Samuel F. B. Morse, His Letters and Journals
Samuel F. B. Morse

Part 7 out of 7

the tallest of us could touch with his head and feet from side to side.
But, it being dreary and damp without and we being sleepy, we considered
not the place, nor its inconveniences, nor its little pests which annoyed
us all night, nor its vicinity to a magazine of cheese, with which the
boat was laden and the odors from which assailed us. We lay down in our
clothes and slept; the rain pattering above our heads only causing us to
sleep the sounder."

Continuing their leisurely journey in this primitive manner, the rain
finally ceasing, but the sky remaining overcast and the weather cold and
wintry, they reached Chioggia, and "At 11.30, the towers and spires of
Venice were seen at a distance before us rising from the sea." Venice, of
course, was a delight to Morse's eye, but his nose was affected quite
differently, for he says: "Those that have resided in Venice a long time
say it is not an unhealthy place. I cannot believe it, for the odors from
the canals cannot but produce illness of some kind. That which is
constantly offensive to any of our organs of sense must affect them

Several severe thunderstorms broke over the city while he was there, and
one was said to be the worst which had been known within the memory of
the oldest inhabitant. After describing it he adds: "I was at the
Academy. The rain penetrated through the ceiling at the corner of the
picture I was copying--'The Miracle of the Slave,' by Tintoret--and
threatened injury to it, but happily it escaped."

On June 19, he thus moralizes: "The Piazza of St. Mark is the great place
of resort, and on every evening, but especially on Sundays or _festas_,
the arcades and cafes are crowded with elegantly dressed females and
their gallants. Chairs are placed in great numbers under the awnings
before the cafes. A people that have no homes, who are deprived from
policy of that domestic and social intercourse which we enjoy, must have
recourse to this empty, heartless enjoyment; an indolent enjoyment, when
all their intercourse, too, is in public, surrounded by police agents and
soldiers to prevent excess. Hallam, in his 'Middle Ages,' has this just
reflection on the condition of this same city when under the Council of
Ten: 'But how much more honorable are the wildest excesses of faction
than the stillness and moral degradation of servitude.' Quiet is, indeed,
obtained here, but at what immense expense! Expense of wealth, although
excessive, is nothing compared with the expense of morality and of all
intellectual exercise."

On June 23, he witnessed another thunderstorm from the Piazza of St.

"The lightning, flashing in the dark clouds that were gathering from the
Tyrolese Alps, portended another storm which soon burst over us and
hastened the conclusion of the music. The lightning was incessant. I
stood at the corner of the piazza and watched the splendid effects of
lights and darks, in a moment coming and in a moment gone, on the
campanile and church of St. Mark's. It was most sublime. The gilt statue
of the angel on the top of the campanile never looked so sublime, seeming
to be enveloped in the glory of the vivid light, and, as the electric
fluid flashed behind it from cloud to cloud incessantly, it seemed to go
and come at the bidding of the angel."

This sounds almost like a prophetic vision, written by the pencil of the
man who, in a few years from then, was to make the lightning go and come
at his bidding.

"_July 4._ This anniversary of the day of our national birth found but
two Americans in Venice. We met in the evening over a cup of coffee and
thought and talked of the happiest of countries. We had no patriotic
toasts, but the sentiments of our hearts were--'Peace be within thy walls
and prosperity within thy palaces.' Never on any anniversary of our
Independence have I felt so strongly the great reason I have for
gratitude in having been born in such a country. When I think of the
innumerable blessings we enjoy over every other country in the world, I
am constrained to praise God who hath made us to differ, for 'He hath not
dealt so with any nation, and as for his judgments, we have not known
them.' While pestilence and famine and war surround me here in these
devoted countries, I fix my thoughts on one bright spot on earth; truly
(if our too ungrateful countrymen would but see it), truly a terrestrial

This attack of nostalgia was probably largely due to atmospheric
conditions, for at least one thunderstorm seems to have been a matter of
daily occurrence. This, added to the noisome odors arising from the
canals, affected his health, for he complains of feeling more unwell than
at any time since he left home. It must, therefore, have been with no
feelings of great regret that he packed his belongings and prepared to
leave Venice with a companion, Mr. Ferguson, of Natchez, on the 18th of
July. His objective point was Paris, but he planned to linger by the way
and take a leisurely course through the Italian lake region, Switzerland,
and Germany. The notebooks give a detailed but rather dry account of the
daily happenings. It was, presumably, Morse's intention to elaborate
these, at some future day, into a more entertaining record of his
wanderings; but this was never done. I shall, therefore, pass on rapidly,
touching but lightly on the incidents of the journey, which were, in the
main, without special interest. The route lay through Padua, Vicenza,
Verona, and Brescia to Milan. From Vicenza a side trip was made to the
watering-place of Recoaro, where a few days were most delightfully spent
in the company of the English consul at Venice, Mr. Money, and his

"Recoaro, like all watering-places, is beginning to be the resort of the
fashionable world. The Grand Duchess of Tuscany is now here, and on
Saturday the Vice-Queen of Italy is expected from Milan to visit her
aunt, the Grand Duchess.... Towards evening parties of ladies and
gentlemen are seen promenading or riding on donkeys along the brows of
the mountains and among the trees, and many priests are seen disfiguring
the landscape with their tasteless, uncouth dresses; most of them coming,
I was informed on the best authority, for the purpose of gambling and
dissipating that time of which, from the trifling nature of their duties
and the almost countless increase of their numbers, they have so much to
spare. Cards have the most fascination for them."

Another incident of the stay at Recoaro is worth recording. Referring to
the family of Mr. Money, he says:--

"In the afternoon took an excursion on donkeys with the whole family
among the wild and romantic scenery. In returning, while riding by the
side of Mr. Money and in conversation with him, my donkey stumbled upon
his knees and threw me over his head, without injury to me, but Mrs.
Money, who was just before me, seeing the accident, was near fainting
and, during the rest of the day, was invisible. I was somewhat surprised
at the effect produced on her until I learned that the news of the loss
of her son in India by a fall from his horse, which had recently reached
her, had rendered her nerves peculiarly sensitive."

Two days later, however, he joined them in another excursion.

"On returning we stopped to take tea at Mrs. Ireland's lodgings, an
English lady who is here with her two daughters, accomplished and highly
agreeable people. I was told by them that after I left Rome a most
diabolical attempt was made to poison the English artists who had made a
party to Grotto Ferrata. They were mistaken by the persons who attempted
the deed for Germans. They all became exceedingly ill immediately after
dinner, and, as the wine was the only thing they had taken there, having
brought their food with them, it was suspected and a strong solution of
copper was proved to be in it. I was told that Messrs. Gibson and
Desoulavy suffered a great deal, the latter being confined to his bed for
three weeks. Had I been in Rome it is more than probable I should have
been of their party, for I had never visited Grotto Ferrata, and the
company of those with whom I had associated would have induced me to join
them without a doubt."

Morse enjoyed his stay at Recoaro so much that he was persuaded by his
hospitable friends to prolong his visit for a few days longer than he had
planned, but, on July 27, he and his friend Mr. Ferguson bade adieu and
proceeded on their journey. Verona and Brescia were visited and on July
29 they came to Milan. The cathedral he finds "a most gorgeous building,
far exceeding my conception of it"; and of the beautiful street of the
Corso Porta Orientale he says: "It is wider than Broadway and as superior
as white marble palaces are to red brick houses. There is an opinion
prevalent among some of our good citizens that Broadway is not only the
longest and widest, but the most superbly built, street in the world. The
sooner they are undeceived the better. Broadway is a beautiful street, a
very beautiful street, but it is absurd to think that our brick houses of
twenty-five feet front, with plain doors and windows, built by contract
in two or three months, and holding together long enough to be let, can
rival the spacious stone palaces of hundreds of feet in length, with
lofty gates and balconied windows, and their foundations deeply laid and
slowly constructed to last for ages." This was, of course, when Broadway
even below Fourteenth Street, was a residence street.

