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Title: Samuel F. B. Morse, His Letters and Journals - In Two Volumes, Volume I.
Author: Morse, Samuel F. B. (Samuel Finley Breese), 1791-1872
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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available by the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF/Gallica) at

                             SAMUEL F.B. MORSE

                          HIS LETTERS AND JOURNALS

                               IN TWO VOLUMES

                                  VOLUME I

[Illustration: Samuel F.B. Morse]

                             SAMUEL F.B. MORSE

                          HIS LETTERS AND JOURNALS

                          EDITED AND SUPPLEMENTED

                                 BY HIS SON

                             EDWARD LIND MORSE

                        AND WITH NOTES AND DIAGRAMS
                               BEARING ON THE
                         INVENTION OF THE TELEGRAPH

                                  VOLUME I


                                 TO MY WIFE
                       HAVE BEEN TO ME OF GREAT VALUE
                            I DEDICATE THIS WORK

        "It is the hour of fate,
And those who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death. But they who doubt or hesitate--
Condemned to failure, penury and woe--
Seek me in vain and uselessly implore.
I hear them not, and I return no more."

Ingalls, _Opportunity_.


Arthur Christopher Benson, in the introduction to his studies in
biography entitled "The Leaves of the Tree," says:--

"But when it comes to dealing with men who have played upon the whole a
noble part in life, whose vision has been clear and whose heart has been
wide, who have not merely followed their own personal ambitions, but have
really desired to leave the world better and happier than they found
it,--in such cases, indiscriminate praise is not only foolish and
untruthful, it is positively harmful and noxious. What one desires to see
in the lives of others is some sort of transformation, some evidence of
patient struggling with faults, some hint of failings triumphed over,
some gain of generosity and endurance and courage. To slur over the
faults and failings of the great is not only inartistic: it is also
faint-hearted and unjust. It alienates sympathy. It substitutes unreal
adoration for wholesome admiration; it afflicts the reader, conscious of
frailty and struggle, with a sense of hopeless despair in the presence of
anything so supremely high-minded and flawless."

The judgment of a son may, perhaps, be biased in favor of a beloved
father; he may unconsciously "slur over the faults and failings," and lay
emphasis only on the virtues. In selecting and putting together the
letters, diaries, etc., of my father, Samuel F.B. Morse, I have tried to
avoid that fault; my desire has been to present a true portrait of the
man, with both lights and shadows duly emphasized; but I can say with
perfect truth that I have found but little to deplore. He was human, he
had his faults, and he made mistakes. While honestly differing from him
on certain questions, I am yet convinced that, in all his beliefs, he was
absolutely sincere, and the deeper I have delved into his correspondence,
the more I have been impressed by the true nobility and greatness of the

His fame is now secure, but, like all great men, he made enemies who
pursued him with their calumnies even after his death; and others,
perfectly honest and sincere, have questioned his right to be called the
inventor of the telegraph. I have tried to give credit where credit is
due with regard to certain points in the invention, but I have also given
the documentary evidence, which I am confident will prove that he never
claimed more than was his right. For many years after his invention was a
proved success, almost to the day of his death, he was compelled to fight
for his rights; but he was a good fighter, a skilled controversialist,
and he has won out in the end.

He was born and brought up in a deeply religious atmosphere, in a faith
which seems to us of the present day as narrow; but, as will appear from
his correspondence, he was perfectly sincere in his beliefs, and
unfalteringly held himself to be an instrument divinely appointed to
bestow a great blessing upon humanity.

It seems not to be generally known that he was an artist of great
ability, that for more than half his life he devoted himself to painting,
and that he is ranked with the best of our earlier painters.

In my selection of letters to be published I have tried to place much
emphasis on this phase of his career, a most interesting one. I have
found so many letters, diaries, and sketch-books of those earlier years,
never before published, that seemed to me of great human interest, that I
have ventured to let a large number of these documents chronicle the
history of Morse the artist.

Many of the letters here published have already appeared in Mr. S.
Irenaeus Prime's biography of Morse, but others are now printed for the
first time, and I have omitted many which Mr. Prime included. I must
acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. Prime for the possibility of filling
in certain gaps in the correspondence; and for much interesting material
not now otherwise obtainable.

Before the telegraph had demonstrated its practical utility, its inventor
was subjected to ridicule most galling to a sensitive nature, and after
it was a proved success he was vilified by the enemies he was obliged to
make on account of his own probity, and by the unscrupulous men who tried
to rob him of the fruits of his genius; but in this he was only paying
the penalty of greatness, and, as the perspective of time enables us to
render a more impartial verdict, his character will be found to emerge

His versatility and abounding vitality were astounding. He would have
been an eminent man in his day had he never invented the telegraph; but
it is of absorbing interest, in following his career, to note how he was
forced to give up one ambition after another, to suffer blow after blow
which would have overwhelmed a man of less indomitable perseverance,
until all his great energies were impelled into the one channel which
ultimately led to undying fame.

In every great achievement in the history of progress one man must stand
preëminent, one name must symbolize to future generations the thing
accomplished, whether it be the founding of an empire, the discovery of a
new world, or the invention of a new and useful art; and this one man
must be so endowed by nature as to be capable of carrying to a successful
issue the great enterprise, be it what it may. He must, in short, be a
man of destiny. That he should call to his assistance other men, that he
should legitimately make use of the labors of others, in no wise detracts
from his claims to greatness. It is futile to say that without this one
or that one the enterprise would have been a failure; that without his
officers and his men the general could not have waged a successful
campaign. We must, in every great accomplishment which has influenced the
history of the world, search out the master mind to whom, under Heaven,
the epoch-making result is due, and him must we crown with the laurel

Of nothing is this more true than of invention, for I venture to assert
that no great invention has ever sprung Minerva-like from the brain of
one man. It has been the culmination of the discoveries, the researches,
yes, and the failures, of others, until the time was ripe and the
destined man appeared. While due credit and all honor must be given to
the other laborers in the field, the niche in the temple of fame must be
reserved for the one man whose genius has combined all the known elements
and added the connecting link to produce the great result.

As an invention the telegraph was truly epoch-making. It came at a time
when steam navigation on land and water was yet in its infancy, and it is
idle to speculate on the slow progress which this would have made had it
not been for the assistance of the electric spark.

The science of electricity itself was but an academic curiosity, and it
was not until the telegraph had demonstrated that this mysterious force
could be harnessed to the use of man, that other men of genius arose to
extend its usefulness in other directions; and this, in turn, stimulated
invention in many other fields, and the end is not yet.

It has been necessary, in selecting letters, to omit many fully as
interesting as those which have been included; barely to touch on
subjects of research, or of political and religious discussion, which are
worthy of being pursued further, and to omit some subjects entirely. Very
probably another more experienced hand would have made a better
selection, but my aim has been to give, through characteristic letters
and contemporary opinions, an accurate portrait of the man, and a
succinct history of his life and labors. If I have succeeded in throwing
a new light on some points which are still the subject of discussion, if
I have been able to call attention to any facts which until now have been
overlooked or unknown, I shall be satisfied. If I have been compelled to
use very plain language with regard to some of those who were his open or
secret enemies, or who have been posthumously glorified by others, I have
done so with regret.

Such as it is I send the book forth in the hope that it may add to the
knowledge and appreciation of the character of one of the world's great
men, and that it may, perhaps, be an inspiration to others who are
striving, against great odds, to benefit their fellow men, or to those
who are championing the cause of justice and truth.




APRIL 27. 1791--SEPTEMBER 8, 1810

Birth of S.F.B. Morse.--His parents.--Letters of Dr. Belknap and Rev. Mr.
Wells.--Phillips, Andover.--First letter.--Letter from his father.--
Religious letter from Morse to his brothers.--Letters from the mother to
her sons.--Morse enters Yale.--His journey there.--Difficulty in keeping
up with his class.--Letter of warning from his mother.--Letters of
Jedediah Morse to Bishop of London and Lindley Murray.--Morse becomes
more studious.--Bill of expenses.--Longing to travel and interest in
electricity.--Philadelphia and New York.--Graduates from college.--Wishes
to accompany Allston to England, but submits to parents' desires


OCTOBER 31, 1810--AUGUST 17, 1811

Enters bookshop as clerk.--Devotes leisure to painting.--Leaves shop.--
Letter to his brothers on appointments at Yale.--Letters from Joseph P.
Rossiter.--Morse's first love affair.--Paints "Landing of the Pilgrims."
--Prepares to sail with Allstons for England.--Letters of introduction
from his father.--Disagreeable stage-ride to New York.--Sails on the
Lydia.--Prosperous voyage.--Liverpool.--Trip to London.--Observations on
people and customs.--Frequently cheated.--Critical time in England.--Dr.
Lettsom.--Sheridan's verse.--Longing for a telegraph.--A ghost


AUGUST 24, 1811--DECEMBER 1, 1811

Benjamin West.--George III.--Morse begins his studies.--Introduced to
West.--Enthusiasms.--Smuggling and lotteries.--English appreciation of
art.--Copley.--Friendliness of West.--Elgin marbles.--Cries of London.--
Custom in knocking.--Witnesses balloon ascension.--Crowds.--Vauxhall
Gardens.--St. Bartholomew's Fair.--Efforts to be economical.--Signs of
war.--Mails delayed.--Admitted to Royal Academy.--Disturbances, riots,
and murders


JANUARY 18, 1812--AUGUST 6, 1812

Political opinions.--Charles R. Leslie's reminiscences of Morse, Allston,
King, and Coleridge.--C.B. King's letter.--Sidney E. Morse's letter.--
Benjamin West's kindness.--Sir William Beechy.--Murders, robberies, etc.
--Morse and Leslie paint each other's portraits.--The elder Morse's
financial difficulties.--He deprecates the war talk.--The son differs
from his father.--The Prince Regent.--Orders in Council.--Estimate of
West.--Alarming state of affairs in England.--Assassination of Perceval,
Prime Minister.--Execution of assassin.--Morse's love for his art.--
Stephen Van Rensselaer.--Leslie the friend and Allston the master.--
Afternoon tea.--The elder Morse well known in Europe.--Lord Castlereagh.
--The Queen's drawing-room.--Kemble and Mrs. Siddons.--Zachary Macaulay.
--Warning letter from his parents.--War declared.--Morse approves.--
Gratitude to his parents, and to Allston


SEPTEMBER 20, 1812--JUNE 13, 1813

Models the "Dying Hercules."--Dreams of greatness.--Again expresses
gratitude to his parents.--Begins painting of "Dying Hercules."--Letter
from Jeremiah Evarts.--Morse upholds righteousness of the war.--Henry
Thornton.--Political discussions.--Gilbert Stuart.--William Wilberforce.
--James Wynne's reminiscences of Morse, Coleridge, Leslie, Allston, and
Dr. Abernethy.--Letters from his mother and brother.--Letters from
friends on the state of the fine arts in America.--"The Dying Hercules"
exhibited at the Royal Academy.--Expenses of painting.--Receives Adelphi
Gold Medal for statuette of Hercules.--Mr. Dunlap's reminiscences.--
Critics praise "Dying Hercules"


JULY 10, 1813--APRIL 6, 1814

Letter from the father on economies and political views.--Morse
deprecates lack of spirit in New England and rejoices at Wellington's
victories.--Allston's poems.--Morse coat-of-arms.--Letter of Joseph
Hillhouse.--Letter of exhortation from his mother.--Morse wishes to stay
longer in Europe.--Amused at mother's political views.--The father sends
more money for a longer stay.--Sidney exalts poetry above painting.--His
mother warns him against infidels and actors.--Bristol.--Optimism.--
Letter on infidels and his own religious observances.--Future of American
art.--He is in good health, but thin.--Letter from Mr. Visger.--Benjamin
Burritt, American prisoner.--Efforts in his behalf unsuccessful.--Capture
of Paris by the Allies.--Again expresses gratitude to parents.--Writes a
play for Charles Mathews.--Not produced


MAY 2, 1814--OCTOBER 11, 1814

Allston writes encouragingly to the parents.--Morse unwilling to be mere
portrait-painter.--Ambitious to stand at the head of his profession.--
Desires patronage, from wealthy friends.--Delay in the mails.--Account of
_entrée_ of Louis XVIII into London.--The Prince Regent.--Indignation at
acts of English.--His parents relieved at hearing from him after seven
months' silence.--No hope of patronage from America.--His brothers.--
Account of fêtes.--Emperor Alexander, King of Prussia, Blücher, Platoff.
--Wishes to go to Paris.--Letter from M. Van Schaick about battle of Lake
Erie.--Disgusted with England


NOVEMBER 9, 1814--APRIL 23, 1815

Does not go to Paris.--Letter of admonition from his mother.--His
parents' early economies.--Letter from Leslie.--Letter from Rev. S.F.
Jarvis on politics.--The mother tells of the economies of another young
American, Dr. Parkman.--The son resents constant exhortations to
economize, and tells of meanness of Dr. Parkman.--Writes of his own
economies and industry.--Disgusted with Bristol.--Prophesies peace
between England and America.--Estimates of Morse's character by Dr.
Romeyn and Mr. Van Schaick.--The father regrets reproof of son for
political views.--Death of Mrs. Allston.--Disagreeable experience in
Bristol.--More economies.--Napoleon I.--Peace


MAY 8, 1815--OCTOBER 18, 1816

Decides to return home in the fall.--Hopes to return to Europe in a
year.--Ambitions.--Paints "Judgment of Jupiter."--Not allowed to compete
for premium.--Mr. Russell's portrait.--Reproof of his parents.--Battle of
Waterloo.--Wilberforce.--Painting of "Dying Hercules" received by
parents.--Much admired.--Sails for home.--Dreadful voyage lasting
fifty-eight days.--Extracts from his journal.--Home at last


APRIL 10, 1816--OCTOBER 5, 1818

Very little success at home.--Portrait of ex-President John Adams.--
Letter to Allston on sale of his "Dead Man restored to Life."--Also
apologizes for hasty temper.--Reassured by Allston.--Humorous letter from
Leslie.--Goes to New Hampshire to paint portraits.--Concord.--Meets Miss
Lucretia Walker.--Letters to his parents concerning her.--His parents
reply.--Engaged to Miss Walker.--His parents approve.--Many portraits
painted.--Miss Walker's parents consent.--Success in Portsmouth.--Morse
and his brother invent a pump.--Highly endorsed by President Day and Eli
Whitney.--Miss Walker visits Charlestown.--Morse's religious
convictions.--More success in New Hampshire.--Winter in Charleston, South
Carolina.--John A. Alston.--Success.--Returns north.--Letter from his
uncle Dr. Finley.--Marriage


NOVEMBER 19, 1818--MARCH 31, 1821

Morse and his wife go to Charleston, South Carolina.--Hospitably
entertained and many portraits painted.--Congratulates Allston on his
election to the Royal Academy.--Receives commission to paint President
Monroe.--Trouble in the parish at Charlestown.--Morse urges his parents
to leave and come to Charleston.--Letters of John A. Alston.--Return to
the North.--Birth of his first child.--Dr. Morse and his family decide to
move to New Haven.--Morse goes to Washington.--Paints the President under
difficulties.--Hospitalities.--Death of his grandfather.--Dr. Morse
appointed Indian Commissioner.--Marriage of Morse's future mother-in-law.
--Charleston again.--Continued success.--Letters to Mrs. Ball.--
Liberality of Mr. Alston.--Spends the summer in New Haven.--Returns to
Charleston, but meets with poor success.--Assists in founding Academy of
Arts, which has but a short life.--Goes North again


MAY 23, 1821--DECEMBER 17, 1824

Accompanies Mr. Silliman to the Berkshires.--Takes his wife and daughter
to Concord, New Hampshire.--Writes to his wife from Boston about a
bonnet.--Goes to Washington, D.C.--Paints large picture of House of
Representatives.--Artistic but not financial success.--Donates five
hundred dollars to Yale.--Letter from Mr. De Forest.--New York
"Observer."--Discouragements.--First son born.--Invents marble-carving
machine.--Goes to Albany.--Stephen Van Rensselaer.--Slight encouragement
in Albany.--Longing for a home.--Goes to New York.--Portrait of
Chancellor Kent.--Appointed attaché to Legation to Mexico.--High hopes.--
Takes affecting leave of his family.--Rough journey to Washington.--
Expedition to Mexico indefinitely postponed.--Returns North.--Settles in
New York.--Fairly prosperous


JANUARY 4, 1825--NOVEMBER 18, 1825

Success in New York.--Chosen to paint portrait of Lafayette.--Hope of a
permanent home with his family.--Meets Lafayette in Washington.--Mutually
attracted.--Attends President's levee.--Begins portrait of Lafayette.--
Death of his wife.--Crushed by the news.--His attachment to her.--Epitaph
composed by Benjamin Silliman.--Bravely takes up his work again.--
Finishes portrait of Lafayette.--Describes it in letter of a later date.
--Sonnet on death of Lafayette's dog.--Rents a house in Canal Street, New
York.--One of the founders of National Academy of Design.--Tactful
resolutions on organization.--First thirty members.--Morse elected first
president.--Reëlected every year until 1845.--Again made president in
1861.--Lectures on Art.--Popularity


JANUARY 1, 1826--DECEMBER 5, 1829

Success of his lectures, the first of the kind in the United States.--
Difficulties of his position as leader.--Still longing for a home.--Very
busy but in good health.--Death of his father.--Estimates of Dr. Morse.--
Letters to his mother.--Wishes to go to Europe again.--Delivers address
at first anniversary of National Academy of Design.--Professor Dana
lectures on electricity.--Morse's study of the subject.--Moves to No. 13
Murray Street.--Too busy to visit his family.--Death of his mother.--A
remarkable woman.--Goes to central New York.--A serious accident.--Moral
reflections.--Prepares to go to Europe.--Letter of John A. Dix.--Sails
for Liverpool.--Rough voyage.--Liverpool


DECEMBER 6. 1829--FEBRUARY 6, 1830

Journey from Liverpool to London by coach.--Neatness of the cottages.--
Trentham Hall.--Stratford-on-Avon.--Oxford.--London.--Charles R. Leslie.
--Samuel Rogers.--Seated with Academicians at Royal Academy lecture.--
Washington Irving.--Turner.--Leaves London for Dover.--Canterbury
Cathedral.--Detained at Dover by bad weather.--Incident of a former
visit.--Channel steamer.--Boulogne-sur-Mer.--First impressions of
France.--Paris.--The Louvre.--Lafayette.--Cold in Paris.--Continental
Sunday.--Leaves Paris for Marseilles in diligence.--Intense cold.--
Dijon.--French funeral.--Lyons.--The Hôtel Dieu.--Avignon.--Catholic
church services.--Marseilles.--Toulon.--The navy yard and the galley
slaves.--Disagreeable experience at an inn.--The Riviera.--Genoa


FEBRUARY 6, 1830--JUNE 15, 1830

Serra Palace in Genoa.--Starts for Rome.--Rain in the mountains.--A
brigand.--Carrara.--First mention of a railroad.--Pisa.--The leaning
tower.--Rome at last.--Begins copying at once.--Notebooks.--Ceremonies at
the Vatican.--Pope Pius VIII.--Academy of St. Luke's.--St. Peter's.--
Chiesa Nuova.--Painting at the Vatican.--Beggar monks.--_Festa_ of the
Annunciation.--Soirée at Palazzo Sunbaldi.--Passion Sunday.--Horace
Vernet.--Lying in state of a cardinal.--_Miserere_ at Sistine Chapel.--
Holy Thursday at St. Peter's.--Third cardinal dies.--Meets Thorwaldsen at
Signor Persianis's.--Manners of English, French, and Americans.--Landi's
pictures.--Funeral of a young girl.--Trip to Tivoli, Subiaco.--Procession
of the _Corpus Domini_.--Disagreeable experience


JUNE 17, 1830--FEBRUARY 2, 1831

Working hard.--Trip to Genzano.--Lake of Nemi.--Beggars.--Curious
festival of flowers at Genzano.--Night on the Campagna.--Heat in Rome.--
Illumination of St. Peter's.--St. Peter's Day.--Vaults of the Church.--
Feebleness of Pope.--Morse and companions visit Naples, Capri, and
Amalfi.--Charms of Amalfi.--Terrible accident.--Flippancy at funerals.--
Campo Santo at Naples.--Gruesome conditions.--Ubiquity of beggars.--
Convent of St. Martino.--Masterpiece of Spagnoletto.--Returns to Rome.--
Paints portrait of Thorwaldsen.--Presented to him in after years by John
Taylor Johnston.--Given to King of Denmark.--Reflections on the social
evil and the theatre.--Death of the Pope.--An assassination.--The
Honorable Mr. Spencer and Catholicism.--Election of Pope Gregory XVI


FEBRUARY 10, 1831--SEPTEMBER 12, 1831

Historic events witnessed by Morse.--Rumors of revolution.--Danger to
foreigners.--Coronation of the new Pope.--Pleasant experience.--Cause of
the revolution a mystery.--Bloody plot foiled.--Plans to leave for
Florence.--Sends casts, etc., to National Academy of Design.--Leaves
Rome.--Dangers of the journey.--Florence.--Description of meeting Prince
Radziwill in Coliseum at Rome.--Copies portraits of Rubens and Titian in
Florence.--Leaves Florence for Venice.--Disagreeable voyage on the Po.--
Venice, beautiful but smelly.--Copies Tintoret's "Miracle of the Slave."
--Thunderstorms.--Reflections on the Fourth of July.--Leaves Venice.--
Recoaro.--Milan.--Reflections on Catholicism and art.--Como and
Maggiore.--The Rigi.--Schaffhausen and Heidelberg.--Evades the quarantine
on French border.--Thrilling experience.--Paris


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 Fourth 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


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 THE ARTIST (Photogravure)
    Painted by himself in London about 1814.


    From portraits by a Mr. Sargent, who also painted portraits of the
    Washington family.

    Painted by Morse in 1813.


    From paintings by Morse now in the gallery of the Yale School
    of the Fine Arts.

    Painted by Morse.

    Now in New York Public Library.

    Painted by Morse.

    From a portrait painted by Morse and owned by Sherman Evarts, Esq.

    Painted by Morse. Owned by the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

    Painted by Morse. Owned by the Metropolitan Museum, New York.





APRIL 27. 1791--SEPTEMBER 8, 1810

Birth of S.F.B. Morse.--His parents.--Letters of Dr. Belknap and Rev. Mr.
Wells.--Phillips, Andover.--First letter.--Letter from his father.--
Religious letter from Morse to his brothers.--Letters from the mother to
her sons.--Morse enters Yale.--His journey there.--Difficulty in keeping
up with his class.--Letter of warning from his mother.--Letters of
Jedediah Morse to Bishop of London and Lindley Murray.--Morse becomes
more studious.--Bill of expenses.--Longing to travel and interest in
electricity.--Philadelphia and New York.--Graduates from college.--Wishes
to accompany Allston to England, but submits to parents' desires.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on the
27th day of April, A.D. 1791. He came of good Puritan stock, his father,
Jedediah Morse, being a militant clergyman of the Congregational Church,
a fighter for orthodoxy at a time when Unitarianism was beginning to
undermine the foundations of the old, austere, childlike faith.

These battles of the churches seem far away to us of the twentieth
century, but they were very real to the warriors of those days, and,
while many of the tenets of their faith may seem narrow to us, they were
gospel to the godly of that tune, and reverence, obedience, filial piety,
and courtesy were the rule and not the exception that they are to-day.

Jedediah Morse was a man of note in his day, known and respected at home
and abroad; the friend of General Washington and other founders of the
Republic; the author of the first American Geography and Gazetteer. His
wife, Elizabeth Ann Breese, granddaughter of Samuel Finley, president of
Princeton College, was a woman of great strength and yet sweetness of
character; adored by her family and friends, a veritable mother in

Into this serene home atmosphere came young Finley Morse, the eldest of
eleven children, only three of whom survived their infancy. The other two
were Sidney Edwards and Richard Carey, both eminent men in their day.

Dr. Belknap, of Boston, in a letter to a friend in New York says:--

"Congratulate the Monmouth Judge [Mr. Breese] on the birth of a
grandson.... As to the child, I saw him asleep, so can say nothing of his
eye or his genius peeing through it. He may have the sagacity of a Jewish
rabbi, or the profundity of a Calvin, or the sublimity of a Homer for
aught I know. But time will show forth all things."

This sounds almost prophetic in the light of future days.


The following letter from the Reverend Mr. Wells is quaint and
characteristic of the times:--

MY DEAR LITTLE BOY,--As a small testimony of my respect and obligation to
your excellent Parents and of my love to you, I send you with this six
(6) English Guineas. They are pretty playthings enough, and in the
Country I came from many people are fond of them. Your Papa will let you
look at them and shew them to Edward, and then he will take care of them,
and, by the time you grow up to be a Man, they will under Papa's wise
management increase to double their present number. With wishing you may
never be in want of such playthings and yet never too fond of them, I
remain your affectionate friend,

MEDFORD, July 2, 1793.

Young Morse was sent away early to boarding-school, as was the custom at
that time. He was taken by his father to Phillips Academy at Andover, and
I believe he ran away once, being overcome by homesickness before he made
up his mind to remain and study hard.

The following letter is the first one written by him of which I have any

ANDOVER, 2d August, 1799.

DEAR PAPA,--I hope you are well I will thank you if you will Send me up
Some quils Give my love to mama and NANCY and my little brothers pleas to
kis them for me and send me up Some very good paper to write to you

I have as many blackberries as I want I go and pick them myself.


This from his father is characteristic of many written to him and to his
brothers while they were at school and college:--

CHARLESTOWN, February 21, 1801.

MY DEAR SON,--You do not write me as often as you ought. In your next you
must assign some reason for this neglect. Possibly I have not received
all your letters. Nothing will improve you so much in epistolary writing
as practice. Take great pains with your letters. Avoid vulgar phrases.
Study to have your ideas pertinent and correct and clothe them in an easy
and grammatical dress. Pay attention to your spelling, pointing, the use
of capitals, and to your handwriting. After a little practice these
things will become natural and you will thus acquire a habit of writing
correctly and well.

General Washington was a remarkable instance of what I have now
recommended to you. His letters are a perfect model for epistolary
writers. They are written with great uniformity in respect to the
handwriting and disposition of the several parts of the letter. I will
show you some of his letters when I have the pleasure of seeing you next
vacation, and when I shall expect to find you much improved.

Your natural disposition, my dear son, renders it proper for me earnestly
to recommend to you to _attend to one thing at a time_. It is impossible
that you can do two things well at the same time, and I would, therefore,
never have you attempt it. Never undertake to do what ought not to be
done, and then, whatever you undertake, endeavor to do it in the best

It is said of De Witt, a celebrated statesman in Holland, who was torn to
pieces in the year 1672, that he did the whole business of the republic
and yet had time left to go to assemblies in the evening and sup in
company. Being asked how he could possibly find time to go through so
much business and yet amuse himself in the evenings as he did, he
answered there was nothing so easy, for that it was only doing one thing
at a time, and never putting off anything till to-morrow that could be
done to-day. This steady and undissipated attention to one object is a
sure mark of a superior genius, as hurry, bustle, and agitation are the
never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.

I expect you will read this letter over several times that you may retain
its contents in your memory, and give me your own opinion on the advice I
have given you. If you improve this well, I shall be encouraged to give
you more as you may need it.

Your affectionate parent,

This was written to a boy ten years old. I wonder if he was really able
to assimilate it.

I shall pass rapidly over the next few years, for, while there are many
letters which make interesting reading, there are so many more of the
later years of greater historical value that I must not yield to the
temptation to linger.

The three brothers were all sent to Phillips Academy to prepare for Yale,
from which college their father was also graduated.

The following letter from Finley to his brothers was written while he was
temporarily at home, and shows the deep religious bent of his mind which
he kept through life:--

CHARLESTOWN, March 15, 1805.

MY DEAR BROTHERS,--I now write you again to inform you that mama had a
baby, but it was born dead and has just been buried. Now you have three
brothers and three sisters in heaven and I hope you and I will meet them
there at our death. It is uncertain when we shall die, but we ought to be
prepared for it, and I hope you and I shall.

I read a question in Davie's "Sermons" the last Sunday which was this:--
Suppose a bird should take one dust of this earth and carry it away once
in a thousand years, and you was to take your choice either to be
miserable in that time and happy hereafter, or happy in that time and
miserable hereafter, which would you choose? Write me an answer to this
in your next letter....

I enclose you a little book called the "Christian Pilgrim." It is for
both of you.

We are all tolerable well except mama, though she is more comfortable now
than she was. We all send a great deal of love to you. I must now bid you

I remain your affectionate brother,


I am tempted to include the following extracts from letters of the good
mother of the three boys as characteristic of the times and people:--

CHARLESTOWN, June 28, 1805.

MY DEAR SON,--We have the pleasure of a letter from you which has
gratified us very much. It is the only intelligence we have had from you
since Mr. Brown left you. I began to think that something was the matter
with respect to your health that occasioned your long silence.... We are
very desirous, my son, that you should excel in everything that will make
you truly happy and useful to your fellow men. In particular by no means
neglect your duty to your Heavenly Father. Remember, what has been said
with great truth, that he can never be faithful to others who is not so
to his God and his conscience. I wish you constantly to keep in mind the
first question and answer in that excellent form of sound words, the
Assembly Catechism, viz:--"What is the chief end of Man?" The answer you
will readily recollect is "To Glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

Let it be evident, my dear son, that this be your chief aim in all that
you do, and may you be so happy as to enjoy Him forever is the sincere
prayer of your affectionate parent....

The Fourth of July is to be celebrated here with a good deal of parade
both by Federalists and Jacobins. The former are to meet in our
meeting-house, there to hear an oration which is to be delivered by Mr.
Aaron Putnam, a prayer by your papa also. And on the hill close by the
monument [Bunker Hill] a standard is to be presented to a new company
called the Warren Phalanx, all Federalists, by Dr. Putnam who is the
president of the day, and all the gentlemen are to dine at Seton's Hall,
otherwise called Massachusetts Hall, and the ladies are to take tea at
the same place. The Jacobins are to have an oration at the Baptist
meeting-house from Mr. Gleson. I know nothing more about them. The boys
are forming themselves into companies also; they have two or three
companies and drums which at some times are enough to craze one. I can't
help thinking when I see them how glad I am that my sons are better
employed at Andover than beating the streets or drums; that they are
laying in a good store of useful knowledge against the time to come,
while these poor boys, many of them, at least, are learning what they
will be glad by and by to unlearn.

July 30, 1805.

MY DEAR SONS,--Have you heard of the death of young Willard at Cambridge,
the late President Willard's son? He died of a violent fever occasioned
by going into water when he was very hot in the middle of the day. He
also pumped a great deal of cold water on his head. Let this be a warning
to you all not to be guilty of the like indiscretion which may cost you
your life. Dreadful, indeed, would this be to all of us. I wish you would
not go into water oftener than once a week, and then either early in the
morning or late in the afternoon, and not go in when hot nor stay long in
the water. Remember these cautions of your mama and obey them strictly.

A young lady twenty years old died in Boston yesterday very suddenly. She
eat her dinner perfectly well and was dead in five minutes after. Her
name was Ann Hinkley. You see, my dear boys, the great uncertainty of
life and, of course, the importance of being always prepared for _death_,
even a _sudden death_, as we know not what an hour may bring forth. This
we are sensible of, we cannot be _too soon or too well_ prepared for that
all-important moment, as this is what we are sent into this world for.
The main business of life is to prepare for death. Let us not, then, put
off these most important concerns to an uncertain to-morrow, but let us
in earnest attend to the concerns of our precious, never-dying souls
while we feel ourselves alive.

In October, 1805, Finley Morse went to New Haven to enter college, and
the next letter describes the journey from Charlestown, and it was,
indeed, a journey in those days.

NEW HAVEN, October 22, 1805.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--I arrived here yesterday safe and well. The first day I
rode as far as Williams' Tavern, and put up there for the night. The next
day I rode as far as Dwight's Tavern in Western, and in the morning, it
being rainy, Mr. Backus did not set out to ride till late, and, the stage
coming to the door, Mr. B. thought it a good opportunity to send me to
Hartford, which he did, and I arrived at Hartford that night and lodged
at Ripley's inn opposite the State House. He treated me very kindly,
indeed, wholly on account of my being your son. I was treated more like
his own son than a stranger, for which I shall and ought to be very much
obliged to him. The next morning I hired a horse and chaise of him to
carry me to Weathersfield and arrived at Mr. Marsh's, who was very glad
to see me and begged me to stay till S. Barrell went, which was the next
Monday, for his mother would not let him go so soon, she was so glad to
see him. I was sorry to trouble them so much, but, as they desired it,
and, as Samuel B. was not to go till then, I agreed to stay and hope you
will not disapprove it, and am sorry I could not write you sooner to
relieve your minds from your anxiety on my account, and am sorry for
giving my good parents so much trouble and expense. You expend and have
expended a great deal more money upon me than I deserve, and granted me a
great many of my requests, and I am sure I can certainly grant you one,
that of being _economical_, which I shall certainly be and not get money
to buy trifling things. I begin to think _money_ of some importance and
too great value to be thrown away.

