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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0011-0019

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-10-19

Tuesday. October 19th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography. Our lessons are very much easier than they were a little while since. But it makes exceeding little difference to me. Mr. Everett went on with Hesiod today. The third work he said was the Shield of Hercules. This has been generally considered spurious or as a portion of some larger work of Hesiod relating to the ancient heroines of fabulous ages. This portion however is no work on the praises of heroines for it entirely refers to the armor of Hercules, excepting in the fifty six first lines which gives rise to an hypothesis first started by Heinrich1 which is very probable. It is that these lines which refer to Alcmene, the mother of Hercules, really did belong to a large work on the subject of heroines by Hesiod, and were afterwards prefixed to an account of the hero which was made by some other person, probably a Theban celebrating his divinity, as was their custom. Two scholia moreover speak of this as a fragment of this work. The catalogue of heroines. The work is simple, but still has a more artificial manner of composition than the other productions. It has supplied some imagery to Milton.
Here Mr. Everett entered into a discussion concerning genius, merely as connected with this observation, saying that Milton was not affected at all by having read so much, in his own original poems. That genius did not [ . . . ] at all in any peculiar form. Some had thought it was crushed by learning but the fact is it will rise above every situation. He then gave instances of men in every situation and with every degree of learning illustrating this position. Only about two hundred lines remain of the rest of the books ascribed to Hesiod and these are of little importance. The editions are put down. The principal scholia are those of Proclus, a few remain of Didymus, many other anonymous ones. The edition of Robinson2 contains the argument concerning the rising of Arcturus. It has been translated three times into English, once by Chapman in 16183 a faithful and vigorously executed work, and although with the quaintness of the age, it has some purity. The next is by Cook in 1728 which is a heavy performance in rhyme, that by Elton in blank verse is an exceedingly well performed work. There is a very good preliminary dissertation upon the subject of his life and works in this edition and it may be considered a specimen of excellent criticism. The names of the rest of the works ascribed to Hesiod are set down in the pamphlet. The works of Hesiod have not yet received from the learned the attention they merit and there is yet no thoroughly good edition of them. He then went on to speak of the Cyclic poets, the age they flourished in, and { 400 } the reasons why they received this name. He said nothing however in today’s lecture concerning them which was not in the synopsis and consequently it is not worth while to copy it.
I returned home and was employed all the morning writing. I attended recitation in Astronomy. Mr. Farrar detained us much longer than usual in a dissertation of some length upon Comets, their appearance, and the theories respecting their course. As I have not taken notice of his course here,4 I shall not say any thing of this except that we were rather fatigued. After dinner I attempted to study my lesson but found myself entirely unable to do so. I was so exceedingly sleepy that I was obliged to indulge and sleep away part of the afternoon. This I could do with more safety as Mr. Hedge unquestionably would not call upon me and I felt little interest in the particular subject on which the lessons this week treat. After Prayers we had an exceeding good drill although our captain now and then makes himself too great a man. Weakness is inherent in man and every step I take makes me believe it more closely. Fancy makes fools of us all and gives us all the little pleasure we have in the world, for reality would cause nothing but wretchedness.
I spent a few moments at Chapman’s and then attended Mr. Ticknor’s Lecture. I mentioned in my last notes that he had passed over Madame La Fayette but I regret very much I was not able to write more at length. A Lady at that time did not dare to put her name to a work so that Segray’s [Segrais’] was attached to her’s, but there is no doubt that they belong to her. This anecdote is all I can add. This evening he continued his account of serious prose fiction. The next fashion, he said, were imitations of Richardson who had by this time become known. Then we may merely mention the coarse pictures of Rabelais and Scarron5 and pass on directly to Le Sage6 who was born in 1688. He took to reading Spanish and from thence his character was formed. He first was a mere imitator but his talent would not allow him to remain long in this humble sphere. He extracted the subjects of his best stories from Spain and Spanish character but the description is all his own. In 1707 he produced his Diable boiteux, here a short abstract was made of it. He in this novel, under Spanish costume, takes off many of the reigning characters of the day at Paris. The coquet is Ninon de L’enclos, Baron stands for another &c. Of his Guzman d’Alfarache which is a translation from the Spanish and the Bacheler de Salamanque, he would say but little as he wished to come directly to Gil Bias which first appeared in 1717. He then commenced a regular critique of this work. It wanted unity entirely, he said. Take the mere story: it is { 401 } an account of the adventures of a rogue who by any means which come in his way, manages to rise from the lowest to the highest order of society. Take it in this way and it would be hard to find any one who would read it. But with all the variety, the delineation of character, and the power of generalization which it possesses, it certainly lays claim to be the very first in its kind. The Spaniards have laid claim to this novel and bring forward a work which they assert to have been the original one but there is sufficient internal evidence from the characters of the men in the book and the knowledge of the country that a foreigner wrote it. There are two or three very great geographical errors. There was no successful attempt after this. Crebillon the younger tried and produced a bad imitation of Fielding.
He returned again to Eloquence, and made some remarks upon the reasons why only certain sorts of eloquence flourished in France formerly, which were sufficiently Commonplace. Suffice it that pulpit eloquence and that courtly [word omitted?] was the form in which it appeared. J. B. Massillon was born in 1663 and appeared the year that Bossuet and Bourdaloue died. He gained great reputation but was not promoted during the life of Louis 14th. He afterwards obtained the bishopric of Clermont. His sermons amount to more than a hundred and are divided into panegyrics on the saints, conferences or instructions to young clergymen and the “petit careme.”7 Two or three beautiful quotations he gave us. He has not so much power perhaps as Bossuet, nor so much cogent, philosophical eloquence as Bourdaloue but in sweetness, gracefulness, dignified excellence, he has no superior. As a suite of sermons, those of the petit careme, in number eleven, are the best he has left us. There is more art to be found in the formation of his works than had been usual, and more attention to the mechanical arrangement in order to produce effect. He died in 1742 at his see, out of debt as a clergyman should. After Lecture I returned home, read a little of Akenside which did not much please me, a chapter of Campbell’s Rhetoric8 and retired. XI:15.
1. Karl Friedrich Heinrich (1744–1838), professor at Kiel and, later, at Bonn (Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship , 3:109).
2. Thomas Robinson, Oxford 1737 (same, 2:479).
3. Presumably George Chapman (c. 1559–1634), the English scholar (same, 2:241).
4. CFA wrote up Professor Farrar’s lectures in a separate notebook (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 314).
5. Paul Scarron (1610–1660).
6. Alain-René Le Sage (1668–1747).
7. The little Lent sermon.
8. George Campbell, The Philosophy of Rhetoric, 2 vols., London, 1776.
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