Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Adams Family Letters, Charles Francis Adams, U.S. Minister to the U.K., to his son, Charles.

Adams Family Letters, Charles Francis Adams, U.S. Minister to the U.K., to his son, Charles.

December 19, 2012

Adams Family Civil War letters; US Minister to the UK and his sons.

London, December 19, 1862

To change the subject let me tell you of a pleasant little experience which diverted my thoughts from home last evening. The Queen’s Advocate, Sir Robert Phillimore, learning that I had accepted an invitation of the Westminster School to attend their annual performance of a Latin play, asked me to join him at his own house to dinner, and proceed from there. I accepted very thankfully. The company I met was small but choice. It consisted of the Lord Chancellor (Lord Westbury), the Brazilian Minister, Lord Harris, now attached to the new household of the Prince of Wales, and a brother of the host. We had a lively dinner, as the Chancellor is a very ready talker, and has great resources, and soon after proceeded to Westminster School which is in close proximity to the famous old abbey. It dates from the time of Elizabeth and has produced many eminent men from Ben Jonson downward to Gibbon and Southey. The stage is set up in what is called the dormitory, a large hall, the bare walls of which are marked with the names in large letters of those who have been scholars with the date attached, apparently done by themselves without any order or method. The popularity of the school has declined of late years, whilst that of Eton has developed beyond all legitimate bounds. Nevertheless those who are attached to it cling with pride to its usages, and of these the most notable and peculiar is the performance about Christmas time every year of some old Latin play.

This year it happened to be the Andria of Terence. The scene was well got up. It represented Athens in the distance, as it may be presumed to have looked in its sunny days. The costumes were rigidly Grecian according to the best authority. The only modern things were the prologue and epilogue, and these were likewise in Latin.

I had seen the same thing done at Ealing in my boyhood. But now that I could understand it better I wanted to see it again. Not having read the piece for twenty years I had bought a copy of Terence previously and refreshed my memory with a careful perusal. The result was that I enjoyed it exceedingly. The boys articulated well and acted with spirit, one or two with power, so that I could form a very fair notion of the secret of the charm of old Menander. The audience, composed mostly of old Westminster scholars familiar with the play, was quiet and sympathetic, so that it really gave a good illusion. On the whole I must say that this is the pleasantest evening I have yet passed in England. The Queen’s Advocate, Sir Robert Phillimore’s son was what is called the Captain of the school, and played the part of Pamphilus very well….

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