Music atT ST MARY'S PPerivale
The Ellen Nicholas memorial (3)
Ellen Nicholas in the Quincy Adams diaries
Ellen became particularly friendly with Louisa, Quincy Adams wife. This seems to have started when they sang together at family parties, where Ellen played the piano and Louisa the harp. Ellen became not just a female companion for Louisa, accompanying her on trips to London, but also, being motherless, fulfilled the role of the daughter that Louisa never had. Reading between the lines in the diaries, it appears that Ellen liked to tease the rather conventional Quincy Adams and perhaps even flirted with him.
One of the strangest stories in the diaries concerns the poetry that Ellen and Louisa sometimes wrote together. Quincy Adams, who liked to regard himself as a man of many talents and something of an accomplished poet, couldn't resist joining in. One day Ellen Nicholas asked Adams if he would write a poem for her birthday. Adams set to this with great gusto and produced a poem – but then concluded that it was too much like a love poem. Nevertheless it was shown to Louisa Adams, who remarked that Adams never produced anything half so pretty for her.
When Louisa Adams was seriously ill and convalescing (it is thought that this might have been a miscarriage), Ellen stayed at Little Boston for a full three months to keep her company. When Ellen finally left to return home, Quincy Adams recorded in his diary that he felt rather at a loss without the musical evenings and Ellen's cheery presence. The picture that Quincy Adams paints of Ellen in the diaries is of an accomplished, vivacious and popular young woman and one can understand how her tragically early death – only a year after Quincy Adams wrote about her – must have deeply affected her family and all who knew her. It is probably for this reason that the large memorial was created.
Little Boston House – the home of John Quincy Adams
The memorial and Richard Westmacott
Sir Richard Westmacott (1775–1856) was one of the foremost British sculptors of the 19 th century. He came from a family of sculptors. His father and son (both also called Richard, confusingly) were likewise distinguished sculptors, although Sir Richard is considered to be the most important. It is for this reason that he and his son are sometimes referred to as ‘Westmacott senior' and ‘Westmacott junior'. Westmacott senior's best-known works include the reliefs on the side of Marble Arch; the statute of Achilles at Hyde Park Corner in tribute to the Duke of Wellington; statues of another British hero, Admiral Nelson, at Birmingham, Liverpool and Barbados; George III in Liverpool; and sculptures of Pitt the Younger and Spencer Perceval in Westminster Abbey.
Richard Westmacott junior attended Great Ealing School and it is through the school that Richard Westmacott senior came to know Dr Nicholas. In the Quincy Adams diaries Dr Nicholas is portrayed as a very sociable man who instigated a periodic gentleman's dinner at the New Inn in Ealing village, which Quincy Adams regularly attended. At one of these dinners Quincy Adams records that a ‘Mr Westmacott' attends, which one can reasonably conclude was Richard Westmacott senior. Thus it seems that Westmacott would have known Dr Nicholas socially and through this Dr Nicholas would have approached Westmacott regarding the memorial after the death of Ellen Nicholas.
Sir Richard Westmacott RA