A Chronology of Henry Adams's Life
Born in Boston MA on February 16, third
son of Charles Francis Adams and Abigail Brooks Adams, great-grandson of President John
Adams, and grandson of President John Quincy Adams, at whose home in Quincy he was a
frequent summer visitor as a boy.
Enters Harvard College. Contributes to
the Harvard Magazine and is active in theatricals. Graduates as Class Orator.
Sails, September 29, with several fellow
graduates, for the traditional Grand Tour of Europe. Arrives at Liverpool on October 9.
Attends the university as a student of civil law in Berlin after his arrival on October
Transfers to a German secondary school
and writes an article on his winters experience there (published in American
Historical Review, Oct. 1947). In April resumes study of civil law in Dresden, where
he lives until April 1, 1860. During intervals tours Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and
travels in northern Italy with his sister Louisa Kuhn.
Travels in Italy and Sicily from April
until June. Interviews the Italian patriot Garibaldi just after the surrender of the
Bourbon troops. Publishes his Italian travel letters in the Boston Daily Courier. After
a ten-week stay in Paris he returns to Quincy MA in October. In December acccompanies his
father who had been re-elected to Congress to Washington as his private secretary.
December to mid March 1861, serves as Washington correspondent of the Boston Daily
Advertiser. Prepares "The Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861" (published in Proceedings,
Massachusetts Historical Society, 1909-10)
Sails for England, May 1. Serves as
private secretary to his father, whom Lincoln has appointed as minister to Great Britain,
until his fathers resignation in May 1868. As London correspondent of The New
York Times from June 1861 to January 1862, Adams reports British reaction to the
American Civil War. His father sends Adams as a special messenger to the King of Denmark,
December 1862. Tours Scotland and the Isle of Skye in August 1863 with his
fifteen-year-old brother Brooks.
Grows restless with London society.
Travels with mother, sister, and younger brother in Italy from December 1864 till
June 1865. Returns to London; but pays several visits to the Continent.
Publishes "Captaine John
Smith" in the North American Review, demonstrating that that idol of
Virginians had invented the tale of his rescue by Pocahontas. Also publishes "British
Finance in 1816" and "The Bank of England Restriction," the latter
illustrating the futility of issuing inconvertible paper money.
Publishes a long review article on Sir
Charles Lyells tenth edition of his Principles of Geology in the North
American Review, challenging current theories of glaciation and Darwins theory
of evolution as "in its nature incapable of proof." Returns to America in July
with his parents and begins work in Washinton as a free-lance political journalist and
lobbyist in favor of currency reform, free trade, and the establishment of civil service,
contributing occasional pieces to the New York Nation toward the end of the year.
Attacks the subservience of Congress to
special interests and its reliance on the spoils system in "The Session" and
"Civil Service Reform," articles published in the North American Review.
Publishes "American Finance, 1865-1869," an article critical of the financial
expedients of the period, in the Edinburgh Review. Continues brief contributions to
the Nation into 1870.
Publishes "The Legal Tender
Act" (with the assistance of Francis A. Walker), vigorously attacking that
legislation and its sponsor Elbridge G. Spaulding, and a second "Session"
critical of Congress in the North American Review. Adams makes a holiday visit to
England, but he is shortly summoned to his sister Louisas bedside at Bagni di Lucca,
where on July 13 she dies of tetanus, leaving Adams with a lasting impression of
Natures indifference to human suffering. Is appointed assistant professor of history
by Charles W. Eliot, the new president of Harvard College. Begins teaching courses in
medieval English and European history; later adds courses in American history. Assumes
editorship of the North American Review, to which he contributes two articles and
over twenty reviews over the next seven years. Finally places his sensational exposť,
"The New York Gold Conspiracy," in the Westminster Review. Drops the use
of his middle name, Brooks.
Publishes with his brother Charles
Francis Adams, Jr., Chapters of Erie, a collection of some of their previously
published articles. Travels to the Far West where he meets Clarence King of the United
States Geological Survey. King soon afterward brings him into the circle of scientists
connected with the Survey and the Smithsonian Institution.