Yesterday morning about ten o'clock I set out for New Haven with S.
Barrell and arrived well a little before dark. I went directly to Dr.
Dwight's, which I easily found, and delivered the letter to him, drank
tea at his house, and then Mr. Sereno Dwight carried me to Mr. Davis's
who had agreed to take me. While I was at Dr. Dwight's there was a woman
there whom the Dr. recommended to Sam. B. and me to have our mending
done, and Mrs. Davis or a washerwoman across the way will do my washing,
so I am very agreeably situated. I also gave the letter to Mr. Beers and
he has agreed to let me have what you desired. I have got Homer's Iliad
in two volumes, with Latin translation of him, for $3.25. I need no other
books at present.

S. Barrell has a room in the north college and, as he says, a very
agreeable chum.

Next spring I hope you will come on and fix matters. I long to get into
the college, for it appears to me now as though I was not a member of
college but fitting for college. I hope next spring will soon come.

My whole journey from Charlestown here cost me £2 16_s._, and 4_d._, a
great deal more than either you or I had calculated on. I am sorry to be
of so much trouble to you and the cause of so much anxiety in you and
especially in mama. I wish you to give my very affectionate love to my
dear brothers, and tell them they must write me and not be homesick, but
consider that I am farther from home than they are, 136 miles from home.
I remain

Your ever affectionate son,

It would seem, from other letters which follow, that he had difficulty in
keeping up with his class, and that he eventually dropped a class, for he
did not graduate until 1810. He also seems to have been rooming outside
of college and to have been eager to go in.

It is curious, in the light of future events, to note that young Morse's
parents were fearful lest his volatile nature and lack of steadfastness
of purpose should mar his future career. His dominating characteristic in
later life was a bulldog tenacity, which led him to stick to one idea
through discouragements and disappointments which would have overwhelmed
a weaker nature.

The following extracts are from a long letter from his mother dated
November 23, 1805:--

"I am fearful, my son, that you think a great deal more of your
amusements than your studies, and there lies the difficulty, and the same
difficulty would exist were you in college.

"You have filled your letter with requests to go into college and an
account of a gunning party, both of which have given us pain. I am truly
sorry that you appear so unsteady as by _your own account_ you are....

"You mention in the letter you wrote first that, if you went into
college, you and your chum would want brandy and wine and segars in your
room. Pray is that the custom among the students? We think it a very
improper one, indeed, and hope the government of college will not permit
it. There is no propriety at all in such young boys as you having
anything to do with anything of the kind, and your papa and myself
positively prohibit you the use of these things till we think them more
necessary than we do at present....

"You will remember that you have promised in your first letter to be an
economist. In your last letter you seem to have forgotten all about it.
Pray, what do your gunning parties cost you for powder and shot? I beg
you to consider and not go driving on from one foolish whim to another
till you provoke us to withdraw from you the means of gratifying you in
anything that may be even less objectionable than gunning."

These exhortations seem to have had, temporarily, at least, the desired
effect, for in a letter to his parents dated December 18, 1805, young
Morse says: "I shall not go out to gun any more, for I know it makes you
anxious about me."

The letters of the parents to the son are full of pious exhortations, and
good advice, and reproaches to the boy for not writing oftener and more
at length, and for not answering every question asked by the parents. It
is comforting to the present-day parent to learn that human nature was
much the same in those pious days of old, differing only in degree, and
that there is hope for the most wayward son and careless correspondent.

The following letters from the elder Morse I shall include as being of
rather more than ordinary interest, and as showing the breadth of his

CHARLESTOWN, December 23, 1806.

REV'D AND RESPECTED SIR,--I presume that it might be agreeable to you to
know the precise state of the property which originally belonged to the
Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia.

I have with some pains obtained the law of that State respecting this
singular business.

I find that it destroys _the establishment_ and asserts that "all
property belonging to the said (Protestant Episcopal) Church devolved on
the good people of this Commonwealth (i.e., Virginia) on the dissolution
of the British Government here, in the same degree in which the right and
interest of the said Church was therein derived from them," and
authorizes the overseers of the poor of any county "in which any glebe
land is vacant, or shall become so by the death or removal of any
incumbent, to sell all such land and appurtenances and every other
species of property incident thereto to the highest bidder"--"Provided
that nothing herein contained shall authorize an appropriation to _any
religious purpose whatever_."

I make no comments on the above. I believe no other State in the Union
has, in this respect, imitated the example of Virginia.

I take the liberty to send you a few small tracts for your acceptance in
token of my high respect for your character and services.

Believe me, sir, unfeignedly,

Your obedient servant,

December 26, 1806.

DEAR SIR,--Your polite note and the valuable books accompanying it,
forwarded by our friend Perkins, of New York, have been duly and
gratefully received.

You will perceive, by the number of the "Panoplist" enclosed, that we are
strangers neither to your works nor your character. It has given me much
pleasure as an American to make both more extensively known among my

I have purchased several hundred of your spelling books for a charitable
society to which I belong, and they have been dispersed in the new
settlements in our country, where I hope they will do immediate good,
besides creating a desire and demand for more. It will ever give me
pleasure to hear from you when convenient. Letters left at Mr. Taylor's
will find me.

I herewith send you two or three pamphlets and a copy of the last edition
of my "American Gazetteer" which I pray you to accept as a small token of
the high respect and esteem with which I am

Your friend,

Young Morse now settled down to serious work as the following extracts
will show, which I set down without further comment, passing rapidly over
the next few years. He was, however, not entirely absorbed in his books
but still longed for the pleasures of the chase:--

"May 13, 1807. Just now I asked Mr. Twining to let me go a-gunning for
this afternoon. He told me you had expressly forbidden it and he
therefore could not. Now I should wish to go once in a while, for I
always intend to be careful. I have no amusement now in the vacation, and
it would gratify me very much if you would consent to let me go once in a
while. I suppose you would tell me that my books ought to be my
amusement. I cannot study all the time and I need some exercise. If I
walk, that is no amusement, and if I wish to play ball or anything else,
I have no one to play with. Please to write me an answer as soon as"

June 7, 1807.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--I hope you will excuse my not writing you sooner when I
inform you that my time is entirely taken up with my studies.

In the morning I must rise at five o'clock to attend prayers and,
immediately after, recitation; then I must breakfast and begin to study
from eight o'clock till eleven; then recite my forenoon's lesson which
takes me an hour.

At twelve I must study French till one, which is dinner-time. Directly
after dinner I must recite French to Monsieur Value till two o'clock,
then begin to study my afternoon lesson and recite it at five.
Immediately after recitation I must study another French lesson to recite
at seven in the evening; come home at nine o'clock and study my morning's
lesson until ten, eleven, and sometimes twelve o'clock, and by that tine
I am prepared to sleep.... You see now I have enough to do, my hands as
full as can be, not five minutes' time to take recreation. I am
determined to study and, thus far, have not missed a single word. The
students call me by the nickname of "Geography."

"_June 18, 1807._ Last week I went to Mr. Beers and saw a set of
Montaigne's 'Essays' in French in eight volumes, duodecimo, handsomely
bound in calf and gilt, for two dollars. The reason they are so cheap is
because they are wicked and bad books for me or anybody else to read. I
got them because they were cheap, and have exchanged them for a handsome
English edition of 'Gil Blas'; price, $4.50."

In the fall of 1807 Finley Morse returned to college accompanied by his
next younger brother, Sidney Edwards. In a letter of March 6, 1808, he
says: "Edwards and myself are very well and I believe we are doing well,
but you will learn more of that from our instructors."

In this same letter he says:--

"I find it impossible to live in college without spending money. At one
time a letter is to be paid for, then comes up a great tax from the class
or society, which keeps me constantly running after money. When I have
money in my hand I feel as though I had stolen it, and it is with the
greatest pain that I part with it. I think every minute I shall receive a
letter from home blaming me for not being more economical, and thus I am
kept in distress all the time.

"The amount of my expenses for the last term was fifteen dollars,
expended in the following manner:--

                             Dols. Cts.
"Postage                        $2.05
Oil                               .50
Taxes, fines, etc.               3.00
Oysters                           .50
Washbowl                          .37-1/2
Skillet                           .33
Axe $1.33 Catalogues .12         1.45
Powder and shot                  1.12-1/2
Cakes, etc. etc. etc.            1.75
Wine, Thanks. day                 .20
Toll on bridge                    .15
Grinding axe                      .08
Museum                            .25
Poor man                          .14
Carriage for trunk               1.00
Pitcher                           .41                 14.75-1/2
Sharpening skates                 .37-1/2   Paid for
Circ. Library                     .25     cutting wood  .25
Post papers                       .57
Lent never to be returned         .25

                               $14.75-1/2             15.00-1/2

"In my expenses I do not include my wood, tuition bills, board or washing

How characteristic of all boys of all times the "etc., etc., etc.,"
tacked on to the "cakes" item, and how many boys of the present day would
bewail the extravagance of fifteen dollars spent in one term on extras?
In a postscript in this same letter he says: "The students are very fond
of raising balloons at present. I will (with your leave) when I return
home make one. They are pleasant sights."

College terms were very different in those days from what they are at
present, for September 5 finds the boys still in New Haven, and Finley
says, "There is but three and a half weeks to Commencement."

In this same letter he gives utterance to these filial sentiments: "I now
make those only my companions who are the most religious and moral, and I
hope sincerely that it will have a good effect in changing that
thoughtless disposition which has ever been a striking trait in my
character. As I grow older, I begin to think better of what you have
always told me when I was small. I begin to know by experience that man
is born to trouble, and that temptations to do evil are as countless as
the stars, but I hope I shall be enabled to shun them."

This is from a letter of January 9, 1809:--

"I have been reading the first volume of Professor Silliman's 'Journal'
which he kept during his passage to and residence in Europe. I am very
much pleased with it. I long for the time when I shall be able to travel
with improvement to myself and society, and hope it will be in your power
to assist me.

"I have a very ardent desire of travelling, but I consider that an
education is indispensable to me and I mean to apply myself with all
diligence for that purpose. _Diligentia vinrit omnia_ is my maxim and I
shall endeavor to follow it.... I shall be employed in the vacation in
the Philosophical Chamber with Mr. Dwight, who is going to perform a
number of experiments in _Electricity_."

It is, of course, only a curious coincidence that these two sentences
should have occurred in the same letter, but it was when travelling, many
years afterwards, that the first idea of the electric telegraph found
lodgment in his brain, and this certainly resulted in improvement to
himself and society.

In February, 1809, he writes: "My studies are at present Optics in
Philosophy, Dialling, Homer, beside disputing, composing, attending
lectures etc. etc., all which I find very interesting and especially Mr.
Day's lectures who is now lecturing on _Electricity_."

Young Morse's thoughts seem to have been gradually focusing on the two
subjects to which he afterwards devoted his life, for in a letter of
March 8, 1809, he says: "Mr. Day's lectures are very interesting. They
are upon Electricity. He has given us some very fine experiments. The
whole class taking hold of hands formed the circuit of communication and
we all received the shock apparently at the same moment. I never took an
electric shock before. It felt as if some person had struck me a slight
blow across the arms.... I think with pleasure that two thirds of this
term only remain. As soon as that is passed away, I hope I shall again
see home. I really long to see Charlestown again; I have almost forgotten
how it looks. I have some thoughts of taking a view of Boston from
Bunker's Hill when I go home again. It will be some pleasure to me to
have some picture of my native place to look upon when I am from home."

And in August, 1809, he writes to his parents: "I employ all my leisure
time in painting. I have a great number of persons engaged already to be
drawn on ivory, no less than seven. They obtain the ivories for
themselves. I have taken Professor Kingsley's profile for him. It is a
good likeness of him and he is pleased with it. I think I shall take his
likeness on ivory and present it to him as my present at the end of the
year.... I have finished Miss Leffingwell's miniature. It is a good
likeness and she is very much pleased with it."

NEW HAVEN, May 29, 1810.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--I arrived in this place on Sabbath evening by packet
from New York. I left Philadelphia on Thursday morning at eight o'clock
and arrived in New York on Friday at ten....

I stayed in New York but one night. I found it quite insipid after seeing
Philadelphia. [The character of the two cities seems to have changed a
trifle in a hundred years, for, with all her faults, no one could
nowadays accuse New York of being insipid.] I went on board the packet on
Saturday at twelve o'clock and arrived, as I before stated, on Sabbath
evening. We had, on the whole, a very good set of passengers from New
York to this place. On Sunday we had two sermons read to us by one of
them, Dr. Hawley, of this place, and in the evening we sang five psalms,
and during the whole of the exercises the passengers conducted themselves
with perfect decorum, although one of the sermons was one hour in

June 25, 1810.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--I received yours of the 23d this day and receive with
humility your reproof. I am extremely sorry it should have occasioned so
many disagreeable feelings. I felt it my duty to tell you of my debts,
and, indeed, I could not feel easy without. The amount of my buttery bill
is forty-two or forty-three dollars.

Mr. Nettleton is butler and is willing I should take his likeness as part
pay. I shall take it on ivory, and he has engaged to allow me seven
dollars for it. My price is five dollars for a miniature on ivory, and. I
have engaged three or four at that price. My price for profiles is one
dollar, and everybody is ready to engage me at that price.... Though I
have been much to blame in the present case, yet I think it but just that
Mr. Twining should bear his part.

I had begun with a determination to pay for everything as I got it, but
was stopped in this in the very beginning, for, in going to Mr. T. to get
money, I have five times out of six found him absent, sometimes for the
whole day, sometimes for a week or two weeks, and once he was absent six
weeks and made no sort of provision for us. Mrs. T. is never trusted with
money for us. Now in such case I am obliged by necessity to get a thing
charged, and I have found by sad experience that a bill increases faster
than I had in the least imagined....

"_July 22, 1810._ I am now released from college and am attending to
painting. All my class were accepted as candidates for degrees. Edwards
is admitted a member of [Greek: Phi][Greek: Beta][Greek: Kappa] Society,
and is appointed as monitor to the next Freshman Class. Richard is chosen
as one of the speakers the evening before Commencement.

"Edwards and Richard are both of them very steady and good scholars, and
are much esteemed by the authority of college as well as their fellow

"As to my choice of a profession, I still think that I was made for a
painter, and I would be obliged to you to make such arrangement with Mr.
Allston for my studying with him as you shall think expedient. I should
desire to study with him during the winter, and, as he expects to return
to England in the spring, I should admire to be able to go with him."

In answer to this letter his father wrote:--

CHARLESTOWN, July 26, 1810.

DEAR Finley,--I received your letter of the 22d to-day by mail.

On the subject of your future pursuits we will converse when I see you
and when you get home. It will be best for you to form no plans. Your
mama and I have been thinking and planning for you. I shall disclose to
you our plan when I see you. Till then suspend your mind.

It gives us great pleasure to have you speak so well of your brothers.
Others do the same and we hear well of you also. It is a great comfort to
us that our sons are all likely to do so well and are in good reputation
among their acquaintances. Could we have reason to believe you were all
pious and had chosen the "good part," our joy concerning you all would be
full. I hope the Lord in due time will grant us this pleasure.

"Seek the Lord," my dear son, "while he may be found."

Your affectionate father,

From portraits by a Mr. Sargent, who also painted portraits of the
Washington family]

September 8, 1810.

DEAR MAMA,--Papa arrived here safely this evening and I need not tell you
we were glad to see him. He has mentioned to me the plan which he
proposed for my future business in life, and I am pleased with it, for I
was determined beforehand to conform to his and your will in everything,
and, when I come home, I shall endeavor to make amends for the trouble
and anxiety which you have been at on my account, by assisting papa in
his labors and pursuing with ardor my own business....

I have been extremely low-spirited for some days past, and it still
continues. I hope it will wear off by Commencement Day....

I am so low in spirits that I could almost cry.

It was no wonder that he was down-hearted, for he was ambitious and
longed to carve out a great career for himself, while his good parents
were conservative and wished him to become independent as soon as
possible. Their plan was to apprentice him to a bookseller, and he
dutifully conformed to their wishes for a time, but his ambition could
not be curbed, and it was not long before he broke away.


OCTOBER 31, 1810--AUGUST 17. 1811

Enters bookshop as clerk.--Devotes leisure to painting.--Leaves shop.--
Letter to his brothers on appointments at Yale.--Letters from Joseph P.
Rossiter.--Morse's first love affair.--Paints "Landing of the Pilgrims."
--Prepares to sail with Allstons for England.--Letters of introduction
from his father.--Disagreeable stage-ride to New York.--Sails on the
Lydia.--Prosperous voyage.--Liverpool.--Trip to London.--Observations on
people and customs.--Frequently cheated.--Critical time in England.--Dr.
Lettsom.--Sheridan's verse.--Longing for a telegraph.--A ghost

After his graduation from Yale College in the fall of 1810, Finley Morse
returned to his home in Charlestown, Mass., and cheerfully submitted
himself to his parents' wishes by entering the bookshop of a certain Mr.

He writes under date of October 31, 1810, to his brothers who are still
at college: "I am in an excellent situation and on excellent terms. I
have four hundred dollars per year, but this you must not mention out. I
have the choice of my hours; they are from nine till one-half past
twelve, and from three till sunset."

But he still clings to the idea of becoming a painter, for he adds: "My
evenings I employ in painting. I have every convenience; the room over
the kitchen is fitted up for me; I have a fire there every evening, and
can spend it alone or otherwise as I please. I have bought me one of the
new patent lamps, those with glass chimneys, which gives an excellent
light. It cost me about six dollars. Send on as soon as possible anything
and everything which pertains to my painting apparatus."

The following letter was written at some time in 1810 or 1811. It was
addressed to Mr. Sereno E. Dwight:--

"Mr. Mallory a few days since handed me a letter from you requesting me,
if possible, to sketch a likeness of young Mr. Daggett. Accordingly I
have made the attempt and take the present opportunity of forwarding you
the results. The task was hard but pleasurable. It is one of the most
difficult undertakings to endeavor to take a portrait from recollection
of one whose countenance has not been examined particularly for the
purpose. When I made the first attempt, not a single feature could I
recall distinctly to my memory and I almost despaired of a likeness, but
the thought of lessening the affliction of such a distressed family
determined me to attempt it a second time. The result is on the ivory. I
then showed it to my brothers, to Mr. Evarts, to Mr. Hillhouse, to Mr.
Mallory, and to Mr. Read, all of whom had not the least suspicion of
anything of the kind, and they have severally and separately pronounced
it a likeness of young Mr. Daggett. This encouraged me, and I made the
two other sketches which are thought likewise to be resemblances of him.

"If these or any one of them can be recognized by the afflicted family as
a resemblance of him they have lost, it will be an ample compensation to
me to think that I have in any degree been the means of alleviating their

On December 8, 1810, he writes to his brother: "I have almost completed
my landscape. It is 'proper handsome,' so they say, and they want to make
me believe it is so, but I shan't yet awhile."

This shows the right frame of mind for an artist, and yet, like most
youthful painters, he attempted more than his proficiency warranted, for
in this same letter he adds: "I am going to begin, as soon as I have
finished it [the landscape], a piece, the subject of which will be
'Marius on the Ruins of Carthage.'"

On December 28, 1810, he writes: "I shall leave Mr. Mallory's next week
and study painting exclusively till summer."

He had at last burst his bonds, and his wise parents, seeing that his
heart was only in his painting, decided to throw no further obstacles in
his way, but, at the cost of much self-sacrifice on their part, to
further in every way his ambition.

January 15, 1811.

MY DEAR BROTHERS,--We have just received Richard's letter of the 8th
inst., and I can have a pretty correct idea of your feelings at the
beginning of a vacation. You must not be melancholy and hang yourself. If
you do you will have a terrible scolding when you get home again. As for
Richard's getting an appointment so low, if I was in his situation, I
should not trouble myself one fig concerning _appointments_. They cost
more than they are worth. I shall not esteem him the less for not getting
a higher, and not more than one millionth part of the world knows what an
appointment is. You will both of you have a different opinion of
appointments after you have been out of college a short time. I had
rather be Richard with a dialogue than Sanford with a dispute. If
appointments at college decided your fate forever, you might possibly
groan and wail. But then consider where poor I should come. [He got no
appointment whatever.] Think of this, Richard, and _don't_ hang
_yourself_. [It may, perhaps, be well to explain that "appointments" were
given at Yale to those who excelled in scholarship. "Philosophical
Oration" was the highest, then came "High Oration," "Oration," etc.,
etc.] I have left Mr. Mallory's store and am helping papa in the
Geography. Shall remain at home till the latter part of next summer and
then shall go to London with Mr. Allston.

The following extracts from two letters of a college friend I have
introduced as throwing some light on Morse's character at that time and
also as curious examples of the epistolary style of those days:--

NEW HAVEN, February 5, 1811.

Dear Finley,--Yours of the 6th ult. I received, together with the books
enclosed, which I delivered personally according to your request.

Did I not know the nature of your disorder and the state of your
_gizzard_, I should really be surprised at the commencement, and, indeed,
the whole tenor of your letter, but as it is I can excuse and feel for

Had I commenced a letter with the French _Hélas! hélas!_ it would have
been no more than might reasonably have been expected considering the
desolate situation of New Haven and the gloomy prospects before me. But
for you, who are in the very vortex of fashionable life and surrounded by
the amusements and bustle of the metropolis of New England, for you to
exclaim, "How lonely I am!" is unpardonable, or at most admits of but one
excuse, to wit, that you can plead the feelings of the youth who
exclaimed, "Gods annihilate both time and space and make two lovers

You suppose I am so much taken up with the ladies and other good things
in New Haven that I have not time to think of one of my old friends.
Alas! Morse, there are no ladies or anything else to occupy my attention.
They are all gone and we have no amusements. Even old Value has deserted
us, whose music, though an assemblage of "unharmonious sounds," is
infinitely preferable to the harsh grating thunder of his brother. New
Haven is, indeed, this winter a dreary place. I wrote you about a month
since and did then what you wish me now to do,--I mentioned all that is
worth mentioning, which, by the way, is very little, about New Haven and
its inhabitants.

Since then I have been to New York and saw the Miss Radcliffs, and, in
passing through Stamford, the Miss Davenports. The mention of the name of
Davenport would at one time have excited in your breast emotions
unutterable, but now, though Ann is as lovely as ever, your heart
requires the influence of another Hart to quicken its pulsations.... Last
but not least comes the all-conquering, the angelic queen of Harts. I
have not seen her since she left New Haven, but have heard from her
sister Eliza that she is in good health and is going in April to New York
with Mrs. Jarvis (her sister) to spend the summer and perhaps a longer
time, where she will probably break many a proud heart and bend many a
stubborn knee. I fear, Morse, unless you have her firmly in your toils, I
fear she may not be able to withstand every attack, for New York abounds
with elegant and accomplished young men.

You mention that you have again changed your mind as to the business
which you intend to pursue. I really thought that the plan of becoming a
bookseller would be permanent because sanctioned by parental authority,
but I am now convinced that your mind is so much bent upon painting that
you will do nothing else effectually. It is indeed a noble art and if
pursued effectually leads to the highest eminence, for painters rank with
poets, and to be placed in the scale with Milton and Homer is an honor
that few of mortal mould attain unto.... I wish, Finley, that you would
paint me a handsome piece for a keepsake as you are going to Europe and
may not be back in a hurry. Present my respects to Mr. Hillhouse. His
father's family are well. Adieu.

Your affectionate friend,

From this letter and from others we learn that young Morse's youthful
affections were fixed on a certain charming Miss Jannette Hart, but,
alas! he proved a faithless lover, for his friend Rossiter thus reproves
him in a letter of May 8, 1811:--

"Oh! most amazing change! Can it be possible? Oh! Love, and all ye
cordial powers of passion, forbid it! Still, still the dreadful words
glare on my sight. Alas! alas! and is it, then, a fact? If so 't is
pitiful, 't is wondrous pitiful. Cupid, tear off your bandage, new string
your bow and tip your arrows with harder adamant. Oh! shame upon you,
only hear the words of your exultant votarist--'Even Love, which
according to the proverb conquers all things, when put in competition
with painting, must yield the palm and be a willing captive.' Oh! fie,
fie, good master Cupid, you shoot but poorly if a victim so often wounded
can talk in terms like these.

"Poor luckless Jannette! the epithets 'divine' and 'heavenly' which have
so often been applied to thee are now transferred to miserable daubings
with oil and clay. Dame Nature, your triumph has been short. Poor foolish
beldam, you thought, indeed, when you had formed your masterpiece and
named her Jannette, that unqualified admiration would be extorted from
the lips of prejudice itself, and that, at least, till age had worn off
the first dazzling lustre from your favorite, your sway would have been
unlimited and your exultation immeasurable. My good old Dame, hear for
your comfort what a foolish, fickle youth has dared to say of your
darling Jannette, and that while she is yet in the first blush and bloom
of virgin loveliness--'_next_ to painting I love Jannette the best.'
Insufferable blasphemy! Hear, O Heavens, and be amazed! Tremble, O Earth,
and be horribly afraid!"

In spite of this impassioned arraignment, Morse devoted himself
exclusively to his art for the next few years, and we have only
occasional references in the letters that follow to his first serious
love affair.

We also hear nothing further of "Marius on the Ruins of Carthage"; but in
February, 1811, he writes to his brothers: "I am painting my large piece,
the landing of our forefathers at Plymouth. Perhaps I shall have it
finished by the time you come home in the spring. My landscape I finished
sometime since, and it is framed and hung up in the front parlor."

At last in July, 1811, the great ambition of the young man was about to
be realized and he prepared to set sail for England with his friend and
master, Washington Allston. His father, having once made up his mind to
allow his son to follow his bent, did everything possible to further his
ambition and assist him in his student years. He gave him many letters of
introduction to well-known persons in England and France, one of which,
to His Excellency C.M. Talleyrand, I shall quote in full.

SIR,--I had the honor to introduce to you, some years since, a young
friend of mine, Mr. Wilder, who has since resided in your country. Your
civility to him induces me to take the liberty to introduce to you my
eldest son, who visits Europe for the purpose of perfecting himself in
the art of painting under the auspices of some of your eminent artists.
Should he visit France, as he intends, I shall direct him to pay his
respects to you, sir, assured that he will receive your protection and
patronage so far as you can with convenience afford them.

In thus doing you will much oblige,

Sir, with high consideration
Your most ob'd't. Serv't,

In another letter of introduction, to whom I cannot say, as the address
on the copy is lacking, the father says:--

"His parents had designed him for a different profession, but his
inclination for the one he has chosen was so strong, and his talents for
it, in the opinion of some good judges, so promising, that we thought it
not proper to attempt to control his choice.

"In this country, young in the arts, there are few means of improvement.
These are to be found in their perfection only in older countries, and in
none, perhaps, greater than in yours. In compliance, therefore, with his
earnest wishes and those of his friend and patron, Mr. Allston (with whom
he goes to London), we have consented to make the sacrifice of feeling
(not a small one), and a pecuniary exertion to the utmost of our ability,
for the purpose of placing him under the best advantage of becoming
eminent in his profession, in hope that he will consecrate his
acquisitions to the glory of God and the best good of his fellow men."

Morse arrived in New York on July 6, 1811, after a several days' journey
from Charlestown which he describes as very terrible on account of the
heat and dust. People were dying from the heat in New York where the
thermometer reached 98° in the shade. He says:--

"My ride to New Haven was beyond everything disagreeable; the sun beating
down upon the stage (the sides of which we were obliged to shut up on
account of the sun) which was like an oven, and the wind, instead of
being in our faces as papa supposed, was at our back and brought into our
faces such columns of dust as to hinder us from seeing the other side of
the stage.

"I never was so completely covered with dust in my life before. Mama,
perhaps, will think that I experienced some inconvenience from such a
fatiguing journey, but I never felt better in my life than now."

The optimism of youth when it is doing what it wants to do.

He had taken passage on the good ship Lydia with Mr. and Mrs. Allston and
some eleven other passengers, and the sailing of the ship was delayed for
several days on account of contrary winds, but at last, on July 13, the
voyage was begun.

OFF SANDY HOOK, July 15, 1811.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--After waiting a great length of time I have got under
way. We left New York Harbor on Saturday, 13th, about twelve o'clock and
went as far as the quarantine ground on Staten Island, where, on account
of the wind, we waited over Sunday.

We are now under sail with the pilot on board. We have a fair wind from
S.S.W. and shall soon be out of sight of land. We have fourteen very
agreeable passengers, an experienced and remarkably pleasant captain, and
a strong, large, fast-sailing ship. We expect from twenty-five to thirty
days' passage.... We have a piano-forte on board and two gentlemen who
play elegantly, so we shall have fine times. I am in good spirits, though
I feel rather singularly to see my native shores disappearing so fast and
for so long a time.

I am not yet seasick, but expect to be a little so in a few days. We
shall probably be boarded by a British vessel of war soon; there are a
number off the coast, but they treat American vessels very civilly.

He kept a careful diary of the voyage to England and again resumed it
when he returned to America in 1815. The voyage out was most propitious
and lasted but twenty-two days in all: a very short one for that time. As
the diary contains nothing of importance relating to the eastern voyage,
being simply a record of good weather, fair winds, and pleasant
companions, I shall not quote from it at present.

It was all pleasure to the young man, who had never before been away from
home, and he sees no reason why people should dread a sea voyage.

The journal of the return trip tells a different story, as we shall see
later on, for the passage lasted fifty-seven days, and head winds, gales,
and even hurricanes were encountered all the way across, and he wonders
why any one should go to sea who can remain safely on land.

LIVERPOOL, August 7, 1811.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--You see from the date that I have at length arrived in
England. I have had a most delightful passage of twenty days from land to
land and two in coming up the channel.

As this is a letter merely to inform you of my safe arrival I shall not
enter into the particulars of our voyage until I get to London, to which
place I shall proceed as soon as possible.

Suffice it to say that I have not been sick a moment of the passage, but,
on the contrary, have never enjoyed my health better. I have not as yet
got my trunks from the custom-house, but presume I shall meet with no

I am now at the Liverpool Arms Inn. It is the same inn that Mr. Silliman
put up at; it is, however, very expensive; they charge the enormous sum,
I believe, of a guinea or a guinea and a half a day.

If I should be detained a day or two in this place I shall endeavor to
find out other lodgings; at present, however, it is unavoidable, as all
the other passengers are at the same place with me. You may rest assured
I shall do everything in my power to be economical, but to avoid
imposition of some kind or other cannot be expected, since every one who
has been in England and spoken of the subject to me has been imposed upon
in some way or other.

You cannot think how many times I have expressed a wish that you knew
exactly how I was situated. My passage has been so perfectly agreeable, I
know not of a single circumstance that has interfered to render it
otherwise, through the whole passage. There has been but one day in which
we have not had fair winds. Mr. and Mrs. Allston are perfectly well. She
has been seasick, but has been greatly benefited by it. She is growing
quite healthy. I have grown about three shades darker in consequence of
my voyage. I have a great deal to tell you which I must defer till I
arrive in London.... Oh! how I wish you knew at this moment that I am
safe and well in England.

Good-bye. Do write soon and often as I shall.

Your very affectionate son,

Everything was new and interesting to the young artist, and his critical
observations on people and places, on manners and customs, are naïve and
often very keen. The following are extracts from his diary:--

"As to the manners of the people it cannot be expected that I should form
a correct opinion of them since my intercourse with them has been so
short, but, from what little I have seen, I am induced to entertain a
very favorable opinion of their hospitality. The appearance of the women
as I met them in the streets struck me on account of the beauty of their
complexions. Their faces may be said to be handsome, but their figures
are very indifferent and their gait, in walking, is very bad.

"On Friday, the 9th of August, I went to the Mayor to get leave to go to
London. He gave me ten days to get there, and told me, if he found me in
Liverpool after that time, he should put me in prison, at which I could
not help smiling. His name is Drinkwater, but from the appearance of his
face I should judge it might be Drinkbrandy.

"On account of his limiting us to ten days we prepared to set out for
London immediately as we should be obliged to travel slowly.... Mr. and
Mrs. Allston and myself ordered a post-chaise, and at twelve o'clock we
set out for Manchester, intending to stay there the first night.... The
people, great numbers of whom we passed, had cheerful, healthy
countenances; they were neat in their dress and appeared perfectly

"Much has been said concerning the miserable state in which the lower
class of people live in England but especially in large manufacturing
cities. That they are so unhappy as some would think I conceive to be
erroneous. We are apt to suppose people are unhappy for the reason that,
were we taken from our present situation of independence and placed in
their situation of dependence, we should be unhappy; not considering that
contentment is the foundation of happiness. As far as my own observation
extends, and from what I can learn on inquiry, the lower class of people
generally are contented. N.B. I have altered my opinion since writing

"Thus far on our journey we have had a very pleasant time. There is great
difference I find in the treatment of travellers. They are treated
according to the style in which they travel. If a man arrives at the door
of an inn in a stage-coach, he is suffered to alight without notice, and
it is taken for granted that common fare will answer for him. But if he
comes in a post-chaise, the whole inn is in an uproar; the whole house
come to the door, from the landlord down to boots. One holds his hand to
help you to alight, another is very officious in showing you to the
parlor, and another gets in the baggage, whilst the landlord and landlady
are quite in a bustle to know what the gentleman will please to have.
This attention, however, is very pleasant, you are sure to be waited upon
well and can have everything you will call for, and that of the nicest
kind. It is the custom in this country to hire no servants at inns. They,
on the contrary, pay for their places and the only wages they get is from
the generosity of travellers.

