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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0011-0023

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-10-23

Saturday. October 23d. VIII.

Missed Prayers again this morning. After Breakfast attended Mr. Everett’s Lecture. He began this morning with Solon—whose name constitutes an era in the literary as well as in the civil history of Greece. In his own country he was for a great length of time looked up to with esteem and affection, for his disinterestedness in refusing the sovereignty when it was in his power. His fame as a statesman has excelled that as a poet although it is only in this latter capacity that we consider him here. Solon flourished in the beginning of the sixth century. A short account is given of him in the synopsis which it will not be worthwhile to extract. At this period, when man was just rising from a barbarous state, the division into different nations took place, and although the word philosophy was not known yet, men were employed in forming laws and different systems of government. Those who excelled were called wise men as may be proved in the history of the famous seven wise men of Greece. They were all rulers or counsellors. The first incident in Solon’s life was one which obtained great popularity. A law had made it death to any individual to advise a war against Salamis in consequence of their numerous losses in former wars. He however, feigning himself mad, { 417 } rushed into the market and advised the measure. The war was undertaken and the result was successful. He afterwards travelled and upon his return he found Pisistratus endeavouring to overturn his government. He remonstrated but without effect. He may be considered however as having been some check for he retained the essential parts of Solon’s laws and resorted to his counsel. Solon had learned early a tradition concerning the Atlantic Islands and devoted his old age to the composition of a poem on that subject. Plato began a dialogue on the same subject, but both works were left incomplete. This last work embraced such a variety of incidents as no fiction ever contained before. This subject is interesting to us, as it is the only ground which we have for a supposition that the ancients had any knowledge of our country. Solon’s passion for learning remained to the last. It is pleasant to see him in his old age resigning all the vices of the world and devoting himself entirely to literary pursuits. It is probable that he lived to the age of eighty at Athens and died in tranquility. Mimnermus was contemporary with Solon: a native of Colophon in Ionia. There is exceedingly little to be said upon him more than is contained in the account of him on the ninety first and second pages of the pamphlet. Anacharsis was a contemporary of Solon and native of Scythia, he travelled into Greece and became intimate with Solon. He is occasionally numbered among the wise men. He is said to have invented many mechanical instruments but it is probable that he only introduced the use of them among his countrymen. They, being jealous of him it is said, destroyed him. He is said to have written works but none of them remain. Nine epistles are extant attributed to him but there is no proof of their authenticity. He has been brought more into notice since the publication of the Younger Anacharsis’ adventures by Barthelemy. This is a fictitious character, made the base of a sort of plot. It contains much careful and interesting information. The part of it which was intended to enliven the work is very burdensome and insipid to the scholar, and the plan is faulty as he could only relate the history of events down to the time of his characters and he can give no account of what has happened since. The Athenian Letters, a work published in England, written by Sir Philip York, is much it’s superior in interest and vivacity though less valuable as a work of learning on Greece.1
After Lecture I went to the reading room where I found nothing but politics and made a resolution not to read another paper there until the election is over. On my return home I was delighted with the receipt of two letters from home, one from my Mother and the { 418 } other from John.2 The former writes in moderately good spirits, and speaks with much heartfelt feeling upon the subject of the approaching contest. There is a sublime religious tone in part of her letter which has affected me much. John is lively and more affectionate than usual, he speaks much from the heart and as I wish him to. On the whole, I was relieved much from my dull feelings during the day. I occupied myself upon my Journal and read the remaining book of Akenside’s pleasures of the Imagination which contains more poetry I think than either of the others. In the Evening I wrote an answer to John3 and reviewed my day as well spent. I then went with Richardson and Sheafe to Mr. Willard’s to take some supper. We made out to satisfy ourselves upon some small chickens and some porter. I miscalculated the time by two hours and therefore we sat here until late. I was obliged to go to Richardson’s room as my fire was gone and I remained here for a little while in conversation with him. I then came down and retired immediately. XII:30.
1. The work alluded to is Athenian Letters; or, the Epistolary Correspondence of an Agent of the King of Persia, Residing at Athens during the Peloponnesian War, first printed for private circulation, 4 vols., London, 1741, but afterwards published in numerous editions and translations. The work was actually the product of a number of hands, Sir Philip Yorke (1720–1790), afterwards 2d Earl of Hardwick, and his brother Charles being simply the most prominent contributors. See DNB under Sir Philip Yorke.
2. The letter from JA2 is missing.
3. Missing.
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.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/