Diary of John Quincy Adams, volume 1

Tuesday Novr. 4th. JQA Tuesday Novr. 4th. Adams, John Quincy
Tuesday Novr. 4th.

This forenoon we went with Messrs. Jay, Bingham, and W. Vaughan, to see the Holophusicon, or Sir Ashton Lever's1 Museum; there is an immense Collection, of all sorts of Natural History; But the most Compleat part is that of the birds, of 200which he has between three and four thousand; they are extremely Curious; and worth more examination than we had time to give to them. But besides this he has a Room full of curiosities all collected in the Countries which were discovered in the last Voyage of Captn. Cook. There are a Number of their Idols made of Wood: others of feathers of bird: and also a kind of Robe which their Chiefs put on upon certain occasions, made of birds feathers, their cloths and their war instruments, and their fishhooks with the ropes. All these things are very curious, and for the most part, they are very ingeniously done, and show those People had arrived at a certain degree of Civilization. Their Ropes are made as well as any in Europe, and their fishhooks tho' of stone are very well made. From Sir Ashton Lever's we went to the British Museum: which is much more extensive, and Comprehends all sorts of Curiosities. 1. a Library of printed books. 2. a Library of Manuscript Books. 3. Antiquities. 4. Coins and Medals and 5. Natural History. For this Last article, Sir Ashton Lever's Collection is much more perfect: but among the others' there are some very curious things, particularly in the Manuscripts. We saw some original Letters of Henry the 8th. and the ensuing Kings and Queens of England to Charles the 1st. Letters also of Oliver Cromwell, and Pope's first Rough transcript of the Iliad. There are many more very Curious things in this Place, but we had not time to examine them attentively.


Sir Ashton Lever, English collector and naturalist, founded his museum of natural history, the Holophusikon, in Leicester Square in 1774 ( DNB ).

Thursday Novr. 6th. 1783. JQA Thursday Novr. 6th. 1783. Adams, John Quincy
Thursday Novr. 6th. 1783.

This day, being Term day,1 we went, with Mr. Jennings, and saw the procession of the Lawyers, and Judges to Westminster Hall; and we saw the four Courts; the Kings Bench, Common Pleas, Chancery, and Exchequer, all sitting. Dined at M: W. Vaughan's.


That is, the beginning of Michaelmas Term, one of four yearly sessions of English courts of law.

Friday Novr. 7th. JQA Friday Novr. 7th. Adams, John Quincy
Friday Novr. 7th.

In the forenoon I went with M: W. Vaughan; and saw the Pantheon;1 a place of public entertainment; it is only remarkable for 201one Room which is very large and elegant. We went also to see the Cathedral of St Paul's; the largest Protestant Church, extant. It is very magnificent on the outside; but the inside is by no means extraordinary; there is one thing which they say is to be met with no where else. It is a gallery which is about 100 yards in circumference. If a Person whispers in it: what he says is as distinctly heared on the opposite side as if the person was near. It is called the whispering gallery: we went up to the top of the Church, from which we had a very fine view of the City. From thence went to the academy of arts in the Adelphi; to see a Series of Paintings, by a Mr. Barry; representing the Progress of Society, in six different Pictures.2

Dined at Mr. Copley's.


Originally a theater and public promenade, the Pantheon on Oxford Street was redesigned by James Wyatt and reopened in 1772; the renovated building was noted chiefly for its promenade in the rotunda (Wheatley, London Past and Present ).


JQA has confused the Royal Academy of Arts, whose exhibition room was in the New Somerset House, up the Strand from the Adelphi Buildings, with the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, which was located at the Adelphi. James Barry's major work, the Progress of Society, which portrayed in six pictures illustrating the cultivation of “human faculties” in the civilization of mankind, was exhibited in the Great Room of the Society of Arts (Walter Harrison, A New and Universal History Description and Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, The Borough of Southwark and Their Adjacent Parts . . ., London, 1775, p. 525; Wheatley, London Past and Present , 3:272; The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence, ed. W. S. Lewis and others, New Haven, 1937– ,29:33; Ralph N. Wornum, ed., Lectures on Painting by the Royal Academicians, Barry, Opie and Fusel, London, 1848, p. 42–43).