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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1863

Friday 6th

6 November 1863

Sunday 8th

8 November 1863
7 November 1863
Saturday 7th

Clouds again and rain. Occupied in despatching arrears of all sorts. A singular visit from a woman who sent in her card as Madame Helping. She fatigued me much with a long story of herself. She is German transplanted to America; has married twice already, and comes497 out now, partly for her health, and partly to console a frenchman who had taken orders, but who nevertheless had been anxious to embrace protestantism and to marry her previous to her second marriage. She intimated that she consented on the performance of the condition, but as that was not forthcoming, she did not wait. She is however still interested in his conversion, and her object in seeing me was to know if I could aid him in getting an establishment here, should he conclude to come. All this seemed to me wild enough in a woman on a solitary expedition, so that I contented myself with fair words. How various are the forms of the human race. No two of them are alike in their intellectual any more than in their physical structure, and yet the generic resemblance is complete. This is one of the wonders of creation that we do not often hear spoken of, and yet that deserves remembrance as much as any. At three I decided to go to the city to draw from my Bankers today, more especially as Monday is Lord Mayor’s day. After this was effected. I rambled about for some time to identify places which I propose to visit particularly hereafter. I found St Helens Church and place, and St Mary Axe. Also St Botolph’s and Alderman’s walk, and Devonshire Square. All this part of London carries one back a little distance beyond our date at home. Walked home, stopping at Dolly’s in Paternoster Row for a dinner. It is a curious place situated on an alley running from the Row to Holburn or rather the street running into it. The room is small, but much larger than the Mitre’s. I found but one table occupied. A full length picture of Garrick, and heads of Dr Johnson and Goldsmith and others, in all colors hung about. The original Mrs Dolly, a pretty picture likewise hung there. Several generations have passed since she flourished. The dinner was fair but not extraordinary; and the whole had a common not to say vulgar look, which seems general in the city. From here I walked on until I got to the Olympic, a little Theatre in Wyck Street. A small, dirty, shabby interior which nevertheless was fitted with a Royal box, indicating that the royal family came occasionally The piece was called the Ticket of leave man. It is strongly English throughout, and presents some of its forms of society in a striking light. A youth from Lancashire with a small498 property is drawn in to dissipation by bad associates, until he becomes penniless, and helpless. He is then supplied with bank notes on loan, which on his attempting to pass them prove counterfeit, and he is seized, tried and condemned. Not wicked at heart, he has formed relations with a poor but virtuous girl which give him motives to reform. He behaves so well in prison that he obtains an abridgment of his sentence, which goes by the name of a ticket of leave. He tries to reestablish himself, but every where he finds himself hunted down by his old associates, who find means to expose his prison history. At last they bring him down to despair, and then they tempt him with a plan of partnership in a burglary. He falls into it, but with the design of saving his benefactors, against whom the scheme was planned. The burglars are taken, but in the process the ticket of leave man is wounded, and the curtain falls. There is a moral in the piece which is not often the case in these times. The difficulty of recovering from the effect of a prison conviction is very serious. It complicates itself with the fact that sincere repentance cannot be readily distinguished from the pretence. In this case, the sufferer is made the innocent victim of his bad associates. This adds an element of improbability which to me diminishes rather than heightens the interest in the victim. A really innocent man will seldom fail, with proper energy, to awaken the sympathy of some prisons, in spite of his prison life. It is the man who has once fallen by the influence of bad company, but who has yet in him the power of recovery, if encourage, and not crushed that is the object of the greatest pity. Be this as it may, the piece as it is, is very effective. The acting was generally very good. There was a little farce called the confidence man, which I recollect to have seen before—rather poor. I got home shortly after midnight. I walked all the way, though not without some mistrust of the region through which I was to pass. The night in London throws vice into the streets in its most vivid forms. The rogues and the harlots, the drunken and the profligate reign supreme within the sphere prescribed by the policies who interfere only to preserve the peace. By keeping in the great thoroughfares, one may be safe.499

Cite web page as:

Charles Francis Adams, Sr., [date of entry], diary, in Charles Francis Adams, Sr.: The Civil War Diaries (Unverified Transcriptions). Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2015. http://www.masshist.org/publications/cfa-civil-war/view?id=DCA63d311