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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3


{ 191 }

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0005-0002-0007

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1786-04-24

Monday [24 April.]

Viewed the British Musaeum. Dr. Grey who attended Us spoke very slightly of Buffon. Said “he was full of mauvais Fois. No Dependence upon him. Three out of four of his Quotations not to be found. That he had been obliged to make it his Business to examine the Quotations. That he had not found a quarter of them. That Linnaeus was quoted from early Editions long after the last Edition was public of 1766 the 12th, which was inexcuseable. He did not think Buffon superiour to Dr. Hill. Both had Imagination &c.”—This is partly national Prejudice and Malignity, no doubt.1
1. This visit was arranged by Benjamin Vaughan. “Dr. Gray makes a private party for Mr. V:, and of course will be happy to see Mrs. and Miss Adams, with Col. Jefferson and Col. Smith” (Vaughan to JA , 20 April 1786, Adams Papers). Their guide was Edward Whitaker Gray, botanist and keeper of the collections of natural history and antiquities at the British Museum ( DNB ).

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0005-0003-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1786-06-26

London June 26. 1786.

On Saturday night returned from a Tour to Portsmouth, in which We viewed Paines Hill in Surry, as We went out; and Windsor as We returned. We were absent four days. Paines Hill is the most striking Piece of Art, that I have Yet seen. The Soil is an heap of Sand, and the Situation is nothing extraordinary. It is a new Creation of Mr. Hamilton. All made within 35 Years. It belongs to Mr. Hopkins, who rides by it, but never stops. The owners of these enchanting Seats are very indifferent to their Beauties.—The Country from Guilford to Portsmouth, is a barren heath, a dreary Waste.1
1. “Painshill” (as spelled by Whately) was formerly “The seat of Mr. [Charles] Hamilton, near Cobham in Surry” (Observations on Modern Gardening, 4th edn., London, 1777, p. 184 and note). According to a marginal note in JA 's copy of Whately, the Adamses' visit took place on 21 June, so that their excursion began on the 20th and ended on the 24th. In a letter to Lucy Cranch, 20 July, AA gave her impressions of Windsor at length (MHi:Misc. Bound Coll.; AA, Letters , ed. CFA , 1848, p. 297–298).

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0005-0004-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1786-07-01

London July 1. 1786.

Last night, Coll. Smith and his Lady, took their Leave of Us, and went to their House in Wimpole Street.1
Yesterday visited Desenfans's Collection of Pictures. A Port in Italy by Claude Lorraine, is the best Piece that remains. A Sampson sleeping in the Lap of Dalilah, while the Philistines cutt of his Locks, is said to be by Rubens, but Mr. Copely who was present doubts it. { 192 } Supposes it to be by some one of Reubens's School. Fine Colours and the Air of one of Reubens's Wives, is given to Dalilah.
This Art shews Us Examples of all the various Sorts of Genius which appear in Poetry. The Epic Poet, the Trajedian, the Comedian, The Writer of Pastorals, Elegies, Epigrams, Farces, and Songs. The Pleasure, which arises from Imitation, We have in looking at a Picture of a Lanscape, a Port, a Street, a Temple, or a Portrait. But there must be Action, Passion, Sentiment and Moral to engage my Attention very much. The Story of the Prince, who lost his own Life in a bold attempt to save some of his Subjects from a flood of Water is worth all the Paintings that have been exhibited this Year.
Copleys Fall of Chatham or Pierson, Wests Wolf, Epaminondas, Bayard &c. Trumbulls Warren and Montgomery, are interesting Subjects, and useful. But a Million Pictures of Flours, Game, Cities, Landscapes, with whatever Industry and Skill executed, would be seen with much Indifference. The Sky, the Earth, Hills and Valleys, Rivers and Oceans, Forrests and Groves, Towns and Cities, may be seen at any Time.
1. The severing of the engagement between AA2 and Royall Tyler (see note 1 on entry of 20 June 1784 in AA 's Diary, above), and the engagement and marriage of AA2 and WSS make a long story that is told in abundant detail in the family correspondence and can only be summarized here, with a general reference to the years 1784–1786 in Series II of the present edition. For a time after the Adams ladies' departure for Europe all went well enough with the engaged couple. AA2 commenced a correspondence with Tyler, and they exchanged miniature portraits. By the spring of 1785, however, AA2 became convinced that Tyler was not writing her, and after much silent suffering she complained to him on this score. This letter of hers, written soon after her arrival in London, has not been found, nor has his reply, which in her own opinion and that of her mother was a prevarication rather than a justification. Late in the summer of 1785, therefore, she returned him his few letters and his picture and requested him to deliver hers to her uncle, Richard Cranch (Grandmother Tyler's Book: The Recollections of Mary Palmer Tyler ..., ed. Frederick Tupper and Helen Tyler Brown, N.Y. and London, 1925, p. 76). In imparting this news to Mrs. Cranch (in whose house in Braintree Tyler boarded), AA quoted the maxim that “a woman may forgive the man she loves an indiscretion, but never a neglect” (15–16 Aug. 1785, MWA). During the following months Mrs. Cranch wrote long and gossipy letters saying that Tyler refused to admit that he had been dismissed, was otherwise uncandid with the Cranches, continued to wear AA2 's miniature, and was in general behaving badly. When he could no longer conceal a situation that everyone in Braintree knew and discussed, Tyler declared, said Mrs. Cranch, that he would go to London and settle the little “misunderstanding” between himself and AA2 , which he attributed to the prejudice and malice of her relatives at home (to AA , 10 Dec. 1785, 9 Feb. 1786, Adams Papers).
Meanwhile in London AA2 and WSS had of course been thrown much together, and by Aug. 1785 the secretary of legation had learned enough about the young lady's situation to conclude that, from motives of delicacy, he ought to step out of the scene for a time. He therefore requested and obtained a leave of absence to tour the Continent and { 193 } was gone for several months. Returning toward the end of the year, he composed, in properly gallant and circumlocutory language, a formal request to AA for the hand of her daughter (29 Dec., Adams Papers). His suit, at least, was approved by both AA and JA , who had a very favorable opinion of his character and conduct, and in January and February AA dropped hints to JQA , her sister Cranch, and other family connections in America that AA2 's marriage to a very worthy partner might be expected before long, though AA herself wished that there might be a longer interval in view of the broken engagement. The wedding took place on 11 June, and, by special license from the Archbishop of Canterbury, at the Legation in Grosvenor Square, with only the Copley family and a few other American friends present. The Bishop of St. Asaph officiated, because, as JA explained to Richard Cranch, “Dissenting Ministers have not authority to marry” (4 July, MWA).