American Writers, Volume 1 by Leonard Unger

By Leonard Unger

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And when Adams returned to Paris, it was even worse. He was sickened by the "dreadful twang of his dear country people" on the Rue de la Paix. But people did not so much matter so long as one had the Gothic cathedrals. After his trip with the Lodges Adams returned every summer to Paris. He rented an apartment as a base for his excursions and always invited a niece or nieces to visit him. Friends of nieces were also welcome, and "Uncle Henry" became a cult, the adored center of a group of attractive and intelligent young women.

He is far closer to Whitman and Melville than to Bancroft or Prescott, and he is not at all close to Einstein. In history he went as far as could be gone on the basic presumption, later repudiated by himself, that the study of trade, diplomacy, and politics can be made to reveal the sequence of human events. No historian has unraveled with more illuminating clarity the exchange of thought in chancellories, the effects of embargoes, and the influences of electorates on legislators and administrators.

The feeling conveyed is a unique aesthetic effect. He does not, however, leave us in the days of Mariolatry. The priest now turns professor. In the last chapters he explains how the church was taken away from the Virgin. She was a heretic, in essence, for she denied the authority of God and asserted the greater force of woman. The theologians had to put her back in her place and build a religious philosophy that would stand up to the most unsettling questions of the logicians. In the final chapter on Saint Thomas Aquinas Adams sees him building his theology as men built cathedrals: "Knowing by an enormous experience precisely where the strains were to come, they enlarged their scale to the utmost point of material endurance, lightening the load and distributing the burden until the gutters and gargoyles that seem mere ornament, and the grotesques that seem rude absurdities, all do work either for the arch or for the eye; and every inch of material, up and down, from crypt to vault, from man to God, from the universe to the atom, had its task, giving support where support was needed, or weight where concentration was felt, but always with the condition of showing conspicuously to the eye the great lines which led to unity and the curves which controlled divergence; so that, from the cross on the fleche and the keystone of the vault, down through the ribbed nervures, the columns, the windows, to the foundation of the flying buttresses far beyond the walls one 14 / AMERICAN WRITERS idea controlled every line; and this is as true of Saint Thomas's Church as it is of Amiens Cathedral.

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