Attending service in the cathedral on Sunday, and being, as usual,
wearied by the monotony and apparent insincerity of it all, he again
gives vent to his feelings:--

"How admirably contrived is every part of the structure of this system to
take captive the imagination. It is a religion of the imagination; all
the arts of the imagination are pressed into its service; architecture,
painting, sculpture, music, have lent all their charm to enchant the
senses and impose on the understanding by substituting for the solemn
truths of God's Word, which are addressed to the understanding, the
fictions of poetry and the delusions of feeling. The theatre is a
daughter of this prolific mother of abominations, and a child worthy of
its dam. The lessons of morality are pretended to be taught by both, and
much in the same way, by scenic effect and pantomime, and the fruits are
much the same.

"I am sometimes even constrained to doubt the lawfulness of my own art
when I perceive its prostitution, were I not fully persuaded that the art
itself, when used for its legitimate purposes, is one of the greatest
correcters of grossness and promoters of refinement. I have been led,
since I have been in Italy, to think much of the propriety of introducing
pictures into churches in aid of devotion. I have certainly every
inducement to decide in favor of the practice did I consult alone the
seeming interest of art. That pictures may and do have the effect upon
some rightly to raise the affections, I have no doubt, and, abstractly
considered, the practice would not merely be harmless but useful; but,
knowing that man is led astray by his imagination more than by any of his
other faculties, I consider it so dangerous to his best interests that I
had rather sacrifice the interests of the arts, if there is any
collision, than run the risk of endangering those compared with which all
others are not for a moment to be considered. But more of this another

I have introduced here and at other times Morse's strictures on the Roman
Catholic religion, and on other subjects, without comment on my part,
even when these strictures seem to verge on illiberality. My desire is to
present a true portrait of the man, with the shadows as well as the
lights duly emphasized, fully realizing that what may appear faults to
some, to others will shine out as virtues, and _vice versa_.

From Milan, Morse and his companion planned to cross the mountains to
Geneva, but, having a day or two to spare, they visited the Lake of Como,
which, as was to be expected, satisfied the eye of the artist: "It is
shut in by mountains on either side, reminding me of the scenery of Lake
George, to which its shores are very similar. In the transparency of the
water, however, Lake George is its superior, and in islands also, but in
all things else the Lake of Como must claim the precedence. The palaces
and villas and villages which skirt its shores, the mountains, vine-clad
and cultivated to their summits, all give a charm for which we look in
vain as yet in our country. The luxuries of art have combined with those
of nature in a wonderful degree in this enchanting spot."

On August 4, they left Milan in the diligence for Lago Maggiore, and we
learn that: "Our coach is accompanied by _gendarmes_. We enquired the
reason of the conductor, who was in the coach with us. He told us that
the road is an unsafe one; that every day there are instances of robbery
perpetrated upon those who travel alone."

[Illustration: HENRY CLAY
Painted by Morse. Now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York]

It would be pleasant to follow the travellers through beautiful Maggiore
and up the rugged passes from Italy to Switzerland and thence to Germany
and Paris, and to see through the unspoiled eyes of an enthusiast the
beauties of that playground of the nations, but it would be but the
repetition of an oft-told tale, and I must hasten on, making but a few
extracts from the diary. No thrilling adventures were met with, except
towards the end, but they enjoyed to the full the grand scenery, the
picturesque costumes of the peasants and the curious customs of the
different countries through which they passed. The weather was sometimes
fine, but more often overcast or rainy, and we find this note on August
15: "How much do a traveller's impressions depend upon the weather, and
even on the time of day in which he sees objects. He sees most of the
country through which he travels but once, and it is the face which any
point assumes at that one moment which is brought to his recollection. If
it is under a gloomy atmosphere, it is not possible that he should
remember it under other form or aspect."

On Sunday, August 28, he watched the sunrise from the summit of the Rigi
under ideal conditions, and, after describing the scene and saying that
the rest of the company had gone back to bed, he adds:--

"I had found too little comfort in the wretched thing that had been
provided for me in the shape of a bed to desire to return thither, and I
also felt too strongly the emotions which the scene I had just witnessed
had excited, to wish for their dissipation in troubled dreams.

"If there is a feeling allied to devotion, it is that which such a scene
of sublimity as this we have just witnessed inspires, and yet that
feeling is not devotion. I am aware that it is but the emotion of taste.
It may exist without a particle of true religious feeling, or it may
coexist and add strength to it. There are thousands, probably, who have
here had their emotion of taste excited without one thought of that Being
by whom these wonders were created, one thought of their relation to Him,
of their duty to Him, or of admiration at that unmerited goodness which
allows them to be witnesses of his majesty and power as exhibited in
these wonders of nature. Shut out as I am by circumstances from the
privileges of this day in public worship, I have yet on the top of this
mountain a place of private worship such as I have not had for some time
past. I am alone on the mountain with such a scene spread before me that
I must adore, and weak, indeed, must be that faith which, on this day, in
such a scene, does not lift the heart from nature up to nature's God."

On August 30, on the road to Zurich, he makes this rather interesting
observation: "We noticed in a great many instances that wires were
attached to the electric rods and conducted to posts near the houses,
when a chime of bells was so arranged as to ring in a highly charged
state of the atmosphere (Franklin's experiment)."

Journeying on past Schaffhausen, where the beautiful falls of the Rhine
filled him with admiration, he and his companion came to Heidelberg and
explored the ruins of the stupendous castle. Here he parted with his
travelling companion, Mr. Ferguson, who went on to Frankfort, which city
Morse avoided because the French Government had established a strict
quarantine against it on account of some epidemic, the nature of which is
not disclosed in the notes. He was eager to get to Paris now and wished
to avoid all delays.

"_September 7._ I engaged my passage in the diligence for Mannheim, and,
for the first time since I have been in Europe, set out alone.... I learn
from the gentleman in the coach that the _cordon sanitaire_ in France is
to be enforced with great rigor from the 11th of September; I hope,
therefore, to get into France before that date.

"_September 10, Saarbruck._ We last night took our places for Metz, not
knowing, however, or even thinking it probable that we should be able to
get there. It was hinted by some that a small _douceur_ would enable us
to pass the _cordon_, but how to be applied I knew not.

"Among our passengers who joined me yesterday was a young German officer
who was the only one who could speak French. With him I contrived to
converse during the day. We had beds in the same room and, as we were
about retiring, he told me, as I understood him, that by giving the keys
of my luggage to the coachman in the morning, the business of passing at
the _douane_ on the frontier would be facilitated. I assented and told
him, as he understood the language better than I, I left it to him to
make any arrangements and I would share the expense with him.

"We were called sometime before day and I left my bed very reluctantly.
The morning was cloudy and dark and so far favorable to the enterprise we
were about to undertake, and of the nature and plan of which I had not
the slightest suspicion. We were soon settled in the diligence and left
Saarbruck for the frontier. I composed myself to sleep and had just got
into a doze when suddenly the coach stopped, and, the door opening, a man
touching me said in a low voice--'_Descendez, monsieur, descendez._' I
asked the reason but got no answer. My companion and I alighted. There
was no house near; a bright streak in the east under the heavy black
clouds showed that it was just daybreak, and ahead of us in the road a
great light from the windows of a long building showed us the place of
the hospital of the _cordon_.

"Our guide, for so he proved to be, taking the knapsack of my companion
and a basket of mine, in which I carry my portfolio and maps, struck off
to the left into a newly ploughed field, while our carriage proceeded at
a quick pace onward again. I asked where we were going, but got no other
reply than '_Doucement, monsieur_.' It then for the first time flashed
across my mind that we had undertaken an unlawful and very hazardous
enterprise, that of running by the _cordon_. I had now, however, no
alternative; I must follow, for I knew not what other course to take.

