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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0011-0014

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-10-14

Thursday. October 14th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography as usual. After breakfast went to Mr. Everett’s. He was treating today of the works of Homer. The first mentioned is a work in 305 [294] hexameter verses called Batrachomyomachia or the battle of the frogs, of which he gave an analysis. It is mentioned as his work in the Life ascribed to Herodotus. Plutarch and Henry Stephens [Stephen] ascribe it to Pigres who lived at the time of the Persian invasion. Modern critics are divided in opinion with respect to this poem, but sundry internal marks prove that this is not the work of Homer. The irony, the jests upon the Gods, the use of writing tablets and the trumpet, and a variety of circumstances go to prove that it was written in later times. These are all put down in the pamphlet.1 The poem has often been imitated, one of the most important is the Galeomyomachia [Galeomachia], a dramatic piece in Iambics written by Prodromus, a native Greek, in the 12th century.
There are many others besides. There is a translation of the battle of the frogs which is a very good specimen of modern Greek. It was first published by Crusius and is written in political verses. This is a sort of verse which was of very ancient use and has since come into fashion with a popular author who has employed [it]. It consists of seven trochaic feet and was supposed to be called political from the adaptation to poems on civil occasions. But they have been called so in distinction to ancient verses as the word can be made to mean modern. They are to be found in the ancient version of Virgil of Ogilvie [Ogilby] a specimen of which he gave us. They must be read by quantity and not by accent as is done by the modern Greeks. They are found in the ancient comedy. There are many hymns attributed to him which are popularly believed his, but there have not been wanting persons who refused to believe that any of his works have remained except the Iliad and Odyssey. The hymns of Homer are now generally ascribed to the Homerides, men who followed him and who by their imitation of him obtained that name. An analysis of them will show { 388 } that they are neither the production of one age nor of one author. He accordingly entered into an analysis of the different hymns to Apollo Mercury, Venus and Ceres. It would take by far more time and space than is necessary to give it at length, particularly when it is contained in the pamphlet to which I have already often alluded.
The fragments of Homer consist of sixteen epigrams and some quotations from ancient poems ascribed to Homer such as the Margites, Cypria, the lesser Iliad, all which however amount only to seventy lines and are consequently very insignificant. He then concluded with mentioning a few authors who might be valuable to consult upon the subject.
After Lecture as we had nothing more to do for the rest of the day, I determined to go to Boston, and accordingly rode in with Chapman. We went round to Roxbury and I met with an accident in driving. I pique myself a little on driving and wish to improve so that I was sorry for the accident. It was very trifling but nevertheless I thought it ought not to have happened. Arrived, I went immediately to my brother’s room where I did not find him, and as I supposed he had gone for the morning, I went upon the common to see the review. Met Lothrop and Pratt and Stackpole there with whom I had some conversation. Returning to George’s room, I found he had been and gone, for he went off to Quincy with Mrs. Bailey2 so that I should not see him until night. I remained and dined with the family at Dr. Welsh’s, after which I went to see Mrs. De Wint3 who was at Col. Pickman’s.4 She has just come on and looks quite well I think. It is sometime since I have seen her, but it is of not much importance how long, for it is mere formal civility between relations. The Colonel was quite polite, he has rather a pretty house than otherwise. At least it looks comfortable; he is unfortunate in his marriage however as I suppose he wishes descendants.
I remained here a little while only and then went to see the review of the remaining regiments. I wished to see them go through the drill for Light Infantry but they did very little of it. I then tried to find Chapman to tell him that I should not go out to Cambridge tonight as I thought it was too much to come in again to find George, the expense attending such another visit being considerable. I spent the rest of the afternoon in his room reading Madame de la Roche Jaqueline’s account of the War of La Vendée.5 It is an interesting and a curious history as it gives an account of a state of society, which if to be relied on as true, must have been extremely pleasant, and certainly for this part of France, the revolution could not have been a desirable or even an equally pleasant situation.
{ 389 }
I accomplished a good deal while here but as I thought that I did not go away from Cambridge to read, I might as well after tea attend the play. George came in and after our meal drove me down to the theatre. The play tonight was Tom and Jerry, a farce which has had a most amazing run, and I have always been surprised at not having seen it before. It has had success merely from it’s being a slightly exaggerated specimen of dissipated life. The events follow each other so rapidly and there is so much show and glitter that it seizes with the common people. The scenes in low life also come nearer to the ideas of the generality of the world than the stiff laboured forms of tragedy or the light wit of polished comedy. I think however that it holds out evil in most attractive colours as it shows a parcel of dashing young blades running their course of dissipation and ruining themselves, or at least doing their best for it, but being saved only by a turn in the plot, which will scarcely fall to the chance of any unlucky wight6 who might feel emulous of their great deeds. I was highly diverted however and heard it through with pleasure. The afterpiece was called the “falls of Clyde”7 and was one of the sentimental cast, of which I am not extremely fond. Mrs. Henry looked as beautiful as ever. I met then my classmates Cunningham and Fay, the first time I ever met either of them here. I retired very well satisfied as Mr. Finn8 was again upon the boards; he is undoubtedly the best actor here.
I returned to my brother’s. I know not how it is but I like him very much less than I used to. He has got into the world and is thinking upon entirely different concerns, his tastes are entirely different, and we have but few common topics of conversation. John is and always has been more to my taste, and although I suppose time will make changes in him also, yet they are not of such a nature. His temper hitherto has suited me better. I sat up with George sometime talking upon different subjects and without much interest. My day’s excursion had been very considerable, and I felt fatigued and on some accounts low spirited. These I shall mention tomorrow. It is a singular thing that I of all persons, who dislike most troubles and embarassments of a certain kind, should always be so unfortunate as to fall into them. George was not amusing so that I was sleepy soon and retired. XI:30.
1. Everett, Synopsis , p. 48–49.
2. Mrs. Jeremiah Bailey, of Wiscasset, the former Charlotte Welsh, daughter of Dr. Thomas Welsh. See Adams Genealogy.
3. Mrs. John Peter de Windt (1795–1852), the former Caroline Amelia Smith, a niece of JQA. See Adams Genealogy.
4. Benjamin T. Pickman, a Boston merchant (JQA, Memoirs , 9:163).
5. Mémoires de Madame la Marquise de Larochejacquelein, Paris, 1815.
6. A human being, man or woman (often implying contempt or commiseration) ( OED ).
7. An English melodrama by George Soane.
{ 390 }
8. Henry James Finn (1785–1840), an English actor, who later managed the Federal Street theater in Boston (Hornblow, Theater , 1:292–293).