Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 2


July. 1825. Friday. 1. VI:5.

Peter Chardon Brooks in 1835, by Asher Brown Durand facing or following page 304[unavailable]

This likeness of Peter Chardon Brooks (1767–1849), the father of Abigail Brown Brooks, was painted in 1835 by the American artist Asher Brown Durand (1796–1886), a master engraver as well as a skillful portraitist. Charles Francis Adams commissioned the portrait to give to his wife (see Charles Francis Adams, Diary, x 18, 26 June 1835), and he was very much pleased with it. It was, he recorded, a “better likeness” than earlier pictures made by Gilbert Stuart and Chester Harding, because it was neither a “caricature” nor a “hard picture, stiff as a board” (Diary, 25 June 1835). See Peter Chardon Brooks, Farm Journal, Volume 8, entries for 24, 26 June 1835, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Brooks, an insurer of ships and a banker, was a self-made Boston millionaire. His fortune was accumulated in just a few years and he retired early, though he kept up an interest in his merchant ventures. He served in the Massachusetts Senate and House and was a stout Federalist. At home, he appears to have been an affectionate and indulgent parent. Especially was he fond of his youngest daughter Abigail (see p. 107), and his letters to her in the Brooks Papers are charming and playful. In general the Brooks family life was less restrained and refined than the diarist’s own home life, and Adams disliked it. He sought to marry Abigail after a year of his engagement, but Brooks, desiring to keep his “pet” child at home a little longer and wanting Adams to become more self-reliant, favored postponement. See Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936, under Asher Brown Durand and Peter Chardon Brooks.

Courtesy of Mrs. Arthur Adams, Dover, Massachusetts.