Washington, April 24th 1838

 

My dear Sister

 

You have never been in the Congress Library -

well, when I am there, I am strongly reminded of the descript-

ions we have read of such apartments, in the mansions of the

English nobility, there is the long spacious room, the fretted

& lofty ceiling, of many arches, the windows deep in their

recesses, the thousands of volumes, the busts of Patriots &

Statesmen, which placed upon their pedestals, throw an air of

poetry and taste over the whole, I am in the Library every day

when the debates happen to be dull, this morning I looked over

the McKennys Indian Biography, which is embellished with colored

plates, Audubon’s Ornithology, Illustrations of Shakespeare, an

English work of engravings from the paintings of Sir Joshua

Reynolds & others of his day, and a volume of annotations on Don

Quixote published in London in 1600 & something, printed in the

quaint type & written in the quaint style and orthography of that

Age, this is all very pleasant, but I want some one to talk to

about what I have seen & what I have read. I am almost totally

without society, now that Adams has gone, I may as well tell you

what I do with each revolution of the earth.

 

Rise at or before 7 A.M., breakfast at 8, walk slowly through

the Capitol grounds, to the Obsy, slowly I say, because I am not

yet weary of the view, which is then before me, and the grounds

themselves, are green & fresh & beautiful, the trees are blossom-

ing, the flowers putting forth, in their loveliness. And if I

promenade around that magnificent terrace in front of the

Capitol, and pause awhile to look upon the rich sward below me,

or upon the shining river in the distance, it will be 9 o'clock

when I reach the Observatory, then I proceed to make and register

the meterological observations which are, the temperature of

the air, the height of the barometer, the max & min of temperature

during the 24 hours, which are devolved by a metal, self register-

ing thermometer, the degree at which vapour forms, for which a

Hygrometer is used, (this approaches the scientific, take up the

Encyclopedia if you wish for information thereby) remark the

wind, weather & if any rain has fallen, consult the guage &

mark the quanity, all this I enter into a regular Journal, which

is monthly sent to the Department and then to England. Until 12

I either read in the office or go to the Capitol, at 12 the

Chronometers must be compared & wound up, if the day be fair,

the Transit of the Sun, over the meridian must be observed, to

do which, behold me, in the obsy! the doors in the roof are

"triced up" and my eye is at the end of the Transit inst., a

long telescopic concern, mounted on granite pillars, in which

are five wires, this inst is to be placed by calculation,

precisely in the meridian, and when the sun passes the middle

wire, it is exactly 12 o'clock, this gives us the true time,

and having it, we regulate the clocks & chronometers, there is

a large telescope in the obsy, as soon as we have clear & warm

nights, Mr. Gillis and I will commence operations in the Stars.

I anticipate much of interest and pleasure, for it will be some-

thing new to me, I long to commence, I want to see what the stars

look like, when brought so near, and when making the calculations

I suppose I  shall wonder again, how men, with their figures and

instruments, can make these distant twinkling things, answer so

many useful & important purposes, their light is the work of

God, of their positions and movements, the mind of man, has taken

advantage.

 

This done,  I again go to the House, the Ladies now are there,

and the tide of words in full flow, by 3 I have dinner, and at

that hour the metereological obsns must be repeated & registered,

then my duty is over, and once more I walk to the Capitol. When

Houses adjourn, the Library closes, and until Tea time, I am

in Commodore Decatur’s chair reading or writing. After Tea until

9 or 10 o'clock I am again in the chair at which early hour I

retire to repose, in the great & gay city of Washington, Passed

Mid’n Wm. Reynolds goes to bed at 9 or 10 P.M.   You would not have

thought that, very well, I know you would not, but so it is, and I

really cannot find anything better to do, as to visiting in the

night, that is out of the question; so I just saunter around here,

(where I am now writing at 8 & 3/4 of the clock) & remain as I said

before and in faith, I have not gone any wheres in the day time,

for many reasons, but I shall soon make a few calls, it is very

plain to me that the aforementioned Passed Mid'n, will remain

quite a quiet & secluded personage, not seeking society, for he has

not the least desire to do so, but dividing his time, or giving

it to his duty, books, and the House, my good Landlady surmises

that I must be in love, she never saw so solitary a young gentle-

man, no visitors to him (poor fellow) & always "early to bed &

early to rise". I do not know whether to dispute her saying or

not, but this I may whisper to you, that if I had more associates

perhaps I would not write so much, or so often to you, I say

perhaps, at it is, I have a desire to do so, and therefore do it,

thank me if you please, and now as John says, I have told you

how I pass my time, but one week I shall have nothing to do at the

Obsy, Passed Mid Walsh (son of Robt Walsh of Philad) is also

stationed here, and for seven days he "observes & records",

He is married, his wife was wealthy & they are living on her

property near the City, he rides here on his horse, and rides

away on him also. Lt. Gillis has the general superintendence,

while I am exempt from duty I shall go to Georgetown &c &c, Mt

Vernon. Next week we will have the races, I intend to bet

$500,000 and stake the money.  If I remain here through the

summer, which is most likely, I will endeavour to pass the month

of August with you & return again to the same situation. On any

extraordinary occasions I could be vith you a week or so, in the

mean time.

