‘Broad, high foreheads’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The month of January 1865 brought further deaths to Mrs. Gray’s[1] circle, but also allowed her a welcome respite in visits to local galleries to see the latest paintings.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 15 January 1865: …Dr. Gray has just come in (noon, Jan. 15) with news of a great public loss – the death of Mr. Edward Everett[2] this morning. We have not heard what his illness was – but probably apoplexy. He spoke at the Savannah relief meeting this week, and has been arguing his own case against the Mystic Water Works – seemingly well as usual. We have no such orator left as he. A man of wonderful eloquence and as wonderful erudition; with a celebrity not merely local, but national, and world wide. He held among other high public offices that of Minister at the Court of St. James. Last week died in Philad[elphia] Mr. George M. Dallas[3] who also held that office.

Thursday, 19 January 1865:To-day (Jan 19th) was Mr. Everett’s burial-day. His death is felt a great public loss. We have no such golden mouthed orator left – no one in any way competent to fill his place. And his earnest outspoken loyalty, his untiring readiness to forward the good cause by all the weight of his character, influence, & talents, has endeared him during the four years of our war to all loyal hearts. We were proud of him before – but we have clung to him, depended upon him, looked up to and loved him, since these years of war have sifted the wheat from the chaff, among our public men.

…all men of mark, whose peers in talent & ability we have yet to find in our day.

He is the last of the great names familiar to my girlhood, as foremost men – such names as J.Q. Adams,[4] Calhoun,[5] Clay,[6] Benton,[7] Webster,[8] & Everett. I suppose Webster without doubt the greatest among them – but all men of mark, whose peers in talent & ability we have yet to find in our day. And yet, I suppose future time will look back to the men who are now bearing the brunt of public affairs for us – Lincoln,[9] Seward,[10] Grant,[11] Sherman[12] &c &c., and rightly too – as giants in ability, moral force, military genius, and enlightened statesmanship.

I cannot help deploring in Mr. Everett’s death, too, that all the priceless stores of knowledge and rarest erudition accumulated during his long studious life must go down with him forever into the darkness & silence of the tomb. A legacy which could have amply furnished forth scores of common minds, could it have been left behind for us to share!

Sunday, 29 January 1865: …Frank [Gray][13] is home for vacation and expects to get off to Philad. & perhaps Washington or Fortress Monroe [in Virginia] on Wed’y next; escorting Mrs. Shober,[14] Hepsa Bradlee,[15] & Nellie,[16] and two young ladies who came on with Mrs. Shober two or three weeks since – quite a party. Mrs. S. dined with us on Wednes’y, and one day I went the rounds of the galleries here – [Harriet Hosmer’s] “Zenobia”[17] at Childs Jenks[18] and the “President and Cabinet debating the Emancipation proclamation”[19] at Williams & Everett’s.[20]

[A] wonderful work, for a woman too, it is of colossal size…

We were much pleased with Miss Hosmer’s statue – a wonderful work, for a woman too, it is of colossal size – but so finely proportioned and so well poised, that, not the size but the dignity, grace, and proud resignation of the captive queen and queenly woman impress you. Miss Hosmer may well be proud of her “Zenobia.”

The portraits in the Emancipation picture are like the photog’phs we all know – grave, earnest men, with broad, high foreheads and thoughtful expression[s] – but just such men as one seems to see plenty of every day – yet what a mountain of anxious responsibility has rested upon every heart and mind there – and guided, as none can doubt, by God’s own hand, how wonderfully they have steered their course in these fearful times.

We were charmed with a landscape by Sonntag of New York – Buzzards Roost on the Potomac near Blue Ridge…[21] [A] lovely thing too by Kinsett[22] – and one of Morvillier’s[23] glowing Autumn scenes. Ah! how pleasantly one might spend money on such things!

Continued here.


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818–1885) was married to Dr. Francis Henry Gray 1844–80. Entries from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] Edward Everett (1794–1865), who served as U.S. Minister to Great Britain 1841–45 and succeeded Daniel Webster as Secretary of State. He was married to Dr. Gray’s cousin Charlotte Gray Brooks 1822–59.

[3] George Mifflin Dallas (1792–1864) died on 31 December. He served as Minister to Russia, not Great Britain, 1837–39, and as James K. Polk’s vice president 1845–49.

[4] John Quincy Adams (1767–1848), Minister to Russia 1809–14 and Great Britain 1815–17, and U.S. President 1825–29.

[5] John Caldwell Calhoun (1782–1850), Adams’s vice president 1825–29 and Andrew Jackson’s 1829–32; he later served as Secretary of State 1844–45.

[6] Henry Clay (1777–1852), Senator from Kentucky 1806–7, 1810–11, 1831–42, and 1849–52.

[7] Thomas Hart Benton (1782–1858), Senator from Missouri 1821–51. His daughter Jessie married the explorer John Charles Frémont in 1841.

[8] Daniel Webster (1782–1852), Secretary of State 1841–43 and 1850–52.

[9] Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), U.S. President 1861–65.

[10] William Henry Seward (1801–1872), Senator from New York 1849–61 and Secretary of State 1861–69 (serving both Lincoln and Andrew Johnson).

[11] Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), Commanding General of the Army 1864–69 and U.S. President 1869–77.

[12] Major General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820–1891), who succeeded Grant as Commanding General of the Army.

[13] The diarist’s eldest son Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904), a junior at Harvard.

[14] Mrs. Gray’s stepmother Lucy Hall Bradlee (1806–1902), who was married to Samuel Lieberkuhn Shober 1830–47.

[15] Mrs. Shober’s cousin Hepsa Hall (1821–1908) married her half-brother Henry Bradlee in 1845.

[16] Mrs. Bradlee’s daughter Ellen Marion Bradlee (1846–1930), who married Edward Nicoll Fenno in 1872.

[17] Zenobia in Chains (1859) by Harriet Hosmer (1830–1908).

[18] Childs & Jenks, “paintings, engravings, works of art,” at 127 Tremont Street.

[19] First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln (1864) by Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830–1900).

[20] Williams & Everett, “looking glasses and picture frames,” at 234 Washington Street.

[21] Eagle Rock on the Potomac (c. 1860) by William Louis Sonntag (1822–1900).

[22] John Frederick Kensett (1816–1872).

[23] Joseph Morvillier (1800–1870).

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

5 thoughts on “‘Broad, high foreheads’

  1. I live in Dallas, Polk County, Oregon. it was interesting to me that Mrs. Gray noted the death of George M. Dallas. Our town was named after him, and the county after President Polk, of course.
    Jean Sherbeck, Dallas, OR

  2. Everett’s collected speeches were published in his own day and are still interesting reading. As I recall, he was also Governor of Massachusetts and President of Harvard during his long career, and he was the main speaker at the dedication of the Gettysburg Battlefield – delivering a long oration of great merit, only to be upstaged by Lincoln’s brief but immortal address on the same afternoon.

  3. I enjoyed this excerpt as always. But how tastes change. Rare is the person who could recite a word of Edward Everett’s Gettysburg Address today but Lincoln’s words are among the greatest in the English language. As schoolchildren used to do, I memorized it years ago, a lifetime treasure for the mind and heart.

  4. Joseph Morviller was a prominent artist in the Boston area – in 1864 he was commissioned by the Pratt family to paint a picture of the “John Pratt House” at the entrance to Forest Dale Cemetery. This painting was exhibited in the great Malden Exhibition in May of 1899. I have not been able to track it down but if anyone has any information on it please contact me!

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