"This circumstance at first would strike a person unacquainted with the
customs of England as a very great imposition. I thought so, but, since I
have considered the subject better, I believe that there could not be a
wiser plan formed. It makes servants civil and obliging and always ready
to do anything; for, knowing that they depend altogether on the bounty of
travellers, they would fear to do anything which would in the least
offend them; and, as there is a customary price for each grade of
servants, a person who is travelling can as well calculate the expense of
his journey as though they were nothing of the kind."

"_London, August 15, 1811._ You see from the date that I have at length
arrived at the place of my destination. I have been in the city about
three hours, so you see what is my first object.... Mr. and Mrs. Allston
with myself took a post-chaise which, indeed, is much more expensive than
a stage-coach, but, on account of Mrs. Allston's health, which you know
was not very good when in Boston (although she is much benefited by her
voyage), we were obliged to travel slowly, and in this manner it has cost
us perhaps double the sum which it would have done had we come in a
stage-coach. But necessity obliged me to act as I have done. I found
myself in a land of strangers, liable to be cheated out of my teeth
almost, and, if I had gone to London without Mr. Allston, by waiting at a
boarding-house, totally unacquainted with any living creature, I should
probably have expended the difference by the time he had arrived.... I
trust you will not think it extravagant in me for doing as I have done,
for I assure you I shall endeavor to be as economical as possible.

"I also mentioned in my letter that I could scarcely expect to steer free
from imposition since none of my predecessors have been able to do it.
Since writing that letter I have found (in spite of all my care to the
contrary) my observation true. In going from the Liverpool Arms to Mr.
Woolsey's, which is over a mile, I was under the necessity of getting
into a hackney-coach. Upon asking what was to pay he told me a shilling.
I offered him half a guinea to change, which I knew to be good, having
taken it at the hank in New York.

"He tossed it into the air and caught it in his mouth very dexterously,
and, handing it to me back again, told me it was a bad one. I looked at
it and told him I was sure it was good, but, appealing to a gentleman who
was passing, I found it was bad. Of course I was obliged to give him
other money. When I got to my lodgings I related the circumstance to some
of my friends and they told me he had cheated me in this way: that it was
common for them to carry bad money about them in their mouths, and, when
this fellow had caught the good half-guinea in his mouth, he changed it
for a bad one. This is one of the thousand tricks they play every day. I
have likewise received eleven bad shillings on the road between Liverpool
and this place, and it is hardly to be wondered at, for the shilling
pieces here are just like old buttons without eyes, without the sign of
an impression on them, and one who is not accustomed to this sort of
money will never know the difference.

"I find, as mama used to tell me, that I must watch my very teeth or they
will cheat me out of them."

"_Friday, 16th, 1811._ This morning I called on Mr. Bromfield and
delivered my letters. He received me very cordially, enquired after you
particularly, and invited me to dine with him at 5 o'clock, which
invitation I accepted.... I find I have arrived in England at a very
critical state of affairs. If such a state continues much longer, England
must fall. American measures affect this country more than you can have
any idea of. The embargo, if it had continued six weeks longer, it is
said would have forced this country into any measures."

"_Saturday, 17th._ I have been unwell to-day in some degree, so that I
have not been able to go out all day. It was a return of the colic. I
sent my letter of introduction to Dr. Lettsom with a request that he
would call on me, which he did and prescribed a medicine which cured me
in an hour or two, and this evening I feel well enough to resume my

"Dr. Lettsom is a very singular man. He looks considerably like the print
you have of him. He is a moderate Quaker, but not precise and stiff like
the Quakers of Philadelphia. He is a very pleasant and sociable man and
withal very blunt in his address. He is a man of excellent information
and is considered among the greatest literary characters here. There is
one peculiarity, however, which he has in conversation, that of using the
verb in the third person singular with the pronoun in the first person
singular and plural, as instead of 'I show' or 'we show,' he says 'I
shows,' 'we shows,' etc., upon which peculiarity the famous Mr. Sheridan
made the following lines in ridicule of him:--

"If patients call, both one and all
I bleeds 'em and I sweats 'em,
And if they die, why what care I--


"This is a liberty I suppose great men take with each other....

"Perhaps you may have been struck at the lateness of the hour set by Mr.
Bromfield for dinner [5 o'clock!], but that is considered quite early in
London. I will tell you the fashionable hours. A person to be genteel
must rise at twelve o'clock, breakfast at two, dine at six, and sup at
the same time, and go to bed about three o'clock the next morning. This
may appear extravagant, but it is actually practised by the greatest of
the fashionables of London....

"I think you will not complain of the shortness of this letter. I only
wish you now had it to relieve your minds from anxiety, for, while I am
writing, I can imagine mama wishing that she could hear of my arrival,
and thinking of thousands of accidents that may have befallen me, and _I
wish that in an instant I could communicate the information;_ but three
thousand miles are not passed over in an instant and we must wait four
long weeks before we can hear from each other."

(The italics are mine, for on the outside of this letter written by Morse
in pencil are the words:--

"A longing for the telegraph even in this letter.")

"There has a ghost made its appearance a few streets only from me which
has alarmed the whole city. It appears every night in the form of
shriekings and groanings. There are crowds at the house every night, and,
although they all hear the noises, none can discover from whence they
come. The family have quitted the house. I suppose 'tis only a hoax by
some rogue which will be brought out in time."


AUGUST 24, 1811--DECEMBER 1. 1811

Benjamin West.--George III.--Morse begins his studies.--Introduced to
West.--Enthusiasms.--Smuggling and lotteries.--English appreciation of
art.--Copley.--Friendliness of West.--Elgin marbles.--Cries of London.--
Custom in knocking.--Witnesses balloon ascension.--Crowds.--Vauxhall
Gardens.--St. Bartholomew's Fair.--Efforts to be economical.--Signs of
war.--Mails delayed.--Admitted to Royal Academy.--Disturbances, riots,
and murders.

At this time Benjamin West the American was President of the Royal
Academy and at the zenith of his power and fame. Young Morse, admitted at
once into the great man's intimacy through his connection with Washington
Allston and by letters of introduction, was dazzled and filled with
enthusiasm for the works of the master. He considered him one of the
greatest of painters, if not the greatest, of all times. The verdict of
posterity does not grant him quite so exalted a niche in the temple of
Fame, but his paintings have many solid merits and his friendship and
favor were a source of great inspiration to the young artist.

Mr. Prime in his biography of Morse relates this interesting anecdote:--

"During the war of American Independence, West, remaining true to his
native country, enjoyed the continued confidence of the King, and was
actually engaged upon his portrait when the Declaration of Independence
was handed to him. Mr. Morse received the facts from the lips of West
himself, and communicated them to me in these words:--

"'I called upon Mr. West at his house in Newman Street one morning, and
in conformity with the order given to his servant, Robert, always to
admit Mr. Leslie and myself, even if he was engaged in his private
studies, I was shown into his studio.

"'As I entered, a half-length portrait of George III stood before me upon
an easel, and Mr. West was sitting with back toward me copying from it
upon canvas. My name having been mentioned to him, he did not turn, but,
pointing with the pencil he had in his hand to the portrait from which he
was copying, he said:--

"'"Do you see that picture, Mr. Morse?"

"'"Yes sir!" I said; "I perceive it is the portrait of the King."

"'"Well," said Mr. West, "the King was sitting to me for that portrait
when the box containing the American Declaration of Independence was
handed to him."

"'"Indeed," I answered; "what appeared to be the emotions of the King?
what did he say?"

"'"Well, sir," said Mr. West, "he made a reply characteristic of the
goodness of his heart," or words to that effect. "'Well, if they can be
happier under the government they have chosen than under mine, I shall be

On August 24, 1811, Morse writes to his parents:--

"I have begun my studies, the first part of which is drawing. I am
drawing from the head of Demosthenes at present, to get accustomed to
handling black and white chalk. I shall then commence a drawing for the
purpose of trying to enter the Royal Academy. It is a much harder task to
enter now than when Mr. Allston was here, as they now require a pretty
accurate knowledge of anatomy before they suffer them to enter, and I
shall find the advantage of my anatomical lectures. I feel rather
encouraged from this circumstance, since the harder it is to gain
admittance, the greater honor it will be should I enter. I have likewise
begun a large landscape which, at a bold push, I intend for the
Exhibition, though I run the risk of being refused....

"I was introduced to Mr. West by Mr. Allston and likewise gave him your
letter. He was very glad to see me, and said he would render me every
assistance in his power."

"At the British Institution I saw his famous piece of Christ healing the
sick. He said to me: 'This is the piece I intended for America, but the
British would have it themselves; but I shall give America the better
one.' He has begun a copy, which I likewise saw, and there are several
alterations for the better, if it is possible to be better. A sight of
that piece is worth a voyage to England of itself. When it goes to
America, if you don't go to see it, I shall think you have not the least
taste for paintings."

"The encomiums which Mr. West has received on account of that piece have
given him new life, and some say he is at least ten years younger. He is
now likewise about another piece which will probably be superior to the
other. He favored me with a sight of the sketch, which he said he granted
to me because I was an American. He had not shown it to anybody else. Mr.
Allston was with me and told me afterwards that, however superior his
last piece was, this would far exceed it. The subject is Christ before
Pilate. It will contain about fifty or sixty figures the size of life."

"Mr. West is in his seventy-sixth year (I think), but, to see him, you
would suppose him only about five-and-forty. He is very active; a flight
of steps at the British Gallery he ran up as nimbly as I could.... I
walked through his gallery of paintings of his own productions; there
were upward of two hundred, consisting principally of the original
sketches of his large pieces. He has painted in all upwards of six
hundred pictures, which is more than any artist ever did with the
exception of Rubens the celebrated Dutch painter....

"I was surprised on entering the gallery of paintings in the British
Institution, at seeing eight or ten _ladies_ as well as gentlemen, with
their easels and palettes and oil colors, employed in copying some of the
pictures. You can see from this circumstance in what estimation the art
is held here, since ladies of distinction, without hesitation or reserve,
are willing to draw in public....

"By the way, I digress a little to inform you how I got my segars on
shore. When we first went ashore I filled my pockets and hat as full as I
could and left the rest in the top of my trunk intending to come and get
them immediately. I came back and took another pocket load and left about
eight or nine dozen on the top of my clothes. I went up into the city
again and forgot the remainder until it was too late either to take them
out or hide them under the clothes. So I waited trembling (for contraband
goods subject the whole trunk to seizure), but the custom-house officer,
being very good-natured and clever, saw them and took them up. I told him
they were only for my own smoking and there were so few that they were
not worth seizing. 'Oh,' says he, 'I shan't touch them; I won't know they
are here,' and then shut down the trunk again. As he smoked, I gave him a
couple of dozen for his kindness."

What a curious commentary on human nature it is that even the most pious,
up to our own time, can see no harm in smuggling and bribery. And, as
another instance of how the standards of right and wrong change with the
changing years, further on in this same letter to his strict and pious
parents young Morse says:--

"I have just received letters and papers from you by the Galen which has
arrived. I was glad to see American papers again. I see by them that the
lottery is done drawing. How has my ticket turned out? If the weight will
not be too great for one shipload, I wish you would send the money by the
next vessel."

The lottery was for the benefit of Harvard College.

"_September 3, 1811._ I have finished a drawing which I intended to offer
at the Academy for admission. Mr. Allston told me it would undoubtedly
admit me, as it was better than two thirds of those generally offered,
but advised me to draw another and remedy some defects in handling the
chalks (to which I am not at all accustomed), and he says I shall enter
with some éclat. I showed it to Mr. West and he told me it was an
extraordinary production, that I had talent, and only wanted knowledge of
the art to make a great painter."

In a letter to his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis, dated September 17,
1811, he says:--

"I was astonished to find such a difference in the encouragement of art
between this country and America. In America it seemed to lie neglected,
and only thought to be an employment suited to a lower class of people;
but here it is the constant subject of conversation, and the exhibitions
of the several painters are fashionable resorts. No person is esteemed
accomplished or well educated unless he possesses almost an enthusiastic
love for paintings. To possess a gallery of pictures is the pride of
every nobleman, and they seem to vie with each other in possessing the
most choice and most numerous collection.... I visited Mr. Copley a few
days since. He is very old and infirm. I think his age is upward of
seventy, nearly the age of Mr. West. His powers of mind have almost
entirely left him; his late paintings are miserable; it is really a
lamentable thing that a man should outlive his faculties. He has been a
first-rate painter, as you well know. I saw at his room some exquisite
pieces which he painted twenty or thirty years ago, but his paintings of
the last four or five years are very bad. He was very pleasant, however,
and agreeable in his manners.

"Mr. West I visit now and then. He is very liberal to me and gives me
every encouragement. He is a very friendly man; he talked with me like a
father and wished me to call and see him often and be intimate with him.
Age, instead of impairing his faculties, seems rather to have
strengthened them, as his last great piece testifies. He is soon coming
out with another which Mr. Allston thinks will far surpass even this
last. The subject is Christ before Pilate.

"I went last week to Burlington House in Piccadilly, about forty-five
minutes' walk, the residence of Lord Elgin, to see some of the ruins of
Athens. Lord Elgin has been at an immense expense in transporting the
great collection of splendid ruins, among them some of the original
statues of Phidias, the celebrated ancient sculptor. They are very much
mutilated, however, and impaired by time; still there was enough
remaining to show the inferiority of all subsequent sculpture. Even those
celebrated works, the Apollo Belvedere, Venus di Medicis, and the rest of
those noble statues, must yield to them....

"The cries of London, of which you have doubtless heard, are very
annoying to me, as indeed they are to all strangers. The noise of them is
constantly in one's ears from morning till midnight, and, with the
exception of one or two, they all appear to be the cries of distress. I
don't know how many times I have run to the window expecting to see some
poor creature in the agonies of death, but found, to my surprise, that it
was only an old woman crying 'Fardin' apples,' or something of the kind.
Hogarth's picture of the enraged musician will give you an excellent idea
of the noise I hear every day under my windows....

"There is a singular custom with respect to knocking at the doors of
houses here which is strictly adhered to. A servant belonging to the
house rings the bell only; a strange servant knocks once; a market man or
woman knocks once and rings; the penny post knocks twice; and a gentleman
or lady half a dozen quick knocks, or any number over two. A nobleman
generally knocks eight or ten tunes very loud.

"The accounts lately received from America look rather gloomy. They are
thought here to wear a more threatening aspect than they have heretofore
done. From my own observation and opportunity of hearing the opinion of
the people generally, they are extremely desirous of an amicable
adjustment of differences, and seem as much opposed to the idea of war as
the better part of the American people....

"In this letter you will perceive all the variety of feeling which
I have had for a fortnight past; sometimes in very low, sometimes in
very high spirits, and sometimes a balance of each; which latter, though
very desirable, I seldom have, but generally am at one extreme or the
other. I wrote this in the evenings of the last two weeks, and this
will account, and I hope apologize, for its great want of connection."

In a long letter to a friend, dated September 17, 1811, he thus describes
some of the sights of London:--

"A few days since I walked about four miles out of town to a village of
the name of Hackney to witness the ascension of a Mr. Sadler and another
gentleman in a balloon. It was a very grand sight, and the next day the
aeronauts returned to Hackney, having gone nearly fifty miles in about an
hour and a half. The number of people who attended on this occasion might
be fairly estimated at 300,000, such a concourse as I never before

"When the balloon was out of sight the crowd began to return home, and
such a confusion it is almost impossible for me to describe. A gang of
pickpockets had contrived to block up the way, which was across a bridge,
with carriages and carts, etc., and as soon as the people began to move
it created such an obstruction that, in a few moments, this great crowd,
in the midst of which I had unfortunately got, was stopped. This gave the
pickpockets an opportunity and the people were plundered to a great

"I was detained in this manner, almost suffocated, in a great shower of
rain, for about an hour, and, what added to the misery of the scene,
there were a great many women and children crying and screaming in all
directions, and no one able to assist them, not even having a finger at
liberty, they were wedged in in such a manner. I had often heard of the
danger of a London crowd, but never before experienced it, and I think
once is amply sufficient and shall rest satisfied with it.

"A few evenings since I visited the celebrated Vauxhall Gardens, of which
you have doubtless often heard. I must say they far exceeded my
expectations; I never before had an idea of such splendor. The moment I
went in I was almost struck blind with the blaze of light proceeding from
thousands of lamps and those of every color.

"In the midst of the gardens stands the orchestra box in the form of a
large temple and most beautifully illuminated. In this the principal band
of music is placed. At a little distance is another smaller temple in
which is placed the Turkish band. On one side of the gardens you enter
two splendid saloons illuminated in the same brilliant manner. In one of
them the Pandean band is placed, and in the other the Scotch band. All
around the gardens is a walk with a covered top, but opening on the sides
under curtains in festoons, and these form the most splendid illuminated
part of the whole gardens. The amusements of the evening are music,
waterworks, fireworks, and dancing.

"The principal band plays till about ten o'clock, when a little bell is
rung, and the whole concourse of people (the greater part of which are
females) run to a dark part of the gardens where there is an admirable
deception of waterworks. A bridge is seen over which stages and wagons,
men and horses, are seen passing; birds flying across and the water in
great cataracts falling down from the mountains and passing over smaller
falls under the bridges; men are seen rowing a boat across, and, indeed,
everything which could be devised in such an exhibition was performed.

"This continues for about fifteen minutes, when they all return into the
illuminated part of the gardens and are amused by music from the same
orchestra till eleven o'clock. They then are called away again to the
dark part of the gardens, where is an exhibition of the most splendid
fireworks; sky-rockets, serpents, wheels, and fountains of fire in the
greatest abundance, occupying twenty minutes more of the time.

"After this exhibition is closed, they again return into the illuminated
parts of the gardens, where the music strikes up from the chief
orchestra, and hundreds of groups are immediately formed for dancing.
Respectable ladies, however, seldom join in this dance, although
gentlemen of the first distinction sometimes for amusement lend a hand,
or rather a foot, to the general cheerfulness.

"All now is gayety throughout the gardens; every one is in motion, and
care, that bane of human happiness, for a time seems to have lost her
dominion over the human heart. Had the Eastern sage, who was in search of
the land of happiness, at this moment been introduced into Vauxhall, I
think his most exalted conceptions of happiness would have been
surpassed, and he would rest contented in having at last found the object
of his wishes.

"In a few minutes the chief orchestra ceases and is relieved in turn by
the other bands, the company following the music. The Scotch band
principally plays Scotch reels and dances. The music and this course of
dancing continue till about four o'clock in the morning, when the lights
are extinguished and the company disperses. On this evening, which was by
no means considered as a full night, the company consisted of perhaps
three thousand persons.

"I had the pleasure a few days since of witnessing one of the oddest
exhibitions, perhaps, in the world. It was no other than _St.
Bartholomew's Fair_. It is held here in London once a year and continues
three days. There is a ceremony in opening it by the Lord Mayor, which I
did not see. At this fair the lower orders of society are let loose and
allowed to amuse themselves in any lawful way they please. The fair is
held in Smithfield Market, about the centre of the city. The principal
amusement appeared to be swinging. There were large boxes capable of
holding five or six suspended in large frames in such manner as to
vibrate nearly through a semicircle. There were, to speak within bounds,
three hundred of these. They were placed all round the square, and it
almost made me giddy only to see them all in motion. They were so much
pressed for room that one of these swings would clear another but about
two inches, and it seemed almost miraculous to me that they did not meet
with more accidents than they did.

"Another amusement were large wheels, about thirty or forty feet in
diameter, on the circumference of which were four and sometimes six boxes
capable of holding four persons. These are set in slow motion, and they
gradually rise to the top of the wheel and as gradually descend and so on
in succession. There were various other machines on the same principle
which I have not time to describe.

"In the centre of the square was an assemblage of everything in the
world; theatres, wild beasts, _lusus naturoe_, mountebanks, buffoons,
dancers on the slack wire, fighting and swearing, pocket-picking and
stealing, music and dancing, and hubbub and confusion in every confused

"The theatres are worth describing; they are temporary buildings put up
and ornamented very richly on the exteriors to attract attention, while
the interiors, like many persons' heads, are but very poorly furnished.
Strolling companies of players occupy these, and between the plays the
actors and actresses exhibit themselves on a stage before the theatre in
all their spangled robes and false jewels, and strut and flourish about
till the theatre is filled.

"Then they go in and turn, perhaps, a very serious tragedy into one of
the most ridiculous farces. They occupy about fifteen minutes in reciting
a play and then a fresh audience is collected, and so they proceed
through the three days and nights, so that the poor actors and actresses
are killed about fifty times in the course of a day.

"A person who goes into one of these theatres must not expect to hear a
syllable of the tragedy. If he can look upon the stage it is as much as
he can expect, for there is such a confused noise without of drums and
fifes, clarionets, bassoons, hautboys, triangles, fiddles, bass-viols,
and, in short, every possible instrument that can make a noise, that if a
person gets safe from the fair without the total loss of his hearing for
three weeks he may consider himself fortunate. Contiguous to the theatres
are the exhibition rooms of the jugglers and buffoons, who also between
their exhibitions display their tricks on stages before the populace, and
show as many antics as so many monkeys. But were I to attempt a
description of everything I saw at Bartholomew Fair my letter, instead of
being a few sheets, would swell to as many quires; so I must close it.

"I shall probably soon witness an exhibition of a more interesting
nature; I mean a coronation. The King is now so very low that he cannot
survive more than a week or two longer, and immediately on his death the
ceremony of the coronation takes place. If I should see it I shall
certainly describe it to you."

The King, George III, did not, however, die until 1820.

In a letter of September 20 to his parents he says: "I endeavor to be as
economical as possible and am getting into the habit very fast. It must
be learned by degrees. I shall not say, as Salmagundi says,--'I shall
spare no expense in discovering the most economical way of spending
money,' but shall endeavor to practise it immediately."

"_September 24, 1811._ You will see by the papers which accompany this
what a report respecting the capture of the U.S. frigate President by
Melampus frigate prevails here. It is sufficient to say it is not in the
least credited.

"In case of war I shall be ordered out of the country. If so, instead of
returning home, had I not better go to Paris, as it is cheaper living
there even than in London, and there are great advantages there? I only
ask the question in case of war.... I am going on swimmingly. Next week
on Monday the Royal Academy opens and I shall present my drawing."

"_October 21, 1811._ I wrote you by the Galen about three weeks ago and
have this moment heard she was still in the Downs. I was really provoked.
There is great deception about vessels; they advertise for a certain day
and perhaps do not sail under a month after. The Galen has been going and
going till I am sick of hearing she hasn't gone."

"_November 6, 1811._ After leaving this letter so long, as you see by the
different dates, I again resume it. Perhaps you will be surprised when I
tell you that but yesterday I heard that the Galen is still wind-bound.
It makes my letters which are on board of her about five or six weeks
old, besides the prospect of a long voyage. However it is not her fault.
There are three or four hundred vessels in the same predicament. The wind
has been such that it has been impossible for any of them to get under
weigh; but I must confess I feel considerably anxious on your account....

"I mentioned in one of my other letters that I had drawn a figure (the
Gladiator) to admit me into the Academy. After I had finished it I was
displeased with it, and concluded not to offer it, but to attempt
another. I have accordingly drawn another from the Laocoon statue, the
most difficult of all the statues; have shown it to, the keeper of the
Academy and _am admitted for a year_ without the least difficulty. Mr.
Allston was pleased to compliment me upon it by saying that it was better
than two thirds of the drawings of those who had been drawing at the
Academy for two years."

"_November 85, 1811._ I mentioned in my last letter that I had entered
the Royal Academy, which information I hope will give you pleasure. I now
employ my days in painting at home and in the evenings in drawing at the
Academy as is customary. I have finished a landscape and almost finished
a copy of a portrait which Mr. West lent me. Mr. Allston has seen it and
complimented me by saying it was just a hundred tunes better than he had
any idea I could do, and that I should astonish Mr. West very much. I
have also begun a landscape, a morning scene at sunrise, which Mr.
Allston is very much pleased with. All these things encourage me, and, as
every day passes away, I feel increased enthusiasm....

"Distresses are increasing in this country, and disturbances, riots,
etc., have commenced as you will see by the papers which accompany this.
They are considered very alarming."

"_December 1, 1811._ I am pursuing my studies with increased enthusiasm,
and hope, before the three years are out, to relieve you from further
expense on my account. Mr. Allston encourages me to think thus from the
rapid improvement he says I have made. You may rest assured I shall use
all my endeavors to do it as soon as may be....

"This country appears to me to be in a very bad state. I judge from the
increasing disturbances at Nottingham, and more especially from the
startling murders lately committed in this city.

"A few mornings since was published an account of the murder of a family
consisting of four persons, and this moment there is another account of
the murder of one consisting of three persons, making the twelfth murder
committed in that part of the city within three months, and not one of
the murderers as yet has been discovered, although a reward of more than
seven hundred pounds has been offered for the discovery.

"The inhabitants are very much alarmed, and hereafter I shall sleep with
pistols at the head of my bed, although there is little to apprehend in
this part of the city. Still, as I find many of my acquaintance adopting
that plan, I choose rather to be on the safe side and join with them."


JANUARY 18, 1812--AUGUST 6. 1812

Political opinions.--Charles E. Leslie's reminiscences of Morse, Allston,
King, and Coleridge.--C. B. King's letter.--Sidney E. Morse's letter.--
Benjamin West's kindness.--Sir William Beechy.--Murders, robberies, etc.
--Morse and Leslie paint each other's portraits.--The elder Morse's
financial difficulties.--He deprecates the war talk.--The son differs
with his father.--The Prince Regent.--Orders in Council.--Estimate of
West.--Alarming state of affairs in England.--Assassination of Perceval,
Prime Minister.--Execution of assassin.--Morse's love for his art.--
Stephen Van Rensselaer.--Leslie the friend and Allston the master.--
Afternoon tea.--The elder Morse well known in Europe.--Lord Castlereagh.
--The Queen's drawing-room.--Kemble and Mrs. Siddons.--Zachary Macaulay.
--Warning letter from his parents.--War declared.--Morse approves.--
Gratitude to his parents, and to Allston.

The years from 1811 to 1815 which were passed by Morse in the study of
his art in London are full of historical interest, for England and
America were at war from 1812 to 1814, and the campaign of the allied
European Powers against Napoleon Bonaparte culminated in Waterloo and the
Treaty of Paris in 1815.

The young man took a deep interest in these affairs and expressed his
opinions freely and forcibly in his letters to his parents. His father
was a strong Federalist and bitterly deprecated the declaration of war by
the United States. The son, on the contrary, from his point of vantage in
the enemy's country saw things from a different point of view and stoutly
upheld the wisdom, nay, the necessity, of the war. His parents and
friends urged him to keep out of politics and to be discreet, and he
seems, at any rate, to have followed their advice in the latter respect,
for he was not in any way molested by the authorities.

At the same time he was making steady progress in his studies and making
friends, both among the Americans who were his fellow students or artists
of established reputation, and among distinguished Englishmen who were
friends of his father.

Among the former was Charles R. Leslie, his room-mate and devoted friend,
who afterwards became one of the best of the American painters of those
days. In his autobiography Leslie says:--

"My new acquaintances Allston, King, and Morse were very kind, but still
they were _new_ acquaintances. I thought of the happy circle round my
mother's fireside, and there were moments in which, but for my
obligations to Mr. Bradford and my other kind patrons, I could have been
content to forfeit all the advantages I expected from my visit to England
and return immediately to America. The two years I was to remain in
London seemed, in prospect, an age.

"Mr. Morse, who was but a year or two older than myself, and who had been
in London but six months when I arrived, felt very much as I did and we
agreed to take apartments together. For some time we painted in one room,
he at one window and I at the other. We drew at the Royal Academy in the
evening and worked at home in the day. Our mentors were Allston and King,
nor could we have been better provided; Allston, a most amiable and
polished gentleman, and a painter of the purest taste; and King,
warm-hearted, sincere, sensible, prudent, and the strictest of

"When Allston was suffering extreme depression of spirits after the loss
of his wife, he was haunted during sleepless nights by horrid thoughts,
and he told me that diabolical imprecations forced themselves into his
mind. The distress of this to a man so sincerely religious as Allston may
be imagined. He wished to consult Coleridge, but could not summon
resolution. He desired, therefore, that I should do it, and I went to
Highgate where Coleridge was at that time living with Mr. Gillman. I
found him walking in the garden, his hat in his hand (as it generally was
in the open air), for he told me that, having been one of the Bluecoat
Boys, among whom it is the fashion to go bareheaded, he had acquired a
dislike to any covering of the head.

"I explained the cause of my visit and he said: 'Allston should say to
himself, "_Nothing is me but my will._ These thoughts, therefore, that
force themselves on my mind are no part of _me_ and there can be no guilt
in them." If he will make a strong effort to become indifferent to their
recurrence, they will either cease or cease to trouble him.'

"He said much more, but this was the substance, and, after it was
repeated to Allston, I did not hear him again complain of the same kind
of disturbance."

Mr. C.B. King, the other friend mentioned by Leslie, returned to America
in 1812, and writes from Philadelphia, January 3, 1813:--

MY DEAR FRIENDS, This will be handed you by Mr. Payne, of Boston, who
intends passing some time in England.... I have not been here
sufficiently long to forget the delightful time when we could meet in the
evening with novels, coffee, and _music by Morse_, with the conversation
of that dear fellow Allston. The reflection that it will not again take
place, comes across my mind accompanied with the same painful sensation
as the thought that I must die.

That Morse was not forgotten by the good people at home is evidenced by a
letter from his brother, Sidney Edwards, of January 18, 1812, part of
which I transcribe:--

DEAR BROTHER,--I am sitting in the parlor in the armchair on the right of
the fireplace, and, as I hold my paper in my hand, with my feet sprawled
out before the fire, and with my body reclining in an oblique position
against the back of the chair, I am penning you a letter such as it is,
and for the inverted position of the letters of which I beg to apologize.

As I turn my eyes upward and opposite I behold the family picture painted
by an ingenious artist who, I understand, is at present residing in
London. If you are acquainted with him, give my love to him and my best
wishes for his prosperity and success in the art to which, if report says
true, he has devoted himself with much diligence.

Richard sits before me writing to you, and mama says (for I have just
asked her the question) that she is engaged in the same business. Papa is
upstairs very much engaged in the selfsame employment. Four right hands
are at this instant writing to give you, at some future moment, the
pleasure of perusing the products of their present labor. Four
imaginations are now employed in conceiving of a son or a brother in a
distant land. Therefore we may draw the conclusion that you are not
universally forgotten, and consequently all do not forget you.

I have written you this long letter because I knew that you would be
anxious for the information it contains; because papa told me I must
write; because mama said I had better write; because I had nothing else
to do, and because I hadn't time to write a shorter. I trust for these
special reasons you will excuse me for this once, especially when you
consider that you asked me to write you long letters; when you consider
that it is my natural disposition to express my sentiments fully; that I
commonly say most when I have least to say; that I promise reformation in
future, and that you shall hereafter hear from me on this subject.

As to news, I am sorry to say we are entirely out. We sent you the last
we had by the Sally Ann. We hope to get some ready by the time the next
ship sails, and then we will furnish you with the best the country

From a letter of January 30, 1812, to his parents I select the following

"On Tuesday last I dined at Mr. West's, who requested to be particularly
remembered to you. He is extremely attentive and polite to me. He called
on me a few days ago, which I consider a very marked attention as he
keeps so confined that he seldom pays any visits....

"I have changed my lodgings to No. 82 in the same street [Great
Titchfield Street], and have rooms with young Leslie of Philadelphia who
has just arrived. He is very promising and a very agreeable room-mate. We
are in the same stage of advancement in art.

"I have painted five pieces since I have been here, two landscapes and
three portraits; one of myself, one a copy from Mr. West's copy from
Vandyke, and the other a portrait of Mr. Leslie, who is also taking
mine.... I called a day or two since on Sir William Beechy, an artist of
great eminence, to see his paintings. They are beautiful beyond anything
I ever imagined. His principal excellence is in coloring, which, to the
many, is the most attractive part of art. Sir William is considered the
best colorist now living.

"You may be apt to ask, 'If Sir William is so great and even the best,
what is Mr. West's great excellence?' Mr. West is a bad colorist in
general, but he excels in the grandeur of his thought. Mr. West is to
painting what Milton is to poetry, and Sir William Beechy to Mr. West as
Pope to Milton, so that by comparing, or rather illustrating the one art
by the other, I can give you a better idea of the art of painting than in
any other way. For as some poets excel in the different species of poetry
and stand at the head of their different kinds, in the same manner do
painters have their particular branch of their art; and as epic poetry
excels all other kinds of poetry, because it addresses itself to the
sublimer feelings of our nature, so does historical painting stand
preëminent in our art, because it calls forth the same feelings. For
poets' and painters' minds are the same, and I infer that painting is
superior to poetry from this:--that the painter possesses with the poet a
vigorous imagination, where the poet stops, while the painter exceeds him
in the mechanical and very difficult part of the art, that of handling
the pencil."

"I gave you a hint in letter number 12 and a particular account in number
13 of the horrid murders committed in this city. It has been pretty well
ascertained from a variety of evidence that all of them have been
committed by one man, who was apprehended and put an end to his life in
prison. Very horrid attempts at robbery and murder have been very
frequent of late in all parts of the city, and even so near as within two
doors of me in the same street, but do not be alarmed, you have nothing
to fear on my account. Leslie and myself sleep in the same room and sleep
armed with a pair of pistols and a sword and alarms at our doors and
windows, so we are safe on that score....

