richardson spent a little while at my room before we retired. XII.


Lydia Kelly, the English actress, was “a reigning sensation of the American stage” (Odell, Annals N.Y. Stage , 3:138).


Thomas Kilner, generally considered an “admirable actor” (same, 3:120).


John H. Clarke, who played secondary roles (same, 3:53).


A musical entertainment in two acts, altered from Love in the City, by Isaac Bickerstaffe.

Thursday. October 28th. VI:45. CFA Thursday. October 28th. VI:45. CFA
Thursday. October 28th. VI:45.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography, after which I attended Lecture but did not hear the one which I shall note down as that is inserted in my yesterdays journal. From the materials mentioned in the pages of the synopsis concerning Aesop, Maximus Planudes, in the middle of the fourteenth century, collected and compiled the modern fables which go under the name of Aesop. He appears to have been something of a scholar and probably inserted some things entirely his own. The fables were published first in Latin. The editions are mentioned. The third is derived from manuscripts of the Palatine library. He gave us a short account of this library, which in 1623 belonged to the university of Heidelburg; in the 30 years war in Germany it was sent to Rome and made part of the Vatican. It thus gained it’s name as it was sent by the Elector Palatine. When Bonaparte obtained possession of Rome, he sent this to Paris, but upon the restoration was sent to reclaim them. The university however from whom they were first seized was in it’s attempts and partly succeeded. They obtained the German manuscripts in compromise. These fables were translated into Latin by Phaedrus. Their authenticity has also been doubted but generally allowed at the present day. It met with the fate of the Greek, was barbarously rendered into prose by Romulus, an author in the 12th century. This Latin version was the first printed. There are two works of Eastern origin so similar in plan to Aesop that a connexion has been supposed. One by Pilpay or Bidpay. There is no ground however for supposing any connexion with the family of Aesop. The other is the work of Locman, but the fables are much too similar not to be derived from each other. At the end of two thousand years, if we judge by analogy from other cases, these could be a corresponding variation, were they not taken from each other. It is on the whole probable that they are a recent Arabic translation of Aesop. This branch has been popular and classical in all modern languages—La Fontaine has written in French without much originality but much sprightliness, L’estrange1 also wrote in the latter part of the seventeenth century, there is more originality in Gay,2 than in any other. Lessing and Gellert3 have both tried this species of poetry in the German language.


After Lecture I returned home and attempted to write my forensic for this afternoon but I said nearly all that occurred to me in a very few moments. I employed myself the remainder of the morning reading and writing and doing nothing. Indeed I must confess I wasted much time, but whenever I sit down to write a forensic or theme in this way, it invariably causes much loss of time. In the afternoon I was much hurried for time, the subject was “whether the public had any right to inventions” and I was upon the negative. This was so wretched a side to argue upon that I was entirely at fault and my forensic was poor enough. After it was over I spent an hour with Bartlett and Otis and took some Porter with them. Tilden and Sullivan,4 two young men from Boston came in; they are bloods of the first order and sufficiently disgusting. I once thought it would be supreme happiness to be such a man, but I have luckily passed through the furnace unhurt and am now only disgusted at such specimens of thoughtlessness. I am no enemy to personal enjoyment but I oppose rioting or excessive waste of body, mind and wealth.

After Prayers as I could find nobody to accompany me, I went to Boston alone in a chaise, and went to the Theatre. We had tonight Shakespeare’s “Much ado about nothing,” Miss Kelly took the part of Beatrice and Finn of Benedick. They were carried on with much vigour and sprightliness. She played the first Act with so little variation from last Evening’s that I became rather fatigued but she afterwards improved very much and did exceedingly well in the last Act. Finn was quite good but none of the Actors came up to my expectations in the Play and Kilner especially murdered poor old Dogberry, while Brown5 did the same with his companion Verges so that this part of the play, although one of it’s most amusing, was entirely ruined to us. The afterpiece was the opera of Rosina6 in which Miss Kelly sang in that part. Her voice is a very powerful one but there is no sweetness in it, and although she does exceedingly well for pieces in which execution is necessary, there is no expression or tenderness in her singing. Every song was repeated however by the desire of the audience loudly expressed. She looks well in lady characters but as a cottage girl she is very masculine and bold. I returned to Cambridge with my wheel in bad order as I thought. XI:30.


Roger L’Estrange (1616–1704).


John Gay (1685–1732), the English playwright and poet.


Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), and Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715–1769).


Young Sullivan was possibly one of George Sullivan’s two sons (JQA, Diary, 29 May 1824).


Frederick Brown (Odell, Annals N.Y. Stage , 3:153).


A comic opera by Frances (Moore) Brooke.