By Leonard Unger
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Extra info for American Writers, Volume 1
Might Adams not be a Gray Eminence? He had always maintained that a friend in power was a friend lost, but this cynical observation had to be modified to except the case of Hay, whose gentle, affectionate, and loyal disposition was proof against all strains of high political life. Also, Hay was an ill man who held on to the office which finally killed him only at the promptings of duty. A necessary relaxation was his daily walk with Adams, after which Mrs. Hay would give them tea. If Adams, according to Hay, could "growl and tease" in "hours of ease," he could also be a "ministering angel" in times of anguish.
There is little reason to believe that his son felt estranged from his generation—as did his friend Henry James—by not having seen combat. Adams knew that his father, supported by a tiny staff, was fighting a battle against British Confederate sympathies that was quite as vital as any in the field, and his older brother warned him sternly from his army camp that if Henry left his post to enlist he would be derelict in his duty to both family and nation. There was no feeling on anyone's part that the little isolated Union group in London was having an easy time.
He grew up in a large and happy family of six children, two girls and four boys, with devoted parents who were always close to them. He attended the Dixwell School in Boston and entered Harvard College in 1854. When he graduated, four years later, he was elected class orator. Although he always maintained that he learned nothing at Cambridge, this was part of an affectation that covered every stage of his life. In fact, he seems to have read widely, obtained good grades, and made friends with classmates who were also to make their mark in life.
American Writers, Volume 1 by Leonard Unger