Prologue: John Adams, apart from his brilliant political attributes, was a man of intense intellectual curiosity. So it comes as no surprise that, in 1785, when he became America's first minister to the Court of St. James, one of his initial visits was to the astronomer, Sir William Herschel, who newly discovered the planet, Uranus. Unfortunately, John went to the wrong address.
Adams (A): By your leave, sir, my name is John Adams from the United States of America and I have come to honor you for discovering Uranus.
Man (M): Upon my word, good gentleman, how did you find out I discovered it?
A: Sir, it is in all the newspapers!
M: Even in America?
A: Why certainly, good sir. Something as important as discovering Uranus would be news in all the civilized world.
M: Well, indeed, I am honored. It was most difficult and I am exhilarated that others have found my efforts to be worthwhile.
A: How could it be anything else? May I ask, sir, how did you go about it?
M: Well, I certainly knew it was there. I simply had to find a way of viewing it.
A: What type of telescope did you use, if I may be so bold?
M: Gadzooks, man, it is not that small. I used a simple mirror.
A: A mirror, you say. Amazing! Benjamin Franklin told me he was spending countless hours trying to find Uranus with his telescope. Alas, to no avail.
M: Well, I am sure he would have needed a telescope to find it all the way from America. But, no, for me, all I required was a mirror. However, it did require some element of contortion.
A: How so? Did you have to position the mirror at a certain angle as you looked up to find Uranus?
M: Look up? It may not be quite small, but it is certainly not quite as big as you imagine. What I needed to accomplish was to angle the mirror in such a manner behind me and look down.
A: Look down?
M: Between my legs.
A: Look down between your legs?
M: Yes, gaze between my legs. You have no idea of the difficulty in manipulating my body in such a Byzantine fashion. Holding the mirror behind me in one hand, bending over with legs apart, and gazing between my thighs. Especially at my age with my rheumatism.
A: No wonder it required these many years to find Uranus. I am quite certain no one had ever conceived that it would require the technique you describe. Pray, if I may be so bold, what does Uranus look like?
M: Normally, good sir, I would take offense at such a request, but since I detect a sincerity and an inquisitiveness that can only arise from the bosom of a gentleman of the arts and sciences, I will impart my discovery.
A: Why, thank you, kind sir. Wisdom is indeed my quest and knowledge of Uranus will expand that attribute, I assure you.
M: You humble me, sir.
A: No, if I may be so bold to contradict. It is you who humble me, the discoverer of Uranus.
M: You inquired as to its appearance. Bumpy, I say.
A: Uranus is bumpy?
M: It is a mass of bumps, hills, mounds. Call them what you will.
A: Zounds, I had no idea!
M: No one would, except me.
A: Next, the color, please.
M: The color?
A: The color of Uranus.
M: Oh, I see. It is mostly rosy red, I would say, with some areas that are brown and moldy in appearance.
M: Not only that, if I may be allowed to continue. I have studied it during the course of a day and it is quite active.
A: In what way can it be active?
M: I have noticed that depending to what degree I contort myself it seems to grow bigger or smaller. And it winks!
A: By our Lady, this is news!
M: As you say, sir. There are also times when I have seen the mounds tremble and the emission of a gaseous substance would follow.
A: In the manner of a volcano?
M: Indeed! Now that I think on it, with these emissions I have detected at times a flow of yellow-brown lava-like material.
A: I had no idea!
A: Have you permitted others to gaze upon Uranus?
M: I say, you are a saucy fellow!
A: My apologies, if I offend.
M: No apologies are necessary. It is just that I have not considered it. Until now I had no concept that others would be intrigued.
A: Upon my word, sir, it must be clear to you by now that all men in all the world would sell all their possessions to gaze upon such a miracle of the Almighty as Uranus.
M: Yes, I do believe that God did bless me.
A: Indeed He has. He gave Uranus to you. Not to Louis of France or George the Third. It was to you and again, if I may be so bold, it is your obligation to share it.
M: Share it?
A: Indeed, sir. Share it with the world. Allow the whole world to share Uranus with you. It will always be yours, but as a gentleman of science, you must be altruistic and allow others to gaze on it.
M: That is a matter to consider.
A: You wife, sir.
M: Come again?
A: Surely, you have gratified your wife by showing her Uranus.
M: First, my good man, I think you are becoming a bit too intemperate to mention matters that are between me and my missus. Secondly, I do not think she would be gratified.
A: Oh most kind sir, again my deepest apologies if I offend. I only mean that had I the opportunity to be the first to happen upon Uranus, I would most certainly have called upon my Abigail to share the moment with me.
M: You are saying that your wife would look upon it with a certain degree of pleasure?
A: Most assuredly. And with awe.
M: You are indeed a fortunate man to have such a free-thinking woman. However, the fortune that I have had with my discoveries did not carry over into my choice of a spouse.
A: It dismays me to hear you declare that, as it is my belief that full happiness for a soul cannot be achieved unless that contentment is shared. My wife, my sons, my daughter.
M: You would share my discovery with your daughter?!
A: Forgive the hyperbole, but I would give Uranus to my daughter! Totally, completely, and without reservation.
M: Ods Bodkins! Amazing…My dear Mr. Adams, you are from America, is it not?
A: Yes, sir, born and bred.
M: Would you say that your fellow Americans share your sentiment?
A: Indeed, I would.
M: Then, please do not misunderstand me when I say that I am grateful that we are now two distinct countries.
A: I am offended not one wit. We believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
M: Then, I am to understand that pursuit of my…
A: Indeed, sir, pursuit of Uranus is happiness!
M: Astounding breed of man!
A: I thank you. And, if I may, I am pleased that I have been able to provide you with some new knowledge when you have already given me so much.
M: No, actually, as I think on it, it is I who should thank you about these thoughts on sharing.
A: Then perhaps you will invite your wife to gaze upon Uranus tonight?
M: No, I am afraid that is a lost cause, but perhaps the lass at the Blue Parrot Inn.
A: Interesting. Now I may be presuming too much, but since you are in this new-found state of benevolence, might I ask a favor? From a subject of the King to a former subject of the King?
M: Speak on, friend. You have raised my hopes on future expectations.
A: Might I hazard a glimpse?
A: A look-see. A viewing.
M: You want to see it?
A: Indeed. Most assuredly. Uranus!
M: I say, wot!
A: How could you expect less?
M: I really didn't consider it. I know you talked of Benjamin Franklin, but we on this side of the ocean always considered him more progressive than most people should be allowed. So you… it never occurred to me.
A: Dear sir…friend, if you deign to allow me to gaze upon Uranus, to wallow in its hills and vales, I should think that I have achieved the sacred Gates of Heaven.
M: I am not certain what to say. You have honored me and lo, during this most interesting discourse you have provided me aliquots of wisdom and a dram of hope with the lass at The Blue Parrot. Therefore, with just the smallest of reservation, I have no choice but to favor you. Pray you, enter. My wife is away and no one else is expected.
M: But please, first…
A: Yes, my mentor?
M: You must promise me that you will tell no one of this day.
A: A strange request, but one that I will reluctantly agree to. To gaze upon Uranus, to be overwhelmed by its majesty will create emotions that I will do my utmost to control, but I will reveal nothing.
M: Thank you. Then please come this way and help me with this lounge chair. It should accommodate us fairly well.
A: Of course. Oh, by the way, think you that I may happen upon some emissions and eruptions when I see Uranus?
M: I would not be surprised in the slightest. I had a plate of beans and onions about an hour ago.