"After passing through ploughed fields and wet grass and grain for some
time a small by-path crossed from the main road. Our guide beckoned us
back, while he went forward each way to see that all was clear, and then
we crossed and proceeded again over ploughed fields and through the
clover. It now began to rain which, disagreeable as it was, I did not
regret, all things considered. We soon came to another and wider
cross-path; we stopped and our guide went forward again in the same
cautious manner, stooping down and listening, like an Indian, near the
ground. He beckoned us to cross over and again we traversed the fields,
passing by the base of a small hill, when, as we softly crept up the
side, we saw the form of a sentinel against the light of the sky. Our
guide whispered, '_Doucement_' again, and we gently retreated, my
companion whispering to me, '_Tres dangereux, monsieur, tres

"We took a wider circuit behind some small buildings, and at length came
into one of the smaller streets in the outskirts of Forbach. Here were
what appeared to me barracks. The caution was given to walk softly and
separately (we were all, fortunately, in dark clothes), our guide passing
first round the corners, and, having passed the sentry-boxes, in which,
with one exception, we saw no person, and in this instance the sentinel
did not hail us (but this was in the city), we came to a house at the
window of which our guide tapped. A man opened it, and, after some
explanation, ascertaining who we were, opened the door and, striking a
light, set some wine and bread before us.

"Here we remained for some time to recover breath after our perilous
adventure, for, if one of the sentinels had seen us, we should in all
probability have been instantly shot. I knew not that we were now
entirely free from the danger of being arrested, until we heard our
carriage in the street and had ascertained that all our luggage had
passed the _douane_ without suspicion. We paid our guide eight francs
each, and, taking our seats again in the carriage, drove forward toward

There were no further adventures, although they trembled with anxiety
every time their passports were called for. Morse regretted having been
innocently led into this escapade, and would have made a clean breast of
it to the police, as he had not been near Frankfort, but he feared to
compromise his travelling companion who had come from that city.

On September 12 they finally arrived in Paris.

"How changed are the circumstances of this city since I was last here
nearly two years ago. A traitor king has been driven into exile; blood
has flowed in its streets, the price of its liberty; our friend, the
nation's guest, whom I then saw at his house, with apparently little
influence and out of favor with the court, the great Lafayette, is now
second only to the king in honor and influence as the head of a powerful
party. These and a thousand other kindred reflections, relating also to
my own circumstances, crowd upon me at the moment of again entering this
famous city."


SEPTEMBER 18, 1831--SEPTEMBER 21, 1832

Takes rooms with Horatio Greenough.--Political talk with Lafayette.--
Riots in Paris.--Letters from Greenough.--Bunker Hill Monument.--Letters
from Fenimore Cooper.--Cooper's portrait by Verboeckhoven.--European
criticisms.--Reminiscences of R.W. Habersham.--Hints of an electric
telegraph.--Not remembered by Morse.--Early experiments in photography.--
Painting of the Louvre.--Cholera in Paris.--Baron von Humboldt.--Morse
presides at 4th of July dinner.--Proposes toast to Lafayette.--Letter to
New York "Observer" on Fenimore Cooper.--Also on pride in American
citizenship.--Works with Lafayette in behalf of Poles.--Letter from
Lafayette.--Morse visits London before sailing for home.--Sits to Leslie
for head of Sterne.

The diary was not continued beyond this time and was never seriously
resumed, so that we must now depend on letters to and from Morse, on
fugitive notes, or on the reminiscences of others for a record of his

The first letter which I shall introduce was written from Paris to his
brothers on September 18, 1831:--

"I arrived safely in this city on Monday noon in excellent health and
spirits. My last letter to you was from Venice just as I was about to
leave it, quite debilitated and unwell from application to my painting,
but more, I believe, from the climate, from the perpetual sirocco which
reigned uninterrupted for weeks. I have not time now to give you an
account of my most interesting journey through Lombardy, Switzerland,
part of Germany, and through the eastern part of France. I found, on my
arrival here, my friend Mr. Greenough, the sculptor, who had come from
Florence to model the bust of General Lafayette, and we are in excellent,
convenient rooms together, within a few doors of the good General.

"I called yesterday on General Lafayette early in the morning. The
servant told me that he was obliged to meet the Polish Committee at an
early hour, and feared he could not see me. I sent in my card, however,
and the servant returned immediately saying that the General wished to
see me in his chamber. I followed him through several rooms and entered
the chamber. The General was in dishabille, but, with his characteristic
kindness, he ran forward, and, seizing both my hands, expressed with
great warmth how glad he was to see me safely returned from Italy, and
appearing in such good health. He then told me to be seated, and without
any ceremony began familiarly to question me about my travels, etc. The
conversation, however, soon turned upon the absorbing topic of the day,
the fate of Poland, the news of the fall of Warsaw having just been
received by telegraphic dispatch. I asked him if there was now any hope
for Poland. He replied: 'Oh, yes! Their cause is not yet desperate; their
army is safe; but the conduct of France, and more especially of England,
has been most pusillanimous and culpable. Had the English Government
shown the least disposition to coalesce in vigorous measures with France
for the assistance of the Poles, they would have achieved their

"The General looks better and younger than ever. There is a healthy
freshness of complexion, like that of a young man in full vigor, and his
frame and step (allowing for his lameness) are as firm and strong as when
he was our nation's guest. I sat with him ten or fifteen minutes and then
took my leave, for I felt it a sin to consume any more of the time of a
man engaged as he is in great plans of benevolence, and whose every
moment is, therefore, invaluable.

"The news of the fall of Warsaw is now agitating Paris to a degree not
known since the trial of the ex-ministers. About three o'clock our
servant told us that there was fighting at the Palais Royal, and we
determined to go as far as we prudently could to see the tumult. We
proceeded down the Rue Saint-Honore. There was evident agitation in the
multitudes that filled the sidewalks--an apprehension of something to be
dreaded. There were groups at the corners; the windows were filled,
persons looking out as if in expectation of a procession or of some fete.
The shops began to be shut, and every now and then the drum was heard
beating to arms. The troops were assembling and bodies of infantry and
cavalry were moving through the various streets. During this time no
noise was heard from the people--a mysterious silence was observed, but
they were moved by the slightest breath. If one walked quicker than the
rest, or suddenly stopped, thither the enquiring look and step were
directed, and a group instantly assembled. At the Palais Royal a larger
crowd had collected and a greater body of troops were marching and
countermarching in the Place du Palais Royal. The Palais Royal itself had
the interior cleared and all the courts. Everything in this place of
perpetual gayety was now desolate; even the fountains had ceased to play,
and the seared autumnal leaves of the trees, some already fallen, seemed
congruous with the sentiment of the hour. Most of the shops were also
shut and the stalls deserted. Still there was no outcry and no

"Passing through the Rue Vivienne the same collections of crowds and of
troops were seen. Some were reading a police notice just posted on the
walls, designed to prevent the riotous assembling of the people, and
advising them to retire when the riot act should be read. The notice was
read with murmurs and groans, and I had scarcely ascertained its contents
before it was torn from the walls with acclamations. As night approached
we struck into the Boulevard de la Madeleine. At the corner of this
boulevard and the Rue des Capucines is the hotel of General Sebastiani.
We found before the gates a great and increasing crowd.

"We took a position on the opposite corner, in such a place as secured a
safe retreat in case of need, but allowed us to observe all that passed.
Here there was an evident intention in the crowd of doing some violence,
nor was it at all doubtful what would be the object of their attack. They
seemed to wait only for the darkness and for a leader.