"In my next I shall give you some account of politics here and as it
respects America. The Federalists are certainly wrong in very many

"P.S. I wish you would keep my letter in which I enumerate all my
friends, and when I say, 'Give my love to my friends,' imagine I write
them all over, and distribute it out to all as you think I ought, always
particularizing Miss Russell, my patroness, my brothers, relations, and
Mr. Brown and Nancy [his old nurse]. This will save me time, ink,
trouble, and paper."

Concerning the portraits which Morse and Leslie were painting of each
other, the following letter to Morse's mother, from a friend in
Philadelphia and signed "R.W. Snow," will be found interesting:--

MY DEAR FRIEND,--I have this moment received a letter from Miss Vaughan
in London, dated February 20, 1812, and, knowing the passage below would
be interesting to you, I transcribe it with pleasure, and add my very
sincere wish that all your hopes may be realized.

"Dr. Morse's son is considered a young man of very promising talents by
Mr. Allston and Mr. West and by those who have seen his paintings. We
have seen him and think his modesty and apparent amiableness promise as
much happiness to his friends as his talents may procure distinction for
himself. He is peculiarly fortunate, not only in having Mr. Allston for
an adviser and friend, but in his companion in painting, Mr. Leslie, a
young man from Philadelphia highly recommended by my uncle there, and
whose extreme diffidence adds to the most promising talents the patient
industry and desire of improvement which are necessary to bring them to
perfection. They have been drawing each other's pictures. Mr. Leslie is
in the Spanish costume and Mr. Morse in Highland dress. They are in an
unfinished state, but striking resemblances."

This Highland lad, I hope, my dear friend, you will see, and in due time
be again blessed with the interesting original.

At this time the good father was sore distressed financially. He was
generous to a fault and had, by endorsing notes and giving to others,
crippled his own means. He says in a letter to his son dated March 21,

"The Parkman case remains yet undecided and I know not that it ever will
be. There is a strange mystery surrounding the business which I am not
able to unravel. The court is now in session in Boston which is expected
to decide the case. In a few days we shall be able to determine what we
have to expect from this case. If we lose it, your mother and I have made
up our minds to sit down contented with the loss. I trust we shall be
enabled to pay our honest debts without it and to support ourselves.

"As to you and your brothers, I trust, with your education, you will be
able to maintain yourselves, and your parents, too, should they need it
in their old age. Probably this necessity laid on you for exertion,
industry, and economy in early life will be better for you in the end
than to be supported by your parents. In nine cases out of ten those who
begin the world with nothing are richer and more useful men in life than
those who inherit a large estate....

"We have just heard from your brothers, who are well and in fine spirits.
Edwards writes that he thinks of staying in New Haven another year and of
pursuing _general science_, and afterwards of purchasing a plantation and
becoming a planter in some one of the Southern States!! Perhaps he
intends to marry some rich planter's daughter and to get his plantation
and negroes in that way. This, I imagine, will be his only way to do it.

"The newspapers which I shall send with this will inform you of the state
of our public affairs. We have high hopes that Governor Strong will be
our governor next year. I have no belief that our _war hawks_ will be
able to involve the country in a war with Great Britain, nor do I believe
that the President really wishes it. It is thought that all the war talk
and preparations are intended to effect the reëlection of Mr. Madison.
The _Henry Plot_ is a farce intended for the same purpose, but it can
never be got up. It will operate against its promoters."

While the father was thus writing, on March 21, of the political
conditions in America from his point of view, almost at the same moment
the son in England was expressing himself as follows:--

"_March 25, 1812._ With respect to politics I know very little, my time
being occupied with much pleasanter subjects. I, however, can answer your
question whether party spirit is conducted with such virulence here as in
America. It is by no means the case, for, although it is in some few
instances very violent, still, for the most part, their debates are
conducted with great coolness.

"As to the Prince Regent, you have, perhaps, heard how unpopular he has
made himself. He has disappointed the expectations of very many. Among
the most unpopular of his measures may be placed the retention of the
Orders in Council, which orders, notwithstanding the declarations of Mr.
Perceval [the Prime Minister] and others in the Ministry to the contrary,
are fast, very fast reducing this country to ruin; and it is the opinion
of some of the best politicians in this country that, should the United
States either persist in the Non-Intercourse Law or declare war, this
country would be reduced to the lowest extremity.[1]

[Footnote 1: Orders in Council were issued by the sovereign, with the
advice of the Privy Council, in periods of emergency, trusting to their
future ratification by Parliament. In this case, while promulgated as a
retaliatory measure against Bonaparte's Continental System, they bore
heavily upon the commerce of the United States.]

"Bankruptcies are daily increasing and petitions from all parts of the
Kingdom, praying for the repeal of the Orders in Council, have been
presented to the Prince, but he has declined hearing any of them. Also
the Catholic cause remains undecided, and he refuses hearing anything on
that subject. But no more of politics. I am sure you must have more than
sufficient at home.

"I will turn to a more pleasant subject and give you a slight history of
the American artists now in London.

"At the head stands Mr. West. He stands and has stood so long preëminent
that I could relate but little of his history that would be new to you,
so that I shall confine myself only to what has fallen under my own
observation, and, of course, my remarks will be few.

"As a painter Mr. West can be accused of as few faults as any artist of
ancient or modern times. In his studies he has been indefatigable, and
the result of those studies is a perfect knowledge of the philosophy of
his art. There is not a line or a touch in his pictures which he cannot
account for on philosophical principles. They are not the productions of
accident, but of study.

"His principal excellence is considered composition, design, and elegant
grouping; and his faults were said to be a hard and harsh outline and bad
coloring. These faults he has of late in a great degree amended. His
outline is softer and his coloring, in some pictures in which he has
attempted truth of color, is not surpassed by any artist now living, and
some have even said that Titian himself did not surpass it. However that
may be, his pictures of a late date are admirable even in this
particular, and it evinces that, if in general he neglected that
fascinating branch of art in some of his paintings, he still possesses a
perfect knowledge of all its artifices. He has just completed a picture,
an historical landscape, which, for clearness of coloring combined with
grandeur of composition, has never been excelled.

"In his private character he is unimpeachable. He is a man of tender
feelings, but of a mind so noble that it soars above the slanders of his
enemies, and he expresses pity rather than revenge towards those who,
through wantonness or malice, plan to undermine his character. No man,
perhaps, ever passed through so much abuse, and none, I am confident,
ever bore up against its virulence with more nobleness of spirit, with a
steady perseverance in the pursuit of the sublimest of human professions.
He has travelled on heedless of the sneers, the ridicule, or the
detraction of his enemies, and he has arrived at that point where the
lustre of his works will not fail to illuminate the dark regions of
barbarism and distaste long after their bright author has ceased to

"Excuse my fervor in the praise of this man. He is not a common man, not
such a one as can be met with in every age. He is one of those geniuses
who are doomed in their lifetime to endure the malice, the ridicule, and
neglect of the world, and at their death to receive the praise and
adoration of this same inconsistent world. I think there cannot be a
stronger proof that human nature is always the same than that men of
genius in all ages have been compelled to undergo the same
disappointments and to pass through the same routine of calumny and

The rest of this letter is missing, which is a great pity, as it would be
interesting to read what Morse had to say of Allston, Leslie, and the

Was it a presentiment of the calumnies and abuse to which he himself was
to be subjected in after life which led him to express himself so
heartily in sympathy with his master West? And was it the inspiring
remembrance of his master's calm bearing under these afflictions which
heartened him to maintain a noble serenity under even greater

"_April 21, 1812._ I mentioned in my last letter that I should probably
exceed my allowance this year by a few pounds, but I now begin to think
that I shall not. I am trying every method to be economical and hope it
will not be long before I shall relieve you from further expense on my

"With respect to politics they appear gloomy on both sides.... You may
depend on it. England has injured us sorely and our Non-Intercourse is a
just retaliation for those wrongs. Perhaps you will believe what is said
in some of the Federal papers that that measure has no effect on this
country. You may be assured the effects are great and severe; I am myself
an eye-witness of the effects. The country is in a state of rebellion
from literal starvation. Accounts are daily received which grow more and
more alarming from the great manufacturing towns. Troops are in motion
all over the country, and but last week measures were adopted by
Parliament to prevent this metropolis from rising to rebellion, by
ordering troops to be stationed round the city to be ready at a moment's
warning. This I call an alarming period. Everybody thinks so and Mr.
Perceval himself is frightened, and a committee is appointed to take into
consideration the Orders in Council. Now, when you consider that I came
to this country prejudiced against our government and its measures, and
that I can have no bad motive in telling you these facts, you will not
think hard of me when I say that I hope that our Non-Intercourse Law will
be enforced with all its rigor, as I firmly believe it is the only way to
bring this country to terms, and that, if persisted in, it will certainly
bring them to terms. I know it must make some misery at home, but it will
be followed by a corresponding happiness after it. Some of you at home, I
suppose, will call me a Democrat, but facts are stubborn things, and I
can't deny the truth of what I see every day before my eyes. A man to
judge properly of his country must, like judging of a picture, view it at
a distance."

"_May 12, 1812._ I write in great haste to inform you of a dreadful event
which happened here last evening, and rumors of which will probably reach
you before this. Not to keep you in suspense it is no less than the
_assassination of Mr. Perceval,_ the Prime Minister of Great Britain. As
he was entering the House of Commons last evening a little past five
o'clock, he was shot directly through the heart by a man from behind the
door. He staggered forward and fell, and expired in about ten minutes....

"I have just returned from the House of Commons; there was an immense
crowd assembled and very riotous. In the hall was written in large
letters, 'Peace or the Head of the Regent.' This country is in a very
alarming state and there is no doubt but great quantities of blood will
be spilled before it is restored to order. Even while I am writing a
party of Life Guards is patrolling the streets. London must soon be the
scene of dreadful events.

"Last night I had an opportunity of studying the public mind. It was at
the theatre; the play was 'Venice Preserved; or, the Plot Discovered.' If
you will take the trouble just to read the first act you will see what
relation it has to the present state of affairs. When Pierre says to
Jaffier, 'Cans't thou kill a Senator?' there were three cheers, and so
through the whole, whenever anything was said concerning conspiracy and
in favor of it, the audience applauded, and when anything was said
against it they hissed. When Pierre asked the conspirators if Brutus was
not a good man, the audience was in a great uproar, applauding so as to
prevent for some minutes the progress of the performance. This I think
shows the public mind to be in great agitation. The play of 'Venice
Preserved' is not a moral play, and I should not ask you to read any part
of it if I could better explain to you the feelings of the public."

A few days later, on May 17, he says in a letter to his brothers:--

"The assassin Bellingham was immediately taken into custody. He was tried
on Friday and condemned to be executed to-morrow morning (Monday, 18th).
I shall go to the place to see the concourse of people, for to see him
executed I know I could not bear."

In a postscript written the day after he says:--

"I went this morning to the execution. A very violent rain prevented so
great a crowd as was expected. A few minutes before eight o'clock
Bellingham ascended the scaffold. He was very genteelly dressed; he bowed
to the crowd, who cried out, 'God bless you,' repeatedly. I saw him draw
the cap over his face and shake hands with the clergyman. I stayed no
longer, but immediately turned my back and was returning home. I had
taken but a few steps when the clock struck eight, and, on turning back,
I saw the crowd beginning to disperse. I have felt the effects of this
sight all day, and shall probably not get over it for weeks. It was a
dreadful sight. There were no accidents."

In spite of all these momentous occurrences, the young artist was
faithfully pursuing his studies, for in this same letter to his brothers
he says:--

"But enough of this; you will probably hear the whole account before this
reaches you. I am wholly absorbed in the studies of my profession; it is
a slow and arduous undertaking. I never knew till now the difficulties of
art, and no one can duly appreciate it unless he has tried it.
Difficulties, however, only increase my ardor and make me more determined
than ever to conquer them.

"Mr. West is very kind to me; I visit him occasionally of a morning to
hear him converse on art. He appears quite attached to me, as he is,
indeed, to all young American artists. It seems to give him the greatest
pleasure to think that one day the arts will flourish in America. He says
that Philadelphia will be the Athens of the world. That city certainly
gives the greatest encouragement of any place in the United States.
Boston is most backward, so, if ever I should return to America,
Philadelphia or New York would probably be my place of abode.

"I have just seen Mr. Stephen Van Rensselaer, who you know was at college
with us, and with whom I was intimate. He was very glad to see me and
calls on me every day while I am painting. He keeps his carriage and
horses and is in the first circles here. I ride out occasionally with
him; shall begin his portrait next week."

Like a breath of fresh air, in all the heat and dust of these troublous
times, comes this request from his gentle mother in a letter of May 8,

"Miss C. Dexter requests the favor of you to take a sketch of the face of
Mr. Southey and send it her. He is a favorite writer with her and she has
a great desire to see the style of his countenance. If you can get it,
enclose it in a genteel note to her with a brief account of him, his age
and character, etc."

The next letter of May 25, 1812, is from Morse to his parents.

"I have told you in former letters that my lodgings are at 82 Great
Titchfield Street and that my room-mate is Leslie, the young man who is
so much talked of in Philadelphia. We have lived together since December
and have not, as yet, had a falling out. I find his thoughts of art agree
perfectly with my own. He is enthusiastic and so am I, and we have not
time, scarcely, to think of anything else; everything we do has a
reference to art, and all our plans are for our mutual advancement in it.
Our amusements are walking, _occasionally_ attending the theatres, and
the company of Mr. Allston and a few other gentlemen, consisting of three
or four painters and poets. We meet by turn at each other's rooms and
converse and laugh.

"Mr. Allston is our most intimate friend and companion. I can't feel too
grateful to Him for his attentions to me; he calls every day and
superintends all we are doing. When I am at a stand and perplexed in some
parts of the picture, he puts me right and encourages me to proceed by
praising those parts which he thinks good, but he is faithful and always
tells me when anything is bad.

"It is a mortifying thing sometimes to me, when I have been painting all
day very hard and begin to be pleased with what I have done, on showing
it to Mr. Allston, with the expectation of praise, and not only of praise
but a score of 'excellents,' 'well dones,' and 'admirables'; I say it is
mortifying to hear him after a long silence say: 'Very bad, sir; that is
not flesh, it is mud, sir; it is painted with brick dust and clay.'

"I have felt sometimes ready to dash my palette knife through it and to
feel at the moment quite angry with him; but a little reflection restores
me; I see that Mr. Allston is not a flatterer but a friend, and that
really to improve I must see my faults. What he says after this always
puts me in good humor again. He tells me to put a few flesh tints here, a
few gray ones there, and to clear up such and such a part by such and
such colors. And not only that, but takes the palette and brushes and
shows me how, and in this way he assists me. I think it one of the
greatest blessings that I am under his eye. I don't know how many errors
I might have fallen into if it had not been for his attentions....

"I am painting portraits alone at present. Our sitters are among our
acquaintances. We paint them if they defray the expense of canvas and

"Mama wished me to send some specimens of my painting home that you might
see my improvement. The pictures that I now paint would be uninteresting
to you; they consist merely of studies and drawings from plaster figures,
hands and feet and such things. The portraits are taken by those for whom
they are painted. I shall soon begin a portrait of myself and will try
and send that to you."

"_June 8, 1812._ Mama asks in one of her letters if we make our own tea.
We do. The tea-kettle is brought to us boiling in the morning and evening
and we make our own coffee (which, by the way, is very cheap here) and
tea. We live quite in the old bachelor style. I don't know but it will be
best for me to live in this style through life; my profession seems to
require all my time.

"Mr. Hurd will take a diploma to you, with others to different persons
near Boston. I suppose it confers some title on you of consequence, as I
saw at his house a great number to be sent to all parts of the world to
distinguished men. I find papa is known here pretty extensively. Some
one, hearing my name and that I am an American, immediately asks if I am
related to you....

"The Administration is at length formed, and, to the great sorrow of
everybody, the old Ministers are reelected. The Orders in Council are the
subject of debate at the House of Commons this evening. It is an
important crisis, though there is scarcely any hope of their repeal. If
not, I sincerely hope that America will declare war.

"What Lord Castlereagh said at a public meeting a few days ago ought to
be known in America. Respecting the Orders in Council, when some one said
unless they were repealed war with America must be the consequence, he
replied that, '_if the people would but support the Ministry in those
measures for a short time, America would be compelled to submit, for she
was not able to go to war_.' But I say, and so does every American here
who sees how things are going with this country, that, should America but
declare war, before hostilities commenced Great Britain would sue for
peace on any terms. Great Britain is jealous of us and would trample on
us if she could, and I feel ashamed when I see her supported through
everything by some of the Federal editors. I wish they could be here a
few months and they would be ashamed of themselves. They are injuring
their country, for it is _their_ violence that induces this Government to
persist in their measures by holding out hope that the parties will
change, and that then they can compel America to do anything. If America
loses in this contest and softens her measures towards this country, she
never need expect to hold up her head again."

"_June 15, 1812._ The Queen held a drawing-room a short time since and I
went to St. James's Palace to see those who attended. It was a singular
sight to see the ladies and gentlemen in their court dresses. The
gentlemen were dressed in buckram skirted coats without capes, long
waistcoats, cocked hats, bag-wigs, swords, and large buckles on their
shoes. The ladies in monstrous hoops, so that in getting into their
carriages they were obliged to go edgewise. Their dresses were very rich;
some ladies, I suppose, had about them to adorn them £20,000 or £30,000
worth of diamonds."

"I had a sight of the Prince Regent as he passed in his splendid state
carriage drawn by six horses. He is very corpulent, his features are
good, but he is very red and considerably bloated. I likewise saw the
Princess Charlotte of Wales, who is handsome, the Dukes of Kent,
Cambridge, Clarence, and Cumberland, Admiral Duckworth, and many others.
The Prince held a levee a few days since at which Mr. Van Rensselaer was

"I occasionally attend the theatres. At Covent Garden there is the best
acting in the world; Mr. Kemble is the first tragic actor now in England;
Cook was a rival and excelled him in some characters. Mrs. Siddons is the
first tragic actress, perhaps, that ever lived. She is now advanced in
life and is about to retire from the stage; on the 29th of this month she
makes her last appearance. I must say I admire her acting very much; she
is rather corpulent, but has a remarkably fine face; the Grecian
character is finely portrayed in it; she excels to admiration in deep
tragedy. In Mrs. Beverly, in the play of the 'Gamesters' a few nights
ago, she so arrested the attention of the house that you might hear your
watch tick in your fob, and, at the close of the play, when she utters an
hysteric laugh for joy that her husband was not a murderer, there were
different ladies in the boxes who actually went into hysterics and were
obliged to be carried out of the theatre. This I think is proof of good
acting. Mrs. Siddons is a woman of irreproachable character and moves in
the first circles; the stage will never again see her equal.

"You mustn't think because I praise the acting that I am partial to
theatres. I think in a certain degree they are harmless, but, too much
attended, they dissipate the mind. There is no danger of my loving them
too much; I like to go once in awhile after studying hard all day.

"Last night, as I was passing through Tottenham Court Road, I saw a large
collection of people of the lower class making a most terrible noise by
beating on something of the sounding genus. Upon going nearer and
enquiring the cause, I found that a butcher had just been married, and
that it is always the custom on such occasions for his brethren by trade
to serenade the couple with _marrow-bones_ and _cleavers_. Perhaps you
have heard of the phrase 'musical as marrow-bones and cleavers'; this is
the origin of it. If you wish to experience the sound let each one in the
family take a pair of tongs and a shovel, and then, standing all
together, let each one try to outdo the other in noise, and this will
give you some idea of it. How this custom originated I don't know. I hope
it is not symbolical of the _harmony_ which is to exist between the
parties married."

Among those eminent Englishmen to whom young Morse had letters of
introduction was Zachary Macaulay, editor of the "Christian Observer,"
and father of the historian. The following note from him will be found of
a delightful old-time flavor:--

Mr. Macaulay presents his compliments to Mr. Morse and begs to express
his regret at not having yet been so fortunate as to meet with him. Mr.
Macaulay will be particularly happy if it should suit Mr. Morse to dine
with him at his house at Clapham on Saturday next at five o'clock. Mr.
M.'s house is five doors beyond the Plough at the entrance of Clapham
Common. A coach goes daily to Clapham from the Ship at Charing Cross at a
quarter past three, and several leave Grace Church Street in the City
every day at four. The distance from London Bridge to Mr. Macaulay's
house is about four miles.

23d June, 1812.

In a letter from his mother of June 28, 1812, the anxious parent says:--

"Although we long to see you, yet we rejoice that you are so happily
situated at so great a distance from our, at present, wretched, miserably
distracted country, whose mad rulers are plunging us into an unnecessary
war with a country that I shall always revere as doing more to spread the
glorious gospel of Jesus Christ to the benighted heathen, and those that
are famishing from lack of knowledge, than any other nation on the globe.
Our hearts bleed at every pore to think of again being at war. We have
not yet forgotten the wormwood and gall of the last revolution.

"We hope you will steer clear of any of the difficulties of the contest
that is about to take place. We wish you to be very prudent and guarded
in all your conversation and actions and not to make yourself a party man
on either side. Have your opinions, but have them to yourself, and be
sure you do not commit them to paper. It may do you great injury either
on one side or the other, and you are not in your present situation as a
politician but as an artist."

In this same letter his father adds:--

"The die is cast and our country plunged in war.... There is great
opposition to it in the country. The papers, which you will have
opportunity to see, will inform you of the state of parties. Your mother
has given you sound advice as respects the course you should pursue. Be
the _artist_ wholly and let _politics_ alone. I rejoice that you are
where you are at the present time. You will do what you can without delay
to support yourself, as I know not how we shall be able to procure funds
to transmit to you, and, if we had them, how we could transmit them
should the war continue."

To this the son answers in a letter of August 6, 1812:--

"I am improving, perhaps, the last opportunity I shall have for some time
to write you. Mr. Wheeler, an American, who has been here some time
studying portrait painting, has kindly offered to deliver this to you.

"Our political affairs, it seems, have come to a crisis, which I
sincerely hope will turn to the advantage of America; it certainly will
not to this country. War is an evil which no man ought to think lightly
of, but, if ever it was just, it now is. The English acknowledge it, and
what can be more convincing proof than the confession of an enemy? I was
sorry to hear of the riotous proceedings in Boston. If they knew what an
injury they were doing their country in the opinion of foreign nations,
they certainly would refrain from them. I assert (because I have proof)
that the Federalists in the Northern States have done more injury to
their country by their violent opposition measures than even a French
alliance could. Their proceedings are copied into the English papers,
read before Parliament, and circulated through the country, and what do
they say of them? Do they say the Federalists are patriots and are firm
in asserting the rights of their country? No; they call them _cowards,_ a
_base set;_ say they are traitors to their country and ought to be hanged
like traitors. These things I have heard and read, and therefore must
believe them.

"I wish I could have a talk with you, papa; I am sure I could convince
you that neither Federalists nor Democrats are Americans; that war with
this country is just, and that the present Administration of our country
has acted with perfect justice in all their proceedings against this

"To observe the contempt with which America is spoken of, and the
epithets of a _'nation of cheats,' 'sprung from convicts,'
'pusillanimous,' 'cowardly,'_ and such like,--these I think are
sufficient to make any true American's blood boil. These are not used by
individuals only, but on the floor of the House of Commons. The good
effects of our declaration of war begin to be perceived already. The tone
of their public prints here is a little softer and more submissive. Not
one has called in question the justice of the declaration of war; all
say, 'We are in the wrong and we shall do well to get out of it as soon
as possible.'

"I could tell you volumes, but I have not time, and it would, perhaps, be
impolitic in the present state of affairs. I only wish that among the
infatuated party men I may not find my father, and I hope that he will be
_neutral_ rather than oppose the war measure, for (if he will believe a
son who loves him and his country better the longer and farther he is
away from them) this war will reestablish that character for honor and
spirit which our country has lost through the proceedings of

"But I will turn from this subject. My health and spirits are excellent
and my love for my profession increases. I am painting a small historical
piece; the subject is 'Marius in Prison,' and the soldier sent to kill
him who drops his sword as Marius says, '_Durst thou kill Caius Marius?_'
The historical fact you must be familiar with. I am taking great pains
with it, and may possibly exhibit it in February at the British Gallery.

"I never think of my situation in this country but with gratitude to you
for suffering me to pursue the profession of my choice, and for making so
many sacrifices to gratify me. I hope I shall always feel grateful to the
best of parents and be able soon to show them I am so. In the mean time,
if industry and application on my part can make them happy, be assured I
shall use my best endeavors to be industrious, and in any other way to
give them comfort. One of my greatest blessings here is Mr. Allston. He
is like a brother to me, and not only is a most agreeable and
entertaining companion, but he has been the means of giving me more
knowledge (practical as well as theoretical) in my art than I could have
acquired by myself in three years.

"In whatever circumstance I am, Mr. Allston I shall esteem as one of my
best and most intimate friends, and in whatever I can assist him or his I
shall feel proud in being able to do it.

"Mr. and Mrs. Allston are well. I dined with them yesterday at Captain
Visscher's, whom I have mentioned to you before as one of our passengers.
He is very attentive to us, visits us constantly, and is making us
presents of various kinds every day, such as half a dozen best Madeira,
etc. He came out here with his lady to take possession of a fortune of
£80,000 and was immensely rich before, having married Miss Van Rensselaer
of Albany."


SEPTEMBER 20, 1812--JUNE 13, 1813  Models the "Dying Hercules."--Dreams
of greatness.--Again expresses gratitude to his parents.--Begins painting
of "Dying Hercules."--Letter from Jeremiah Evarts.--Morse upholds
righteousness of the war.--Henry Thornton.--Political discussions.--
Gilbert Stuart.--William Wilberforce.--James Wynne's reminiscences of
Morse, Coleridge, Leslie, Allston, and Dr. Abernethy.--Letters from his
mother and brother.--Letters from friends on the state of the fine arts
in America.--"The Dying Hercules" exhibited at the Royal Academy.--
Expenses of painting.--Receives Adelphi Gold Medal for statuette of
Hercules.--Mr. Dunlap's reminiscences.--Critics praise "Dying Hercules."

The young artist's letters to his parents at this period are filled with
patriotic sentiments, and he writes many pages descriptive of the state
of affairs in England and of the effects of the war on that country. He
strongly upholds the justice of that war and pleads with his parents and
brothers to take his view of the matter. They, on the other hand,
strongly disapprove of the American Administration's position and of the
war, and are inclined to censure and to laugh at the enthusiastic young
man's heroics.

As we are more concerned with Morse's career as an artist than with his
political sentiments, and as these latter, I fear, had no influence on
the course of international events, I shall quote but sparingly from that
portion of the correspondence, just enough to show that, whatever cause
he espoused, then, and at all times during his long life, he threw
himself into it heart and soul, and thoroughly believed in its
righteousness. He was absolutely sincere, although he may sometimes have
been mistaken.

In a letter dated September 20, 1812, he says:--

"I have just finished a model in clay of a figure (the 'Dying Hercules'),
my first attempt at sculpture. Mr. Allston is extremely pleased with it;
he says it is better than all the things I have done since I have been in
England put together, and says I must send a cast of it home to you, and
that it will convince you that I shall make a painter. He says also that
he will write to his friends in Boston to call on you and see it when I
send it.

"Mr. West also was extremely delighted with it. He said it was not merely
an academical figure, but displayed mind and thought. He could not have
made me a higher compliment.

"Mr. West would write you, but he has been disabled from painting or
writing for a long time with the gout in his right hand. This is a great
trial to him.

"I am anxious to send you something to show you that I have not been idle
since I have been here. My passion for my art is so firmly rooted that I
am confident no human power could destroy it. [And yet, as we shall see
later on, human injustice so discouraged him that he dropped the brush

"The more I study it, the greater I think is its claim to the appellation
of '_divine_' and I never shall be able sufficiently to show my gratitude
to my parents for their indulgence in so greatly enabling me to pursue
that profession, without which I am sure I would be miserable. If ever it
is my destiny to become great and worthy of a biographical memoir, my
biographer will never be able to charge upon my parents that bigoted
attachment to any individual profession, the exercise of which spirit by
parents toward their children has been the ruin of some of the greatest
geniuses; and the biography of men of genius has too often contained that
reflection on their parents. If ever the contrary spirit was evident, it
has certainly been shown by my parents towards me. Indeed, they have been
almost too indulgent; they have watched every change of my capricious
inclinations, and seem to have made it an object to study them with the
greatest fondness. But I think they will say that, when my desire for
change did cease, it always settled on painting.

"I hope that one day my success in my profession will reward you, in some
measure, for the trouble and inconvenience I have so long put you to.

"I am now going to begin a picture of the death of Hercules from this
figure, as large as life. The figure I shall send to you as soon as it is
practicable, and also one of the same to Philadelphia, if possible in
time for the next exhibition in May.

"I have enjoyed excellent health and spirits and am perfectly contented.
The war between the two countries has not been productive of any measures
against resident American citizens. I hope it will produce a good effect
towards both countries."

He adds in a postscript that he has removed from 82 Great Titchfield
Street to No. 8 Buckingham Place, Fitzroy Square.

The following extract from a letter to Morse written by his friend, Mr.
Jeremiah Evarts, father of William M. Evarts, dated Charlestown, October
7, 1812, is interesting:--

"I am happy that you are so industriously and prosperously engaged in the
prosecution of your profession. I hope you will let politics entirely
alone for many reasons, not the least of which is a regard to the
internal tranquillity of your own mind. I never yet knew a man made happy
by studying politics; nor useful, unless he has great duties to perform
as a citizen. You will receive this advice, I know, with your accustomed
good nature."

The next letter, dated November 1, 1812, is a very long one, over
eighteen large pages, and is an impassioned appeal to his father to look
at the war from the son's point of view. I shall quote only a few

"Your last letter was of October 2, via Halifax, accompanying your sermon
on Fast Day. The letter gave me great pleasure, but I must confess that
the sentiments in the sermon appeared very _strange_ to me, knowing what
I, as well as every American here does, respecting the causes of the
present war.... 'Tis the character of Englishmen to be haughty, proud,
and overbearing. If this conduct meets with no resistance, their
treatment becomes more imperious, and the more submissive and
conciliating is the object of their imperiousness, the more tyrannical
are they towards it. This has been their uniform treatment towards us,
and this character pervades all ranks of society, whether in public or
private life.

"The only way to please John Bull is to give him a good beating, and,
such is the singularity of his character that, the more you beat him, the
greater is his respect for you, and the more he will esteem you....

"If, after all I have now written, you still think that this war is
unjust, and think it worth the trouble in order to ascertain the truth, I
wish papa would take a trip across the Atlantic. If he is not convinced
of the truth of what I have written in less than two months, I will agree
to support myself all the time I am in England after this date, and never
be a farthing's more expense to you.... I was glad to hear that Cousin
Samuel Breese is in the navy. I really envy him very much. I hope one
day, as a painter, I may be able to hand him down to posterity as an
American Nelson.... As to my letters of introduction, I find that a
painter and a visitor cannot be united. Were I to deliver my letters the
acquaintance could not be kept up, and the bare thought of encountering
the English reserve is enough to deter any one.... This objection,
however, might be got over did it not take up so much time. Every moment
is precious to me now. I don't know how soon I may be obliged to return
home for want of means to support me; for the difficulties which are
increasing in this country take off the attention of the people from the
fine arts, and they withhold that patronage from young artists which they
would, from their liberality, in other circumstances freely bestow....

"You mention that some of the Ralston family are in Boston on a visit,
and that Mr. Codman is attached to Eliza. Once in my life, you know, if
you had told me this and I had been a very bloody-minded young man, who
knows but Mr. Codman might have been challenged. But I suppose he takes
advantage of my being in England. If it is as you say, I am very happy to
hear it, for Elizabeth is a girl whom I very much esteem, and there is no
doubt that she will make an excellent wife."

In a letter from his mother of July 6, 1818, she thus reassures him: "Mr.
Codman is married. He married a Miss Wheeler, of Newburyport, so you will
have no need of challenging him on account of Eliza Ralston."

In a postscript to the letter of November 1, Morse adds:--

"I have just read the political parts of this letter to my good friend
Mr. A----n, and he not only approves of the sentiments in it, but pays me
a compliment by saying that I have expressed the truth and nothing but
the truth in a very clear and proper manner, and hopes it may do good."

Among young Morse's friends in England at that time was Henry Thornton,
philanthropist and member of Parliament. In a letter to his parents of
January 1, 1813, he says:--

"Last Thursday week I received a very polite invitation from Henry
Thornton, Esq., to dine with him, which I accepted. I had no introduction
to him, but, hearing that your son was in the country, he found me out
and has shown me every attention. He is a very pleasant, sensible man,
but his character is too well known to you to need any eulogium from me.

"At his table was a son of Mr. Stephen, who was the author of the odious
Orders in Council. Mr. Thornton asked me at table if I thought that, if
the Orders in Council had been repealed a month or two sooner, it would
not have prevented the war. I told him I thought it would, at which he
was much pleased, and, turning to Mr. Stephen, he said: 'Do you hear
that, Mr. Stephen? I always told you so.'

