A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Selected Letters

The majority of letters written by Marian "Clover" Hooper Adams to her father, Robert W. Hooper, were sent during her occasional prolonged absences from Massachusetts—in particular, during the winter and spring seasons when she and her husband Henry Adams were at their Washington home at 1607 H Street. Often sent weekly, the letters provided a daily summary of people they met, friends and acquaintances with whom they dined, and the couple's other, varied social activities.

The letters selected for this website date from April and May 1883, around the time Marian Hooper Adams started taking photographs. Typical of the letters Clover wrote to her father—full of vivid descriptions of her activities and bold commentary upon the people she encountered in her daily life—these examples include clues about her sense of aesthetics.  She describes a trip to New York and comments on art and sculpture in the letter she wrote on 15 April 1883.  She references the architecture of her friend, Henry Hobson Richardson, in two of the selected letters below. The two featured letters from May 1883 include brief passages about her own photography. On 20 May 1883 she writes,  "Am going to take a photo with my new machine...," and on 27 May she describes her attempt to photograph the diplomat, Aristarchi Bey. 

Letter from Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 8 April 1883

Letter from Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 15 April 1883

Letter from Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 22 April 1883

Letter from Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 20 May 1883

Letter from Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 27 May 1883

Marian Hooper Adams took her own life on 6 December 1885, by consuming potassium cyanide, a chemical used for developing photographs. In the two and half years in which she practiced the art of photography, Clover's photographs received much praise from friends and family, but were never exhibited publicly.

After Clover's death, Henry Adams destroyed all of her letters and rarely, if ever, spoke of her in public. However, in a group of thirteen letters recently donated to the Massachusetts Historical Society, Henry Adams opens up about his late wife to her friend Anne Palmer Fell. Included here are two letters from 8 January and 5 December 1886.

Letter from Henry Adams to Anne Fell, 8 January 1886

Letter from Henry Adams to Anne Fell, 5 December 1886

Letter Excerpts 

Miss Palmer knows various artists & out of the usual line people so we shall see pictures & studios & not shops for two days...
— Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 8 April 1883


Saw the "American Artists" exhibition that same morning as a whole very poor we thought.
— Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 15 April 1883


Thursday to bed early & made Henry take my regrets to a young dance at Mrs Bancroft Davis where my frisky husband even danced.
— Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 22 April 1883


Am going to take a photo with my new machine this p.m. at Rock Creek
— Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 20 May 1883


Sunday Aristarchi Bey came ... & I photographed him as a "dude" with a small straw hat on his head - but alas! it is not a success & I fear will not print I'm not skilled yet
— Marian Hooper Adams to Robert W. Hooper, 27 May 1883


My only wonder is whether I would have managed to get more out of twelve years than we got; and if we really succeeded in being as happy as was possible. I have no more to say. The world may come and the world may go; but no power yet known in earth or heaven can annihilate the happiness that is past.
— Henry Adams to Anne Palmer Fell, 8 January 1886


During the last eighteen months I have not had the good luck to attend my own funeral, but with that exception I have buried pretty nearly everything I lived for...

— Henry Adams to Anne Palmer Fell, 5 December 1886