"The sight of such a crowd is fearful, and its movements, as it was
swayed by the incidents of the moment, were in the highest degree
exciting. A body of troops of the line would pass; the crowd would
silently open for their passage and close immediately behind them. A body
of the National Guard would succeed, and these would be received with
loud cheers and gratulations. A soldier on guard would exercise a little
more severity than was, perhaps, necessary for the occasion; yells, and
execrations, and hisses would be his reward.

"Night had now set in; heavy, dark clouds, with a misty rain, had made
the heavens above more dark and gloomy. A man rushed forward toward the
gate, hurling his hat in the air, and followed by the crowd, which
suddenly formed into long lines behind him. I now looked for something
serious. A body of troops was in line before the gate. At this moment two
police officers, on horseback, in citizens' dress, but with a tricolored
belt around their bodies, rode through the crowd and up to the gate, and
in a moment after I perceived the multitude from one of the streets
rushing in wild confusion into the boulevard, and the current of the
people setting back in all directions.

"While wondering at the cause of this sudden movement, I heard the
trampling of horses, and a large band of carabiniers, with their bright
helmets glittering in the light of the lamps, dashed down the street and
drew up before the gate. The police officers put themselves at their head
and harangued the people. The address was received with groans. The
_carabiniers_ drew their swords, orders were given for the charge, and in
an instant they dashed down the street, the people dispersing like the
mist before the wind. The charge was made down the opposite sidewalk from
that where we had placed ourselves, so I kept my station, and, when they
returned up the middle of the street to charge on the other side, I
crossed over behind them and avoided them."

I have given enough of this letter to show that Morse was still
surrounded by dangers of various sorts, and it is also a good pen-picture
of the irresponsible actions of a cowardly mob, especially of a Parisian

The letters which passed between Morse and his friends, James Fenimore
Cooper, the novelist, and Horatio Greenough, the sculptor, are most
interesting, and would of themselves fill a volume. Both Cooper and
Greenough wrote fluently and entertainingly, and I shall select a few
characteristic sentences from the letters of each, resisting the strong
temptation to include the whole correspondence.

Greenough returned to Florence after having roomed with Morse in Paris,
and wrote as follows from there:--

As for the commission from Government, I don't speak of it yet. After
about a fortnight I shall be calm, I think. Morse, I have made up my mind
on one score, namely, that this order shall not be fruitless to the
greater men who are now in our rear. They are sucking now and rocking in
cradles, but I can hear the pung! pung! puffetty! of their hammers, and I
am prophetic, too. We'll see if Yankee land can't muster some ten or a
dozen of them in the course of as many years...

You were right, I had heard of the resolution submitted to Congress, etc.
Mr. Cooper wrote me about it. I have not much faith in Congress, however.
I will confess that, when the spectre Debt has leaned over my pillow of
late, and, smiling ghastlily, has asked if she and I were not intended as
companions through life, I snap my fingers at her and tell her that
Brother Jonathan talks of adopting me, and that he won't have her of his
household. "Go to London, you hag," says I, "where they say you're
handsome and wholesome; don't grind your long teeth at me, or I'll read
the Declaration of Independence to ye." So you see I make uncertain hopes
fight certain fears, and borrow from the generous, good-natured Future
the motives for content which are denied me by the stinted Present...

What shall I say in answer to your remarks on my opinions? Shall I go all
over the ground again? It were useless. That my heart is wrong in a
thousand ways I daily feel, but 't is my stubborn head which refuses to
comprehend the creation as you comprehend it. That we should be grateful
for all we have, I feel--for all we have is given us; nor do I think we
have little. For my part I would be blest in mere existence were I not
goaded by a wish to make my one talent two; and we have Scripture for the
rectitude of such a wish. I don't think the stubborn resistance of the
tide of ill-fortune can be called rebellion against Providence. "Help
yourself and Heaven will help you," says the proverb....

There hangs before me a print of the Bunker Hill Monument. Pray be judge
between me and the building committee of that monument. There you observe
that my model was founded solidly, and on each of its square plinths were
trophies, or groups, or cannon, as might be thought fit. (No. I.)

Well, they have taken away the foundation, made the shaft start sheer
from the dirt like a spear of asparagus, and, instead of an acute angle,
by which I hoped to show the work was done and lead off the eye, they
have made an obtuse one, producing the broken-chimney-like effect which
your eye will not fail to condemn in No. II. Then they have enclosed
theirs with a light, elegant fence, _a la Parigina_, as though the
austere forms of Egypt were compatible with the decorative flummery of
the boulevards. Let 'em go for dunderheads as they are....

I congratulate you on your sound conscience with regard to the affair
that you wot of. As for your remaining free, that's all very well to
think during the interregnum, but a man without a true love is a ship
without ballast, a one-tined fork, half a pair of scissors, an utter
flash in the pan.... So you are going home, my dear Morse, and God knows
if ever I shall see you again. Pardon, I pray you, anything of levity
which you may have been offended at in me. Believe me it arose from my so
rarely finding one to whom I could be natural and give loose without fear
of good faith or good nature ever failing. Wherever I am your approbation
will be dearer to me than the hurrah of a world. I shall write to
glorious Fenimore in a few days. My love to Allston and Dana. God bless


These extracts are from different letters, but they show, I think, the
charming character of the man and reflect his admiration for Morse. From
the letters of James Fenimore Cooper, written while they were both in
Europe, I select the two following as characteristic:

July 31, 1832.

My dear Morse,--Here we are at Spa--the famous hard-drinking, dissipated,
gambling, intriguing Spa--where so much folly has been committed, so many
fortunes squandered, and so many women ruined! How are the mighty fallen!
We have just returned from a ramble in the environs, among deserted
reception-houses and along silent roads. The country is not unlike
Ballston, though less wooded, more cultivated, and perhaps a little more
varied.... I have had a great compliment paid me, Master Samuel, and, as
it is nearly the only compliment I have received in travelling over
Europe, I am the more proud of it. Here are the facts.

You must know there is a great painter in Brussels of the name of
Verboeckhoven (which, translated into the vernacular, means a _bull and a
book baked in an oven!_), who is another Paul Potter. He outdoes all
other men in drawing cattle, etc., with a suitable landscape. In his way
he is truly admirable. Well, sir, this artist did me the favor to call at
Brussels with the request that I would let him sketch my face. He came
after the horses were ordered, and, knowing the difficulty of the task, I
thanked him, but was compelled to refuse. On our arrival at Liege we were
told that a messenger from the Governor had been to enquire for us, and I
began to bethink me of my sins. There was no great cause for fear,
however, for it proved that Mr. Bull-and-book-baked had placed himself in
the diligence, come down to Liege (sixty-three miles), and got the
Governor to give him notice, by means of my passport, when we came. Of
course I sat.

I cannot say the likeness is good, but it has a vastly life-like look and
is like all the other pictures you have seen of my chameleon face. Let
that be as it will, the compliment is none the less, and, provided the
artist does not mean to serve me up as a specimen of American wild
beasts, I shall thank him for it. To be followed twelve posts by a
first-rate artist, who is in favor with the King, is so unusual that I
was curious to know how far our minds were in unison, and so I probed him
a little. I found him well skilled in his art, of course, but ignorant on
most subjects. As respects our general views of men and things there was
scarcely a point in common, for he has few salient qualities, though he
is liberal; but his gusto for natural subjects is strong, and his
favorite among all my books is "The Prairie," which, you know, is filled
with wild beasts. Here the secret was out. That picture of animal nature
had so caught his fancy that he followed me sixty miles to paint a

While this letter of Cooper's was written in lighter vein, the following
extracts from one written on August 19 show another side of his

The criticisms of which you speak give me no concern.... The
"Heidenmauer" is not equal to the "Bravo," but it is a good book and
better than two thirds of Scott's. They may say it is like his if they
please; they have said so of every book I have written, even the "Pilot."
But the "Heidenmauer" is like and was intended to be like, in order to
show how differently a democrat and an aristocrat saw the same thing. As
for French criticisms they have never been able to exalt me in my own
opinion nor to stir my bile, for they are written with such evident
ignorance (I mean of English books) as to be beneath notice. What the
deuce do I care whether my books are on their shelves or not? What did I
ever get from France or Continental Europe? Neither personal favors nor
money. But this they cannot understand, for so conceited is a Frenchman
that many of them think that I came to Paris to be paid. Now I never got
the difference in the boiling of the pot between New York and Paris in my
life. The "Journal des Debats" was snappish with "Water Witch," merve [?]
I believe with "Bravo," and let it bark at "Heidenmauer" and be hanged.

