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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0011-0021

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-10-21

Thursday. October 21st. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography this morning and after breakfast went to Lecture. He began today with a period of far greater certainty as to the persons and productions of the ancient { 405 } Greek authors. Probably arising from the introduction of writing. His lectures assume more interest also. Few remains exist of the class of lyrical poets who carried their art to such perfection and effected the change from the epic to the classical age of Greece. Archilochus is the first of those poets. He was a native of Paros and supposed to be the author of the Iambic verse. Little is known with respect to the events of his life. He speaks of himself as having thrown away his shield in battle, when he was serving the Thasians [Thracians], for which afterwards it is said he was expelled from Lacedaemon. Others say that it was for his verses which he first produced upon the violation of a treaty of marriage with Neobyle [Neobulé] by her father Lycambes. Archilochus as the fable tells, forced all the family to suicide. Horace who imitated his verses as well as his cowardice, speaks of him in allusion to this. He obtained such a reputation by these verses, that he extended his satire and did not even spare his mother. He lost all his friends in consequence and became poor. He wandered about and finally died but in what manner is uncertain, although many anecdotes are told of it. His poetry was held in high repute, many authors quoted in the pamphlet give him great praise. His name became a proverb as every thing that was severe. Annio in the middle of the 15th century forged works of Archilochus the historian which never existed.
The next poet we come to is Tyrtaeus. There is much diversity of opinion as to the time when he lived, probably about the 24th Olympiad. The principal events in his history are well known, at least as they have been handed down to us. Nothing can be certainly said as to the motive Tyrtaeus had in going to Sparta. Did we know more of the private history of the time, the reasons which influenced the [work?] in it’s singular decision, we might probably find this account perfectly agreable to natural and historical probability. It is by no means inconsistent with nature that he was at Sparta in the time of the Messenian War and that he excited the citizens powerfully by his odes. Martial music and warlike songs were of great importance in ancient times and it is the common opinion that the warlike elegies of Tyrtaeus were chanted as the songs of onset, immediately previous to joining battle. There is an interesting dissertation upon the subject in a late edition by Klotzius.1 He was said to have been the inventor of the trumpet by the use of which the Lacedemonians conquered the Messenians. The trumpet is certainly not mentioned in Homer. There are extant four of his elegies. It is singular by how small and capricious a chance the poems of many of the ancients have been continued down { 406 } to us. These have been obtained only by the fortunate circumstance of being quoted by other authors. Lycurgus preserved one in this way and Stobaeus the other three. Some small fragments also remain. The best edition has been referred to. This was a Lecture rather more entertaining than usual and he will now quickly proceed to a more fruitful subject. I shall be able to collect in this volume all that is contained in his pamphlet. His other lectures I shall be obliged to write out in another form.2 My Journal could not contain all without abridgment.
I returned home and wrote a correct copy of a Theme on the subject of the Novels of this country. It was an ample field for discussion and I only had to regret that I was so limited in time and space for I believe I could have written very well upon the subject. As it was I threw together a few ideas upon the subject and carried it up to Mr. Channing. I then had the morning before me but I received a letter from Tudor3 by the mail which made me unfit to do any thing, and strange to say, I went to the book store and reading room where I wasted the morning. I seldom go to the reading room but my want of something to do attracted me there today and I went over all the politics of the day. A tiresome affair as ever was but there is a singular sort of interest created in reading it. Not much satisfaction after it is over however. I have to accuse myself of having neglected my duty however entirely, this morning, and without excuse. As Mr. Hedge had been so cruel as to come upon our side of the class yesterday, I knew that I should be called upon, and as neither my own personal feelings nor the importance of the lesson called upon me to study it, I determined to absent myself, for the first time since the commencement of the study. I wrote my Journal, which employed me the larger part of the time until Prayers. I was however free for the Evening. All the time before Mr. Ticknor’s Lecture I employed in reading Akenside’s Pleasures of Imagination. The second part I was very much delighted with. The only fault I have to find is that he continues some periods too far. The second cannot embrace the whole.
