Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Wednesday. October 27th. IX.

Friday. October 29th. VI:30.

Thursday. October 28th. VI:45. CFA


Thursday. October 28th. VI:45. CFA
Thursday. October 28th. VI:45.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography, after which I attended Lecture but did not hear the one which I shall note down as that is inserted in my yesterdays journal. From the materials mentioned in the pages of the synopsis concerning Aesop, Maximus Planudes, in the middle of the fourteenth century, collected and compiled the modern fables which go under the name of Aesop. He appears to have been something of a scholar and probably inserted some things entirely his own. The fables were published first in Latin. The editions are mentioned. The third is derived from manuscripts of the Palatine library. He gave us a short account of this library, which in 1623 belonged to the university of Heidelburg; in the 30 years war in Germany it was sent to Rome and made part of the Vatican. It thus gained it’s name as it was sent by the Elector Palatine. When Bonaparte obtained possession of Rome, he sent this to Paris, but upon the restoration was sent to reclaim them. The university however from whom they were first seized was in it’s attempts and partly succeeded. They obtained the German manuscripts in compromise. These fables were translated into Latin by Phaedrus. Their authenticity has also been doubted but generally allowed at the present day. It met with the fate of the Greek, was barbarously rendered into prose by Romulus, an author in the 12th century. This Latin version was the first printed. There are two works of Eastern origin so similar in plan to Aesop that a connexion has been supposed. One by Pilpay or Bidpay. There is no ground however for supposing any connexion with the family of Aesop. The other is the work of Locman, but the fables are much too similar not to be derived from each other. At the end of two thousand years, if we judge by analogy from other cases, these could be a corresponding variation, were they not taken from each other. It is on the whole probable that they are a recent Arabic translation of Aesop. This branch has been popular and classical in all modern languages—La Fontaine has written in French without much originality but much sprightliness, L’estrange1 also wrote in the latter part of the seventeenth century, there is more originality in Gay,2 than in any other. Lessing and Gellert3 have both tried this species of poetry in the German language.


After Lecture I returned home and attempted to write my forensic for this afternoon but I said nearly all that occurred to me in a very few moments. I employed myself the remainder of the morning reading and writing and doing nothing. Indeed I must confess I wasted much time, but whenever I sit down to write a forensic or theme in this way, it invariably causes much loss of time. In the afternoon I was much hurried for time, the subject was “whether the public had any right to inventions” and I was upon the negative. This was so wretched a side to argue upon that I was entirely at fault and my forensic was poor enough. After it was over I spent an hour with Bartlett and Otis and took some Porter with them. Tilden and Sullivan,4 two young men from Boston came in; they are bloods of the first order and sufficiently disgusting. I once thought it would be supreme happiness to be such a man, but I have luckily passed through the furnace unhurt and am now only disgusted at such specimens of thoughtlessness. I am no enemy to personal enjoyment but I oppose rioting or excessive waste of body, mind and wealth.

After Prayers as I could find nobody to accompany me, I went to Boston alone in a chaise, and went to the Theatre. We had tonight Shakespeare’s “Much ado about nothing,” Miss Kelly took the part of Beatrice and Finn of Benedick. They were carried on with much vigour and sprightliness. She played the first Act with so little variation from last Evening’s that I became rather fatigued but she afterwards improved very much and did exceedingly well in the last Act. Finn was quite good but none of the Actors came up to my expectations in the Play and Kilner especially murdered poor old Dogberry, while Brown5 did the same with his companion Verges so that this part of the play, although one of it’s most amusing, was entirely ruined to us. The afterpiece was the opera of Rosina6 in which Miss Kelly sang in that part. Her voice is a very powerful one but there is no sweetness in it, and although she does exceedingly well for pieces in which execution is necessary, there is no expression or tenderness in her singing. Every song was repeated however by the desire of the audience loudly expressed. She looks well in lady characters but as a cottage girl she is very masculine and bold. I returned to Cambridge with my wheel in bad order as I thought. XI:30.


Roger L’Estrange (1616–1704).


John Gay (1685–1732), the English playwright and poet.


Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), and Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715–1769).


Young Sullivan was possibly one of George Sullivan’s two sons (JQA, Diary, 29 May 1824).


Frederick Brown (Odell, Annals N.Y. Stage , 3:153).


A comic opera by Frances (Moore) Brooke.