"Last Wednesday I dined at Mr. Wilberforce's. I was extremely pleased
with him. At his house I met Mr. Grant and Mr. Thornton, members of
Parliament. In the course of conversation they introduced America, and
Mr. Wilberforce regretted the war extremely; he said it was like two of
the same family quarrelling; that he thought it a judgment on this
country for its wickedness, and that they had been justly punished for
their arrogance and insolence at sea, as well as the Americans for their
vaunting on land.

"As Mr. Thornton was going he invited me to spend a day or two at his
seat at Clapham, a few miles out of town. I accordingly went and was very
civilly treated. The _reserve_ which I mentioned in a former letter was
evident, however, here, and I felt a degree of embarrassment arising from
it which I never felt in America. The second day I was a little more at
my ease.

"At dinner were the two sons of the Mr. Grant I mentioned above. They
are, perhaps, the most promising young men in the country, and you may
possibly one day hear of them as at the head of the nation. [One of these
young men was afterwards raised to the peerage as Lord Glenelg.]

"After dinner I got into conversation with them and with Mr. Thornton,
when America again became the topic. They asked me a great many questions
respecting America which I answered to the best of my ability. They at
length asked me if I did not think that the ruling party in America was
very much under French influence. I replied 'No'; that I believed on the
contrary that nine tenths of the American people were prepossessed
strongly in favor of this country. As a proof I urged the universal
prevalence of English fashions in preference to French, and English
manners and customs; the universal rejoicings on the success of the
English over the French; the marked attention shown to English travellers
and visitors; the neglect with which they treated their own literary
productions on account of the strong prejudice in favor of English works;
that everything, in short, was enhanced in its value by having attached
to it the name English.

"On the other hand, I told them that the French were a people almost
universally despised in America, and by at least one half hated. As in
England, they were esteemed the common enemies of mankind; that French
fashions were discountenanced and loathed; that a Frenchman was
considered as a man always to be suspected; that young men were forbidden
by their parents, in many instances, to associate with them, they
considering their company and habits as tending to subvert their morals,
and to render them frivolous and insincere. I added that in America as
well as everywhere else there were bad men, men of no principles, whose
consciences never stand in the way of their ambition or avarice; but that
I firmly believed that, as a body, the American Congress was as pure from
corruption and foreign influence as any body of men in the world. They
were much pleased with what I told them, and acknowledged that America
and American visitors generally had been treated with too much contempt
and neglect.

"In the course of the day I asked Mr. Thornton what were the objects that
the English Government had in view when they laid the Orders in Council.
He told me in direct terms, '_the Universal monopoly of Commerce_'; that
they had long desired an excuse for such measures as the Orders in
Council, and that the French decrees were exactly what they wished, and
the opportunity was seized with avidity the moment it was offered. They
knew that the Orders in Council bore hard upon the Americans, but they
considered that as merely _incidental_.

"To this I replied that, if such was the case as he represented it, what
blame could be attached to the American Government for declaring war? He
said that it was urged that America ought to have considered the
circumstances of the case, and that Great Britain was fighting for the
liberties of the world; that America was, in a great degree, interested
in the decision of the contest, and that she ought to be content to
suffer a little.

"I told him that England had no right whatever to infringe on the
neutrality of America, or to expect because she (England) supposed
herself to have justice on her side in the contest with France, that, of
course, the Americans should think the same. The moment America declared
this opinion her neutrality ceased. 'Besides,' said I, 'how can they have
the face to make such a declaration when you just now said that their
object was universal monopoly, and they longed for an excuse to adopt
measures to that end?' I told him that it showed that all the noise about
England's fighting for the liberties of mankind proved to be but a
thirst, a selfish desire for _universal monopoly_.

"This he said seemed to be the case; he could not deny it. He was going
on to observe something respecting the French decrees when we were
interrupted, and I have not been able again to resume the conversation. I
returned to town with him shortly after in his carriage, where, as there
were strangers, I could not introduce it again."

After this follow two long pages giving further reasons for the stand he
has taken, which I shall not include, only quoting the following
sentences towards the end of the letter:--

"You will have heard before this arrives of the glorious news from
Russia. Bonaparte is for once _defeated_, and will probably never again
recover from it.

"My regards to Mr. Stuart [Gilbert Stuart]. I feel quite flattered at his
remembrance of me. Tell him that, by coming to England, I know how more
justly to appreciate his great merits. There is really no one in England
who equals him.

"Accompanying this are some newspapers, some of Cobbett's, a man of no
principle and a great rascal, yet a man of sense and says many good

I have quoted at length from this letter in order that we may gain a
clearer insight into the character of the man. While in no wise
neglecting his main objects in life, he yet could not help taking a deep
interest in public affairs. He was frank and outspoken in his opinions,
but courteous withal. He abhorred hypocrisy and vice and was unsparing in
his condemnation of both. He enjoyed a controversy and was quick to
discover the weak points in his opponent's arguments and to make the most
of them.

These characteristics he carried with him through life, becoming,
however, broader-minded and more tolerant as he grew in years and

Morse's father had given him many letters of introduction to eminent men
in England. Most of these he neglected to deliver, pleading in
extenuation of his apparent carelessness that he could not spare the time
from his artistic studies to fulfill all the duties that would be
expected of him in society, and that he also could not afford the
expenses necessary to a well-dressed man.

The following note from William Wilberforce explains itself, but there
seems to be some confusion of dates, for Morse had just said in his
letter of January 1st that he dined at Mr. Wilberforce's over a week

January 4, 1813.

SIR,--I cannot help entertaining some apprehension of my not having
received some letter or some card which you may have done me the favor of
leaving at my house. Be this, however, as it may, I gladly avail myself
of the sanction of a letter from your father for introducing myself to
you; and, as many calls are mere matters of form, I take the liberty of
begging the favor of your company at dinner on Wednesday next, at a
quarter before five o'clock, at Kensington Gore (one mile from Hyde Park
corner), and of thereby securing the pleasure of an acquaintance with

The high respect which I have always entertained for your father, in
addition to the many obliging marks of attention which I have received
from him, render me desirous of becoming personally known to you, and
enable me with truth to assure you I am, with good will, sir,

Your faithful servant,

Among Morse's friends in London during the period of his student years,
were Coleridge, Rogers, Lamb, and others whose names are familiar ones in
the literary world.

While the letters of those days give only hints of the delightful
intercourse between these congenial souls, the recollection of them was
enshrined in the memory of some of their contemporaries, and the
following reminiscences, preserved by Mr. James Wynne and recorded by Mr.
Prune in his biography, will be found interesting:--

"Coleridge, who was a visitor at the rooms of Leslie and Morse,
frequently made his appearance under the influence of those fits of
despondency to which he was subject. On these occasions, by a
preconcerted plan, they often drew him from this state to one of
brilliant imagination.

"'I was just wishing to see you,' said Morse on one of these occasions
when Coleridge entered with a hesitating step, and replied to their frank
salutations with a gloomy aspect and deep-drawn sighs. 'Leslie and myself
have had a dispute about certain lines of beauty; which is right?' And
then each argued with the other for a few moments until Coleridge became
interested, and, rousing from his fit of despondency, spoke with an
eloquence and depth of metaphysical reasoning on the subject far beyond
the comprehension of his auditors. Their point, however, was gained, and
Coleridge was again the eloquent, the profound, the gifted being which
his remarkable productions show him to be.

"'On one occasion,' said Morse, 'I heard him improvise for half an hour
in blank verse what he stated to be a strange dream, which was full of
those wonderful creations that glitter like diamonds in his poetical
productions.' 'All of which,' remarked I, 'is undoubtedly lost to the
world.' 'Not all,' replied Mr. Morse, 'for I recognize in the "Ancient
Mariner" some of the thoughts of that evening; but doubtless the greater
part, which would have made the reputation of any other man, perished
with the moment of inspiration, never again to be recalled.'

"When his tragedy of 'Remorse,' which had a run of twenty-one nights, was
first brought out, Washington Allston, Charles King, Leslie, Lamb, Morse,
and Coleridge went together to witness the performance. They occupied a
box near the stage, and each of the party was as much interested in its
success as Coleridge himself.

"The effect of the frequent applause upon Coleridge was very manifest,
but when, at the end of the piece, he was called for by the audience, the
intensity of his emotions was such as none but one gifted with the fine
sensibilities of a poet could experience. Fortunately the audience was
satisfied with a mere presentation of himself. His emotions would have
precluded the idea of his speaking on such an occasion.

"Allston soon after this became so much out of health that he thought a
change of air and a short residence in the country might relieve him. He
accordingly set out on his journey accompanied by Leslie and Morse.

"When he reached Salt Hill, near Oxford, he became so ill as to be unable
to proceed, and requested Morse to return to town for his medical
attendant, Dr. Tuthill, and Coleridge, to whom he was ardently attached.

"Morse accordingly returned, and, procuring a post-chaise, immediately
set out for Salt Hill, a distance of twenty-two miles, accompanied by
Coleridge and Dr. Tuthill.

"They arrived late in the evening and were busied with Allston until
midnight, when he became easier, and Morse and Coleridge left him for the

"Upon repairing to the sitting-room of the hotel Morse opened
Knickerbocker's 'History of New York,' which he had thrown into the
carriage before leaving town. Coleridge asked him what work he had.

"'Oh,' replied he, 'it is only an American book.'

"'Let me see it,' said Coleridge.

"He accordingly handed it to him, and Coleridge was soon buried in its
pages. Mr. Morse, overcome by the fatigues of the day, soon after retired
to his chamber and fell asleep.

"On awakening next morning he repaired to the sitting-room, when what was
his astonishment to find it still closed, with the lights burning, and
Coleridge busy with the book he had lent him the previous night.

"'Why, Coleridge,' said he, approaching him, 'have you been reading the
whole night?'

"'Why,' remarked Coleridge abstractedly, 'it is not late.'

"Morse replied by throwing open the blinds and permitting the broad
daylight, for it was now ten o'clock, to stream in upon them.

"'Indeed,' said Coleridge, 'I had no conception of this; but the work has
pleased me exceedingly. It is admirably written; pray, who is its

"He was informed that it was the production of Washington Irving. It is
needless to say that, during the long residence of Irving in London, they
became warm friends.

"At this period Mr. Abernethy was in the full tide of his popularity as a
surgeon, and Allston, who had for some little time had a grumbling pain
in his thigh, proposed to Morse to accompany him to the house of the
distinguished surgeon to consult him on the cause of the ailment.

"As Allston had his hand on the bell-pull, the door was opened and a
visitor passed out, immediately followed by a coarse-looking person with
a large, shaggy head of hair, whom Allston at once took for a domestic.
He accordingly enquired if Mr. Abernethy was in.

"'What do you want of Mr. Abernethy?' demanded this uncouth-looking
person with the harshest possible Scotch accent.

"'I wished to see him,' gently replied Allston, somewhat shocked by the
coarseness of his reception. 'Is he at home?'

"'Come in, come in, mon,' said the same uncouth personage.

"'But he may be engaged,' responded Allston. 'Perhaps I had better call
another time.'

"'Come in, mon, I say,' replied the person addressed; and, partly by
persuasion and partly by force, Allston, followed by Morse, was induced
to enter the hall, which they had no sooner done than the person who
admitted them closed the street door, and, placing his back against it,

"'Now, tell me what is your business with Mr. Abernethy. I am Mr.

"'I have come to consult you,' replied Allston, 'about an affection--'

"'What the de'il hae I to do with your affections?' bluntly interposed

"'Perhaps, Mr. Abernethy,' said Allston, by this time so completely
overcome by the apparent rudeness of the eminent surgeon as to regret
calling on him at all, 'you are engaged at present, and I had better call

"'De'il the bit, de'il the bit, mon,' said Abernethy. 'Come in, come in.'
And he preceded them to his office, and examined his case, which proved
to be a slight one, with such gentleness as almost to lead them to doubt
whether Abernethy within his consulting-room, and Abernethy whom they had
encountered in the passage, was really the same personage."

While Morse was enjoying all these new experiences in England, the good
people at home were jogging along in their accustomed ruts, but were
deeply interested in the doings of the absent son and brother.

His mother writes on January 11, 1813:--

"Your letters are read with great pleasure by your acquaintance. I do not
show those in which you say anything on _politics,_ as I do not approve
your _change_, and think it would only prejudice others. For that reason
I do not wish you to write on that subject, as I love to read all your
observations to your friends.

"We cannot get Edwards to be a ladies' man at all. He will not visit
among the young ladies; he is as old as fifty, at least."

This same youthful misogynist and philosopher also writes to his brother
on January 11: "I intend soon writing another letter in which I shall
prove to your satisfaction that poetry is much superior to painting. You
asserted the contrary in one of your letters, and brought an argument to
prove it. I shall show the fallacy of that argument, and bring those to
support my doctrine which are incontrovertible."

A letter from his friend, Mrs. Jarvis, the sister of his erstwhile flame,
Miss Jannette Hart, informs him of the marriage of another sister to
Captain Hull of the navy, commander of the Constitution. In this letter,
written on March 4, 1813, at Bloomingdale, New York City, Mrs. Jarvis

"I am in general proud of the spirit of my countrymen, but there is too
little attention paid to the fine arts, to men of taste and science. Man
here is weighed by his purse, not by his mind, and, according to the
preponderance of that, he rises or sinks in the scale of individual
opinion. A fine painting or marble statue is very rare in the houses of
the rich of this city, and those individuals who would not pay fifty
pounds for either, expend double that sum to vie with a neighbor in a
piece of furniture.

"But do not tell tales. I would not say this to an Englishman, and I
trust you have not yet become one. This, however, is poor encouragement
for you to return to your native country. I hope better things of that
country before you may return."

A friend in Philadelphia writes to him on May 3, 1813:--

"Your favor I received from the hands of Mr. King, and have been very
much gratified with the introduction it afforded me to this worthy
gentleman. You have doubtless heard of his safe arrival in our city, and
of his having commenced his career in America, where, I am sorry to say,
the arts are not, as yet, so much patronized as I hope to see them. Those
of us who love them are too poor, and those who are wealthy regard them
but little. I think, however, I have already witnessed an improvement in
this respect, and the rich merchants and professional men are becoming
more and more liberal in their patronage of genius, when they find it
among native Americans.

"From the favorable circumstances under which your studies are
progressing; from the unrivalled talents of the gentleman who conducts
them; and, without flattery, suffer me to add, from the early proofs of
your own genius, I anticipate, in common with many of our fellow
citizens, the addition of one artist to our present roll whose name shall
stand high among those of American painters.

"In your companion Leslie we also calculate on a very distinguished

"Our Academy of Fine Arts has begun the all-important study of the live
figure. Mr. Sully, Mr. Peale, Mr. Fainnan, Mr. King, and several others
have devoted much attention to this branch of the school, and I hope to
see it in their hands highly useful and improving.

"The last annual exhibition was very splendid _for us_. Some very capital
landscapes were produced, many admirable portraits and one or two
historical pictures.

"The most conspicuous paintings were Mr. Peale's picture of the 'Roman
Charity' (or, if you please, the 'Grecian Daughter,' for Murphy has it
so), and Mr. Sully's 'Lady of the Lake.'"

In a letter of May 30, 1818, to a friend, Morse says:--

"You ask in your letter what books I read and what I am painting. The
little time that I can spare from painting I employ in reading and
studying the old poets, Spenser, Chaucer, Dante, Tasso, etc. These are
necessary to a painter.

"As to painting, I have just finished a large picture, eight feet by six
feet six inches, the subject, the 'Death of Hercules,' which is now in
the Royal Academy Exhibition at Somerset House. I have been flattered by
the newspapers which seldom praise young artists, and they do me the
honor to say that my picture, with that of another young man by the name
of Monroe, form a distinguishing trait in this year's exhibition....

"This praise I consider much exaggerated. Mr. West, however, who saw it
as soon as I had finished it, paid me many compliments, and told me that,
were I to live to his age, I should never make a better composition. This
I consider but a compliment and as meant only to encourage me, and as
such I receive it.

"I mention these circumstances merely to show that I am getting along as
well as can be expected, and, if any credit attaches to me, I willingly
resign it to my country, and feel happy that I can contribute a mite to
her honor.

"The American character stands high in this country as to the production
of artists, but in nothing else (except, indeed, I may now say
_bravery_). Mr. West now stands at the head, and has stood ever since the
arts began to flourish in this country, which is only about fifty years.
Mr. Copley next, then Colonel Trumbull. Stuart in America has no rival
here. As these are now old men and going off the stage, Mr. Allston
succeeds in the prime of life, and will, in the opinion of the greatest
connoisseurs in this country, carry the art to greater perfection than it
ever has been carried either in ancient or modern times.... After him is
a young man from Philadelphia by the name of Leslie, who is my room-mate."

How fallible is contemporary judgment on the claims of so-called genius
to immortality. "For many are called, but few are chosen."

In another letter to his parents written about this time, after telling
of his economies in order to make the money, advanced so cheerfully but
at the cost of so much self-sacrifice on their part, last as long as
possible, he adds:

"My greatest expense, next to _living_, is for canvas, frames, colors,
etc., and visiting galleries. The frame of my large picture, which I have
just finished, cost nearly twenty pounds, besides the canvas and colors,
which cost nearly eight pounds more, and the frame was the cheapest I
could possibly get. Mr. Allston's frame cost him sixty guineas.

"Frames are very expensive things, and, on that account, I shall not
attempt another large picture for some time, although Mr. West advises me
to paint _large_ as much as possible.

"The picture which I have finished is 'The Death of Hercules'; the size
is eight feet by six feet six inches. This picture I showed to Mr. West a
few weeks ago, and he was extremely pleased with it and paid me very many
high compliments; but as praise comes better from another than from one's
self, I shall send you a complimentary note which Mr. West has promised
to send me on the occasion.

"I sent the picture to the Exhibition at Somerset House which opens on
the 3d of May, and have the satisfaction not only of having it received,
but of having the praises of the council who decide on the admission of
pictures. Six hundred were refused admission this year, so you may
suppose that a picture (of the size of mine, too) must possess some merit
to be received in preference to six hundred. A small picture may be
received even if it is not very good, because it will serve to fill up
some little space which would otherwise be empty, but a large one, from
its excluding many smaller ones, must possess a great deal in its favor
in order to be received.

"If you recollect I told you I had completed a model of a single figure
of the same subject. This I sent to the Society of Arts at the Adelphi,
to stand for the prize (which is offered every year for the best
performance in painting, sculpture, and architecture and is a _gold

"Yesterday I received the note accompanying this, by which you will see
that it is adjudged to me in sculpture this year. It will be delivered to
me in public on the 13th of May or June, I don't know which, but I shall
give you a particular account of the whole process as soon as I have
received it.... I cannot close this letter without telling you how much I
am indebted to that excellent man Mr. Allston. He is extremely partial to
me and has often told me that he is proud of calling me his pupil. He
visits me every evening and our conversation is generally upon the
inexhaustible subject of our divine art, and upon _home_ which is next in
our thoughts.

"I know not in what terms to speak of Mr. Allston. I can truly say I do
not know the slightest imperfection in him. He is amiable, affectionate,
learned, possessed of the greatest powers of mind and genius, modest,
unassuming, and, above all, a religious man.... I could write a quire of
paper in his praise, but all I could say of him would give you but a very
imperfect idea of him....

"You must recollect, when you tell friends that I am studying in England,
that I am a pupil of Allston and not Mr. West. They will not long ask who
Mr. Allston is; he will very soon astonish the world. He claims me as his
pupil, and told me a day or two since, in a jocose manner, that he should
have a battle with Mr. West unless he gave up all pretension to me."

We gain further information concerning Morse's first triumphs, his
painting and his statuette from the following reminiscences of a friend,
Mr. Dunlap:--

"It was about the year 1812 that Allston commenced his celebrated picture
of the 'Dead Man restored to Life by touching the Bones of Elisha,' which
is now in the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts. In the study of this picture
he made a model in clay of the head of the dead man to assist him in
painting the expression. This was the practice of the most eminent old
masters. Morse had begun a large picture to come out before the British
public at the Royal Academy Exhibition. The subject was the 'Dying
Hercules,' and, in order to paint it with the more effect, he followed
the example of Allston and determined to model the figure in clay. It was
his first attempt at modelling.

"His original intention was simply to complete such parts of the figure
as were useful in the single view necessary for the purpose of painting;
but, having done this, he was encouraged, by the approbation of Allston
and other artists, to finish the entire figure.

"After completing it, he had it cast in plaster of Paris and carried it
to show to West, who seemed more than pleased with it. After surveying it
all round critically, with many exclamations of surprise, he sent his
servant to call his son Raphael. As soon as Raphael made his appearance
West pointed to the figure and said: 'Look there, sir; I have always told
you any painter can make a sculptor.'

"From this model Morse painted his picture of the 'Dying Hercules,' of
colossal size, and sent it, in May, 1813, to the Royal Academy Exhibition
at Somerset House."

The picture was well received. A critic of one of the journals of that
day in speaking of the Royal Academy thus notices Morse:--

"Of the academicians two or three have distinguished themselves in a
preëminent degree; besides, few have added much to their fame, perhaps
they have hardly sustained it. But the great feature in this exhibition
is that it presents several works of very high merit by artists with
whose performances, and even with whose names, we were hitherto
unacquainted. At the head of this class are Messrs. Monroe and Morse. The
prize of history may be contended for by Mr. Northcote and Mr. Stothard.
We should award it to the former. After these gentlemen Messrs. Hilton,
Turner, Lane, Monroe, and Morse follow in the same class." (London
"Globe," May 14, 1813.)

Painted by Morse in 1813]

In commemorating the "preëminent works of this exhibition," out of nearly
two thousand pictures, this critic places the "Dying Hercules" among the
first twelve.

On June 13, 1813, Morse thus writes to his parents:--

"I send by this opportunity (Mr. Elisha Goddard) the little cast of the
Hercules which obtained the prize this year at the Adelphi, and also the
gold medal, which was the premium presented to me, before a large
assembly of the nobility and gentry of the country, by the Duke of
Norfolk, who also paid me a handsome compliment at the same time.

"There were present Lord Percy, the Margravine of Anspach, the Turkish,
Sardinian, and Russian Ambassadors, who were pointed out to me, and many
noblemen whom I do not now recollect.

"My great picture also has not only been received at the Royal Academy,
but has one of the finest places in the rooms. It has been spoken of in
the papers, which you must know is considered a great compliment; for a
young artist, unless extraordinary, is seldom or never mentioned till he
has exhibited several times. They not only praise me, but place my
picture among the most attractive in the exhibition. This I know will
give you pleasure."


JULY 10, 1813--APRIL 6, 1814

Letter from the father on economies and political views.--Morse
deprecates lack of spirit in New England and rejoices at Wellington's
victories.--Allston's poems.--Morse coat-of-arms.--Letter of Joseph
Hillhouse.--Letter of exhortation from his mother.--Morse wishes to stay
longer in Europe.--Amused at mother's political views.--The father sends
more money for a longer stay.--Sidney exalts poetry above painting.--His
mother warns him against infidels and actors.--Bristol.--Optimism.--
Letter on infidels and his own religious observances.--Future of American
art.--He is in good health, but thin.--Letter from Mr. Visger.--Benjamin
Burritt, American prisoner.--Efforts in his behalf unsuccessful.--Capture
of Paris by the Allies.--Again expresses gratitude to parents.--Writes a
play for Charles Mathews.--Not produced.

The detailed accounts of his economies which the young man sent home to
his parents seem to have deeply touched them, for on July 10, 1813, his
father writes to him: "Your economy, industry, and success in pursuing
your professional studies give your affectionate parents the highest
gratification and reward. We wish you to avoid carrying your economy to
an _extreme_. Let your appearance be suited to the respectable company
you keep, and your living such as will conduce most effectually to
preserve health of body and vigor of mind. We shall all be willing to
make sacrifices at home so far as may be necessary to the above

Farther on in this same letter the father says: "The character you give
of Mr. Allston is, indeed, an exalted one, and we believe it correctly
drawn. Your ardor has given it a high coloring, but the excess is that of
an affectionate and grateful heart."

Referring to his son's political views, he answers in these broad-minded

"I approve your love of your country and concern for its honor. Your
errors, as we think them, appear to be the errors of a fair and honest
mind, and are of a kind to be effectually cured by correct information of
facts on both sides.

"Probably we may err because we are ignorant of many things which have
fallen under your notice. We shall no doubt agree when we shall have
opportunity to compare notes, and each is made acquainted with all that
the other knows. I confidently expect an honorable peace in the course of
six months, but may be deceived, as the future course of things cannot be

"The present is one of the finest and most promising seasons I ever knew;
the harvest to appearance will be very abundant. Heaven appears to be
rewarding this part of the country for their conduct in opposing the
present war."

Perhaps the good father did not mean to be malicious, but this is rather
a wicked little thrust at the son's vehemently expressed political views.
On this very same date, July 10, 1813, Morse writes to his parents:--

"I have just heard of the unfortunate capture of the Chesapeake. Is our
infant Hercules to be strangled at his birth? Where is the spirit of
former times which kindled in the hearts of the Bostonians? Will they
still be unmoved, or must they learn from more bitter experience that
Britain is not for peace, and that the only way to procure it is to join
heart and hand in a vigorous prosecution of the war?

"It is not the time now to think of party; the country is in danger; but
I hope to hear soon that the honor of our navy is retrieved. The brave
Captain Lawrence will never, I am sure, be forgotten; his career of glory
has been short but brilliant.

"All is rejoicing here; illuminations and fireworks and _feux de joie_
for the capture of the Chesapeake and a victory in Spain.

"Imagine yourself, if possible, in my situation in an enemy's country and
hearing songs of triumph and exultation on the misfortunes of my
countrymen, and this, too, on the 4th of July. A less ardent spirit than
mine might perhaps tolerate it, but I cannot. I do long to be at home, to
be in the navy, and teach these insolent Englishmen how to respect us....

"The Marquis Wellington has achieved a great victory in Spain, and bids
fair to drive the French out very soon. At this I rejoice as ought every
man who abhors tyranny and loves liberty. I wish the British success
against everything but _my country_. I often say with Cowper: 'England,
with all thy faults, I love thee still.'

"I am longing for Edwards' comparison between poetry and painting, and to
know how he will prove the former superior to the latter. A painter
_must_ be a poet, but a poet need not be a painter. How will he get over
this argument?

"By the way, Mr. Allston has just published a volume of poems, a copy of
which I will endeavor to send you. They are but just published, so that
the opinion of the public is not yet ascertained, but there is no doubt
they will forever put at rest the calumny that America has never produced
a poet.

"I have lately been enquiring for the coat-of-arms which belongs to the
Morse family. For this purpose I wish to know from what part of this
Kingdom the Morses emigrated, and if you can recollect anything that
belongs to the arms. If you will answer these questions minutely, I can,
for half a crown, ascertain the arms and crest which belong to the
family, which (as there is a degree of importance attached to heraldry in
this country) may be well to know. I have seen the arms of one Morse
which have been in the family three hundred years. So we can trace our
antiquity as far as any family."

A letter from a college-mate, Mr. Joseph Hillhouse, written in Boston on
July 12, 1813, gives a pretty picture of Morse's home, and contains some
quaint gossip which I shall transcribe:--

"On Saturday afternoon the beauty of the weather invited my cousin
Catherine Borland, my sister Mary (who is here on a visit), and myself to
take a walk over to Charlestown for the purpose of paying a visit to your
good parents. We found them just preparing tea, and at once concluded to
join the family party.

"Present to the eye of your fancy the closing-in of a fine, blue-skied,
sunny American Saturday evening, whose tranquillity and repose rendered
it the fit precursor of the Sabbath. Imagine the tea-table placed in your
sitting-parlor, all the windows open, and round it, first, the
housekeeper pouring out tea; next her, Miss C. Borland; next her, your
mother, whose looks spoke love as often as you were mentioned, and that
was not infrequently, I assure you. On your mother's right sat my sister,
next whom was your father in his long green-striped study gown, his
apostolic smile responding to the eye of your mother when his dear son
was his theme. I was placed (and an honorable post I considered it) at
his right hand.

"There the scene for you. Can you paint it? Neither of your brothers was
at home....

"In home news we have little variety. The sister of your quondam flame,
Miss Ann Hart, bestowed her hand last winter on Victory as personified in
our little fat captain, Isaac Hull, who is now reposing in the shade of
his laurels, and amusing himself in directing the construction of a
seventy-four at Portsmouth. Where the fair excellence, Miss Jannette
herself, is at present, I am unable to say. The sunshine of her eyes has
not beamed upon me since I beheld you delightedly and gallantly figuring
at her side at Daddy Value's ball, where I exhibited sundry feats of the
same sort myself.

"By the way, Mons. V. is still in fiddling condition, and the immaculate
Ann Jane Caroline Gibbs, Madame, has bestowed a subject on the state!!

"A fortnight since your friend Nancy Goodrich was married to William
Ellsworth. Emily Webster is soon to plight her faith to his brother
Henry. Miss Mary Ann Woolsey thinks of consummating the blessedness of a
Mr. Scarborough before the expiration of the summer. He is a widower of
thirty or thirty-five with one child, a little girl four or five years

"Thus, you see, my dear friend, all here seem to be setting their faces
heavenward; all seem ambitious of repairing the ravages of war....

"P.S. Oh! horrid mistake I made on the preceding page! Nancy and Emily,
on my knees I deprecate your wrath!! I have substituted William for Henry
and Henry for William. No, Henry is Nancy's and William Emily's. They are
twins, and I, forsooth, must make them changelings!"

In a letter of July 30, 1813, his mother thus exhorts him:--

"I hope, my dear son, your success in your profession will not have a
tendency to make you vain, or embolden you to look down on any in your
profession whom Providence may have been less favorable to in point of
talents for this particular business; and that you will observe a modesty
in the reception of premiums and praises on account of your talents, that
shall show to those who bestow them that you are worthy of them in more
senses than merely as an artist. It will likewise convince those who are
less favored that you are far from exulting in their disappointments,--as
I hope is truly the case,--and prevent that jealousy and envy that too
often discovers itself in those of the same profession....

"We exceedingly rejoice in all your success, and hope you will persevere.
Remember, my son, it is easier to get a reputation than to keep it
unspotted in the midst of so much pollution as we are surrounded by....

"C. Dexter thanks you for your attention to her request as it respects
Southey's likeness. She does not wish you to take too much pains and
trouble to get it, but she, I know, would be greatly pleased if you
should send her one of him. If you should get acquainted with him, inform
him that a very sensible, fine young lady in America requested it (but
don't tell him her name) from having read his works."

In a long letter of August 10 and 26, 1813, after again giving free rein
to his political feelings, he returns to the subject of his art:--

"Mr. West promised me a note to you, but he is an old man and very
forgetful, and I suppose he has forgotten it. I don't wish to remind him
of it directly, but, if in the course of conversation I can contrive to
mention it, I will....

"With respect to returning home next summer, Mr. Allston and Mr. West
think it would be an injury to me. Mr. Allston says I ought not to return
till I am a _painter_. I long to return as much as you can wish to have
me, but, if you can spare me a little longer, I should wish it. I abide
your decision, however, completely. Mr. Allston will write you fully on
this subject, and I will endeavor to persuade Mr. West also to do it.

"France I could not, at present, visit with advantage; that is to say
for, perhaps, a year. Mr. Allston thinks I ought to be previously well
grounded in the principles of the English school to resist the
corruptions of the French school; for they are corrupt in the principles
of painting, as in religion and everything else; but, when well grounded
in the good principles of this school, I could study and select the few
beauties of the French without being in danger of following their many
errors. The Louvre also would, in about a year, be of the greatest
advantage to me, and also the fine works in Italy....

"Mama has amused me very much in her letter where she writes on politics.
She says that, next to changing one's religion, she would dislike a man
for changing his politics. Mama, perhaps, is not aware that she would in
this way shut the door completely to conviction in anything. It would
imply that, because a man is educated in error, he must forever live in
error. I know exactly how mama feels; she thinks, as I did when at home,
that it was impossible for the Federalists to be in the wrong; but, as
all men are fallible, I think they may stand a chance of being wrong as
well as any other class of people....

"Mama thinks my '_error_' arises from wrong information. I will ask mama
which of us is likely to get at the truth; I, who am in England and can
see and hear all their motives for acting as they have done; or mama, who
gets her information from the Federal papers, second-hand, with numerous
additions and improvements made to answer party purposes, distorted and

"But to give you an instance. In the Massachusetts remonstrance they
attribute the repeal of the Orders in Council to the kind disposition of
the English Government, and a wish on their part to do justice, whereas
it is notorious in this country that they repealed them on account of the
injury it was doing themselves, and took America into consideration about
as much as they did the inhabitants of Kamschatka. The conditional repeal
of the Berlin and Milan decrees was a back door for them, and they
availed themselves of it to sneak out of it. This necessity, this act of
dire necessity, the Federal papers cry up as evincing a most forbearing
spirit towards us, and really astonish the English themselves who never
dreamt that it could be twisted in that way.

"Mama assigns as a reason for my thinking well of the English that they
have been very polite to me, and that it is ingratitude in me if I do
otherwise. A few individuals have treated me politely, and I do feel
thankful and gratified for it; but a little politeness from an individual
of one nation to an individual of another is certainly not a reason that
the former's Government should be esteemed incapable of wrong by the
latter. I esteem the English as a nation; I rejoice in their conquests on
the Continent, and would love them heartily, if they would let me; but I
am afraid to tell them this, they are already too proud.

