Robert Adam and His Circle, in Edinburgh & Rome

Robert Adam and His Circle, in Edinburgh & Rome

Robert Adam and His Circle, in Edinburgh & Rome

Robert Adam and His Circle, in Edinburgh & Rome

Excerpt

Previous writers on the Adam brothers have lamented an almost total lack of biographical information. As one of them remarked, very little is known of their private lives and 'surviving letters by Adam are extremely scarce'. The discovery among some family papers in Scotland of several bundles of letters written by Robert and James Adam from Italy was therefore as unexpected as it was delightful; for they illuminate the otherwise obscure personalities of two of the greatest British architects at the most interesting period of their lives.

Intimate and revealing though these letters are they could not, however, be suitably presented to the public either in the form of a travel book or as a complete and edited correspondence: indeed they could not be properly understood except against the correspondents' family background in Scotland. I have therefore explored what firsthand evidence remains about Robert and James Adam's youth and upbringing and the various family and other influences which shaped their characters. Their father, William Adam, was himself an architect of ability and I have tried to discover as much as possible about his work and the artistic legacy which he left to his more famous sons. The influence of the patron -- so often and, it seems to me, so unwisely overlooked when discussing eighteenth-century domestic architecture -- has also been given prominence since the Adams owed much to the friendship of their employers, notably the Clerks of Penicuik and the Hopes of Hopetoun.

I have relied throughout on contemporary sources, very few of which have been published before; and I have given as many direct quotations from them as possible, in the belief that it is only by such word-of-mouth methods that we can gain any understanding of the past. No statements have been made for which there is not some contemporary evidence. It may seem, perhaps, that too much space . . .

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