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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1861

Sunday 11th

11 August 1861

Tuesday 13th

13 August 1861
12 August 1861
Monday 12th
Ely, Peterborough

A Massachusetts man looks at Cambridge with a preference because it was the chief nursery of her original puritan preachers. And ever since it has been the type rather of liberal ideas, as contrasted with Oxford, the mother of churchmen. I was therefore up early to visit such of the other Colleges as I might before the time for departure. One of these was St Peter’s, the oldest of all. Within the second Quadrangle I followed an open passage which led into a field through which was a walk shaded by old trees, and on either side a flock of deer were grazing. At the end of the walk was an iron gate which opened on a choice pasture of flowers and shrubbery laid out and kept with exquisite taste. This is literary luxury of which we in America have little notion. Even Harvard College has nothing to boast of beyond a few fine elms and a little grass kept middling well. The day was quite warm. After breakfast we took our leave of Cambridge, the visit to which has been very pleasant, and entered the cars to go to Ely a small place at which there is a cathedral worth seeing. The country grows flat and monotonous. Formerly it was marshy and wet. But capital and enterprise have drained it so that we saw, the fruits in the crops of grain which the people were busily harvesting. At Ely we stopped only209 until the departure of the next train. This gave us the time necessary to see the church, which is a fine building of its kind, apparently constructed at different times, and with several forms of architecture. I am not learned in the history of the styles neither is it necessary to know much. The effects of the Gothic are all to be traced to a few causes. High arches extending long distances, great windows filled with stained glass, and quaint ornamentation to conceal the baldness of bare stone. In aid of these comes up the idea of antiquity and the solemnity of religious worship. What causes the most surprise is the cost of erecting such buildings among such small communities. I should think this one might hold all the people in the town. Having seen the whole and taken a little refreshment at a quiet country inn, we went on next to Peterborough. My daughter Mary has been quite poorly ever since we started, and today I began to feel uneasy about her, but she began it mend from the moment we left Ely. At Peterborough we drove at once to see the church. I liked it better than Ely, though in most respects all these edifices are alike. The fashion now is to restore them all as much as possible. The damage done by the Puritan Iconoclasts can scarcely be made good, but every thing else is carefully replaced. After this examination we went to the Great Northern Hotel and found very good accommodations for the night. A little walk around the town completed the view of the place. It is quiet, old fashioned and very neat. Nowhere do I see any signs of decay and dilapidation in the towns. The people may be very poor for what I know, but the streets and the houses are neat, clean, and well preserved.

Cite web page as:

Charles Francis Adams, Sr., [date of entry], diary, in Charles Francis Adams, Sr.: The Civil War Diaries (Unverified Transcriptions). Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2015. http://www.masshist.org/publications/cfa-civil-war/view?id=DCA61d224