No, no more. The humiliation comes from home. It is biting to find that
accident has given me a country which has not manliness and pride to
maintain its own opinions, while it is overflowing with conceit. But
never mind all this. See that you do not decamp before my departure and
I'll promise not to throw myself into the Rhine....

I hope the Fourth of July is not breaking out in Habersham's noddle, for
I can tell him that was the place most affected during the dinner. Adieu,

Yours as ever,

The Mr. Habersham here jokingly referred to was R.W. Habersham, of
Augusta, Georgia, who in the year 1831 was an art student in the
_atelier_ of Baron Gros, and between whom and Morse a friendship sprang
up. They roomed together at a time when the cholera was raging in Paris,
but, owing to Mr. Habersham's wise insistence that all the occupants of
the house should take a teaspoonful of charcoal every morning, all
escaped the disease.

Mr. Habersham in after years wrote and sent to Morse some of his
reminiscences of that period, and from these I shall quote the following
as being of more than ordinary interest:--

"The Louvre was always closed on Monday to clean up the gallery after the
popular exhibition of the paintings on Sunday, so that Monday was our day
for visits, excursions, etc. On one occasion I was left alone, and two or
three times during the week he was absent. This was unusual, but I asked
no questions and made no remarks. But on Saturday evening, sitting by our
evening lamp, he seemed lost in thought, till suddenly he remarked: 'The
mails in our country are too slow; this French telegraph is better, and
would do even better in our clear atmosphere than here, where half the
time fogs obscure the skies. But this will not be fast enough--_the
lightning would serve us better_.'

"These may not be the exact words, but they convey the sense, and I,
laughing, said: 'Aha! I see what you have been after, you have been
examining the French system of telegraphing.' He admitted that he had
taken advantage of the kind offer of one in authority to do so....

"There was, on one occasion, another reference made to the conveyance of
sound under water, and to the length of time taken to communicate the
letting in of the water into the Erie Canal by cannon shots to New York,
and other means, during which the suggestion of using keys and wires,
like the piano, was rejected as requiring too many wires, if other things
were available. I recollect also that in our frequent visits to Mr. J.
Fenimore Cooper's, in the Rue St. Dominique, these subjects, so
interesting to Americans, were often introduced, and that Morse seemed to
harp on them, constantly referring to Franklin and Lord Bacon. Now I,
while recognizing the intellectual grandeur of both these men, had
contracted a small opinion of their moral strength; but Morse would
uphold and excuse, or rather deny, the faults attributed. Lord Bacon,
especially, he held to have _sacrificed himself to serve the queen in her
aberrations_; while of Franklin, 'the Great American,' recognized by the
French, he was particularly proud."

Cooper also remembered some such hints of a telegraph made by Morse at
that time, for in "The Sea Lions,"[1] on page 161, he says:--

[Footnote 1: The Riverside Press, 1870.]

"We pretend to no knowledge on the subject of the dates of discoveries in
the arts and sciences, but well do we remember the earnestness, and
single-minded devotion to a laudable purpose, with which our worthy
friend first communicated to us his ideas on the subject of using the
electric spark by way of a telegraph. It was in Paris and during the
winter of 1831-82 and the succeeding spring, and we have a satisfaction
in recording this date that others may prove better claims if they can."

Curiously enough, Morse himself could, in after years, never remember
having suggested at that time the possibility of using electricity to
convey intelligence. He always insisted that the idea first came to him a
few months later on his return voyage to America, and in 1849 he wrote to
Mr. Cooper saying that he must be mistaken, to which the latter replied,
under date of May 18:--

"For the time I still stick to Paris, so does my wife, so does my eldest
daughter. You did no more than to throw out the general idea, but I feel
quite confident this occurred in Paris. I confess I thought the notion
evidently chimerical, and as such spoke of it in my family. I always set
you down as a sober-minded, common-sense sort of a fellow, and thought it
a high flight for a painter to make to go off on the wings of the
lightning. We may be mistaken, but you will remember that the priority of
the invention was a question early started, and my impressions were the
same much nearer to the time than it is to-day."

That the recollections of his friends were probably clearer than his own
on this point is admitted by Morse in the following letter:--

NEW YORK, September 5, 1849.

My Dear Sir,--I was agreeably surprised this morning in conversing with
Professor Renwick to find that he corroborates the fact you have
mentioned in your "Sea Lions" respecting the earlier conception of my
telegraph by me, than the date I had given, and which goes only so far
back in my own recollection as 1832. Professor Renwick insists that
immediately after Professor Dana's lectures at the New York Athenaeum, I
consulted with him on the subject of the velocity of electricity and in
such a way as to indicate to him that I was contriving an electric
telegraph. The consultation I remember, but I did not recollect the time.
He will depose that it was before I went to Europe, after those lectures;
now I went in 1829; this makes it almost certain that the impression you
and Mrs. Cooper and your daughter had that I conversed with you on the
subject in 1831 after my return from Italy is correct.

If you are still persuaded that this is so, your deposition before the
Commission in this city to that fact will render me an incalculable
service. I will cheerfully defray your expenses to and from the city if
you will meet me here this week or beginning of next.

In haste, but with best respects to Mrs. Cooper and family,

I am, dear sir, as ever your friend and servant,


All this is interesting, but, of course, has no direct bearing on the
actual date of invention. It is more than probable that Morse did, while
he was studying the French semaphores, and at an even earlier date, dream
vaguely of the possibility of using electricity for conveying
intelligence, and that he gave utterance among his intimates to these
dreams; but the practical means of so utilizing this mysterious agent did
not take shape in his mind until 1832. An inchoate vision of the
possibility of using electricity is far different from an actual plan
eventually elaborated into a commercial success.

Another extract from Mr. Habersham's reminiscences, on a totally
different subject, will be found interesting: "I have forgot to mention
that one day, while in the Rue Surenne, I was studying from my own face
reflected in a glass, as is often done by young artists, when I remarked
how grand it would be if we could invent a method of fixing the image on
the mirror. Professor Morse replied that he had thought of it while a
pupil at Yale, and that Professor Silliman (I think) and himself had
tried it with a wash of nitrate of silver on a piece of paper, but that,
unfortunately, it made the lights _dark_ and the shadows _light_, but
that if they could be reversed, we should have a facsimile like India-ink
drawings. Had they thought of using glass, as is now done, the
daguerreotype would have been perhaps anticipated--certainly the

This is particularly interesting because, as I shall note later on, Morse
was one of the pioneers in experimenting with the daguerreotype in

Among the paintings which Morse executed while he was in Paris was a very
ambitious one. This was an interior of one of the galleries in the Louvre
with carefully executed miniature copies of some of the most celebrated
canvases. Writing of it, and of the dreadful epidemic of cholera, to his
brothers on May 6, 1832, he says:--

"My anxiety to finish my picture and to return drives me, I fear, to too
great application and too little exercise, and my health has in
consequence been so deranged that I have been prevented from the speedy
completion of my picture. From nine o'clock until four daily I paint
uninterruptedly at the Louvre, and, with the closest application, I shall
not be able to finish it before the close of the gallery on the 10th of
August. The time each morning before going to the gallery is wholly
employed in preparation for the day, and, after the gallery closes at
four, dinner and exercise are necessary, so that I have no time for
anything else.