"Their treatment of America is the worse for it. They are like a poor man
who has got a lottery ticket and draws a great prize, and when his poor
neighbor comes sincerely to congratulate him on his success, he holds up
his head, and, turning up his nose, tells him that now he is his superior
and then kicks him out of doors.

"Papa says he expects peace in six months. It may be in the disposition
of America to make peace, but not in the will of the English. It is in
the power of the Federalists to force her to peace, but they will not do
it, so she will force us to do it."

As in most discussions, political or otherwise, neither party seems to
have been convinced by the arguments of the other, for the parents
continue to urge him to leave politics alone; indeed, they insist on his
doing so. They also urge him to make every effort to support himself, if
he should decide to spend another year abroad, for they fear that they
will be unable to send him any more money. However, the father, when he
became convinced that it was really to his son's interest to spend
another year abroad, contrived to send him another thousand dollars. This
was done at the cost of great self-sacrifice on the part of himself and
his family, and was all the more praiseworthy on that account.

In a letter from his brother Edwards, written also on the 17th of
November, is this passage: "I must defer giving my reasons for thinking
Poetry superior to Painting; I will mention only a few of the principles
upon which I found my judgment. Genius in both these arts is the power of
making impressions. The question then is: which is capable of making the
strongest impression; which can impress upon the mind most strongly a
sublime or a beautiful idea? Does the sublimest passage in Milton excite
a stronger sensation in the mind of a man of taste than the sublimest
painting of Michael Angelo? Or, to make the parallel more complete, does
Michael Angelo convey to you a stronger impression of the Last Judgment,
by his painting, than Milton could by his poetry? Could Michael Angelo
convey a more sublime idea of Death by his painting than Milton has in
his 'Paradise Lost'? These are the principles upon which your 'divine
art' is to be degraded below Poetry."

This was rather acute reasoning for a boy of twenty who had spent his
life in the Boston and New Haven of those early days. The fact that he
had never seen a great painting, whereas he had greedily read the poets,
will probably account for his strong partisanship.

The pious mother writes on November 25, 1813:--

"With regard to the Americans being despised and hated in England, you
were apprised by your Uncle Salisbury and others before you left this
country that that was the case, and you ought not to be surprised when
you realized it. The reason given was that a large portion of those who
visit Europe are _dissipated infidels_, which has justly given the
English a bad opinion of us as a nation. But we are happy to find that
there are many exceptions to these, who do honor to the country which
gave them birth, such as a West, an Allston, and many others, among whom,
I am happy to say, we hope that you, my son, will be enrolled at no very
distant day....

"You mention being acquainted with young Payne, the play actor. I would
guard you against any acquaintance with that description of people, as it
will, sooner or later, have a most corrupting effect on the morals, and,
as a man is known by the company he keeps, I should be very sorry to have
you enrolled with such society, however pure you may believe his morals
to be.

"Your father and myself were eleven days in company with him in coming
from Charleston, South Carolina. His behavior was quite unexceptionable
then, but he is in a situation to ruin the best morals. I hope you do not
attend the theatre, as I have ever considered it a most bewitching
amusement, and ruinous both to soul and body. I would therefore guard you
against it."

His brother Richard joined the rest of the family in urging the young and
impulsive artist to leave politics alone, as we learn from the following
words which begin a letter of November 27, 1813:--

MY DEAR BROTHER,--Your letters by the Neptune, and also the medal, gave
us great pleasure. The politics, however, were very disagreeable and
occupied no inconsiderable part of your letters. Your kind wishes for
_our_ reformation we must beg leave to retort by hoping for _your_ speedy

There are gaps in the correspondence of this period. Many of the letters
from both sides of the Atlantic seem never to have reached their
destination, owing to the disturbed state of affairs arising from the war
between the two countries.

The young artist had gone in October, 1813, to Bristol, at the earnest
solicitation of friends in that city, and seems to have spent a pleasant
and profitable five months there, painting a number of portraits. He
refers to letters written from Bristol, but they were either never
received or not preserved. Of other letters I have only fragments, and
some that are quoted by Mr. Prime in his biography have vanished utterly.
Still, from what remains, we can glean a fairly good idea of the life of
the young man at that period. His parents continually begged him to leave
politics alone and to tell them more of his artistic life, of his visits
to interesting places, and of his intercourse with the literary and
artistic celebrities of the day.

We, too, must regret that he did not write more fully on these subjects,
for there must have been a mine of interesting material at his disposal.
We also learn that there seems to have been a strange fatality attached
to the little statuette of the "Dying Hercules," for, although he packed
it carefully and sent it to Liverpool on June 18, 1813, to be forwarded
to his parents, it never reached them until over two years later. The
superstitious will say that the date of sending may have had something to
do with this.

Up to this time everything, except the attitude of England towards
America, had been _couleur de rose_ to the enthusiastic young artist. He
was making rapid progress in his studies and was receiving the encomiums
of his fellow artists and of the critics. His parents were denying
themselves in order to provide the means for his support, and, while he
was duly appreciative of their goodness, he could not help taking it more
or less as a matter of course. He was optimistic with regard to the
future, falling into the common error of gifted young artists that,
because of their artistic success, financial success must of necessity
follow. He had yet to be proved in the school of adversity, and he had
not long to wait. But I shall let the letters tell the story better than
I can. The last letter from him to his parents from which I have quoted
was written on August 12 and 26, 1813.

On March 12, 1814, he writes from London after his return from Bristol:--

"There is a great drawback to my writing long letters to you; I mean the
uncertainty of their reaching you.

"Mama's long letter gave me particular pleasure. Some of her
observations, however, made me smile, especially the reasons she assigns
for the contempt and hatred of England for America. First, I am inclined
to doubt the fact of there being so many _infidel_ Americans in the
country; second, if there were, there are not so many _religious_ people
here who would take the pains to enquire whether they had religion or
not; and third, it is not by seeing the individual Americans that an
opinion unfavorable to us is prevalent in England....

"With respect to my religious sentiments, they are unshaken; their
influence, I hope, will always guide me through life. I hear various
preachings on Sundays, sometimes Mr. Burder, but most commonly the Church
of England clergy, as a church is in my neighborhood and Mr. B.'s three
miles distant. I most commonly heard Dr. Biddulph, of St. James's Church,
a most excellent, orthodox, evangelical man. I was on the point many
times of going to hear Mr. Lowell, who is one of the dissenting clergymen
of Bristol, but, as the weather proved very unfavorable, uncommonly so
every Sunday I was there, and I was at a great distance from his church,
I was disappointed. I shall endeavor to hear him preach when I go back to
Bristol again."

This was in reply to many long exhortations in his parents' letters, and
especially in his mother's, couched in the extravagant language of the
very pious of those days, to seek first the welfare of his "never-dying

"I have returned from Bristol to attend the exhibitions and to endeavor
to get a picture into Somerset House. My stay in Bristol was very
pleasant, indeed, as well as profitable. I was there five months and, in
May, shall probably go again and stay all summer. I was getting into good
business in the portrait way there, and, if I return, shall be enabled,
probably, to support myself as long as I stay in England.

"The attention shown me by Mr. Harman Visger and family, whom I have
mentioned in a former letter, I shall never forget. He is a rich
merchant, an American (cousin to Captain Visscher, my fellow passenger,
by whom I was introduced to him). He has a family of seven children. I
lived within a few doors of him, and was in and out of his house ever

Four pages of this letter are, unfortunately, missing. It begins again

"... prevented by illness from writing you before.

"I shall endeavor to support myself, if not, necessity will compel me to
return home an unfinished painter; it depends altogether on
circumstances. I may get a good run of portraits or I may not; it depends
so much on the whim of the public; if they should happen to fancy my
pictures, I shall succeed; if not, why, I shall not succeed. I am,
however, encouraged to hope....

"If I am prohibited from writing or thinking of politics, I hope my
brothers will not be so ungenerous as to give me any....

"Mr. Allston's large picture is now exhibiting in the British Gallery. It
has excited a great deal of curiosity and he has obtained a wonderful
share of praise for it.... The picture is very deservedly ranked among
the highest productions of art, either in ancient or modern times. It is
really a pleasant consideration that the palm of painting still rests
with America, and is, in all probability, destined to remain with us. All
we wish is a taste in the country and a little more wealth.... In order
to create a taste, however, pictures, first-rate pictures, must be
introduced into the country, for taste is only acquired by a close study
of the merits of the old masters. In Philadelphia I am happy to find they
have successfully begun. I wish Americans would unite in the thing, throw
aside local prejudices and give their support to _one_ institution. Let
it be in Philadelphia, since it is so happily begun there, and let every
American feel a pride in supporting that institution; let it be a
national not a city institution. Then might the arts be so encouraged
that Americans might remain at home and not, as at present, be under the
painful necessity of exiling themselves from their country and their

"This will come to pass in the course of time, but not in my day, I fear,
unless there is more exertion made to forward the arts than at

In this he proved a true prophet, and, as we shall see later, his
exertions were a potent factor in establishing the fine arts on a firm
basis in New York.

"I am in very good health and I hope I feel grateful for it. I have not
been ill for two days together since I have been in England. I am,
however, of the _walking-stick_ order, and think I am thinner than I was
at home. They all tell me so. I'm not so good-looking either, I am told;
I have lost my color, grown more sallow, and have a face approaching to
the hatchet class; but none of these things concern me; if I can paint
good-looking, plump ladies and gentlemen, I shall feel satisfied....

"We have had a dreadfully severe winter here in England, such as has not
been known for twenty-two years. When I came from Bristol the snow was up
on each side of the road as high as the top of the coach in many places,
especially on Marlborough Down and Hounslow Heath."

His friend Mr. Visger thus writes to him from Bristol on April 1, 1814:--

"It gave me pleasure to learn that Mr. Leslie sold his picture of Saul,
etc., at so good a price. I hope it will stimulate a friend of his to use
his best exertions and time to endeavor even to excel the 'Witch of
Endor.' I think I perceive a few symptoms of amendment in him, and the
request of his father that he must support himself is, in the opinion of
his friends here, the best thing that could have befallen him. He will
now have the pleasure to taste the sweets of his own labor, and I hope
will, in reality, know what true independence is. Let him not despair and
he will certainly succeed.

"Excuse my having taken up so much of your time in reading what I have
written about Mr. Leslie's friend; I hope it will not make the pencil
work less smoothly.

"It gave us all great pleasure to hear that Mr. Allston's 'Dead and Alive
Man' got the prize. It would be a great addition to our pleasure to hear
that those encouragers of the fine arts have offered him fifteen hundred
or two thousand guineas for it....

"There is an old lady waiting your return to have her portrait painted.
Bangley says one or two more are enquiring for Mr. Morse.

"You seem to have forgotten your friend in Stapleton prison. Did you not
succeed in obtaining his release?"

This refers to a certain Mr. Benjamin Burritt, an American prisoner of
war. Morse used every effort, through his friend Henry Thornton, to
secure the release of Mr. Burritt. On December 30, 1813, he wrote to Mr.
Thornton from Bristol:--

RESPECTED SIR,--I take the liberty of addressing you in behalf of an
American prisoner of war now in the Stapleton depot, and I address you,
sir, under the conviction that a petition in the cause of humanity will
not be considered by you as obtrusive.

The prisoner I allude to is a gentleman of the name of Burritt, a native
of New Haven, in the State of Connecticut; his connections are of the
highest respectability in that city, which is notorious for its adherence
to Federal principles. His friends and relatives are among my father's
friends, and, although I was not, until now, personally acquainted with
him, yet his face is familiar to me, and many of his relatives were my
particular friends while I was receiving my education at Yale College in
New Haven. From that college he was graduated in the year ----. A
classmate of his was the Reverend Mr. Stuart, who is one of the
professors of the Andover Theological Institution, and of whom, I think,
my father has spoken in some of his letters to Mr. Wilberforce.

Mr. Burritt, after he left college, applied himself to study, so much so
as to injure his health, and, by the advice of his physicians, he took to
the sea as the only remedy left for him. This had the desired effect, and
he was restored to health in a considerable degree.

Upon the breaking out of the war with this country, all the American
coasting trade being destroyed, he took a situation as second mate in the
schooner Revenge, bound to France, and was captured on the 10th of May,

Since that time he has been a prisoner, and, from the enclosed
certificates, you will ascertain what has been his conduct. He is a man
of excellent religious principles, and, I firmly believe, of the
strictest integrity. So well assured am I of this that, in case it should
be required, _I will hold myself bound to answer for him in my own

His health is suffering by his confinement, and the unprincipled society,
which he is obliged to endure, is peculiarly disagreeable to a man of his

My object in stating these particulars to you, sir, is (if possible and
consistent with the laws of the country), to obtain for him, through your
influence, his liberty on his parole of honor. By so doing you will
probably be the means of preserving the life of a good man, and will lay
his friends, my father, and myself under the greatest obligations.

Trusting to your goodness to pardon this intrusion upon your time, I am,
sir, with the highest consideration,

Your most humble, obedient servant,

To this Mr. Thornton replied:--

DEAR SIR,--You will perceive by the enclosed that there is, unhappily, no
prospect of our effecting our wishes in respect to your poor friend at
Bristol. I shall be glad to know whether you have had any success in
obtaining a passport for Dr. Cushing.

I am, dear sir, yours, etc.

The enclosure referred to by Mr. Thornton was the following letter
addressed to him by Lord Melville:--

SIR,--Mr. Hay having communicated to me a letter which he received from
you on the subject of Benjamin Burritt, an American prisoner of war in
the depot at Stapleton, I regret much that, after consulting on this case
with Sir Rupert George, and ascertaining the usual course of procedure in
similar instances, I cannot discover any circumstances that would justify
a departure from the rules observed toward other prisoners of the same

There can be no question that his case is a hard one, but I am afraid
that it is inseparable from a state of war. It is not only not a solitary
instance among the French and American prisoners, but, unless we were
prepared to adopt the system of releasing all others of the same
description, we should find that the number who might justly complain of
undue partiality to this man would be very considerable.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient and very humble servant,

This was a great disappointment to Morse, who had set his heart on being
the means of securing the liberty of this unfortunate man. He was
compelled to bow to the inevitable, however, and after this he did what
he could to make the unhappy situation of the prisoner more bearable by
extending to him financial assistance, although he had but little to
spare at that time himself, and could but ill afford the luxury of

Great events were occurring on the Continent at this time, and it is
interesting to note how the intelligence of them was received in England
by an enthusiastic student, not only of the fine arts, but of the
humanities, who felt that, in this case, his sympathies and those of his
family were in accord:--

April 6, 1814.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--I write in much haste, but it is to inform you of a
most glorious event, no less than the capture of Paris, by the Allies.
They entered it last Thursday, and you may conceive the sensations of the
people of England on the occasion. As the cartel is the first vessel
which will arrive in America to carry the news, I hope I shall have the
great satisfaction of hearing that I am the first who shall inform you of
this great event; the particulars you will see nearly as soon as this.

I congratulate you and the rest of the good people of the world on the
occasion. _Despotism_ and _Usurpation_ are fallen, never, I hope, to rise
again. But what gives me the greatest pleasure in the contemplation of
this occurrence is the spirit of religion and, consequently, of humanity
which has constantly marked the conduct of the Allies. Their moderation
through all their unparallelled successes cannot be too much extolled;
they merit the grateful remembrance of posterity, who will bless them as
the restorers of a blessing but little enjoyed by the greater part of
mankind for centuries. I mean the inestimable blessing of _Peace_.

But I must cut short my feelings on the subject; were I to give them
scope they would fill quires; they are as ardent as yours possibly can
be. Suffice it to say that I see the hand of Providence so strongly in it
that I think an infidel must be converted by it, and I hope I feel as a
Christian should on such an occasion.

I am well, in excellent spirits and shall use my utmost endeavors to
support myself, for now more than ever is it necessary for me to stay in
Europe. Peace is inevitable, and the easy access to the Continent and the
fine works of art there render it doubly important that I should improve
them to my utmost.

I cannot ask more of my parents than they have done for me, but the
struggle will be hard for me to get along and improve myself at the same
time. Portraits are the only things which can support me at present, but
it is insipid, indeed, for one who wishes to be at the head of the first
branch of the art, to be stopped halfway, and be obliged to struggle with
the difficulty of maintaining himself, in addition to the other
difficulties attendant on the profession.

But it is impossible to place this in a clear light in a letter. I wish I
could talk with you on the subject, and I could in a short time make it
clear to you. I cannot ask it of you and I do not till I try what I can
do. You have already done more than I deserved and it would be
ingratitude in me to request more of you, and I do not; only I say these
things that you may not expect so much from me in the way of improvement
as you may have been led to suppose.

Morse seems to have made an excursion into dramatic literature at about
this time, as the following draft of a letter, without date, but
evidently written to the celebrated actor Charles Mathews, will

Not having the honor of a personal acquaintance with you, I have taken
the liberty of enclosing to you a farce which, if, on perusal, you should
think worthy of the stage, I beg you to accept, to be performed, if
consistent with your plans, on the night appointed for your benefit.

If I should be so much favored as to obtain your good opinion of it, the
approbation alone of Mr. Mathews will be a sufficient reward for the task
of writing it.

The pleasure which I have so often received from you in the exercise of
your comic powers would alone prompt me to make some return which might
show you, at least, that I can be grateful to those who have at any time
afforded me pleasure.

With respect to your accepting or not accepting it, I wish you to act
your pleasure entirely. If you think it will be of benefit to you by
drawing a full house, or in any other way, it is perfectly at your
service. If you think it will not succeed, will you have the goodness to
enclose it under cover and direct to Mr. T.G.S., artist, 82 Great
Titchfield Street; and I assure you beforehand that you need be under no
apprehension of giving me mortification by refusing it. It would only
convince me that I had not dramatic talents, and would serve, perhaps, to
increase my ardor in the pursuit of my professional studies. If, however,
it should meet with your approbation and you should wish to see me on the
subject, a line directed as above enclosing your address shall receive
immediate attention.

I am as yet undecided what shall be its name. The character of Oxyd I had
designed for you. The farce is a first attempt and has received the
approbation, not only of my theatrical friends generally, but of some
confessed critics by whom it has been commended.

With sentiments of respect and esteem I remain, Your most obedient humble

As no further mention of this play is made I fear that the great Charles
Mathews did not find it available. There is also no trace of the play
itself among the papers, which is rather to be regretted. We can only
surmise that Morse came to the conclusion (very wisely) that he had no
"dramatic talents," and that he turned to the pursuit of his professional
studies with increased ardor.


MAY 2, 1814--OCTOBER 11, 1814

Allston writes encouragingly to the parents.--Morse unwilling to be mere
portrait-painter.--Ambitious to stand at the head of his profession.--
Desires patronage from wealthy friends.--Delay in the mails.--Account of
_entrée_ of Louis XVIII into London.--The Prince Regent.--Indignation at
acts of English.--His parents relieved at hearing from him after seven
months' silence.--No hope of patronage from America.--His brothers.--
Account of fêtes.--Emperor Alexander, King of Prussia, Blücher, Platoff.
--Wishes to go to Paris.--Letter from M. Van Schaick about battle of Lake
Erie.--Disgusted with England.

Morse had now spent nearly three years in England. He was maturing
rapidly in every way, and what his master thought of him is shown in this
extract from a letter of Washington Allston to the anxious parent at

"With regard to the progress which your son has made, I have the pleasure
to say that it is unusually great for the time he has been studying, and
indeed such as to make me proud of him as a pupil and to give every
promise of future eminence....

"Should he be obliged to return _now_ to America, I much fear that all
which he has acquired would be rendered abortive. It is true he could
there paint very good portraits, but I should grieve to hear at any
future period that, on the foundation now laid, he shall have been able
to raise no higher superstructure than the fame of a portrait-painter. I
do not intend here any disrespect to portrait-painting; I know it
requires no common talent to excel in it....

"In addition to this _professional report_ I have the sincere
satisfaction to give my testimony to his conduct as a man, which is such
as to render him still worthy of being affectionately remembered by his
moral and religious friends in America. This is saying a great deal for a
young man of two-and-twenty in London, but is not more than justice
requires me to say of him."

On May 2, 1814, Morse writes home:--

"You ask if you are to expect me the next summer. This leads me to a
little enlargement on the peculiar circumstances in which I am now
placed. Mr. Allston's letter by the same cartel will convince you that
industry and application have not been wanting on my part, that I have
made greater progress than young men generally, etc., etc., and of how
great importance it is to me to remain in Europe for some time yet to
come. Indeed I feel it so much so myself that I shall endeavor to stay at
all risks. If I find that I cannot support myself, that I am contracting
debts which I have no prospect of paying, I shall then return home and
settle down into a mere portrait-painter for some time, till I can obtain
sufficient to return to Europe again; for I cannot be happy unless I am
pursuing the intellectual branch of the art. Portraits have none of it;
landscape has some of it, but history has it wholly. I am certain you
would not be satisfied to see me sit down quietly, spending my time in
painting portraits, throwing away the talents which Heaven has given me
for the higher branches of art, and devoting my time only to the

"I need not tell you what a difficult profession I have undertaken. It
has difficulties in itself which are sufficient to deter any man who has
not firmness enough to go through with it at all hazards, without meeting
with any obstacles aside from it. The more I study it, the more I am
enchanted with it; and the greater my progress, the more am I struck with
its beauties, and the perseverance of those who have dared to pursue it
through the thousands of natural hindrances with which the art abounds.

"I never can feel too grateful to my parents for having assisted me thus
far in my profession. They have done more than I had any right to expect;
they have conducted themselves with a liberality towards me, both in
respect to money and to countenancing me in the pursuit of one of the
noblest of professions, which has not many equals in this country. I
cannot ask of them more; it would be ingratitude.

"I am now in the midst of my studies when the great works of ancient art
are of the utmost service to me. Political events have just thrown open
the whole Continent; the whole world will now leave war and bend their
attention to the cultivation of the arts of peace. A golden age is in
prospect, and art is probably destined to again revive as in the
fifteenth century.

"The Americans at present stand unrivalled, and it is my great ambition
(and it is certainly a commendable one) to stand among the first. My
country has the most prominent place in my thoughts. How shall I raise
her name, how can I be of service in refuting the calumny, so
industriously spread against her, that she has produced no men of genius?
It is this more than anything (aside from painting) that inspires me with
a desire to excel in my art. It arouses my indignation and gives me
tenfold energy in the pursuit of my studies. I should like to be the
greatest painter _purely out of revenge_.

"But what a damper is thrown upon my enthusiasm when I find that, the
moment when all the treasures of art are before me, just within my reach;
that advantages to the artist were never greater than now; Paris with all
its splendid depository of the greatest works but a day or two's journey
from me, and open to my free inspection,--what a damper, I say, is it to
find that my three years' allowance is just expired; that while all my
contemporary students and companions are revelling in these enjoyments,
and rapidly advancing in their noble studies, they are leaving me behind,
either to return to my country, or, by painting portraits in Bristol,
just to be able to live through the year. The thought makes me
melancholy, and, for the first time since I left home, have I had one of
my desponding fits. I have got over it now, for I would not write to you
in that mood for the world. My object in stating this is to request
patronage from some rich individual or individuals for a year or two
longer at the rate of £250 per year. This to be advanced to me, and, if
required, to be returned in money as soon as I shall be able, or by
pictures to the amount when I have completed my studies.... If Uncle
Salisbury or Miss Russell could do it, it would be much more grateful to
me than from any others....

"The box containing my plaster cast I found, on enquiry, is still at
Liverpool where it has been, to my great disappointment, now nearly a
year. I have given orders to have it sent by the first opportunity. Mr.
Wilder will tell you that he came near taking out my great picture of the
Hercules to you. It seems as though it is destined that nothing of mine
shall reach you. I packed it up at a moment's warning and sent it to
Liverpool to go by the cartel, and I found it arrived the day after she
had sailed. I hope it will not be long before both the boxes will have an
opportunity of reaching you.

"I am exceedingly sorry you have forgotten a passage in one of my letters
where I wished you not to feel anxious if you did not hear from me as
often as you had done. I stated the reason, that opportunities were less
frequent, more circuitous, and attended with greater interruptions. I
told you that I should write at least once in three weeks, and that you
must attribute it to anything but neglect on my part.

"Your last letter has hurt me considerably, for, owing to some accident
or other, my letters have miscarried, and you upbraid me with neglect,
and fear that I am not as industrious or correct as formerly. I know you
don't wish to hurt me, but I cannot help feeling hurt when I think that
my parents have not the confidence which I thought they had in me; that
some interruptions, which all complain of and which are natural to a
state of warfare, having prevented letters, which I have written, from
being received; instead of making allowances for these things, to have
them attribute it to a falling-off in industry and attention wounds me a
great deal. Mrs. Allston, to her great surprise, received just such a
letter from her friends, and it hurt her so that she was ill in

"I dine at Mr. Macaulay's at five o'clock to-day, and shall attend the
House of Commons to-morrow evening, where I expect to hear Mr.
Wilberforce speak on the Slave Trade, with reference to the propriety of
making the universal abolition of it an article in the pending
negotiations. If I have time in this letter I will give you some account
of it. In the mean time I will give you a slight account of some scenes
of which I have been a happy witness in the great drama now acting in the
Theatre of Europe.

"You will probably, before this reaches you, hear of the splendid
_entrée_ of Louis XVIII into London. I was a spectator of this scene. On
the morning of the day, about ten o'clock, I went into Piccadilly through
which the procession was to pass. I did not find any great concourse of
people at that hour except before the Pultney Hotel, where the sister of
Emperor Alexander resides on a visit to this country, the Grand Duchess
of Oldenburg. I thought it probable that, as the procession would pass
this place, there would be some uncommon occurrence taking place before
it, so I took my situation directly opposite, determined, at any rate, to
secure a good view of what happened.

"I waited four or five hours, during which time the people began to
collect from all quarters; the carriages began to thicken, the windows
and fronts of the houses began to be decorated with the white flag, white
ribbons, and laurel. Temporary seats were fitted up on all sides, which
began to be filled, and all seemed to be in preparation. About this time
the King's splendid band of music made its appearance, consisting, I
suppose, of more than fifty musicians, and, to my great gratification,
placed themselves directly before the hotel. They began to play, and soon
after the grand duchess, attended by several Russian noblemen, made her
appearance on the balcony, followed by the Queen of England, the Princess
Charlotte of Wales, the Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth, and all the
female part of the royal family. From this fortunate circumstance you
will see that I had an excellent opportunity of observing their persons
and countenances.

"The Duchess of Oldenburg is a common-sized woman of about four or five
and twenty; she has rather a pleasant countenance, blue eyes, pale
complexion, regular features, her cheek-bones high, but not disagreeably
so. She resembles very much her brother the Emperor, judging from his
portrait. She had with her her little nephew, Prince Alexander, a boy of
about three or four years old. He was a lively little fellow, playing
about, and was the principal object of the attention of the royal family.

"The Queen, if I was truly directed to her, is an old woman of very
sallow complexion, and nothing agreeable either in her countenance or
deportment; and, if she was not called a queen, she might as well be any
ugly old woman. The Princess Charlotte of Wales I thought pretty; she has
small features, regular, pale complexion, great amiability of expression
and condescension of manners; the Princess Elizabeth is extremely
corpulent, and, from what I could see of her face, was agreeable though
nothing remarkable.

"One of the others, I think it was the Princess Mary, appeared to have
considerable vivacity in her manners; she was without any covering to her
head, her hair was sandy, which she wore cropped; her complexion was
probably fair originally, but was rather red now; her features were

"It now began to grow late, the people were beginning to be tired,
wanting their dinners, and the crowd to thicken, when a universal
commotion and murmur through the crowd and from the housetops indicated
that the procession was at hand. This was followed by the thunder of
artillery and the huzzas of the people toward the head of the street,
where the houses seemed to be alive with the twirling of hats and shaking
of handkerchiefs. This seemed to mark the progress of the King; for, as
he came opposite each house, these actions became most violent, with
cries of _'Vivent les Bourbons!' 'Vive le Roi!' 'Vive Louis!'_ etc.

"I now grew several inches taller; I stretched my neck and opened my
eyes. One carriage appeared, drawn by six horses, decorated with ribbons,
and containing some of the French _noblesse;_ another, of the same
description, with some of the French royal family. At length came a
carriage drawn by eight beautiful Arabian cream-colored horses. In this
were seated Louis XVIII, King of France, the Prince Regent of England,
the Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI, and the Prince of Condé.
They passed rather quickly, so that I had but a glance at them, though a
distinct one. The Prince Regent I had often seen before; the King of
France I had a better sight of afterwards, as I will presently relate.
The Duchesse d'Angoulême had a fine expression of countenance, owing
probably to the occasion, but a melancholy cast was also visible through
it; she was pale. The Prince of Condé I have no recollection of.

"After this part of the procession had passed, the crowd became
exceedingly oppressive, rushing down the street to keep pace with the
King's carriage. As the King passed the royal family he bowed, which they
returned by kissing their hands to him and shaking their handkerchiefs
with great enthusiasm. After they had gone by, the royal family left the
balcony, where they had been between two and three hours.

"My only object now was to get clear of the crowd. I waited nearly three
quarters of an hour, and at length, by main strength, worked myself
edgewise across the street, where I pushed down through stables and
houses and by-lanes to get thoroughly clear, not caring where I went, as
I knew I could easily find my way when I got into a street. This I at
last gained, and, to my no small astonishment, found myself by mere
chance directly opposite the hotel where Louis and his suite were.

"The Prince Regent had just left the place, and with his carriage went a
great part of the mob, which left the space before the house
comparatively clear. It soon filled again; I took advantage, however, and
got directly before the windows of the hotel, as I expected the King
would show himself, for the people were calling for him very clamorously.

"I was not disappointed, for, in less than half a minute he came to the
window, which was open, before which I was. I was so near him I could
have touched him. He stayed nearly ten minutes, during which time I
observed him carefully. He is very corpulent, a round face, dark eyes,
prominent features; the character of countenance much like the portraits
of the other Louises; a pleasant face, but, above all, such an expression
of the moment as, I shall never forget, and in vain attempt to describe.

"His eyes were suffused with tears, his mouth slightly open with an
unaffected smile full of gratitude, and seemed to say to every one,
'Bless you.' His hands were a little extended sometimes as if in
adoration to heaven, at others as if blessing the people. I entered into
his feelings. I saw a monarch who, for five-and-twenty years, had been an
exile from his country, deprived of his throne, and, until within a few
months, not a shadow of a hope remaining of ever returning to it again. I
saw him raised, as if by magic, from a private station in an instant to
his throne, to reign over a nation which has made itself the most
conspicuous of any nation on the globe. I tried to think as he did, and,
in the heat of my enthusiasm, I joined with heart and soul in the cries
of _'Vive le roi!' 'Vive Louis!'_ which rent the air from the mouths of
thousands. As soon as he left the window, I returned home much fatigued,
but well satisfied that my labor had not been for naught....

"Mr. Wilberforce is an excellent man; his whole soul is bent on doing
good to his fellow men. Not a moment of his time is lost. He is always
planning some benevolent scheme or other, and not only planning but
executing; he is made up altogether of affectionate feeling. What I saw
of him in private gave me the most exalted opinion of him as a Christian.
Oh, that such men as Mr. Wilberforce were more common in this world. So
much human blood would not then be shed to gratify the malice and revenge
of a few wicked, interested men.

"I hope Cousin Samuel Breese will distinguish himself under so gallant a
commander as Captain Perry. I shall look with anxiety for the sailing of
the Guerrière. There will be plenty of opportunity for him, for peace
with us is deprecated by the people here, and it only remains for us to
fight it out gallantly, as we are able to do, or submit slavishly to any
terms which they please to offer us. A number of _humane_ schemes are
under contemplation, such as burning New London for the sake of the
frigates there; arming the blacks in the Southern States; burning all of
our principal cities, and such like plans, which, from the supineness of
the New England people, may be easily carried into effect. But no, the
_humane, generous_ English cannot do such base things--I hope not; let
the event show it. It is perhaps well I am here, for, with my present
opinions, if I were at home, I should most certainly be in the army or
navy. My mite is small, but, when my country's honor demands it, it might
help to sustain it.

"There can now be no French party. I wish very much to know what effect
this series of good news will have at home. I congratulate you as well as
all other good people on the providential events which have lately
happened; they must produce great changes with us; I hope it will be for
the best.

"I am in excellent health, and am painting away; I am making studies for
the large picture I contemplate for next year. It will be as large, I
think, as Mr. Allston's famous one, which was ten feet by fourteen."

It can hardly be wondered at that the parents should have been somewhat
anxious, when we learn from letters of June, 1814, that they had not
heard from their son for _seven months_. They were greatly relieved when
letters did finally arrive, and they rejoiced in his success and in the
hope of a universal peace, which should enable their sons "to act their
part on the stage of life in a calmer period of the world."

His mother keeps urging him to send some of his paintings home, as they
wish to judge of his improvement, having, as yet, received nothing but
the small pen-and-ink portrait of himself, which they do not think a very
good likeness. She also emphatically discourages any idea of patronage
from America, owing to the hard times brought on by the war, and the
father tells his son that he will endeavor to send him one thousand
dollars more, which must suffice for the additional year's study and the
expenses of the journey home.

