Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 6

Wednesday. 14th. CFA Wednesday. 14th. CFA
Wednesday. 14th.

My father passed the night at my House and spent this morning in town. We went out shortly after breakfast and I was engaged much of my time at the Office. I send off daily a few pamphlets. Mr. Webster finds himself in an extraordinary position respecting this and I am looking with some interest to the Report of his speech which is announced to us as likely to come when it shall have been prepared. This means that he anticipates criticism and will not be caught again.

I worked upon my Arrears of Diary until it became time to return home for the sake of taking my father with me in my gig to Quincy. We rode along through Roxbury observing all the changes which have taken place in it. Conversation upon political affairs. The more I reflect upon it, the more embarrassing I consider his position. He has nobody to support him because all are taking sides in one way or other and expect to be supported. For myself I must also stand entirely upon my own bottom. I neither wish nor expect party favor. But in the progress which I hope to make quietly through life, I desire very much 243to avoid the asperity which has done my father so much injury. He writes too strongly. A singular fault. And one which in a republic like our’s makes enemies as bitter as the sting which hurts them. Dinner. Afternoon quite alone as my father went down to Mount Wollaston and the ladies out to ride.

I started to return home quite early in the evening as I wished an hour’s leisure prior to going to see Mrs. B. Gorham—A supper party of a select fifty. I regard all such things as vanity and vexation of spirit. Idle, and unmeaning forms in which I take no delight. But the rules of Society will have it so and I submit. My condition in society makes it somewhat more unpleasant than it would otherwise be. I know myself to belong to a race who have been for a century the mark of a thousand contemptible jealousies. I am so myself, but my only course is to overlook them as unavoidable evils. The path of life should not run always perfectly smooth. Home at eleven.

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).