"The cholera is raging here, and I can compare the state of mind in each
man of us only to that of soldiers in the heat of battle; all the usual
securities of life seem to be gone. Apprehension and anxiety make the
stoutest hearts quail. Any one feels, when he lays himself down at night,
that he will in all probability be attacked before daybreak; for the
disease is a pestilence that walketh in darkness, and seizes the greatest
number of its victims at the most helpless hour of the night. Fifteen
hundred were seized in a day, and fifteen thousand at least have already
perished, although the official accounts will not give so many.

"_May 14._ My picture makes progress and I am sanguine of success if
nothing interferes to prevent its completion. I shall take no more
commissions here and shall only complete my large picture and a few
unfinished works.

"General Lafayette told me a few weeks ago, when I was returning with him
in his carriage, that the financial condition of the United States was a
subject of great importance, and he wished that I would write you and
others, who were known as statistical men, and get your views on the
subject. There never was a better time for demonstrating the principles
of our free institutions by showing a result favorable to our country."

Among the men of note whom Morse met while he was in Paris was Baron
Alexander von Humboldt, the famous traveller and naturalist, who was much
attracted towards the artist, and often went to the Louvre to watch him
while he was at work, or to wander through the galleries with him, deep
in conversation. He was afterwards one of the first to congratulate Morse
on the successful exhibition of his telegraph before the French Academy
of Science.

As we have already seen, Morse was intensely patriotic. He followed with
keen interest the developments in our national progress as they unrolled
themselves before his eyes, and when the occasion offered he took active
part in furthering what he considered the right and in vigorously
denouncing the wrong. He was never blind to our national or party
failings, but held the mirror up before his countrymen's eyes with steady
hand, and yet he was prouder of being an American than of anything else,
and, as I have had occasion to remark before, his ruling passion was an
intense desire to accomplish some great good for his beloved country, to
raise her in the estimation of the rest of the world.

On the 4th of July, 1832, he was called on to preside at the banquet
given by the Americans resident in Paris, with Mr. Cooper as
vice-president. General Lafayette was the guest of honor, and the
American Minister Hon. William C. Rives, G.W. Haven, and many others were

Morse, in proposing the toast to General Lafayette, spoke as follows:--

"I cannot propose the next toast, gentlemen, so intimately connected with
the last, without adverting to the distinguished honor and pleasure we
this day enjoy above the thousands, and I may say hundreds of thousands,
of our countrymen who are at this moment celebrating this great national
festival--the honor and pleasure of having at our board our venerable
guest on my right hand, the hero whom two worlds claim as their own. Yes,
gentlemen, he belongs to America as well as to Europe. He is our fellow
citizen, and the universal voice of our country would cry out against us
did we not manifest our nation's interest in his person and character.

"With the mazes of European politics we have nothing to do; to changing
schemes of good or bad government we cannot make ourselves a party; with
the success or defeat of this or that faction we can have no sympathy;
but with the great principles of rational liberty, of civil and religious
liberty, those principles for which our guest fought by the side of our
fathers, and which he has steadily maintained for a long life, 'through
good report and evil report,' we do sympathize. We should not be
Americans if we did not sympathize with them, nor can we compromise one
of these principles and preserve our self-respect as loyal American
citizens. They are the principles of order and good government, of
obedience to law; the principles which, under Providence, have made our
country unparalleled in prosperity; principles which rest, not in
visionary theory, but are made palpable by the sure test of experiment
and time.

"But, gentlemen, we honor our guest as the stanch, undeviating defender
of these principles, of our principles, of American principles. Has he
ever deserted them? Has he ever been known to waver? Gentlemen, there are
some men, some, too, who would wish to direct public opinion, who are
like the buoys upon tide-water. They float up and down as the current
sets this way or that. If you ask at an emergency where they are, we
cannot tell you; we must first consult the almanac; we must know the
quarter of the moon, the way of the wind, the time of the tide, and then
we may guess where you will find them.

"But, gentlemen, our guest is not of this fickle class. He is a tower
amid the waters, his foundation is upon a rock, he moves not with the ebb
and flow of the stream. The storm may gather, the waters may rise and
even dash above his head, or they may subside at his feet, still he
stands unmoved. We know his site and his bearings, and with the fullest
confidence we point to where he stood six-and-fifty years ago. He stands
there now. The winds have swept by him, the waves have dashed around him,
the snows of winter have lighted upon him, but still he is there.

"I ask you, therefore, gentlemen, to drink with me in honor of General

Portions of many of Morse's letters to his brothers were published in the
New York "Observer," owned and edited by them. Part of the following
letter was so published, I believe, but, at Mr. Cooper's request, the
sentences referring to his personal sentiments were omitted. There can be
no harm, however, in giving them publicity at this late day.

The letter was written on July 18, 1832, and begins by gently chiding his
brothers for not having written to him for nearly four months, and he
concludes this part by saying, "But what is past can't be helped. I am
glad, exceedingly glad, to hear of your prosperity and hope it may be
continued to you." And then he says:--

"I am diligently occupied every moment of my time at the Louvre finishing
the great labor which I have there undertaken. I say 'finishing,' I mean
that part of it which can only be completed there, namely, the copies of
the pictures. All the rest I hope to do at home in New York, such as the
frames of the pictures, the figures, etc. It is a great labor, but it
will be a splendid and valuable work. It excites a great deal of
attention from strangers and the French artists. I have many compliments
upon it, and I am sure it is the most correct one of its kind ever
painted, for every one says I have caught the style of each of the
masters. Cooper is delighted with it and I think he will own it. He is
with me two or three hours at the gallery (the hours of his relaxation)
every day as regularly as the day comes. I spend almost every evening at
his house in his fine family.

"Cooper is very little understood, I believe, by our good people. He has
a bold, original, independent mind, thoroughly American. He loves his
country and her principles most ardently; he knows the hollowness of all
the despotic systems of Europe, and especially is he thoroughly
conversant with the heartless, false, selfish system of Great Britain;
the perfect antipodes of our own. He fearlessly supports American
principles in the face of all Europe, and braves the obloquy and
intrigues against him of all the European powers. I say all the European
powers, for Cooper is more read, and, therefore, more feared, than any
American,--yes, more than any European with the exception, possibly, of
Scott. His works are translated into all the languages of the Continent;
editions of every work he publishes are printed in, I think, more than
thirty different cities, and all this without any pains on his part. He
deals, I believe, with only one publisher in Paris and one in London. He
never asks what effect any of his sentiments will have upon the sale of
his works; the only question he asks is--'Are they just and true?'

"I know of no man, short of a true Christian, who is so truly guided by
high principles as Cooper. He is not a religious man (I wish from my
heart he was), yet he is theoretically orthodox, a great respecter of
religion and religious men, a man of unblemished moral character. He is
courted by the greatest and the most aristocratic, yet he never
compromises the dignity of an American citizen, which he contends is the
highest distinction a man can have in Europe, and there is not a doubt
but he commands the respect of the exclusives here in a tenfold degree
more than those who truckle and cringe to European opinions and customs.
They love an independent man and know enough of their own heartless
system to respect a real freeman. I admire exceedingly his proud
assertion of the rank of an American (I speak from a political point of
view), for I know no reason why an American should not take rank, and
assert it, too, above any of the artificial distinctions that Europe has
made. We have no aristocratic grades, no titles of nobility, no ribbons,
and garters, and crosses, and other gewgaws that please the great babies
of Europe; are we, therefore, to take rank below or above them? I say
above them, and I hope that every American who comes abroad will feel
that he is bound, for his country's sake, to take that stand. I don't
mean ostentatiously, or offensively, or obtrusively, but he ought to have
an American self-respect.