It is small wonder that the three sons always manifested the deepest
veneration and affection for their parents, for seldom has there been
seen as great devotion and self-sacrifice, and seldom were three sons
more worthy of it. Sidney was at this time studying law at Litchfield,
Connecticut, and Richard was attending the Theological Seminary at
Andover, Massachusetts. Both became eminent in after life, though,
curiously enough, neither in the law nor in the ministry. But we shall
have occasion to treat more specifically of this later on. The three
brothers were devotedly attached to each other to the very end of their
long lives, and were mutually helpful as their lives now diverged and now
came together again.

The next letter from Morse to his parents, written on June 15, 1814,
gives a further account of the great people who were at that time in

"I expected at this time to have been in Bristol with Mr. and Mrs.
Allston, who are now there, but the great fêtes in honor of the peace,
and the visit of the allied sovereigns, have kept me in London till all
is over. There are now in London upward of twenty foreign princes; also
the great Emperor Alexander and the King of Prussia. A week ago yesterday
they arrived in town, and, contrary to expectation, came in a very
private manner. I went to see their _entrée_, but was disappointed with
the rest of the people, for the Emperor Alexander, disliking all show and
parade, came in a private carriage and took an indirect route here.

"The next and following day I spent in endeavoring to get a sight of
them. I have been very fortunate, having seen the Emperor Alexander no
less than fourteen times, so that I am quite familiar with his face; the
King of Prussia I have seen once; Marshal Blücher, five or six times;
Count Platoff, three or four times; besides Generals de Yorck, Bülow,
etc., all whose names must be perfectly familiar to you, and the
distinguished parts they have all acted in the great scenes just past.

"The Emperor Alexander I am quite in love with; he has every mark of a
great mind. His countenance is an uncommonly fine one; he has a fair
complexion, hair rather light, and a stout, well-made figure; he has a
very cheerful, benevolent expression, and his conduct has everywhere
evinced that his face is the index of his mind. When I first saw him he
was dressed in a green uniform with two epaulets and stars of different
orders; he was conversing at the window of his hotel with his sister, the
Duchess of Oldenburg. I saw him again soon after in the superb coach of
the Prince Regent, with the Duchess, his sister, going to the court of
the Queen. In a few hours after I saw him again on the balcony of the
Pultney Hotel; he came forward and bowed to the people. He was then
dressed in a red uniform, with a broad blue sash over the right shoulder;
he appeared to great advantage; he stayed about five minutes. I saw him
again five or six times through the day, but got only indifferent views
of him. The following day, however, I was determined to get a better and
nearer view of him than before. I went down to his hotel about ten
o'clock, the time when I supposed he would leave it; I saw one of the
Prince's carriages drawn up, which opened at the top and was thrown back
before and behind. In a few minutes the Emperor with his sister made
their appearance and got into it. As the carriage started, I pressed
forward and got hold of the ring of the coach door and kept pace with it
for about a quarter of a mile. I was so near that I could have touched
him; he was in a plain dress, a brown coat, and altogether like any other
gentleman. His sister, the Duchess, also was dressed in a very plain,
unattractive manner, and, if it had not been for the crowd which
followed, they would have been taken for any lady and gentleman taking an

"In this unostentatious manner does he conduct himself, despising all
pomp, and seems rather more intent upon inspecting the charitable,
useful, and ornamental establishments of this country, with a view,
probably, of benefiting his own dominions by his observations, than of
displaying his rank by the splendor of dress and equipage.

"His condescension also is no less remarkable. An instance or two will
exemplify it. On the morning after his arrival he was up at six o'clock,
and, while the lazy inhabitants of this great city were fast asleep in
their beds, he was walking with his sister, the Duchess, in Kensington
Gardens. As he came across Hyde Park he observed a corporal drilling some
recruits, upon which he went up to him and entered into familiar
conversation with him, asking him a variety of questions, and, when he
had seen the end of the exercise, shook him heartily by the hand and left
him. When he was riding on horseback, he shook hands with all who came
round him.

"A few days ago, as he was coming out of the gate of the London Docks on
foot, after having inspected them, a great crowd was waiting to see him,
among whom was an old woman of about seventy years of age, who seemed
very anxious to get near him, but, the crowd pressing very much, she
exclaimed, 'Oh, if I could but touch his clothes!' The Emperor overheard
her, and, turning round, advanced to her, and, pulling off his glove,
gave her his hand, and, at the same time dropping a guinea into hers,
said to her, 'Perhaps this will do as well.' The old woman was quite
overcome, and cried, 'God bless Your Majesty,' till he was out of sight.

"An old woman in her ninetieth year sent a pair of warm woolen stockings
to the Emperor, and with them a letter stating that she had knit them
with her own hands expressly for him, and, as she could not afford to
send him silk, she thought that woolen would be much more acceptable, and
would also be more useful in his climate. The Emperor was very much
pleased, and determined on giving her his miniature set in gold and
diamonds, but, upon learning that her situation in life was such that
money would be more acceptable, he wrote her an answer, and, thanking her
heartily for her present, enclosed her one hundred pounds.

"These anecdotes speak more than volumes in praise of the Emperor
Alexander. He is truly a great man. He is a great conqueror, for he has
subdued the greatest country in the world, and overthrown the most
alarming despotism that ever threatened mankind. He is great also because
he is good; his whole time seems spent in distributing good to all around
him; and where-ever he goes he makes every heart rejoice. He is very
active and is all the time on the alert in viewing everything that is
worth seeing. The Emperor is also extremely partial to the United States;
everything American pleases him, and he seems uncommonly interested in
the welfare of our country.

"I was introduced to-day to Mr. Harris, our _chargé d'affaires_ to the
court of Russia. He is a very intelligent, fine man, and is a great
favorite with Alexander. From a conversation with him I have a scheme in
view which, when I have matured, I will submit to you for your

"The King of Prussia I have seen but once, and then had but an imperfect
view of him. He came to the window with the Prince Regent and bowed to
the people (at St. James's Palace). He is tall and thin, has an agreeable
countenance, but rather dejected in consequence of the late loss of his
queen, to whom he was very much attached.

"General Blücher, now Prince Blücher, I have seen five or six times. I
saw him on his entrance into London, all covered with dust, and in a very
ordinary kind of vehicle. On the day after I saw him several times in his
carriage, drawn about wherever he wished by the _mob_. He is John's
greatest favorite, and they have almost pulled the brave general and his
companion, Count Platoff, to pieces out of pure affection. Platoff had
his coat actually torn off him and divided into a thousand pieces as
_relics_ by the good people--their kindness knows no bounds, and, I
think, in all the battles which they have fought, they never have run so
much risk of losing their limbs as in encountering their friends in

"Blücher is a veteran-looking soldier, a very fine head, monstrous
mustaches. His head is bald, like papa's, his hair gray, and he wears
powder. Understanding that he was to be at Covent Garden Theatre, I went,
as the best place to see him, and I was not disappointed. He was in the
Prince's box, and I had a good view of him during the whole
entertainment, being directly before him for three or four hours. A few
nights since I also went to the theatre to see Platoff, the _hetman_
(chief) of the Cossacks. He has also a very fine countenance, a high and
broad forehead, dark complexion, and dark hair. He is tall and well-made,
as I think the Cossacks are generally. He was very much applauded by a
crowded house, the most part collected to see him."

The following letter is from Washington Allston written in Bristol, on
July 5, 1814:--

MY DEAR SIR,--I received your last on Saturday and should have answered
your first letter but for two reasons.

First, that I had nothing to say; which, I think, metaphysicians allow to
be the most natural as well as the most powerful cause of silence.

Second, that, if I had had anything to say, the daily expectation which I
entertained of seeing you allowed no confidence in the hope that you
would hear what I had to say should I have said it.

I thank you for your solicitude, and can assure you that both Mrs.
Allston and myself are in every respect better than when we left London.
Mr. King received me, as I wished, with undiminished kindness, and was
greatly pleased with the pictures. He has not, however, seen the large
one, which, to my agreeable surprise, I have been solicited from various
quarters to exhibit, and that, too, without my having given the least
intimation of such a design. I have taken Merchant Tailors' Hall (a very
large room) for this purpose, and shall probably open it in the course of
next week.

Perhaps you will be surprised to hear that I have been retouching it. I
have just concluded a fortnight's hard work upon it, and have the
satisfaction to add that I have been seldom better satisfied than with my
present labor. I have repainted the greater part of the draperies--
indeed, those of all the principal figures, excepting the Dead Man--with
powerful and positive colors, and added double strength to the shadows of
every figure, so that for force and distinctness you would hardly know it
for the same picture. The "Morning Chronicle" would have no reason now to
complain of its "wan red."...

I am sorry that Parliament has been so impolite to you in procrastinating
the fireworks. But they are an unpolished set and will still be in the
dark age of incivility notwithstanding their late illuminations. However
I am in great hopes that the good people of England will derive no small
degree of moral embellishment from their pure admiration of the
illustrious General B----, who, it is said, for drinking and gaming has
no equal.

BRISTOL, September 9, 1814.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--Your kind letters of June last I have received, and
return you a thousand thanks for them. They have relieved me from a
painful state of anxiety with respect to my future prospects. I cannot
feel too thankful for such kind parents who have universally shown so
much indulgence to me. Accept my gratitude and love; they are all I can

You allow me to stay in Europe another year. Your letters are not in
answer to some I have subsequently sent requesting leave to reside in
Paris. Mr. Allston, as well as all my friends, think it by all means
necessary I should lose no time in getting to France to improve myself
for a year in drawing (a branch of art in which I am very deficient).

I shall therefore set out for Paris in about two weeks, unless your
letters in answer to those sent by Drs. Heyward and Gushing should arrive
and say otherwise. Since coming to Bristol I have not found my prospects
so good as I before had reason to expect (owing in a great degree to
political irritation). I have, however, contrived to make sufficient to
pay off _all_ my _debts_, which have given me some considerable

I can live much more reasonably in Paris (indeed, some say for half what
I can in London); I can improve myself more; and, therefore, all things
taken into consideration, I believe it would be agreeable to my parents.
As to the political state of Paris, there is nothing to fear from that.
It appears perfectly tranquil, and should at any time any difficulties
arise, it is but three days' journey back to England again. Besides this,
I hope my parents will not feel any solicitude for me lest I should fall
into any bad way, when they consider that I am now between twenty-three
and twenty-four years of age, and that this is an age when the habits are
generally fixed.

As for expense, I must also request your confidence. Feeling as I do the
great obligations I am under to my parents, they must think me destitute
of gratitude if they thought me capable, after all that has been said to
me, of being prodigal. The past I trust you will find to be an example
for the future.

In a letter from a friend, M. Van Schaick, written from Dartmouth,
October 13, 1814, after speaking in detail of the fortifications of New
York Harbor, which he considers "impregnable," we find the following
interesting information:--

"But what satisfies my mind more than anything else is that all the
heights of Brooklyn on Long Island are occupied by strong chains of
forts; the Captain calls it an iron-work; and that the steamboat frigate,
carrying forty-four 32-pounders, must by this time be finished. Her sides
are eight feet thick of solid timber. No ball can penetrate her.... The
steamboat frigate is 160 feet long, 40 wide, carries her wheels in the
centre like the ferry-boats, and will move six miles an hour against a
common wind and tide. She is the wonder and admiration of all beholders."

From this same gentleman is the following letter, dated October 21,

MY DEAR FRIEND,--My heart is so full that I do not know how to utter its
emotions. Thanks, all thanks to Heaven and our glorious heroes! My
satisfaction is full; it is perfect. It partakes of the character of the
victory and wants nothing to make it complete.

I return your felicitations upon this happy and heart-cheering occasion,
and hope it may serve to suppress every sigh and to enliven every hope
that animates the bosoms of my friends at Bristol. Give Mr. Allston a
hearty squeeze of the hand for me in token of my gratification at this
event and my remembrance of him.

I enter into your feelings; I enjoy your triumph as much as if I was with
you. May it do you good and lengthen your lives. Really I think it is
much more worth my regard to live now than ever it was before. This gives
a tone to one's nerves, a zest to one's appetite, and a reality to
existence that pervades all nature and exhibits its effects in every word
and action.

Among the heroes whose names shall be inscribed upon the broad base of
American Independence and Glory, the names of the heroes of Lake Erie and
Lake Champlain will be recognized as brilliant and every way worthy; and
it will hereafter be said that the example and exertions of New York have
saved the nation.... What becomes of Massachusetts now and its sage
politicians? Oh! shut the picture; I cannot bear the contrast. Like a
dead carcass she hangs upon the living spirit which animates the heart,
and she impedes its motions. Her consequence is gone, and I am sorry for
it, because I have been accustomed to admire the noble spirit she once
displayed, and the virtues which adorned her brighter days....

We sail on Sunday or Monday. I have received the box. Everything is
right. Heaven bless you.

Going back a few days in point of time, the following letter was written
to his parents:--

BRISTOL, October 11, 1814.

Your letters to the 31st of August have been received, and I have again
to express to you my thanks for the sacrifices you are making for me. One
day I hope it will be in my power to repay you for the many acts of
indulgence to me....

Your last letters mention nothing about my going to France. I perceive
you have got my letters requesting leave, but you are altogether silent
on the subject. Everything is in favor of my going, my improvement, my
expenses, and, last though not least, _the state of my feelings_. I shall
be ruined in my feelings if I stay longer in England. I cannot endure the
continued and daily insults to my feelings as an American. But on this
head I promised not to write anything more; still allow me to say but a
few words--On second thoughts, however, I will refer you entirely to Dr.
Romeyn. If it is possible, as you value my comfort, see him as speedily
as possible. He will give you my sentiments exactly, and I fully trust
that, after you have heard him converse for a short time, you will
completely liberate me from the imputation of error....

Mr. Bromfield [the merchant through whom he received his allowance]
thinks I had better wait until I receive positive leave from you to go to
France. Do write me soon and do give me leave. I long to bury myself in
the Louvre in a country at least not hostile to mine, and where guns are
not firing and bells ringing for victory over my countrymen.... Where is
American patriotism,--how long shall England, already too proud, glory in
the blood of my countrymen? Oh! for the genius of Washington! Had I but
his talents with what alacrity would I return to the relief of that
country which (without affectation, my dear parents) is dearer to me than
my life. Willingly (I speak with truth and deliberation), willingly would
I sacrifice my life for her honor.

Do not think ill of me for speaking thus strongly. You cannot judge
impartially of my feelings until you are placed in my situation. Do not
say I suffer myself to be carried away by my feelings; your feelings
could never have been tried as mine have; you cannot see with the eyes I
do; you cannot have the means of ascertaining facts on this side of the
water that I have. But I will leave this subject and only say see _Dr.

I find no encouragement whatever in Bristol in the way of my art.
National feeling is mingled with everything here; it is sufficient that I
am an American, a title I would not change with the greatest king in

I find it more reasonable, living in Bristol, or I should go to London
immediately. Mr. and Mrs. Allston are well and send you their respects.
They set out for London in a few days after some months' _unsuccessful_
(between ourselves) residence here. All public feeling is absorbed in one
object, the _conquest of the United States;_ no time to encourage an
artist, especially an American artist.

I am well, extremely well, but not in good spirits, as you may imagine
from this letter. I am painting a little landscape and am studying in my
mind a great historical picture, to be painted, by your leave, in Paris.


NOVEMBER 9, 1814--APRIL 23. 1815

Does not go to Paris.--Letter of admonition from his mother.--His
parents' early economies.--Letter from Leslie.--Letter from Rev. S.F.
Jarvis on politics.--The mother tells of the economies of another young
American, Dr. Parkman.--The son resents constant exhortations to
economize, and tells of meanness of Dr. Parkman.--Writes of his own
economies and industry.--Disgusted with Bristol.--Prophesies peace
between England and America.--Estimates of Morse's character by Dr.
Romeyn and Mr. Van Schaick.--The father regrets reproof of son for
political views.--Death of Mrs. Allston.--Disagreeable experience in
Bristol.--More economies.--Napoleon I.--Peace.

Morse did not go to Paris at this time. The permission from his parents
was so long delayed, owing to their not having received certain letters
of his, and his mentor, Mr. Bromfield, advising against it, he gave up
the plan, with what philosophy he could bring to bear on the situation.

His mother continued to give him careful advice, covering many pages, in
every letter. On November 9, 1814, she says:--

"We wish to know what the plan was that you said you were maturing in
regard to the Emperor of Russia. You must not be a schemer, but determine
on a steady, uniform course. It is an old adage that 'a rolling stone
never gathers any moss'; so a person that is driving about from pillar to
post very seldom lays up anything against a rainy day. You must be wise,
my son, and endeavor to get into such steady business as will, with the
divine blessing, give you a support. Secure that first, and then you will
be authorized to indulge your taste and exercise your genius in other
ways that may not be immediately connected with a living.

"You mention patronage from this country, but such a thing is not known
here unless you were on the spot, and not then, indeed, but for value
received. You must therefore make up your mind to labor for yourself
without leaning on any one, and look up to God for his blessing upon your
endeavors. This is the way your parents set out in life about twenty-five
years ago. They had nothing to look to for a support but their salary,
which was a house, twenty cords of wood, and $570 a year. The reception
and circulation of the Geography was an experiment not then made. With
the blessing of Heaven on these resources we have maintained an expensive
family, kept open doors for almost all who chose to come and partake of
our hospitality. Enemies, as well as friends, have been welcomed. We have
given you and your brothers a liberal education, have allowed you $4000,
are allowing your brothers about $300 a year apiece, and are supporting
our remaining family at the rate of $2000 a year. This is a pretty
correct statement, and I make it to show you what can be done by industry
and economy, with the blessing of Heaven."

While Morse was in Bristol, his friend C. R. Leslie thus writes to him in
lead pencil from London, on November 29, 1814:--

MOST POTENT, GRAVE AND REVEREND DOCTOR,--I take up my pencil to make ten
thousand apologies for addressing you in humble black lead. Deeply
impressed as I am with the full conviction that you deserve the very best
Japan ink, the only excuse I can make to you is the following. It is,
perhaps, needless to remind you that the tools with which ink is applied
to paper, in order to produce writing, are made from goose quills, which
quills I am goose enough not to keep a supply of; and not having so much
money at present in my breeches pocket as will purchase one, I am forced
to betake myself to my pencil; an instrument which, without paying myself
any compliment, I am sure I can wield better than a pen.

I am glad to hear that you are so industrious, and that Mr. Allston is
succeeding so well with portraits. I hope he will bring all he has
painted to London. I am looking out for you every day. I think we form a
kind of family here, and I feel in an absence from Mr. and Mrs. Allston
and yourself as I used to do when away from my mother and sisters.

By the bye, I have not had any letters from home for more than a month.
It seems the Americans are all united and we shall now have war in
earnest. I am glad of it for many reasons; I think it will not only get
us a more speedy and permanent peace, but may tend to crush the demon of
party spirit and strengthen our government.

I am done painting the gallery, and have finished my drawings for the
frieze. Thank you for your good wishes.

I thought Mr. Allston knew how proud I am of being considered his
student. Tell him, if he thinks it worth while to mention me at all in
his letter to Delaplaine, I shall consider it a great honor to be called
his student.

The father, in a letter of December 6, 1814, after again urging him to
leave politics alone, adds this postscript:

"P.S. If you can make up your mind to remain in London and finish your
great picture for the exhibition; to suppress your political feelings,
and resolutely turn a deaf ear to everything which does not concern your
professional studies; not to talk on politics and preserve a conciliating
course of conduct and conversation; make as many friends as you can, and
behave as a good man ought to in your situation, and put off going to
France till after your exhibition,--this plan would suit us best. But
with the observations and advice now before you, we leave you to judge
for yourself. Let us early know your determination and intended plans.
You must rely on your own resources after this year."

The following letter is from his warm friend, the Reverend Samuel F.
Jarvis, written in New York, December 14, 1814:--

"I am not surprised at the feelings you express with regard to England or
America. The English in general have so contemptuous an opinion of us and
one so exalted of themselves, that every American must feel a virtuous
indignation when he hears his country traduced and belied. But, my dear
sir, it is natural, on the other hand, for an exile from his native land
to turn with fond remembrance to its excellences and forget its defects.
You will be able some years hence to speak with more impartiality on this
subject than you do at present.

"The men who have involved the country in this war are wicked and
corrupt. A systematic exclusion of all Federalists from any office of
trust is the leading feature of this Administration, yet the Federalists
comprehend the majority of the wealth, virtue, and intelligence of the
community. It is the power of the ignorant multitude by which they are
supported, and I conceive that America will never be a respectable nation
in the eyes of the world, till the extreme democracy of our Constitution
is done away with, and there is a representation of the property rather
than of the population of the country. You feel nothing of the
oppressive, despotic sway of the _soi-disant_ Republicans, but we feel it
in all its bitterness, and know that it is far worse than that of the
most despotic sovereigns in Europe. With such men there can be no union.

"The repulsion of British invasion is the duty, and will be the pride, of
every American; but, while prepared to bare his arm in defence of his
much-wronged country against a proud and arrogant, and, in some
instances, a cruel, foe, he cannot be blind to the unprincipled conduct
of her internal enemies, and such he must conceive the present ruling
party to be."

On December 19, 1814, his mother writes:--

"I was not a little astonished to hear you say, in one of your letters
from Bristol, that you had earned money enough there to pay off your
debts. I cannot help asking what debts you could have to discharge with
your own earnings after receiving one thousand dollars a year from us,
which we are very sure must have afforded you, even by your own account
of your expenses, ample means for the payment of all just, fair, and
honorable debts, and I hope you contract no others. We are informed by
others that they made six hundred dollars a year not only pay all their
expenses of clothing, board, travelling, learning the French language,
etc., etc., but they were able out of it to purchase books to send home,
and actually sent a large trunk full of elegant books. Now the person who
told us that he did this has a father who is said to be worth a hundred
and fifty thousand dollars; therefore the young man was not pinched for
means, but was thus economical out of consideration to his parents, and
to show his gratitude to them, as I suppose. Now think, my dear son, how
much more your poor parents are doing for you, how good your dear
brothers are to be satisfied with so little done for them in comparison
with what we are doing for you, and let the thought stimulate you to more
economy and industry. I greatly fear you have been falling off in both
these since the éclat you received for your first performances. It has
always been a failing of yours, as soon as you found you could excel in
what you undertook, to be tired of it and not trouble yourself any
further about it. I was in hopes that you had got over this fickleness
ere this...

"You must not expect to paint anything in this country, for which you
will receive any money to support you, but portraits; therefore do
everything in your power to qualify you for painting and taking them in
the best style. That is all your hope here, and to be very obliging and
condescending to those who are disposed to employ you....

"I think young Leslie is a very estimable young man to be, as I am told
he is, supporting himself and assisting his widowed mother by his

I shall anticipate a little in order to give at once the son's answer to
this reproof. He writes on April 28, 1815:--

"I wish I could persuade my parents that they might place some little
confidence in my judgment at the age I now am (nearly twenty-four), an
age when, in ordinary people, the judgment has reached a certain degree
of maturity. It is a singular and, I think, an unfortunate fact that I
have not, that I recollect, since I have been in England, had a turn of
low spirits except when I have received letters from home. It is true I
find a great deal of affectionate solicitude in them, but with it I also
find so much complaint and distrust, so much fear that I am doing wrong,
so much doubt as to my morals and principles, and fear lest I should be
led away by bad company and the like, that, after I have read them, I am
miserable for a week. I feel as though I had been guilty of every crime,
and I have passed many sleepless nights after receiving letters from you.
I shall not sleep to-night in consequence of passages in your letters
just received."

Here he quotes from his mother's letter and answers:

"Now as to the young man's living for six hundred dollars, I know who it
is of whom you speak. It is Dr. Parkman, who made it his boast that he
would live for that sum, but you did not enquire _how_ he lived. I can
tell you. He never refused an invitation to dine, breakfast, or tea,
which he used to obtain often by pushing himself into everybody's
company. When he did not succeed in getting invitations, he invited
himself to breakfast, dine, or sup with some of his friends. He has often
walked up to breakfast with us, a distance of three or four miles. If he
failed in getting a dinner or meal at any of these places, he either used
to go without, or a bit of bread answered the purpose till next meal. In
his dress he was so shabby and uncouth that any decent person would be
ashamed to walk with him in the street. Above all, his notorious meanness
in his money matters, his stickling with his poor washerwoman for a
halfpenny and with others for a farthing, and his uniform stinginess on
all occasions rendered him notoriously disgusting to all his
acquaintances, and affords, I should imagine, but a poor example for

"The fact is I could live for _fifty_ pounds a year if my only object was
to live cheap, and, on the other hand, if I was allowed one thousand
pounds a year, I could spend it all without the least extravagance in
obtaining greater advantages in my art. But as your goodness has allowed
me but two hundred pounds (and I wish you again to receive my sincere
thanks for this allowance), should not my sole endeavor be to spend all
this to the utmost advantage; to keep as closely within the bounds of
that allowance as possible, and would not _economy_ in this instance
consist in rigidly keeping up to this rule? If this is a true statement
of the case, then have I been perfectly economical, for I have not yet
overrun my allowance, and I think I shall be able to return home without
having exceeded it a single shilling. If I have done this, and still
continue to do it, why, in every letter I receive from home, is the
injunction repeated of _being economical?_ It makes me exceedingly
unhappy, especially when I am conscious of having used my utmost
endeavors, ever since I have been in England, to be rigidly so.

"As to _industry_, in which mama fears I am falling off, I gave you an
account in my last letter (by Mr. Ralston) of the method I use in
parcelling out my time. Since writing that letter the spring and summer
are approaching fast, and the days increasing. Of course I can employ
more of the time than in the winter. Mr. Leslie and myself rise at five
o'clock in the morning and walk about a mile and a half to Burlington,
where are the famous Elgin Marbles, the works of Phidias and Praxiteles,
brought by Lord Elgin from Athens. From these we draw three hours every
morning, wet or dry, before breakfast, and return home just as the bustle
begins in London, for they are late risers in London. When we go out of a
morning we meet no one but the watchman, who goes his rounds for an hour
and a half after we are up. Last summer Mr. Leslie and I used to paint in
the open air in the fields three hours before breakfast, and often before
sunrise, to study the morning effect on the landscape.

"Now, being conscious of employing my time in the most industrious manner
possible, you can but faintly conceive the mortification and sorrow with
which I read that part of mama's letter. I was so much hurt that I read
it to Mr. Allston, and requested he would write to you and give you an
account of my spending my time. He seemed very much astonished when I
read it to him, and _authorized me to tell you from him that it was
impossible for any one to be more indefatigable in his studies than I

"Mama mentions in her letter that she hears that Mr. Leslie supports his
mother and sisters by his labors. This is not the case. Leslie was
supported by three or four individuals in Philadelphia till within a few
months past. About a year ago he sold a large picture which he painted
(whilst I was on my fruitless trip to Bristol for money) for a hundred
guineas. Since that he has had a number of commissions in portraits and
is barely able to support himself; indeed, he tells me this evening that
he has but £20 left. He is a very economical and a most excellent young
man. His expenses in a year are, on an average, from £230 to £250; Mr.
Allston's (single) expenses not less than £300 per annum, and I know of
no artist among all my acquaintance whose expenses in a year are less
than £200."

Returning now to the former chronological order, I shall include the
following vehement letter written from London on December 22, 1814:--

MY DEAR PARENTS,--I arrived yesterday from Bristol, where I have been for
several months past endeavoring to make a little in the way of my
profession, but have completely failed, owing to several causes.

First, the total want of anything like partiality for the fine arts in
that place; the people there are but a remove from brutes. A "Bristol
hog" is as proverbial in this country as a "Charlestown gentleman" is in
Boston. Their whole minds are absorbed in trade; barter and gain and
interest are all they understand. If I could have painted a picture for
half a guinea by which they could have made twenty whilst I starved, _I
could have starved_.

Secondly, the virulence of national prejudice which rages now with
tenfold acrimony. They no longer despise, they hate, the Americans. The
battle on Champlain and before Flattsburgh has decided the business; the
moans and bewailings for this business are really, to an American, quite
comforting after their arrogant boasting of reducing us to unconditional

Is it strange that I should feel a little the effects of this universal
hatred? I have felt it, and I have left Bristol after six months' perfect
neglect. After having been invited there with promises of success, I have
had the mortification to leave it without having, from Bristol, a single
commission. More than that, and by far the worst, if I have not gone back
in my art these six months, I have at least stood still, and to me this
is the most trying reflection of all. I have been immured in the
paralyzing atmosphere of trade till my mind was near partaking the
infection. I have been listening to the grovelling, avaricious devotees
of mammon, whose souls are narrowed to the studious contemplation of a
hard-earned shilling, whose leaden imaginations never soared above the
prospect of a good bargain, and whose _summum bonum_ is the inspiring
idea of counting a hundred thousand: I say I have been listening to these
miserly beings till the idea did not seem so repugnant of lowering my
noble art to a trade, of painting for money, of degrading myself and the
soul-enlarging art which I possess, to the narrow idea of merely getting

Fie on myself! I am ashamed of myself; no, never will I degrade myself by
making a trade of a profession. If I cannot live a gentleman, I will
starve a gentleman. But I will dismiss this unpleasant subject, the
particulars of which I can better relate to you than write. Suffice it to
say that my ill-treatment does not prey upon my spirits; I am in
excellent health and spirits and have great reason to be thankful to
Heaven for thousands of blessings which one or two reverses shall not
make me forget. Reverses do I call them? How trifling are my troubles to
the millions of my fellow creatures who are afflicted with all the
dreadful calamities incident to this life. Reverses do I call them? No,
they are blessings compared with the miseries of thousands.

Indeed, I am too ungrateful. If a thing does not result just as I wish, I
begin to repine; I forget the load of blessings which I enjoy: life,
health, parents whose kindness exceeds the kindest; brothers, relatives,
and friends; advantages which no one else enjoys for the pursuit of a
favorite art, besides numerous others; all which are forgotten the moment
an unpleasant disappointment occurs. I am very ungrateful.

With respect to peace, I can only say I should not be surprised if the
preliminaries were signed before January. My reasons are that Great
Britain cannot carry on the war any longer. She may talk of her
inexhaustible resources, but she well knows that the great resource, the
property tax, must fail next April. The people will not submit any
longer; they are taking strong measures to prevent its continuance, and
without it they cannot continue the war.

Another great reason why I think there will be peace is the absolute
_fear_ which they express of us. They fear the increase of our navy; they
fear the increase of the army; they fear for Canada, and they are in
dread of the further disgrace of their national character. Mr. Monroe's
plan for raising 100,000 men went like a shock through the country. They
saw the United States assume an attitude which they did not expect, and
the same men who cried for "war, war," "thrash the Americans," now cry
most lustily for peace.

The union of the parties also has convinced them that we are determined
to resist their most arrogant pretensions.

Love to all, brothers, Miss Russell, etc. Yours very affectionately,

He ends the letter thus abruptly, probably realizing that he was
beginning to tread on forbidden ground, but being unable to resist the

While from this letter and others we can form a just estimate of the
character and temperament of the man, it is also well to learn the
opinion of his contemporaries; I shall, therefore, quote from a letter to
the elder Morse of the Dr. Romeyn, whom the son was so anxious to have
his father see, also from a letter of Mr. Van Schaick to Dr. Romeyn.

The former was written in New York, on December 27, 1814.

"The enclosed letter of my friend Mr. Van Schaick will give you the
information concerning your son which you desire. He has been intimately
acquainted with your son for a considerable time. You may rely on his
account, as he is not only a gentleman of unquestionable integrity, but
also a professor of the Lord Christ. What I saw and heard of your son
pleased me, and I cannot but hope he will repay all your anxieties and
realize your reasonable expectations by his conduct and the standing
which he must and will acquire in society by that conduct."

Mr. Van Schaick's letter was written also in New York, on December 14,

"To those passages of Dr. Morse's letter respecting his son, to which you
have directed my attention, I hasten to reply without any form, because
it will gratify me to relieve the anxiety of the parents of my friend.
His religious and moral character is unexceptionally good. He feels
strongly for his country and expresses those feelings among his American
friends with great sensibility. I do not know that he ever indulges in
any observations in the company of Englishmen which are calculated to
injure his standing among them. But, my dear sir, you fully know that an
American cannot escape the sting of illiberal and false charges against
his country and even its moral character, unless he almost entirely
withholds himself from society. It cannot be expected that any human
being should be so unfeeling as to suffer indignity in total silence.

"But I do not think that any political collisions, which may incidentally
and very infrequently arise, can injure him as an artist; for it is well
known to you that the simple fact of his being an American is sufficient
to prevent his rising rapidly into notice, since the possession of that
character clogs the efforts, or, at least, somewhat clouds the fame of
men of superior genius and established talent.... I advised Samuel to go
to France and bury himself for six months in the Louvre; from thence to
Italy, the seat of the arts. He inclined to the first part of the plan,
and then to return home, but deferred putting it into execution till he
heard from his father. Mr. Allston intended to winter in London. Morse
has a fine taste and colors well. His drawing is capable of much
improvement, but he is anxious to place himself at the head of his
profession, and, with a little judicious encouragement, will probably
succeed. That patient industry which has in all ages characterized the
masters of the art, he will find it to his interest to apply to his
studies the farther he advances in them. His success has been moderately
good. If he could sell the pictures he has on hand, the avails would
probably pay his way into France."

