In 1887, Herbert W. Bowen wrote this poem as part of a family project documenting and describing that year’s Christmas celebration. His goal was to capture the personality of all twenty-six people by describing each person with a single word.
Why may a single adjective be insufficient to picture the person to whom it
is applied? The experiment is well worth making, especially on the present
occasion when no fewer than twenty-six portraits are demanded of me.
|Sanguine Henry C. Bowen||Witty Frank D. Bowen|
|Patient Ellen H. Bowen||Affable Paul H. Bowen|
|Perservering Henry E. Bowen||Winsome Marion Bowen|
|Motherly Lizzie P. Bowen||Sensible Ethel Bowen|
|Admirable George C. Holt||Pretty Bessie Bowen|
|Ambitious Mary B. Holt||Sensitive Hamilton B. Holt|
|Honest Edward A. Bowen||Intense Grace Holt|
|Sweet Grace A. Bowen||Composed Constance Holt|
|Energetic Clarence W. Bowen||Clever Henry C. Holt|
|Sparking Alice B. Richardson||Tender Lucy T. Richardson|
|Independent Herbert W. Bowen||Bright Gardner A. Richardson and|
|Serio-Comic John E. Bowen||Dear Dorothy|
-H. W. B.
From "The Celebration of Christmas 1887 at 90 Willow St., Brooklyn, N.Y."; Historic New England Archives.
After reading Herbert’s family portrait, list the members of your family and try to find a single adjective to describe each one. Can you do it without repeating any of the adjectives?