"There can be no _condescension_ to an American. An American gentleman is
equal to any title or rank in Europe, kings and emperors not excepted.
Why is he not? By what law are we bound to consider ourselves inferior
because we have stamped _folly_ upon the artificial and unjust grades of
European systems, upon these antiquated remnants of feudal barbarism?

"Cooper sees and feels the absurdity of these distinctions, and he
asserts his American rank and maintains it, too, I believe, from a pure
patriotism. Such a man deserves the support and respect of his
countrymen, and I have no doubt he has them.... It is high time we should
assume a more American tone while Europe is leaving no stone unturned to
vilify and traduce us, because the rotten despotisms of Europe fear our
example and hate us. You are not aware, perhaps, that the _Trollope_
system is political altogether. You think that, because we know the
grossness of her libels and despise her abuse, England and Europe do the
same. You are mistaken; they wish to know no good of us. Mrs. Trollope's
book is more popular in England (and that, too, among a class who you
fain would think know better) than any book of travels ever published in
America.[1] It is also translating into French, and will be puffed and
extolled by France, who is just entering upon the system of vilification
of America and her institutions, that England has been pursuing ever
since we as colonies resisted her oppressive measures. Tory England,
aristocratic England, is the same now towards us as she was then, and
Tory France, aristocratic France, follows in her steps. We may deceive
ourselves on this point by knowing the kindly feeling manifested by
religious and benevolent men towards each other in both countries, but we
shall be wanting in our usual Yankee penetration if the good feeling of
these excellent and pious men shall lead us to think that their
governments, or even the mass of their population, are actuated by the
same kindly regard. No, they hate us, cordially hate us. We should not
disguise the truth, and I will venture to say that no genuine American,
one who loves his country and her distinctive principles, can live abroad
in any of the countries of Europe, and not be thoroughly convinced that
Europe, as it is, and America, as it is, can have no feeling of
cordiality for each other.

[Footnote 1: This refers to Mrs. Frances Trollope's book _Domestic
Manners of the Americans_, which created quite a stir in its day.]

"America is the stronghold of the popular principle, Europe of the
despotic. These cannot unite; there can be, at present, no sympathy....
We need not quarrel with Europe, but we must keep ourselves aloof and
suspect all her manoeuvres. She has no good will towards us and we must
not be duped by her soft speeches and fair words, on the one side, nor by
her contemptible detraction on the other."

Morse found time, in spite of his absorption in his artistic work, to
interest himself and others in behalf of the Poles who had unsuccessfully
struggled to maintain their independence as a nation. He was an active
member of a committee organized to extend help to them, and this
committee was instrumental in obtaining the release from imprisonment in
Berlin of Dr. S.G. Howe, who "had been entrusted with twenty thousand
francs for the relief of the distressed Poles." In this work he was
closely associated with General Lafayette, already his friend, and their
high regard for each other was further strengthened and resulted in an
interchange of many letters. Some of these were given away by Morse to
friends desirous of possessing autographs of the illustrious Lafayette;
others are still among his papers, and some of these I shall introduce in
their proper chronological order. The following one was written on
September 27, 1832, from La Grange:--

My Dear Sir,--I am sorry to see you will not take Paris and La Grange in
your way to Havre, unless you were to wait for the packet of the 10th in
company with General Cadwalader, Commodore Biddle, and those young,
amiable Philadelphians who contemplate sailing on that day. But if you
persist to go by the next packet, I beg you here to receive my best
wishes and those of my family for your happy voyage.

Upon you, my dear sir, I much depend to give our friends in the United
States a proper explanation of the state of things in Europe. You have
been very attentive to what has passed since the Revolution of 1830. Much
has been obtained here and in other parts of Europe in this whirlwind of
a week. Further consequences here and in other countries--Great Britain
and Ireland included--will be the certain result, though they have been
mauled and betrayed where they ought to have received encouragement. But
it will not be so short and so cheap as we had a right to anticipate it
might be. I think it useful, on both sides of the water, to dispel the
cloud which ignorance or design may throw over the real state of European
and French politics.

In the mean while I believe it to be the duty of every American returned
home to let his fellow citizens know what wretched handle is made of the
violent collisions, threats of a separation, and reciprocal abuse, to
injure the character and question the stability of republican
institutions. I too much depend upon the patriotism and good sense of the
several parties in the United States to be afraid that those dissensions
may terminate in a final dissolution of the Union; and should such an
event be destined in future to take place, deprecated as it has been by
the best wishes of the departed founders of the Revolution,--Washington
at their head,--it ought at least, in charity, not to take place before
the not remote period when every one of those who have fought and bled in
the cause shall have joined their contemporaries.

What is to be said of Poland and the situation of her heroic, unhappy
sons, you well know, having been a constant and zealous member of our

You know what sort of mental perturbation, among the ignorant part of
every European nation, has accompanied the visit of the cholera in
Russia, Germany, Hungary, and several parts of Great Britain and France--
suspicions of poison, prejudices against the politicians, and so forth. I
would tike to know whether the population of the United States has been
quite free of these aberrations, as it would be an additional argument in
behalf of republican institutions and superior civilization resulting
from them.

Most truly and affectionately,

Your friend,

As we see from the beginning of this letter, Morse had now determined to
return home. He had executed all the commissions for copies which had
been given to him, and his ambitious painting of the interior of the
Louvre was so far finished that he could complete it at home. He sailed
from Havre on the 1st of October in the packetship Sully. The name of
this ship has now become historic, and a chance conversation in mid-ocean
was destined to mark an epoch in human evolution. Before sailing,
however, he made a flying trip to England, and he writes to his brothers
from London on September 21:--

"Here I am once more in England and on the wing _home_. I shall probably
sail from Havre in the packet of October 1 (the Sully), and I shall leave
London for Southampton and Havre on the 26th inst., to be prepared for

"I am visiting old friends and renewing old associations in London.
Twenty years make a vast difference as well in the aspect of this great
city as in the faces of old acquaintances. London may be said literally
to have gone into the country. Where I once was accustomed to walk in the
fields, so far out of town as even to shoot at a target against the trees
with impunity, now there are spacious streets and splendid houses and

"I spend a good deal of my spare time with Leslie. He is the same
amiable, intelligent, unassuming gentleman that I left in 1815. He is
painting a little picture--'Sterne recovering his Manuscripts from the
Curls of his Hostess at Lyons.' I have been sitting to him for the head
of Sterne, whom he thinks I resemble very strongly. At any rate, he has
made no alteration in the character of the face from the one he had drawn
from Sterne's portrait, and has simply attended to the expression.

"When I left Paris I was feeble in health, so much so that I was fearful
of the effects of the journey to London, especially as I passed through
villages suffering severely from the cholera. But I proceeded moderately,
lodged the first night at Boulogne-sur-Mer, crossed to Dover in a severe
southwest gale, and passed the next night at Canterbury, and the next day
came to London. I think the ride did me good, and I have been exercising
a great deal, riding and walking, since, and my general health is
certainly improving. I am in hopes that the voyage will completely set me
up again."


Morse's life almost equally divided into two periods, artistic and
scientific.--Estimate of his artistic ability by Daniel Huntington.--Also
by Samuel Isham.--His character as revealed by his letters, notes, etc.--
End of Volume I.

