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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1862

Monday 25th

25 August 1862

Wednesday 27th

27 August 1862
25 August 1862
Tuesday 26th



I was up by seven o’clock as it was agreed with the boys that we should drive over and see Stonehenge before breakfast. We had good horses and they carried us the nine miles rapidly enough. We took the road by the way of Amesbury and the course of the arm which is quite pretty until we came out upon the bleak open plain. So extensive is it that the first distant view of Stonehenge is quiet disappointing. It seems to occupy so little of the space. On getting out to examine it the magnitude of the storms becomes apparent. I am not going to describe it. The guide books do enough of that. The only idea they convey is the power which in a rude age could bring together such masses of stone from a distance, and set them up in a certain methodical fashion. It is useless to speculate as to who the people were that did it. The secret is gone just as it is in Egypt and in the East. The races that made the most durable monuments in the world left no record whatever to fix either the dates or the authors of the work. Stonehenge may be as old as the Pyramids for all we know. The peculiar tumuli which mark the plain were probably made by the same people. They have been opened and a few things found to mark the fact that they are grave. All the rest is buried with them. Some of the stones have fallen and others have carried off, but the enigma which they present will be solved only at the last day. The region is dreary enough. We returned to the Hotel by a strait and shorter road, and took breakfast, after which we went to see the cathedral. It was just service time, so we were obliged to confine our examination to the nave and transepts, the cloisters and chapter house. There is a peculiar harmony and lightness in the construction of this edifice which distinguishes it from all others quite as much as the substitution of a spire of the tower. Outside and inside it looks as if it had been planned by one head and executed by one hand. The transept is bold and elegant whilst the cloisters and chapter house as restored adorn the mass to which they are attached. The painted arch runs through every thing. The chapter house is in process of renovation as185 far as possible exactly as it originally way. The nimbus colouring and gilding as well as stained glass. Judging from this specimen I think the effect of the cathedrals would be greatly heightened by the same process. The only specimens I have seen, this and the Saint Chapelle at Paris are certainly beautiful. But we could not stay longer, the time of departure for Southampton was at hand. Salisbury is an old and quiet place which is not gaining much, but it is curious to the antiquary. Our course soon brought us to his house, giving us a luncheon accompanying us over to see Netley Abbey, and then back to the Steamer for the Isle of Wight. This was very kind and hospitable but it would have suited us better to command all our spare time. He gave me a budget of letters received from London for me, the produce of the last Steamer. And we spent an hour at his house reading the newspapers. Southampton is a very ugly and uninteresting town, but Netley Abbey about three miles from it on the opposite side of the river is regarded as one of the most interesting ruins left. It is very pretty, but the spirit of improvement has gone abroad and the place is cleaned up for the reception of picnic parties. It has become a sort of tea garden for the relaxation of the people of Southampton and strangers. This is getting to be the case with all ruins in England, and it will ultimately spoil them all. We were hurried too by having to waste so much of our interval at Captain Britton’s. He was so kind and so hospitable that I could not find it in my heart to resist. We returned in season for the little Steamer which crosses over to Cowes and Ryde in the Isle of Wight. We decided to go to the latter, and on our arrival found the long pier filled with people an on appearance of activity and gaiety very consensual in an English Watering place. The shows are so shelving that the ebb of the tide leaves bare ground for more than half a mile from the houses, so that this pier is made necessary for the landing of passengers. We found rooms engaged for us by the servants whom we had sent forward, at the Hotel directly fronting the head of the Pier.186

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=DCA62d238