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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1865

Tuesday 31st

31 January 1865

Thursday 2d.

2 February 1865
1 February 1865
Wednesday. February 1st

The day opened thick but mild and calm. So it was deemed best for our party make the attempt at departure, at least so far as to reach Folkestone. The details being all provided for at a little after eleven we all the door for the railway Station at Charing Cross. For I determined to accompany them at least to the water side, to judge for myself as to the expediency of taking the next step. We started at a quarter before twelve and had not proceeded ten miles when we emerged from the haze that obscures the sun in London, and found a soft spring day, with light vapor clouds. Occasionally there seemed a prospect of showers, but as we neared Folkestone, it cleared away, and showed us the channel free from agitation, with a very light breeze form the west making a slight ripple of the surface. Under these circumstances I advised crossing at once to Boulogne. So Mrs Adams, Mary and the two boys with two servants embarked in the Steamer191 and a few moments were far out in the distance. I went out to the head of the pier, and watched the gentle undulation, auguring from it a favorable passage. The air soft and genial as spring, with a little haze to soften the outlines of all objects but on land and water. As the steamer grew smaller and smaller I reflected that I was alone, and now obliged to deiced what to do next. On consulting the time tables I determined to take one at three o’clock to Dover, and then crossing to the Railway by Chatham, took the train to Canterbury, where I stopped at a little after four o’clock. I lost no time to visit the Cathedral. The rapid approach of darkness however prevented me from going so much attention to the Architectural details of edifice as they deserve. Although not perhaps so full of stinking effects as some of the others, there are parts which are very imposing, and which become far more so to the visitor from the historical associations with which they are connected. The greatest of all is what is called Becket’s corona. It was the blundering passion of Henry which made the future of the edifice where the crime of his murder was committed. For many generations following the religious heart of the Christian community continued to respond to the call made upon it in the name of the slaughtered martyr. Here was the shine which pilgrims came from afar to visit and to cover with the most costly of presents. The counter clap of the Reformation came to knock it all away, so that nothing now remains but the stone to mark the site where the act was committed, and the corona built up in his honor. Here too is the effigy of Edward, the Black prince in brass, in remarkable presentation. A slight built, youthful figure, considerably below the medium size. Henry the fourth and his second Wife are also here. There is a spacious Chapter house, and cloisters which go all round the square. How imposing all this must have been five centuries ago. There are plenty of movements of Archbishops down to Cardinal Pole, the last of the Catholics whose sarcophagus as compared with the rest sufficiently shows the change, that the public mind had undergone. Nobody resisted the 8th Henry’s ruthless desecration of Becket’s holy shrine.192 In this day the great Cathedral prides itself sadly out of place. The Arch bishop lives in London, and seldom pays it more than a formal visit. The town is quiet little mean looking one strangely contrasting with the stately and spacious central structure. Outside its dimensions are not fully taken in from the fact of its close surrounding of mean buildings. I liked the square central tower as well as the two in the front. But it’s general effect is not equal to that of York or Lincoln, or even Durham. Having thus accomplished my object I returned to the Fountain Hotel to dine. A quiet country inn, but clean and good, and without any pretension. Having my evening on my hands, I enquired of the waiter if there was any public amusement here. He answered that a concert of the Catch club was to be held a few doors from there. It would be very full, and admission could be had only through members. But if I wished to go, Mr Fine, the landlord, who was a member would pass me. I went and paid my shilling entrance fee without having occasion to name Mr Fine. The spectacle to which I was introduced was curious and to me novel in this country. It was a good sized hall, at once end of which was a platform for the performers and at the other a gallery. The woman congregated in both places, where they sat apart by themselves. On one side and close to the wall was a small box, in which sat the Chairman and other officers. Along the body of the hall were there rows of tables with chairs we both sides of each. Here were the men of Canterbury, I should think fair specimens of the middle class of the small towns. Every man had either a pipe or a cigar smoking all the evening, and before him was a glass of spirits and hot water, which was supplied from waiters carried around by servants. These were renewed as often as emptied, each one costing sixpence which was paid on the spot. As I can take neither of these luxuries, my position was singular, but it elicited no remark. The music was composed of two catches for four voices, two solos, two or three concerted pieces for instruments and three ballads by Mr McKnew, a meager minstrel fantastically dressed. Among them all the latter uncontestably carried away all the honors. He was applauded noisily and each time called back to sing again. But he never repeated. The buffoonery was poor, occasionally bordering the coarse.193 A burlesque of a speech of thanks was sheer nonsense— Yet every thing was accepted as droll, laughed at and boisterously approved. Yet in the midst of this stream of hot liquor there was no disorder or irregularity of deportment. The general aspect was gravity— The conversation was from neighbor to neighbor. No voices raised high. No appearance of undue excitement. The brandy or rum or gin was perceptible on the surface of the outer circle, but it rather dulled than stimulated the eye. These people were evidently happy after their fashion. But that fashion before it was now became so intolerable to me, that I was obliged to take my leave of the stifling atmosphere at the cost of missing the latter part of the entertainment. I suppose that this is about the summit of pleasure during the winter season to English people of this type. I knew they drank freely, but I had no idea smoking was so universal among them. Went back to my Hotel, and soon to bed. But I slept very partially, and hearing at intervals the howling of the wind as well as the rain drops beating against the window, I congratulated myself on having expedited the travellers rather wait on the morrow.

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=DCA65d032