Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 6

Monday. 4th. CFA Monday. 4th. CFA
Monday. 4th.

Cloudy day with sleet, snow and finally heavy rain. I went to the Office. Political affairs look very much unsettled. The rumor respecting Mr. Webster is again revived. The article signed Massachusetts has not found favor with the Whigs and another signed New York has appeared distinctly declaring the party preference to be for Har-303rison. I called at Mr. Hallett’s office to see if he had any private information. He read me letters from Mr. Pierce and Mr. Borden which however are not in my mind perfectly satisfactory. He told me that he should proceed to publish my letters in answer to Mr. Slade directly, and requested me to continue them.1

Home to read Livy. Afternoon devoted to Mr. Slade. Writing is laborious but I find my facility increases by constant practice. Attended a meeting of the Proprietors of the Athenaeum for the purpose of voting upon a proposition to lay out money for building a new edifice for Pictures. By way of commentary, the Treasurers Report states that the annual expenditure of the Institution exceeds its receipt about four hundred dollars. Of course I voted against the scheme and returned home for the purpose of going to hear the Somnambula again. The House very crowded and fashionable. I was again delighted, but most particularly with the chorus “When day light’s going,” with Brough’s song, “As I view these scenes,” and the duett “Take now this ring.” Perhaps there is in the whole range of refined enjoyments none more perfect in all respects than that of listening to the good singing of a good Opera.2 Home before ten.


The Advocate on 6 Jan. began the publication of the letters “To Mr. Wm. Slade,” signed “A Massachusetts Antimason” (p. 2, cols. 1-2). Along with the letter appeared the editorial comment: “Yesterday we published Mr. Slade’s letter to us, and to-day we give the first number of a reply from a friend to whose judicious and energetic pen we have been indebted for the most efficient arguments in defence of our course” (col. 3). Five additional letters followed: on 8 Jan., p. 2, cols. 1–3; 12 Jan., p. 2, cols. 1–2; 2 Feb., p. 2, cols. 1–2; 11 Feb., p. 2, cols. 1–2; 16 Feb., p. 2, cols. 1–3.


The high esteem in which opera had come to be held in America as a result of the opportunities afforded in the preceding decade to hear it sung by such artists as Malibran, Mrs. Austin, and the Woods, and to see productions that were worthy of those singers, had not rooted out some ancient churchly and chauvinistic prejudices against the form. A letter printed in the Columbian Centinel (12 Oct. 1835, p. 2, cols. 3–4) may be taken to represent the views of many. Praising the “gifted and highly cultivated” Mrs. Wood, remembering with “delight” her singing of sacred music in concert, and hoping for another such during her current visit, the writer holds that there are “many persons among us who entertain serious objections to the theatre.” He predicts full audiences if “Mrs. Wood shall permit her melody alone to constitute the attraction, divested of the trickeries of the stage.” He regrets “that so many of the operas ... bring before us characters and manners, of which, happily, we possess no originals, which our fathers avoided and fled from, and which we ought to have no disposition to imitate.” He holds it absurd “for a people situated as we are, to imitate the habits and customs of nations possessing institutions for which we have no parallels, provoking luxury, licentiousness and vice, from which, did we not suffer ourselves to be inoculated through the stage,... we might long escape, in a great degree, uncontaminated.”