On June 27, Adams marries Marian
(Clover) Hooper, daughter of the retired physician Dr. Robert William Hooper, a prominent
Bostonian and a long-time widower. They sail July 9 on a wedding journey to England, the
Continent, and Egypt. Adams renews friendships with Sir Robert Cunliffe, Charles Milnes
Gaskell, Francis Palgrave, and Thomas Woolner, and consults European and English Scholars
such as Heinrich von Sybel, Ernst Curtius, Heinrich von Gneist, Georg H. Pertz, Theodor
Mommsen, William Stubbs, John Richard Green, Sir Henry Maine, Robert Laing, and Benjamin
Jowett. Returns to Boston August 1873.
Publishes Essays in Anglo-Saxon Law,
which includes his own essay "Anglo-Saxon Courts of Law" and three essays
written by his doctoral candidatesHenry Cabot Lodge, Ernest Young, and James
Lawrence Laughlin. Publishes "The Independents in the Canvass" in the North
American Review, urging Republicans to break away from the conservative regular party.
The article offends the publisher and leads to Adamss ending his connection with the
Review. In December Adams delivers his Lowell Institute lecture, "Primitive
Rights of Women."
Resigns from Harvard after accepting an
invitation to work on the papers of Albert Gallatin, Thomas Jeffersons Secretay of
the Treasury. As a friend of Secretary of State Evarts, Adams is given full access to the
State Department archives. Publishes Documents Relating to New England Federalism
in defense of the anti-Federalist policy of John Quincy Adams.
Publishes The Life of Albert Gallatin
and The Writings of Albert Gallatin. Forms friendships with Senator James D.
Cameron and his wife, Elizabeth, and with John Hay, former private secretary of Abraham
Lincoln. An inner circle of intimate friends is stablished of "The Five of
Hearts"the Adamses, John and Clara Hay, and Clarence King. Adamss wife
presides over exclusive salon, which attracts friends such as Secretary of the Interior
Carl Schurz, Attorney General Charles Devens, Senator Lucius Lamar of Mississippi,
Congressman Abram Hewitt, Turkish minister Aristarchi Bey, and a procession of diplomats
and foreign visitors. Adams begins acquaintance with a long succession of American
Travels in Europe researching archives
of London, Paris, and Madrid for his projected history of the administrations of Jefferson
Anonymously publishes Democracy: An
American Novel, widely read in the United States and England for its depiction of
political corruption in Washington.
Under the pseudonym Frances Snow Compton
publishes Esther: A Novel. Adams and Hay begin construction of their residences on
H Street facing Lafayette Square in Washington. The houses were designed by
Adamss college mate, Henry Hobson Richardson. Circulates six copies, privately
printed, of the first section of his History of the United States during the
Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to a few intimates for
Circulates six copies of the second
section of the history. Dr. Hooper, Adamss father-in-law, dies in April. On December
6, Adamss wife, Marian, commits suicide. Shortly afterward moves into the
just-completed house at 1603 H Street.
Commissions bronze figure to be executed
by American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the gravesite of Marian Adams in Rock
Creek Cemetery. June to October, Adams tours Japan with artist John La Farge. November 21,
Adamss father dies at Quincy at age seventy-nine.
Circulates six copies of the third
section of the History. (The fourth section was set directly from manuscript.)
Adams makes his frirst trip to Cuba. Makes a circle tour of the Far West with his English
friend Robert Cunliffe.
Charles Scribners Sons publishes
the first two volumes of the trade edition of the History (four more volumes are
published in 1890; the final three volumes and the volume of Historical Essays are
published in 1891). June 6, Adamss mother dies at Quincy at age eighty-one. Adams
becomes increasingly dependent on his friendship with Elizabeth Cameron.
Adams travels with John La Farge to
Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, Australia, and Ceylon from August 1890 to September 1891.
Writes poem "Buddha and Brahma" aboard ship en route from Ceylon (published in The
YaIe Law Review, Oct. 1915). Has a reunion with Elizabeth Cameron in France. Leaves
England for America February 3, 1892.
