London July 1. 1786.
Last night, Coll. Smith and his Lady, took their Leave of Us, and went to their House in Wimpole Street.1
Yesterday visited Desenfans’s Collection of Pictures. A Port in Italy by Claude Lorraine, is the best Piece that remains. A Sampson sleeping in the Lap of Dalilah, while the Philistines cutt of his Locks, is said to be by Rubens, but Mr. Copely who was present doubts it. Supposes it to be by some one of Reubens’s School. Fine Colours and the Air of one of Reubens’s Wives, is given to Dalilah.
This Art shews Us Examples of all the various Sorts of Genius which appear in Poetry. The Epic Poet, the Trajedian, the Comedian, The Writer of Pastorals, Elegies, Epigrams, Farces, and Songs. The Pleasure, which arises from Imitation, We have in looking at a Picture of a Lanscape, a Port, a Street, a Temple, or a Portrait. But there must be Action, Passion, Sentiment and Moral to engage my Attention very much. The Story of the Prince, who lost his own Life in a bold attempt to save some of his Subjects from a flood of Water is worth all the Paintings that have been exhibited this Year.
Copleys Fall of Chatham or Pierson, Wests Wolf, Epaminondas, Bayard &c. Trumbulls Warren and Montgomery, are interesting Subjects, and useful. But a Million Pictures of Flours, Game, Cities, Landscapes, with whatever Industry and Skill executed, would be seen with much Indifference. The Sky, the Earth, Hills and Valleys, Rivers and Oceans, Forrests and Groves, Towns and Cities, may be seen at any Time.
1. The severing of the engagement between AA2 and Royall Tyler (see note 1 on entry of 20 June 1784 in AA’s Diary, above), and the engagement and marriage of AA2 and WSS make a long story that is told in abundant detail in the family correspondence and can only be summarized here, with a general reference to the years 1784–1786 in Series II of the present edition. For a time after the Adams ladies’ departure for Europe all went well enough with the engaged couple. AA2 commenced a correspondence with Tyler, and they exchanged miniature portraits. By the spring of 1785, however, AA2 became convinced that Tyler was not writing her, and after much silent suffering she complained to him on this score. This letter of hers, written soon after her arrival in London, has not been found, nor has his reply, which in her own opinion and that of her mother was a prevarication rather than a justification. Late in the summer of 1785, therefore, she returned him his few letters and his picture and requested him to deliver hers to her uncle, Richard Cranch (Grandmother Tyler’s Book: The Recollections of Mary Palmer Tyler ..., ed. Frederick Tupper and Helen Tyler Brown, N.Y. and London, 1925, p. 76). In imparting this news to Mrs. Cranch (in whose house in Braintree Tyler boarded), AA quoted the maxim that “a woman may forgive the man she loves an indiscretion, but never a neglect” (15–16 Aug. 1785, MWA). During the following months Mrs. Cranch wrote long and gossipy letters saying that Tyler refused to admit that he had been dismissed, was otherwise uncandid with the Cranches, continued to wear AA2’s miniature, and was in general behaving badly. When he could no longer conceal a situation that everyone in Braintree knew and discussed, Tyler declared, said Mrs. Cranch, that he would go to London and settle the little “misunderstanding” between himself and AA2, which he attributed to the prejudice and malice of her relatives at home (to AA, 10 Dec. 1785, 9 Feb. 1786, Adams Papers).
Meanwhile in London AA2 and WSS had of course been thrown much together, and by Aug. 1785 the secretary of legation had learned enough about the young lady’s situation to conclude that, from motives of delicacy, he ought to step out of the scene for a time. He therefore requested and obtained a leave of absence to tour the Continent and was gone for several months. Returning toward the end of the year, he composed, in properly gallant and circumlocutory language, a formal request to AA for the hand of her daughter (29 Dec., Adams Papers). His suit, at least, was approved by both AA and JA, who had a very favorable opinion of his character and conduct, and in January and February AA dropped hints to JQA, her sister Cranch, and other family connections in America that AA2’s marriage to a very worthy partner might be expected before long, though AA herself wished that there might be a longer interval in view of the broken engagement. The wedding took place on 11 June, and, by special license from the Archbishop of Canterbury, at the Legation in Grosvenor Square, with only the Copley family and a few other American friends present. The Bishop of St. Asaph officiated, because, as JA explained to Richard Cranch, “Dissenting Ministers have not authority to marry” (4 July, MWA).