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Price Realized: $2,750 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2492 Lot 222
GLIMPSE OF HIS INTEREST IN PHILOSOPHY JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. Autograph Letter Signed, "J.Q. Adams," as Representative, to physician Thomas Sewall, thanking him for his lectures, explaining that Adams associates phrenology with alchemy [and other disciplines out of favor among contemporary scientists], comparing some aspects of phrenological theory to George Berkeley's theory of immaterialism [denial of material reality], wishing him success, and returning newspaper clippings and a letter from Dr. [Ruel] Keith [not present]. 1 page, 4to, with integral blank; marked chipping along right edge with scattered loss to few letters of text, faint scattered foxing, folds. Washington, 5 April 1839
Estimate $2,500 - 3,500
"I have read with great satisfaction your two Lectures upon the Science of Phrenology, which I have never been able to prevail upon myself to think of as a Serious Speculation. I have classed it with Alchemy, with judicial Astrology, with Augury--and as Cicero says that he wonders how two Roman Augurs could ever look at each other in the face without laughing, I have felt something of the same surprize that two learned phrenologists can meet without the like temptation.
"But as it has been said of Bishop Berkley's antimaterial system t[h]at he has demonstrated beyond all possibility of refutation, what no man in his s[enses] can believe, so without your assistance, I should never have been able to enco[un]ter the system of the thirty-three or thirty-five faculties of the immortal soul a[s] clustered on the blind side of the head. I thank you for furnishing me with argument to meet the Doctors, who pack up the five senses in thirty-five parcels of t[he] brain. I am glad that your Lectures have been so successful, and hope they will be yet more so in recalling the sober sense of the Material philosophers of our age to the dignity of an imperishable mind. . . ."
Thomas Sewall (1787-1845) was an American physician who wrote often with the aim to debunk phrenology. The book Sewall sent to Adams was likely his An Examination of Phrenology in Two Lectures, London: J.S. Hodson, 1838.
From the Collection of William Wheeler III.Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $2,750