Morse's long life (he was eighty-one when he died) was almost exactly
divided, by the nature of his occupations, into two equal periods. During
the first, up to his forty-first year, he was wholly the artist,
enthusiastic, filled with a laudable ambition to excel, not only for
personal reasons, but, as appears from his correspondence, largely from
patriotic motives, from a wish to rescue his country from the stigma of
pure commercialism which it had incurred in the eyes of the rest of the
world. It is true that his active brain and warm heart spurred him on to
interest himself in many other things, in inventions of more or less
utility, in religion, politics, and humanitarian projects; but next to
his sincere religious faith, his art held chiefest sway, and everything
else was made subservient to that.

During the latter half of his life, however, a new goddess was enshrined
in his heart, a goddess whose cult entailed even greater self-sacrifice;
keener suffering, both mental and physical; more humiliation to a proud
and sensitive soul, shrinking alike from the jeers of the incredulous and
the libels and plots of the envious and the unscrupulous.

While he plied his brush for many years after the conception of his
epoch-making invention, it was with an ever lessening enthusiasm, with a
divided interest. Art no longer reigned supreme; Invention shared the
throne with her and eventually dispossessed her. It seems, therefore,
fitting that, in closing the chronicle of Morse the artist, his rank in
the annals of American art should be estimated as viewed by a
contemporary and by the more impartial historian of the present day.

From a long article prepared by the late Daniel Huntington for Mr. Prime,
I shall select the following passages:--

"My acquaintance with Professor Morse began in the spring of 1835, when I
was placed under his care by my father as a pupil. He then lived in
Greenwich Lane (now Greenwich Avenue), and several young men were
studying art under his instruction.... He gave a short time every day to
each pupil, carefully pointing out our errors and explaining the
principles of art. After drawing for some time from casts with the
crayon, he allowed us to begin the use of the brush, and we practised
painting our studies from the casts, using black, white, and raw umber.

"I believe this method was of great use in enabling us early to acquire a
good habit of painting. I only regret that he did not insist on our
sticking to this kind of study a longer time and drill us more severely
in it; but he indulged our hankering for color too soon, and, when once
we had tasted the luxury of a full palette of colors, it was a dry
business to go back to plain black and white.

"In the autumn of that year, 1835, he removed to spacious rooms in the
New York University on Washington Square. In the large studio in the
north wing he painted several fine portraits, among them the beautiful
full-length of his daughter, Mrs. Lind. He also lectured before the
students and a general audience, illustrating his subject by painted

"Professor Morse's love of scientific experiments was shown in his artist
life. He formed theories of color, tried experiments with various
vehicles, oils, varnishes, and pigments. His studio was a kind of
laboratory. A beautiful picture of his wife and two children was painted,
he told me, with colors ground in milk, and the effect was juicy, creamy,
and pearly to a degree. Another picture was commenced with colors mixed
with beer; afterwards solidly impasted and glazed with rich, transparent
tints in varnish. His theory of color is fully explained in the account
of his life in Dunlap's 'Arts of Design.' He proved its truth by boxes
and balls of various colors. He had an honest, solid, vigorous _impasto_,
which he strongly insisted on in his instructions--a method which was
like the great masters of the Venetian school. This method was modified
in his practice by his studies under West in England, and by his intimacy
with Allston, for whose genius he had a great reverence, and by whose way
of painting he was strongly influenced.

"He was a lover of simple, unaffected truth, and this trait is shown in
his works as an artist. He had a passion for color, and rich, harmonious
tints run through his pictures, which are glowing and mellow, and yet
pearly and delicate.

"He had a true painter's eye, but he was hindered from reaching the fame
his genius promised as a painter by various distractions, such as the
early battles of the Academy of Design in its struggles for life,
domestic afflictions, and, more than all, the engrossing cares of his

[Illustration: SUSAN MORSE
Eldest daughter of the artist.]

"The 'Hercules,' with its colossal proportions and daring attitude, is
evidence of the zeal and courage of his early studies.... It is worthy of
being carefully preserved in a public gallery, not only as an instance of
successful study in a young artist (Morse was in his twenty-first year),
but as possessing high artistic merit, and a force and richness which
plainly show that, if his energies had not been diverted, he might have
achieved a name in art equal to the greatest of his contemporaries....

"Professor Morse's world-wide fame rests, of course, on his invention of
the electric telegraph; but it should be remembered that the qualities of
mind which led to it were developed in the progress of his art studies,
and if his paintings, in the various fields of history, portrait, and
landscape, could be brought together, it would be found that he deserved
an honored place among the foremost American artists."

This was an estimate of Morse's ability as a painter by a man of his own
day, a friend and pupil. As this would, naturally, be somewhat biased, it
will be more to the point to see what a competent critic of the present
day has to say.

Mr. Samuel Isham, in his authoritative "History of American Painting,"
published in 1910, after giving a brief biographical sketch of Morse and
telling why he came to abandon the brush, thus sums up:--

"It was a serious loss, for Morse, without being a genius, was yet,
perhaps, better calculated than another to give in pictures the spirit of
the difficult times from 1830 to 1860. He was a man sound in mind and
body, well born, well educated, and both by birth and education in
sympathy with his time. He had been abroad, had seen good work, and
received sound training. His ideals were not too far ahead of his public.
Working as he did under widely varying conditions, his paintings are
dissimilar, not only in merit but in method of execution; even his
portraits vary from thin, free handling to solid _impasto_. Yet in the
best of them there is a real painter's feeling for his material; the
heads have a soundness of construction and a freshness in the carnations
that recall Raeburn rather than West; the poses are graceful or
interesting, the costumes are skilfully arranged, and in addition he
understands perfectly the character of his sitters, the men and women of
the transition period, shrewd, capable, but rather commonplace, without
the ponderous dignity of Copley's subjects or the cosmopolitan graces of
a later day.

"The struggles incident to the invention and development of telegraphy
turned Morse from the practice of art, but up to the end of his life he
was interested in it and aggressive in any scheme for its advancement."

I think that from the letters, notes, etc., which I have in the preceding
pages brought together, a clear conception of Morse's character can be
formed. The dominant note was an almost childlike religious faith; a
triumphant trust in the goodness of God even when his hand was wielding
the rod; a sincere belief in the literal truth of the Bible, which may
seem strange to us of the twentieth century; a conviction that he was
destined in some way to accomplish a great good for his fellow men.

Next to love of God came love of country. He was patriotic in the best
sense of the word. While abroad he stoutly upheld the honor of his native
land, and at home he threw himself with vigor into the political
discussions of the day, fighting stoutly for what he considered the
right. While sometimes, in the light of future events, he seems to have
erred in allowing his religious beliefs to tinge too much his political
views, he was always perfectly sincere and never permitted expediency to
brush aside conviction.

We have seen that wherever he went he had the faculty of inspiring
respect and affection, and that an ever widening circle of friends
admitted him to their intimacy, sought his advice, and confided in him
with the perfect assurance of his ready sympathy.

A favorite Bible quotation of his was "Woe unto you when all men shall
speak well of you." He deeply deplored the necessity of making enemies,
but he early in his career became convinced that no man could accomplish
anything of value in this world without running counter either to the
opinions of honest men, who were as sincere as he, or to the self-seeking
of the dishonest and the unscrupulous. Up to this time he had had mainly
to deal with the former class, as in his successful efforts to establish
the National Academy of Design on a firm footing; but in the future he
was destined to make many and bitter enemies of both classes. In the
controversies which ensued he always strove to be courteous and just,
even when vigorously defending his rights or taking the offensive. That
he sometimes erred in his judgment cannot be denied, but the errors were
honest, and in many cases were kindled and fanned into a flame by the
crafty malice of third parties for their own pecuniary advantage.

So now, having followed him in his career as an artist, which,
discouraging and troubled as it may often have seemed to him, was as the
calm which precedes the storm to the years of privation and heroic
struggle which followed, I shall bring this first volume to a close.



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