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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1864

Sunday 13th

13 November 1864

Thursday 15.th

15 November 1864
14 November 1864
Monday 14th

A heavy rain in the night brought a partially clear day, so that we were enabled to go out after breakfast to visit Sir Joseph Paxton. Mademoiselle Danet accompanied Mrs Adams and me. We found him at home, at his house which really belongs to the Duke, but which he still occupies, although no longer his Agent. It shows his remarkable taste as a florist and decorator. He took us into the kitchen gardens where all fruits and flowers and vegetables and prepared for the Duke’s table throughout the year. Here were the grapes, the pines, and peaches. But in addition were the hot houses for the cultivation of exotics. When he came to that which was built expressly for the Victoria Regia, he explained his mode of overcoming the obstacles that others had experienced in bring it to flavor. They had used water but without effect. By a careful study of the reports made by travellers of the habits of the planet he found that it lived in and about ruins not stagnant nor yet with any perceptible current. It occurred to him to try a plan greatly to agitate the water in the tank with a very small overshot wheel. This proved successful, and he soon took off the first flower that bloomed in England, and laid it before the Queen. He had another anecdote about the glass house which was built expressly for this plant. It had been designed by him just at the time when the project of the great edifice for the Exhibition of 1851 was in agitation. Advertisements inviting the offer of plans had been published, and the day for opening them had arrived, when the thought struck him as he was looking at the house for the Victoria just then completed, that it would be easy by a simple expansion of the proportions to supply a new and original edifice for this purpose. He acted upon it at once. A little delay was obtained from the Commissioners to enable him to carry out the details in conjunction with Stevenson, and the result was a proposal at much less cost than any other presented. Thus sprung up the famous Crystal Palace of 1851, which obtained for him his knighthood from the Queen, and what is far more material, gained him a worldwide reputation. Not long afterward he came into Parliament as member for Country, and has been ever since engaged in the most extensive undertakings here and abroad. The strain upon his faculties has proved rather severe, and he shews symptoms of overwork. But on the whole, he is one of the remarkable characters148 of the age. After seeing all that he had to show, we took a short term through other parts of the grounds and then back to the house. After luncheon we started upon a little trip to see Haddon Hall, an ancient residence of the romans, now belonging to the Duke of Rutland, but which he has deserted. It is four miles distant, but we were driven over there in great state in a launche with four horses and two gay postilions. Lady Frederick and Lady Louisa Cavendish accompanied us, as well as Sir Stephen Glynne and one of the young ladies in a pony carriage following us. Haddon dates very early , but it seems to have been added to bit by bit until it forms a Quadrangle with an inner and an outer court. Having been left without any efforts to renovate or improve it, we are enabled to get a good idea of the internal domestic economy of two or three or four centuries back. A large dining hall differing from that at Penshurst in that it has a large fire place. A long gallery and reception room, with innumerable passage ways to bed rooms of all sorts, mostly small and low and dark and gloomy. Of the furniture nothing has been left but a green old bedstead that looks like a catalogue, and plenty of tapestry of the gobline sort, with colors mostly faded. Lattice windows all through. A small chapel with some old glass on which an inscription to a woman who died in 1427. The heiress of this family ran away from here with a Manners, whereby the Estate come in to the Rutland family. The site is picturesque, but on the whole I have not seen yet a more grien and doleful antique residence. The Duke keeps it from dilapidation, but that is all. I preferred to walk home, through the road and muddy and I did not get back until long after dark. We had the usual banquet. M de Van de Weyer returned home this morning. But his place was filled by a Mr Lascelles, the father of the young ladies, and a young Mr St Aubin made his appearance. In the evening a little dance was made up for the young people in one of the empty rooms and gallery, Mrs Gladstone and other ladies playing in turn on the piano. Thus closed the third and last day of our visit. Nothing could be more courteous and flattering to me than the attention that has been paid, I construe it not as to myself, but as an acknowledgement to me as the representative of my country, of the civilities paid there to his three sons.149

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=DCA64d319