Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Wednesday 27th.

Friday 29th.

Thursday. 28th. CFA


Thursday. 28th. CFA
Thursday. 28th.

Morning cold but clear. At the Office as usual occupied though not so usefully as I had hoped all my time might be passed. I first regulated my accounts and called to see Josiah Quincy with whom I had some small matters to settle respecting affairs under the will of my Grandfather. We exchanged Mortgage deeds, the new one in my hands for the old and cancelled one in his. I then went to the Branch Bank and paid to the credit of the Executors the sum of six hundred dollars with six more for interest upon that sum for sixty days the date of my father’s Note given for the sum. The Note however not being in town could not be delivered up. I have thus far done pretty well with the business of my Father’s Agency—And now he is in my debt a little.

Mr. Isaac P. Davis called upon me to talk about a Frame for the Picture at Philadelphia, of my father which Sully is finishing. I promised to send to him. Mr. George Brimmer called to see the estimate of the same apparently for curiosity.1 My own time was passed in correcting the Quarterly Accounts made up for the two Quarters preceding George’s decease which make a heavier balance than ever against him. It serves little purpose to look back upon them. He paid for his privilege in heavy suffering.

Returning home, I found Miss Elizabeth Phillips come to stay a week with Abby.2 She is a Cousin from Andover. After dinner I sat down to study, and read the review of Aristophanes in the Edinburgh and North American with the remarks of Schlegel on the same Author and Cumberland’s Numbers in the Observer upon the Greek Comedy.3 They are very interesting. After tea for the first time I sat upstairs, and again tried the old subject4 on another tack, in the shape of a Newspaper Essay. Mr. C. C. Paine called however and interrupted 146me,5 though I resumed afterwards and did not retire until it was very near midnight. The night was cold.


Isaac P. Davis, wealthy Boston merchant, was a friend and patron of the painters Gilbert Stuart and Thomas Sully (William T. Whitley, Gilbert Stuart, Cambridge, 1932, p. 157 ff.; James Thomas Flexner, Gilbert Stuart, N.Y., 1955, p. 155 ff., 167; John Hill Morgan, Gilbert Stuart and His Pupils, N.Y., 1939, p. 36, 40, 69). Stuart in 1825 had undertaken a full-length portrait of JQA, but had completed only the head when the artist died in 1828. Sully was employed to finish the work, and JQA conferred with him in Philadelphia a month before about its early completion (JQA, Diary, 5 Dec. 1829).

The verifiable facts are not entirely separable from the lore that early grew around the painting. Ward Nicholas Boylston did commission the portrait and apparently from the beginning intended to present it to Harvard. The commission, said to have provided for the payment to Stuart of $1,000, was for a full-length portrait “as much as possible like” that of JA which Copley had painted in 1783, which had come into Boylston’s keeping about 1811 and which Boylston, with the tacit approval of the Adams family, bequeathed to Harvard. Perhaps because he desired that the two works be alike in all respects, to match the court dress in which Copley had painted JA, Boylston wished that JQA be painted attired in the formal costume that JQA had worn as Minister to the Court of St. James’s. However, JQA is said to have been resolute in his preference for “the plain American dress.” It may be that the failure of Stuart to complete more than the head before his death is to be attributed rather to the failure of Boylston and JQA to compose their differences than to Stuart’s habitual dilatoriness in bringing his portraits to completion. In any event, after the deaths of both Stuart and Boylston, Sully, engaged with money provided in Boylston’s will, painted the figure “in the plain costume that best becomes a true republican.” (CFA to JQA, 29 Jan. 1830, LbC, Adams Papers; same to an unidentified recipient, March 1872, original not located, printed in Martha Babcock Amory, The Domestic and Artistic Life of John Singleton Copley, Boston, 1882, p. 87 ff.; Boston Patriot, 4 Aug. 1830, p. 2, col. 1.)

Having completed the canvas, Sully sent to Davis, for JQA’s approval, proposed patterns for the painting’s frame. Before referring the question to his father, CFA consulted Nathaniel Curtis, who as coexecutor with JQA of Boylston’s will would have to approve the expenditure. Curtis, while assenting to any arrangement, wondered whether the frame too should not be made to match that of the JA portrait. In order that comparison might be more readily made by the frame maker, he or Mr. Brimmer suggested that John Doggett of Boston, whom Brimmer recommended as “much the best framer in the country” and who was for many years Stuart’s close friend and framer, be employed. Doggett agreed to meet Sully’s price (CFA to JQA, 29 Jan. as cited above; Mabel M. Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery, 1827–1873, Boston, 1940, p. 5). JQA concurred with Curtis’ point but expressed a further preference for the cheapest (to CFA, 5 Feb., Adams Papers). When these decisions were made known to Davis, he, perhaps because of his connections with Sully, was “exceedingly fretted” and begged that the least expensive of the Sully designs be chosen as the most expeditious way of having the work finished in time for the portrait to be hung in the Spring Exhibition (CFA to JQA, 26 Feb., LbC, Adams Papers). To Davis’ further importunities, CFA responded by referring him to Curtis for final decision. The work was done by Doggett, apparently, and was not ready for delivery until late in July. (Entries for 25 March, 24 July, below; Boston Patriot, as cited above.)


Elizabeth Phillips (b. 1805), a daughter of John and Lydia (Gorham) Phillips, later the wife of William Stevens of Andover (Henry Bond, Genealogies of Watertown, Boston, 1855, p. 886).


Edinburgh Review, 34:271–319 (Nov. 1820); North Amer. Rev. , 14: 273–296 (April 1822); Frederick Schlegel, Lectures on the History of Literature, Ancient and Modern; Richard 147Cumberland, The Observer, Nos. 135–140. Copies of the two-vol. Philadelphia, 1818 edn. of Schlegel with GWA’s marginal notes (vol. 2 only) and of the three-vol. London, 1822 edn. of The Observer with CFA’s bookplate are in MQA.


That is, “Eloquence.”


Charles Cushing Paine, Harvard 1827; see vol. 2:224.