A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1862

Sunday 4th

4 May 1862

Tuesday 6th

6 May 1862
5 May 1862
Monday 5th



Summer weather. I had visits from several persons principally American on various commissions. Mr Anderson called merely to see me. I went out with my son Henry to see three pictures for which I had an invitation. One is by Millais, one of the English preraphaelite school. It is a plain home scene of a carpenter’s shop, but by touches of Oriental dress and habits made typical of the holy family. The beauty is simply in the execution. There is none in the persons, which look like the poor mechanics families in the small districts of England or Scotland. The effort of Raphael was to portray the highest idea of moral beauty in an appropriate physical shape. This on the contrary brings it down to the hand reality of homely every day life. I am content to abide by the earlier style. Two other pictures of the British genre school were shown, which are very good, in their way. But they are unlucky in being connected with local events that lose their interest with time. A picture to be of permanent value must describe through some particular form of persons or things a generalization recognized in all times. This it is which has perpetuated the effects of Raphael and the other Italian delineators of the religious idea. Nothing else comes so close to the hears of all. By the side of it every thing else looks common and often vulgar. The ordinary incidents of life, such as the return of a93 wounded Officer at the moment when land is announced, and the reception of a box from home by Officers in camp, are interesting only to people who have experienced the trials of a distant war. But out the freshness of the incident and the generalization disappears. It is for this reason that I have rather a distaste for what are called genre pictures. They may please by their fidelity of manipulation or by the casual production of a lucky effect, but that is all. From this point I walked round to the park and enjoyed the beauty of the season and the day in the great avenues at Kensington. In the evening, Mrs Adams had her first reception of Americans in London. There were about thirty people. She proposes to receive in this way weekly during the season. After they were gone, I found the bag from home with many despatches but no other letters. The newspapers interested me until late.

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=DCA62d125