Recalled from Europe as the family
fortunes suffer in the Panic of that summer, he commences intellectual collaboration with
his brother Brooks, whose radical Law of Civilization and Decay will appear in
1895. Privately prints Memoirs of Marau Taaroa, Last Queen of Tahiti. Twice visits
the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, whose buildings seem to him to promise a
renaissance in art and architecture.
In December, sends his presidential
address predicting the development of scientific history to the annual meeting of the
American Historical Association to be delivered in absentia ("The Tendency of
History," published in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for
the Year 1894). Tours Cuba with Clarence King, February to March; travels to the
Yellowstone and the Tetons with John Hay, July to September; tours Mexico and the
Caribbean Islands with Chandler Hale, December 1894 to April 1895.
Adams makes his first systematic study
of the Gothic architecture of Normandy cathedrals and Mont Saint Michel in the company of
Henry and Anna Cabot Lodge.
Prepares "Recognition of Cuban
Independence" for Senator Cameron, printed in the Senate Report. In April, travels to
Mexico with the Camerons. Tours Europe with the Hays, May to October.
Prolonged stay abroad is spent in
London, Paris, Egypt (with the Hays), Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, Vienna, and Paris. Is
in England June to November. While visiting with Adams at Surrenden Dering in England, Hay
is appointed U.S. Secretary of State, having served as ambassador to England since March
Tours Italy and Sicily with the Lodges.
Resides in Paris, June to January 1900. (Until 1911, in Paris for part of each year; from
1908 as member of Edith Whartons circle.)
Visits the Paris Exposition and is
especially impressed by the Hall of Dynamos. Composes the poem "Prayer to the Virgin
of Chartres," which includes a "Prayer to the Dynamo" (published 1920, in
Mabel La Farge, Letters to a Niece).
Revises and enlarges the Tahiti memoir
as Memoirs of Arii Taimai for private distribution. Travels with the Lodges during
July and August to Bayreuth, Vienna, Warsaw, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, then alone during
September to Sweden and Norway.
Privately prints Mont Saint Michel
and Chartres. Contributes chapter on Clarence King in Clarence King Memoirs. In
the spring, accompanies Secretary of State John Hay to the opening of the St. Louis
In February, issues the private edition
of The Education of Henry Adams, containing the first formulation of his Dynamic
Theory of History and his Law of Acceleration. Circulates the volume for correction to
persons it comments on, including his brothers, Henry Cabot Lodge, Charles Gaskell,
Theodore Roosevelt, Charles William Eliot, and Speck von Sternburg.
Edits the Letters of John Hay and
Extracts from Diary, but Adams surrenders completion to Hays widow, who reduces
the names to initials.
Writes "The Rule of Phase Applied
to History," in which he reformulates his theory of scientific history, now basing it
on an analogy to Josiah Willard Gibbss "Rule of Phase" contained in
Gibbss "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances."
Prints and distributes to university
libraries and history professors the small volume A Letter to American Teaches of
History proposing a theory of history based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics and
the principle of entropy.
Publishes The Life of George Cabot
Lodge, prepared at the instance of the Lodges.
Issues a second private edition, slighty
revised, of Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. Is partially paralyzed by a cerebral
thrombosis, April to late July.
Authorizes the American Institute of
Architects to publish a trade edition of the Chartres, edited by Ralph Adams Cram
and issued through Houghton Mifflin Company. The advance sale breaks the publishers
Spends summers again in France, first at
the Chateau Marivault in the countryside north of Paris and subsequently at the Chateau
Coubertin. Engages Aileen Tone, a musician as secretary-companion and becomes engrossed in
the study and performance of medieval chansons.
Presides at his noontime breakfast table
at 1603 H Street during the War years entertaining nieces and "nieces in wish"
and visiting dignitaries such as Arthur Balfour, Henri Bergson, and French Ambassador
Dies in Washington March 27 at thc age
of eighty. Buried beside his wife in Rock Creek Cemetery. First trade publication of The
Education of Henry Adams. "Tendency of History," "Rule of Phase Applied
to History," and "A Letter to American Teachers" are included by Brooks
Adams in The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma (1919). The Pulitzer Prize is
awarded posthumously in 1919 for The Education.