I attended Mr. Ticknor’s Lecture as usual, but in the mean time, I shall fill up the deficiency in last nights lecture. La Bruyere was born in 1639, and in early life patronized by Bossuet and was made reader to the Duke of Bourbon, which he continued to be all the rest of his life. He died in 1696. He translated the characters of Theophrastus and attached some of his own to them, and interspersed the whole with maxims, moral sentences and observations upon { 407 } nature. He drew from this entirely and displays close thinking. So that if this work is not the first in its kind, it is so nearly perfect, it need fear no rivalship. He thus went through all the departments of French literature and now he goes on to speak of Voltaire, who took up the whole of this Evening’s lecture. Monsieur Voltaire was born on the 20th of February 1694. He was educated by the Jesuits and in his youth changed his name, as was the custom in France. Early in life he fell into the society of profligates, who frequented the house of the famous Ninon de Lenclos, and it is here probably that he first imbibed the prejudices against religion for which he was afterwards so remarkable. He was writing his first tragedy at the age of 18 and was introduced to this society as a remarkably promising young man. Voltaire was shortly after, on the death of Louis 14th, accused of writing a satire upon him which appeared in the papers, and he was put into the Bastile where he remained thirteen months and finished a tragedy and commenced his Henriade in the mean time. At the age of 24 he offered Oedipe and continued offering new pieces for 60 years.
Being exiled from Paris, on what account we know not, but ostensibly for an unsuccessful tragedy, he travelled all over the country, went to see J. B. Rousseau with whom he quarreled, although he was in the wrong. Nothing ensued but a witty remark which has attached itself to one of Rousseau’s Odes. He then retired to England (1726) where he formed an acquaintance with Pope and read many of the standard works of English letters. He was also at work upon the Henriade. His Brutus made its appearance in 1730 when he had returned to Paris and was again exiled; in 1732 Zarie [Zaïrie] appeared. Weary, he retired to Champagne with the Marchioness de Chatelay [du Châtelet] and continued writing; Merope appeared in 1743. As he was an intimate of the king of Prussia who was now becoming powerful, he became of use to the administration who sent him to Berlin on a private mission for to negociate.4 From this time during the life of Madame de Pompadour, he enjoyed more favour from the court and in 1746 succeeded in becoming a member of the French Academy. He again retired to Champagne and again returned to Paris before 1750 when he accepted the invitation of the king of Prussia who offered him a residence and a pension. Here we commence perceiving his avaricious disposition who5 demanded 1000 francs for his own travelling expenses and as many for his niece. These latter were refused and had not his vanity induced him more powerfully, he would not have gone. He was well received and remained for { 408 } some time, but gradually differences arose and misunderstandings which were increased by Maupertuis and others about the court until he determined to depart. A ridiculous farce ensued; he was arrested at Frankfurt and sent an humble letter to the king which is his disgrace. He was released, and happening to travel through Switzerland, he became pleased with the country, and after trying many places where he was detested on account of his infamous Pucelle d’Orleans, he finally settles at Ferney, a little distance from Geneva, after about sixty years of perpetual agitation. Vanity appears to have been his ruling passion. He lived at Ferney twenty years, if he could be said to live there, when his heart, mind and thoughts were all fixed in Paris.
At last he appears at Paris in 1778 at 84 years of age and repeats a play to the Players. This exhausted him so that in his sickness a clergyman was called in and he signed a subscription of faith which he did his best to ridicule after his recovery. On the 30th of March he went in form to the Academy, who dispensing with all their rules went out to meet him. The streets were lined with spectators who cheered him as he went. He attended the Theatre where he was received with the most rapturous and continual acclamation, his [ . . . ] was [ . . . ] and the evening could hardly proceed for the shouts of the multitude. A day of uncommon glory. Soon after, in order to study twelve hours without cessation, he took large quantities of Coffee, which made him feel unwell. He, having heard laudanum was good, obtained some, which with his usual impatience, he took in large quantity and died in consequence, an example of restlessness without a parallell in history. I have got thus far only in his life.
After lecture, I felt like amusement and the Lyceum met in my room over some Whiskey punch, and I had some serious conversation with Richardson. XII:15.
1. C. A. Klozius, whose edition had appeared in 1767 (Everett, Synopsis, p. 82).
2. CFA continued to write out his summaries of Professor Everett’s lectures, but he kept them in another notebook after 3 November. See Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 314.
3. Missing.
4. Thus in MS.
5. Thus in MS.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.