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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0017

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-17

Saturday. 17th.

Spent this morning at home, and read my maps. As there was no House of Representatives, I was obliged to amuse myself as I could. I agreed to accompany Madame and the Girls to Mr. King’s painting rooms1 after their return from Georgetown whither they went in the Carriage with John. They did not return till late and Mr. Cheves2 was introduced and received, but this was so good an opportunity that I did not wish it lost so we went. The pictures, some of them are excellent, others only moderate and others bad. That of Cyr. King of Maine3 is said to be good, Mr. Wirt’s is good, General Brown’s { 48 } and a number of others are remarkably fine. I think my father’s a good one, but by no means so good as I think one could be made.4 His eyes are placed in such a way that one appears directly over his nose. He has some very sweet fruit pieces, which would adorn a summer house or even a dinner parlour very much. Some voluptuous pieces also which it would not do to notice before ladies. One in particular which appeared to be Joseph and the wife of Potiphar although we could not see for a veil which John and myself attempted to raise, when we discovered the deception. It was very accurate.
We went down into his painting room, he was copying his portrait of Mr. Webster, which is one of his best likenesses as it appears to me. The eyebrows and expression of the eyes is very admirably copied. There was also a portrait of John Mason, not finished but nearly so, which was a remarkable likeness. One of Mrs. Mason also.5 As Mr. King appeared to be very busy with his picture we left him soon and Madame returned home with John and I, the girls set off to go and take a walk for the first time this winter.
On reaching the steps of our house, we met Ned Wyer who insisted upon it, Madame should fulfil her promise of going to see his house and his mineral collection. As this was a good opportunity and nothing to do we went over. He has hired a house of one story in height opposite to our house and lives in glorious independence nobody knows how. His rooms are neat and well kept. He showed us every thing, his shells and minerals, some of which are certainly very handsome. He wants to sell them but rates them so high he never will be able to part with them. To day he manifested the love of giving away for which he is so noted—and made me think that in a little while he would have no collection to sell. After an Examination of all things we retired home, dined and on the return of Madame and ladies from Mrs. Thornton’s had an oyster supper.
1. Charles Bird King (1785–1862), a native of Rhode Island, had a studio and gallery on the east side of 12th Street between E and F streets, N.W. Besides the portrait of JQA mentioned below in this entry, King later executed portraits of CFA and Abigail Brooks, both of which are reproduced as illustrations in this diary. He is best known, however, for the long and historically valuable series of portraits of Indian chiefs that he painted in the 1820’s and 1830’s by commission from the War Department. See Groce and Wallace, Dict. Amer. Artists ; John C. Ewers, “Charles Bird King, Painter of Indian Visitors to the National Capital,” Smithsonian Institution, Annual Report for 1953, Washington, 1954, p. 463–473.
2. Langdon Cheves (1776–1857), a former South Carolina Congressman, was serving on an arbitration commission set up in 1822 to settle claims of American citizens for slaves carried off by the British soldiers in the War of 1812 (Lanman, Biographical Annals , p. 625).
3. Cyrus King (1772–1817), the half-brother of Rufus King, was a former Federalist Congressman ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ).
{ 49 }
4. This portrait was the second of two attempts by King to get a satisfactory likeness of JQA in 1819. It had been commissioned by Joseph Delaplaine for his National Portrait Gallery in Philadelphia and was sent there in 1821 or 1822. It is now in the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, R.I. See JQA, Diary, June-Aug. 1819; correspondence between Delaplaine and JA and between Delaplaine and JQA, Adams Papers.
5. Gen. John Mason, the son of George Mason of Revolutionary fame, and his wife, the former Anna Maria Murray (Mason, Life and Correspondence , p. 7–9).