 

Before I went to Norfolk, I passed an evening at Mr. J.Q.

Adams', I should like to live with the old gentleman, he is a

most interesting character, his memory serves him well, he has

read & seen much, forgotten little, his family refer to him as

a History or Dictionary and many cure in the habit of coming to

him  for information, on trifles as well as important subjects,

he is really a wonderful man.  The evening to me was delightful,

only too short, I cant tell you all he talked about, of poetry,

painting, music, matters of history, various incidents, of England

& Russia as they ware 40 years ago, of old times, & of the familiar

characters of the great men of this country, who were once so

numerous, who are now so few, it was only necessary to ask a

question or make some slight observation, every now and then, &

his words of elequence & instruction would flow from channels

which seem to be inexhaustible. His wife was indisposed, & not

visible, she is the counterpart of her husband, knowing much of the

world in which she has so long moved.  Mrs John Adams, his son's

widow & her two daughters live with him. She is a very agreeable

lady, and her children are quite learned, tho’ they are but 10 or

12 years of age. Mr Adams rises at 4 every morning, to look over

his papers & he soon after has the little girls up, at their French

& other studies. There is a poetry in the old Gentleman's

character, & I love to dwell upon it, but you may not, therefore

I will not tire you. I could give you a whole letter, all about

Mr. A, but am afraid you would not thank me.

 

One evening that I was at Mrs Coleman’s in Philad, we were

speaking of the Crucifixion & of the Artists fund Exhibition,

I was just mentioning Serena's picture, when Mrs. C asked me,

"what I thought of it?", supposing she referred to the letter,

"I said it wais a pretty painting, but nothing extraordinary",

now Mrs. C meant the Crucifixion, I was so rude as to be thinking

of something else & did not correct my observation, to apply such

an expression, so unsignificant a praise, to so grand a work as the

Crucifixion, shocking, horrible, no doubt my taste suffered in the

estimation of Mrs C, Mrs. Griffett, & Miss Anne. The colouring

is not so glowing as that of the departure of the Israelites & the

grouping of personages is necessarily in the background, would have

been improper to have placed them across the foreground, but the

decption is the same, one thinks he can step down & walk thro'

Jerusalem.

 

I was pleased with the change of route, from Philad to

Balt'e and instead of eating my supper when crossing the river

at Havre de Grace I remained on deck to view the sun, sinking

below the waters of the Bay and to look upon the clear stream

& beautiful shores of the Susquahannah. Your letter has just been

brought by our servant (who answers to every pull of the bell)

‘tis past 9 P.M. my hour for retiring & I must hasten to close.

I am glad to hear that you all continue quite well & hope

Jane & Kitty will fare better & be more content at Miss C’s, or

else be removed from there. My memory must be worn, I do not

know what note you allude to, which Mother keeps as a memorial

of my carelessness.

 

I am happy to communicate the intelligence, that Mr. Thomas

Gant will go to Cornwall as soon as Congress adjourns, and that

his health is perfectly good. I have heard Mr. Buchanan, Mr Clay,

Mr. Preston, Mr Grundy, & the whole House almost, on various

things, but I must come to a finish, and with all my love to you all

& remembrance to Miss Margaret & her Brothers.

 

I am your affectionate Brother

Wm Reynolds

 

L.M. Reynolds

 

I sent home by Mr. Steinman a large picture of the "Pennsylvania",

which I hope will be taken care of, and the "Delaware in the

Storm”, do not unroll it but on few & most special occasions.

About the Exploring Expedition, I have not made up my mind, nor

can I decide yet, I am in the hands of fate, what is the use of

my forming plans, as time events progress, I will see what to

do.  does dear little Elly continue weel & good, can Hal read

yet, or does she miss my instruction, is James at Bangor, do the

Irishmen continue quiet? When I write again I shall have Mr

Barney's information to give you concerning the school.

 

I wish Miss M- a pleasant time with you, and wish I was

there also, you will answer this soon.