Referring to these letters the father, writing on January 25, 1815,

"We have had letters from Dr. Romeyn and Mr. Van Schaick concerning you
which have comforted us much. Since receiving them we don't know but we
have expressed ourselves, in our letters in answer to your last, a little
stronger than we ought in regard to your _political_ feelings and
conduct. I find others who have returned feel pretty much as you do. But
it should be remembered that your situation as an artist is different
from theirs. It is your wisdom to leave politics to politicians and be
solely the artist. But if you are in France these cautions will probably
not be necessary, as you will have no temptation to enter into any
political discussions."

On the 3d of February, 1815, Morse, in writing to his parents, has a very
sad piece of news to communicate to them:--

"I write in great haste and much agitation. Mrs. Allston, the wife of our
beloved friend, died last evening, and the event overwhelmed us all in
the utmost sorrow. As for Mr. Allston, for several hours after the death
of his wife he was almost bereft of reason. Mr. Leslie and I are applying
our whole attention to him, and we have so far succeeded as to see him
more composed."

This was a terrible grief to all the little coterie of friends, for whom
the Allston house had been a home. One of them, Mr. J.J. Morgan, in a
long letter to Morse written from Wiltshire, thus expresses himself:--

"Gracious God! unsearchable, indeed, are thy ways! The insensible, the
brutish, the wicked are powerful and everywhere, in everything
successful; while Allston, who is everything that is amiable, kind, and
good, has been bruised, blow after blow, and now, indeed, his cup is
full. I am too unwell, too little recovered from the effect of your
letter, to write much. Coleridge intends writing to-day; I hope he will.
Allston may derive some little relief from knowing how much his friends
partake of his grief."

This was a time of great discouragement to the young artist. Through the
failure of some of his letters to reach his parents in time, he had not
received their permission to go to France until it was too late for him
to go. The death of Mrs. Allston cast a gloom over all the little circle,
and, to cap the climax, he was receiving no encouragement in his
profession. On March 10, 1815, he writes:--

"My jaunt to Bristol in quest of money completely failed. When I was
first there I expected, from the little connection I got into, I should
be able to support myself. I was obliged to come to town on account of
the exhibitions, and stayed longer than I expected, intending to return
to Bristol. During this time I received two pressing letters from. Mr.
Visscher (which I will show you), inviting me to come down, saying that I
should have plenty of business. I accordingly hurried off. A gentleman,
for whom I had before painted two portraits, had promised, if I would let
him have them for ten guineas apiece, twelve being my price, that he
would procure me five sitters. This I acceded to. I received twenty
guineas and have heard nothing from the man since, though I particularly
requested Mr. Visscher to enquire and remind him of his promise. Yet he
never did anything more on the subject. I was there three months, gaining
nothing in my art and without a single commission. Mr. Breed, of
Liverpool, then came to Bristol. He took two landscapes which I had been
amusing myself with (for I can say nothing more of them) at ten guineas
each. I painted two more landscapes which are unsold.

"Mr. Visscher, a man worth about a hundred thousand pounds, and whose
annual expenses, with a large family of seven children, are not one
thousand, had a little frame for which he repeatedly desired me to paint
a picture. I told him I would as soon as I had finished one of my
landscapes. I began it immediately, without his knowing it, and
determined to surprise him with it. I also had two frames which fitted
Mr. Breed's pictures, and which I was going to give to Mr. Breed with his
pictures. But Mr. Visscher was particularly pleased with the frames, as
they were a pair, and told me not to send them to Mr. Breed as he should
like to have them himself, and wished I would paint him pictures to fit
them (the two other landscapes before mentioned). I accordingly was
employed three months longer in painting these three pictures. I finished
them; he was very much pleased with them; all his family were very much
pleased with them; all who saw them were pleased with them. But he
_declined taking them_ without even asking my price, and said that he had
more pictures than he knew what to do with.

"Mr. and Mrs. Allston heard him say twenty times he wished I would paint
him a picture for the frame. Mr. Allston, who knew what I was about, told
him, no doubt, I would do it for him, and in a week after I had completed
it. I had told Mr. Visscher also that I was considerably in debt, and
that, when he had paid me for these pictures, I should be something in
pocket; and, by his not objecting to what I said, I took it for granted
(and from his requesting me to paint the picture) that the thing was
certain. But thus it was, without giving any reason in the world, except
that he had pictures enough, he declined taking them, making me spend
three months longer in Bristol than I otherwise should have done;
standing still in my art, if not actually going back; and forcing me to
run in debt for some necessary expenses of clothing in Bristol, and my
passage from and back to London. During all this time not a single
commission for a portrait, _many_ of which were promised me, nor a single
call from any one to look at my pictures. Thus ended my jaunt in quest of

"Do not think that this disappointment is in consequence of any
misconduct of mine. Mr. Allston, who was with me, experienced the same
treatment, and had it not been for his uncle, the American Consul, he
might have starved for the Bristol people. His uncle was the only one who
purchased any of his pictures. Since I have been in London I have been
endeavoring to regain what I lost in Bristol, and I hope I have so far
succeeded as to say: '_I have not gone back in my art_.'

"In order to retrench my expenses I have taken a painting-room out of the
house, at about half of the expense of my former room. Though
inconvenient in many respects, yet my circumstances require it and I
willingly put up with it. As for _economy_, do not be at any more pains
in introducing that personage to me. We have long been friends and
necessary companions. If you could look in on me and see me through a day
I think you would not tell me in every letter to _economize more_. It is
impossible; I cannot economize more. I live on as plain food and as
little as is for my health; less and plainer would make me ill, for I
have given it a fair experiment. As for clothes, I have been decent and
that is all. If I visited a great deal this would be a heavy expense,
but, the less I go out, the less need I care for clothes, except for
cleanliness. My only heavy expenses are colors, canvas, frames, etc., and
these are heavy."

A number of pages of this letter are missing, much to my regret. He must
have been telling of some of the great events which were happening on the
Continent, probably of the Return from Elba, for it begins again

"--when he might have avoided it by quietness; by undertaking so bold an
attempt as he has done without being completely sure of success, and
having laid his plans deeply; and, thirdly, I knew the feelings of the
French people were decidedly in his favor, more especially the military.
They feel as though Louis XVIII was forced upon them by their conquerors;
they feel themselves a conquered nation, and they look to Bonaparte as
the only man who can retrieve their character for them.

"All these reasons rushing into my mind at the time, I gave it as my
opinion that Napoleon would again be Emperor of the French, and again set
the world by the ears, unless he may have learned a lesson from his
adversity. But this cannot be expected. I fear we are apt yet to see a
darker and more dreadful storm than any we have yet seen. This is,
indeed, an age of wonders.

"Let what will happen in Europe, let us have peace at home, among
ourselves more particularly. But the character we have acquired among the
nations of Europe in our late contest with England, has placed us on such
high ground that none of them, England least of all, will wish to embroil
themselves with us."

This was written just after peace had been established between England
and America, and in a letter from his mother, written about the same time
in March, 1815, she thus comments on the joyful news: "We have now the
heartfelt pleasure of congratulating you on the return of peace between
our country and Great Britain. May it never again be interrupted, but may
both countries study the things that make for peace, and love as

It never has been interrupted up to the present day, for, as I am
pursuing my pleasant task of bringing these letters together for
publication, in the year of our Lord 1911, the newspapers are agitating
the question of a fitting commemoration of a hundred years of peace
between Great Britain and the United States.

Further on in this same letter the mother makes this request of her son:
"When you return we wish you to bring some excellent black or corbeau
cloth to make your good father and brothers each a suit of clothes. Your
papa also wishes you to get made a handsome black cloth cloak for him;
one that will fit you he thinks will fit him. Be sure and attend to this.
Your mama would like some grave colored silk for a gown, if it can be had
but for little. Don't forget that your mother is no dwarf, and that a
large pattern suits her better than a small one."

The letter of April 28, from which I have already quoted, has this
sentence at the beginning: "Your letters suppose me in Paris, _but I am
not there_; you hope that I went in October last; I intended going and
wished it at that time exceedingly, but I had not leave from you to go
and Mr. Bromfield advised me by no means to go until I heard from you.
You must perceive from this case how impossible it is for me to form
plans, and transmit them across the Atlantic for approbation, thus
letting an opportunity slip which is irrecoverable."


MAY 3. 1815--OCTOBER 18, 1816

Decides to return home in the fall.--Hopes to return to Europe in a
year.--Ambitions.--Paints "Judgment of Jupiter."--Not allowed to compete
for premium.--Mr. Russell's portrait.--Reproof of his parents.--Battle of
Waterloo.--Wilberforce.--Painting of "Dying Hercules" received by
parents.--Much admired.--Sails for home.--Dreadful voyage lasting
fifty-eight days.--Extracts from his journal.--Home at last.

It was with great reluctance that Morse made his preparations to return
home. He thought that, could he but remain a year or two longer in an
atmosphere much more congenial to an artist than that which prevailed in
America at that time, he would surely attain to greater eminence in his

He, in common with many others, imagined that, with the return of peace,
an era of great prosperity would at once set in. But in this he was
mistaken, for history records that just the opposite occurred. The war
had made demands on manufacturers, farmers, and provision dealers which
were met by an increase in inventions and in production, and this meant
wealth and prosperity to many. When the war ceased, this demand suddenly
fell off; the soldiers returning to their country swelled the army of the
unemployed, and there resulted increased misery among the lower classes,
and a check to the prosperity of the middle and upper classes. It would
seem, therefore, that Fate dealt more kindly with the young man than he,
at that time, realized; for, had he remained, his discouragements would
undoubtedly have increased; whereas, by his return to his native land,
although meeting with many disappointments and suffering many hardships,
he was gradually turned into a path which ultimately led to fame and

On May 3, 1815, he writes to his parents:--

"With respect to returning home, I shall make my arrangements to be with
you (should my life be spared) by the end of September next, or the
beginning of October; but it will be necessary that I should be in
England again (provided always Providence permits) by September
following, as arrangements which I have made will require my presence.
This I will fully explain when I meet you.

"The moment I get home I wish to begin work, so that I should like to
have some portraits bespoken in season. I shall charge forty dollars less
than Stuart for my portraits, so that, if any of my good friends are
ready, I will begin the moment I have said 'how do ye do' to them.

"I wish to do as much as possible in the year I am with you. If I could
get a commission or two for some large pictures for a church or public
hall, to the amount of two or three thousand dollars, I should feel much
gratified. I do not despair of such an event, for, through your influence
with the clergy and their influence with their people, I think some
commission for a scripture subject for a church might be obtained; a
crucifixion, for instance.

"It may, perhaps, be said that the country is not rich enough to purchase
large pictures; yes, but two or three thousand dollars can be paid for an
entertainment which is gone in a day, and whose effects are to demoralize
and debilitate, whilst the same sum expended on a fine picture would be
adding an ornament to the country which would be lasting. It would tend
to elevate and refine the public feeling by turning their thoughts from
sensuality and luxury to intellectual pleasures, and it would encourage
and support a class of citizens who have always been reckoned among the
brightest stars in the constellation of American worthies, and who are,
to this day, compelled to exile themselves from their country and all
that is dear to them, in order to obtain a bare subsistence.

"I do not speak of _portrait-painters;_ had I no higher thoughts than
being a first-rate portrait-painter, I would have chosen a far different
profession. My ambition is to be among those who shall revive the
splendor of the fifteenth century; to rival the genius of a Raphael, a
Michael Angelo, or a Titian; my ambition is to be enlisted in the
constellation of genius now rising in this country; I wish to shine, not
by a light borrowed from them, but to strive to shine the brightest.

"If I could return home and stay a year visiting my friends in various
parts of the Union, and, by painting portraits, make sufficient to bring
me to England again at the end of the year, whilst I obtained commissions
enough to employ me and support me while in England, I think, in the
course of a year or two, I shall have obtained sufficient credit to
enable me to return home, if not for the remainder of my life, at least
to pay a good long visit.

"In all these plans I wish you to understand me as always taking into
consideration _the will of Providence;_ and, in every plan for future
operation, I hope I am not forgetful of the uncertainty of human life,
and I wish always to say _should I live_ I will do this or that....

"I perceive by your late letters that you suppose I am painting a large
picture. I did think of it some time ago and was only deterred on account
of the expenses attending it. All this I will explain to your entire
satisfaction when I see you, and why I do not think it expedient to make
an exhibition when I return.

"I perceive also that you are a little too sanguine with respect to me
and expect a little too much from me. You must recollect I am yet but a
student and that a picture of any merit is not painted in a day.
Experienced as Mr. West is (and he also paints quicker than any other
artist), his last large picture cost him between three and four years'
constant attention. Mr. Allston was nearly two years in painting his
large picture. Young Haydon was three years painting his large picture,
is now painting another on which he has been at work one year and expects
to be two years more on it. Leslie was ten months painting his picture,
and my 'Hercules' cost me nearly a year's study. So you see that large
pictures are not the work of a moment.

"All these matters we will talk over one of these days, and all will be
set right. I had better paint Miss Russell's, Aunt Salisbury's, and Dr.
Bartlett's pictures at home for a very good reason I will give you."

He did, however, complete a large historical, or rather mythological,
painting before leaving England. Whether it was begun before or after
writing the foregoing letter, I do not know, but Mr. Dunlap (whom I have
already quoted) has this to say about it:--

"Encouraged by the flattering reception of his first works in painting
and in sculpture, the young artist redoubled his energies in his studies
and determined to contend for the highest premium in historical
composition offered by the Royal Academy at the beginning of the year
1814. The subject was 'The Judgment of Jupiter in the case of Apollo,
Marpessa and Idas.' The premium offered was a gold medal and fifty
guineas. The decision was to take place in December of 1815. The
composition containing four figures required much study, but, by the
exercise of great diligence, the picture was completed by the middle of

"Our young painter had now been in England four years, one year longer
than the time allowed him by his parents, and he had to return
immediately home; but he had finished his picture under the conviction,
strengthened by the opinion of West, that it would be allowed to remain
and compete with those of the other candidates. To his regret the
petition to the council of the Royal Academy for this favor, handed in to
them by West and advocated strongly by him and Fuseli, was not granted.
He was told that it was necessary, according to the rules of the Academy,
that the artist should be present to receive the premium; it could not be
received by proxy. Fuseli expressed himself in very indignant terms at
the narrowness of this decision.

"Thus disappointed, the artist had but one mode of consolation. He
invited West to see his picture before he packed it up, at the same time
requesting Mr. West to inform him through Mr. Leslie, after the premium
should be adjudged in December, what chance he would have had if he had
remained. Mr. West, after sitting before the picture for a long time,
promised to comply with the request, but added: 'You had better remain,

In a letter quoted, without a date, by Mr. Prime, which was written from
Bristol, but which seems to have been lost, I find the following:--

"James Russell, Esq., has been extremely attentive to me. He has a very
fine family consisting of four daughters and, I think, a son who is
absent in the East Indies. The daughters are very beautiful,
accomplished, and amiable, especially the youngest, Lucy. I came very
near being at my old game of falling in love, but I find that love and
painting are quarrelsome companions, and that the house of my heart is
too small for both of them; so I have turned Mrs. Love out-of-doors. Time
enough, thought I (with true old bachelor complacency), time enough for
you these ten years to come. Mr. Russell's portrait I have painted as a
present to Miss Russell, and will send it to her as soon as I can get an
opportunity. It is an excellent likeness of him."

He must either have said more in this letter, or have written another
after the family verdict (that terrible family verdict) had been
pronounced, for in the letter of April 23, 1815, from which I have
already quoted, he refers to this portrait as follows:--

"As to the portrait which I painted of Mr. Russell, I am sorry you
mentioned it to Miss Russell, as I particularly requested that you would
not, because, in case of failure, it would be a disappointment to her;
but as you have told her, I must now explain. In the first place it is
not a picture that will do me any credit. I was unfortunate in the light
which I chose to paint him in; I wished to make it my best picture and so
made it my worst, for I worked too timidly on it. It is a likeness,
indeed, a very strong likeness, but the family are not pleased with it,
and they say that I have not flattered him, that I have made him too old.
So I determined I would not send it, indeed, I promised them I would not
send it; but, notwithstanding, as I know Miss Russell will be good enough
to comply with my conditions, I will send it directly; for, as it is a
good likeness, every one except the family knowing it instantly, and Mr.
Allston saying that it is a _very strong likeness_, it will on that
account be a gratification to her. But I _particularly_ and _expressly
request_ that it be kept in a private room to be shown _only_ to friends
and relations, and that I _may never be mentioned as the painter;_ and,
moreover, that no _artist_ or _miniature painter_ be allowed to see it.
On these conditions I send it, taking for granted they will be complied
with, and without waiting for an answer."

The parents of that generation were not frugal of counsel and advice,
even when their children had reached years of discretion and had flown
far away from the family nest.

The father, in a letter of May 20, 1815, thus gently reproves his son:--

"To-day we have received your letters to March 23.... You evidently
misconceived our views in the letters to which you allude, and felt much
too strongly our advice and remarks in respect to your writing us so much
on politics. What we said was the affectionate advice of your parents,
who loved you very tenderly, and who were not unwilling you should judge
for yourself though you might differ from them. We have ever made a very
candid allowance for you, and so have all your friends, and we have never
for a moment believed we should differ a fortnight after you should come
home and converse with us. You have, in the ardor of feeling, construed
many observations in our letters as censuring you and designed to wound
your feelings, which were not intended in the remotest degree by us for
any such purpose....

"I am sorry to hear of the death of Mr. Thornton. He was a good man."

His mother was much less gentle in her reproof. I cull the following
sentences from a long letter of June 1, 1815:--

"In perfect consistency with the feelings towards you all, above
described, we may and ought to tell you, and that with the greatest
plainness, of anything that we deem improper in any part of your conduct,
either in a civil, social, or religious view. This we feel it our duty to
do and shall continue to do as long as we live; and it will ever be your
duty to receive from us the advice, counsel, and reproof, which we may,
from time to time, favor you with, with the most perfect respect and
dutiful observance; and, when you differ from us on any point whatever,
let that difference be conveyed to us in the most delicate and
gentlemanly manner. Let this be done not only while you are under age and
dependent on your parents for your support, but when you are independent,
and when you are head of a family, and even of a profession, if you ever
should be either.... I have dwelt longer on this subject, as I think you
have, in some of your last letters, been somewhat deficient in that
respect which your own good sense will at once convince you was, on all
accounts, due, and which I know you feel the propriety of without any
further observations."

On June 2, 1815, the father writes:--

"We have just received a letter from your uncle, James E.B. Finley, of
Carolina. He fears you will remain in Europe, but hopes you have so much
_amor patrice_ as to return and display your talents in raising the
military and naval glory of the nation, by exhibiting on canvas some of
her late naval and land actions, and also promote the fine arts among us.
He is, you know, an enthusiastic Republican and patriot and a warm
approver of the late war, but an amiable, excellent man. I am by no means
certain that it would not be best for you to come home this fall and
spend a year or two in this country in painting some portraits, but
especially historical pieces and landscapes. You might, I think, in this
way succeed in getting something to support you afterwards in Europe for
a few years.

"I hope the time is not distant when artists in your profession, and of
the first class, will be honorably patronized and supported in this
country. In this case you can come and live with us, which would give us
much satisfaction."

The young man still took a deep interest in affairs political, and
speculated rather keenly on the outcome of the tremendous happenings on
the Continent.

On June 26, 1815, he writes:--

"You will have heard of the dreadful battle in Flanders before this
reaches you. The loss of the English is immense, indeed almost all their
finest officers and the flower of their army; not less than 800 officers
and upwards of 15,000 men, some say 20,000. But it has been decisive if
the news of to-day be true, that Napoleon has abdicated. What the event
of these unparalleled times will be no mortal can pretend to foresee. I
have much to tell you when I see you. Perhaps you had better not write
after the receipt of this, as it may be more than two months before an
answer could be received.

"P.S. The papers of to-night confirm the news of this morning. Bonaparte
is no longer a dangerous man; he has abdicated, and, in all probability,
a republican form of government will be the future government of France,
if they are capable of enjoying such a government. But no one can foresee
events; there may be a long peace, or the world may be torn worse than it
yet has been. Revolution seems to succeed revolution so rapidly that, in
looking back on our lives, we seem to have lived a thousand years, and
wonders of late seem to scorn to come alone; they come in clusters."

The battle in Flanders was the battle of Waterloo, which was fought on
the 18th day of June, and on the 6th of July the allied armies again
entered Paris. Referring to these events many years later, Morse said:--

"It was on one of my visits, in the year 1815, that an incident occurred
which well illustrates the character of the great philanthropist [Mr.
Wilberforce]. As I passed through Hyde Park on my way to Kensington Gore,
I observed that great crowds had gathered, and rumors were rife that the
allied armies had entered Paris, that Napoleon was a prisoner, and that
the war was virtually at an end; and it was momentarily expected that the
park guns would announce the good news to the people.

"On entering the drawing-room at Mr. Wilberforce's I found the company,
consisting of Mr. Thornton [his memory must have played him false in this
particular as Mr. Thornton died some time before], Mr. Macaulay, Mr.
Grant, the father, and his two sons Robert and Charles, and Robert Owen
of Lanark, in quite excited conversation respecting the rumors that
prevailed. Mr. Wilberforce expatiated largely on the prospects of a
universal peace in consequence of the probable overthrow of Napoleon,
whom naturally he considered the great disturber of the nations. At every
period, however, he exclaimed: 'It is too good to be true, it cannot be
true.' He was altogether skeptical in regard to the rumors.

"The general subject, however, was the absorbing topic at the
dinner-table. After dinner the company joined the ladies in the
drawing-room. I sat near a window which looked put in the direction of
the distant park. Presently a flash and a distant dull report of a gun
attracted my attention, but was unnoticed by the rest of the company.
Another flash and report assured me that the park guns were firing, and
at once I called Mr. Wilberforce's attention to the fact. Running to the
window he threw it up in time to see the next flash and hear the report.
Clasping his hands in silence, with the tears rolling down his cheeks, he
stood for a few moments perfectly absorbed in thought, and, before
uttering a word, embraced his wife and daughters, and shook hands with
every one in the room. The scene was one not to be forgotten."

We learn from a letter of his mother's dated June 27, 1815, that the
painting of the "Dying Hercules" had at last been received, but that the
plaster cast of the same subject was still mysteriously missing. The
painting was much admired, and the mother says:--

"Your friend Mr. Tisdale says the picture of the Hercules ought to be in
Boston as the beginning of a gallery of paintings, and that the
Bostonians ought not to permit it to go from here. Whether they will or
not, I know not. I place no confidence in them, but they may take a fit
into their heads to patronize the fine arts, and, in that case, they have
it in their power undoubtedly to do as much as any city in this country
towards their support."

Morse had now made up his mind to return home, although his parents, in
their letters of that time, had given him leave to stay longer if he
thought it would be for his best interest, but his father had made it
clear that he must, from this time forth, depend on his own exertions. He
hoped that (Providence permitting) he need only spend a year at home in
earning enough money to warrant his returning to Europe. Providence,
however, willed otherwise, and he did not return to Europe until fourteen
years later.

The next letter is dated from Liverpool, August 8, 1815, and is but a
short one. I shall quote the first few sentences:--

"I have arrived thus far on my way home. I left London the 5th and
arrived in this place yesterday the 7th, at which time, within an hour,
four years ago, I landed in England. I have not yet determined by what
vessel to return; I have a choice of a great many. The Ceres is the first
that sails, but I do not like her accommodations. The Liverpool packet
sails about the 25th, and, as she has always been a favorite ship with
me, it is not improbable I may return in her."

He decided to sail in the Ceres, however, to his sorrow, for the voyage
home was a long and dreadful one. The record of those terrible
fifty-eight days, carefully set down in his journal, reads like an
Odyssey of misfortune and almost of disaster.

To us of the present day, who cross the ocean in a floating hotel, in a
few days, arriving almost on the hour, the detailed account of the
dangers, discomforts, and privations suffered by the travellers of an
earlier period seems almost incredible. Brave, indeed, were our fathers
who went down to the sea in ships, for they never knew when, if ever,
they would reach the other shore, and there could be no C.Q.D. or S.O.S.
flashed by wireless in the Morse code to summon assistance in case of
disaster. In this case storm succeeded storm; head winds were encountered
almost all the way across; fine weather and fair winds were the
exception, and provisions and fresh water were almost exhausted.

The following quotations from the journal will give some idea of the
terrors experienced by the young man, whose appointed time had not yet
arrived. He still had work to do in the world which could be done by no

"_Monday, August 21, 1815._ After waiting fourteen days in Liverpool for
a fair wind, we set sail at three o'clock in the afternoon with the wind
at southeast, in company with upwards of two hundred sail of vessels,
which formed a delightful prospect. We gradually lost sight of different
vessels as it approached night, and at sunset they were dispersed all
over the horizon. In the night the wind sprung up strong and fair, and in
the morning we were past Holyhead.

"_Tuesday, 22d August._ Wind directly ahead; beating all day; thick
weather and gales of wind; passengers all sick and I not altogether well.
Little progress to-day.

"_Wednesday, 23d August._ A very disagreeable day, boisterous, head winds
and rainy. Beating across the channel from the Irish to the Welsh coast.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Friday, 25th August._ Dreadful still; blowing harder and harder; quite
a storm and a lee shore; breakers in sight, tacked and stood over again
to the Irish shore under close-reefed topsails. At night saw Waterford
light again.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Monday, 28th August._ A fair wind springing up (ten o'clock). Going at
the rate of seven knots on our true course. We have had just a week of
the most disagreeable weather possible. I hope this is the beginning of
better winds, and that, in reasonable time, we shall see our native

"_Tuesday, 29th August._ Still disappointed in fair winds.... Since,
then, I can find nothing consoling on deck, let us see what is in the
cabin. All of us make six, four gentlemen and two ladies. Mrs. Phillips,
Mrs. Drake, Captain Chamberlain, Mr. Bancroft, Mr. Lancaster, and myself.
Our amusements are eating and drinking, sleeping and backgammon.
Seasickness we have thrown overboard, and, all things considered, we try
to enjoy ourselves and sometimes succeed.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Thursday, 31st August._ Wind as directly ahead as it can blow; squally
all night and tremendous sea. What a contrast does this voyage make with
my first. This day makes the tenth day out and we have advanced towards
home about three hundred miles. In my last voyage, on the tenth day, we
had accomplished one half our voyage, sixteen hundred miles.

"_Friday, 1st September._ Dreadful weather; wind still ahead; foggy,
rainy, and heavy swell; patience almost exhausted, but the will of Heaven
be done. If this weather is to continue I hope we shall have fortitude to
bear it. All is for the best.

"_Saturday, 9th September._ Nineteenth day out and not yet more than one
third of our way to Boston. Oh! when shall we end this tedious passage?

"_Sunday, 10th September._ Calm with dreadful sea. Early this morning
discovered a large ship to the southward, dismasted, probably in the late
gale. Discovered an unpleasant trait in our captain's character which I
shall merely allude to. I am sorry to say he did not demonstrate that
promptitude to assist a fellow creature in distress which I expected to
find inherent in a seaman's breast, and especially in an American
seaman's. It was not till after three or four hours' delay, and until the
entreaties of his passengers and some threatening murmurs on my part of a
public exposure in Boston of his conduct, that he ordered the ship to
bear down upon the wreck, and then with slackened sail and much
grumbling. A ship and a brig were astern of us, and, though farther by
some miles from the distressed ship than we were, they instantly bore
down for her, and rendered her this evening the assistance we might have
done at noon. We are now standing on our way with a fair wind springing
up at southeast, which I suppose will last a few hours. Spent the day in
religious exercises, and was happy to observe on the part of the rest of
the passengers a due regard for the solemnity of the day.

"_Monday, 11th September._ Wind still ahead and the sky threatening.--Ten
o'clock. Beginning to blow hard; taking in sails one after another.--
Three o'clock. A perfect storm; the gale a few days ago but a gentle
breeze to it.... I never witnessed so tremendous a gale; the wind blowing
so that it can scarcely be faced; the sea like ink excepting the
whiteness of the surge, which is carried into the air like clouds of
dust, or like the driving of snow. The wind piping through our bare
rigging sounds most terrific; indeed, it is a most awful sight. The sea
in mountains breaking over our bows, and a single wave dispersing in mist
through the violence of the storm; ship rolling to such a degree that we
are compelled to keep our berths; cabin dark with the deadlights in. Oh!
who would go to sea when he can stay on shore! The wind in southwest
driving us back again, so that we are losing all the advantages of our
fair wind of yesterday, which lasted, as I supposed, two or three hours.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Tuesday, 12th September._ Gale abated, but head wind still....

"_Wednesday, 13th September._ All last night a tremendous storm from

"_Thursday, 14th September._ The storm increased to a tremendous height
last night. The clouds at sunset were terrific in the extreme, and, in
the evening, still more so with lightning. The sea has risen frightfully
and everything wears a most alarming aspect. At 3 A.M. a squall struck us
and laid us almost wholly under water; we came near losing our
foremast.... None of us able to sleep from the dreadful noises; creakings
and howlings and thousands of indescribable sounds. Lord! who can endure
the terror of thy storm!... Yesterday's sea was as molehills to mountains
compared with the sea to-day....

"_Friday, 15th September._ The storm somewhat abated this morning, but
still blowing hard from southwest.... Twenty-four days out to-day.

"_Saturday, 16th September._ Blowing a gale of wind from southwest. Noon
almost calm for half an hour, when, on a sudden, the wind shifted to the
northeast, when it blew such a hurricane that every one on board declared
they never saw its equal. For four hours it blew so hard that all the sea
was in a perfect foam, and resembled a severe snowstorm more than a dry
blow. If the wind roared before, it now shrilly whistled through our

After some days of calm with winds sometimes favorable but light, and,
when fresh, ahead, the journal continues:--

"_Monday, 25th September._ Another gale of wind last night, ahead,
dreadful sea; took in sail and lay to all night.... Beginning to think of
our provisions; bread mouldy and little left; sugar, little left; fresh
provisions, little left; beans, none left; salt pork, little left; salt
beef, a plenty; water, plenty; stores of passengers, some gone and the
rest drawing to a conclusion; patience drawing to a conclusion; in short
all is falling short and drawing to a conclusion except _our voyage and
my journal_....

"_Tuesday, 26th September._... Find our captain to be a complete old
woman; takes in sail at night and never knows when to set it again; the
longer we know him, the more surly he grows; he is not even civil....
Several large turtles passed within a few feet of us yesterday and
to-day, and, considering we are near the end of our provisions, one would
have thought our captain would be anxious to take them; but no, it was
too much trouble to lower the boat from the stern.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Friday, 29th September._ Last night another dreadful gale, as severe as
any since we have been out.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Monday, 2d October._ Last night another gale of wind from northwest and
is this morning still blowing hard and cold from the same quarter. What a
dreadful passage is ours; we seem destined to have no fair wind, and to
have a gale of wind every other day.

"_Saturday, 7th October._ Wind still ahead and blowing hard; very cold
and dismal. Oh! when shall we see home!... I thought I could observe a
kind of warfare between the different winds since we have been at sea.
The west wind seems to be the tyrant at present, as it were the Bonaparte
of the air. He has been blowing his gales very lavishly, and no other
wind has been able to check him with any success.

"I recollect on one day, while it was calm, a thick bank of clouds began
to rise in the northeast; no other clouds were in the sky. They rose
gently in the calm as if fearful of rousing their deadly foe in the west.
Now they had gained one third of the heavens when, behold, in the
southwest another bank of thick black clouds came rolling up, and,
reddening in the rays of the setting sun, marched on, teeming with fury.
They soon gained the middle of the heavens where the frightened northeast
had not yet reached. They met, they mixed, the routed northeast skulked
back, while the thick column of the southwest, having driven back its
enemy, slowly returned to its repose, proudly displaying a thousand
various colors, as if for victory.

"At another time success seemed to be more in favor of the northeast;
for, shortly after this great defeat, the southwest came forth and, like
a petty tyrant intoxicated with success, began to oppress the subject
ocean. It blew its gales and filled the air with clouds and rain and fog.
Suddenly the northeast, as under cover of the darkness, and as one driven
to desperation, burst forth on its too confident enemy with redoubled
fury. Old ocean groans at the dreadful conflict; for, as in the warring
of two hostile armies on the domains of a neutral, the neutral suffers
most severely, so the neutral ocean seemed doomed to bear the weight of
all their rancor. The southwest flies affrighted. And now the northeast,
vaunting forth, stalks with the rage of an angry demon over the waters;
the ocean foams beneath his breath, it steams and smokes and heaves in
agony its troubled bosom.

"But, alas! how few can bear prosperity; how few, when victory crowns
their efforts, can rule with moderation; how often, does it happen that
we reënact the same scenes for which we punished our enemy. For now has
the northeast become the tyrant and rules with tenfold rigor; he pours
forth all his strength and, drunk with success as soldiers after a
victory, at length sinks away into an inglorious calm.

"Now does the southwest collect his routed forces, checked but not
conquered; he again advances on his recreant foe and seizes the vacant
throne without a struggle. Ill-fated northeast! hadst thou but ruled with
moderation when thou hadst gained, with masterly manoeuvre, the throne of
the air; hadst thou reserved thy forces against surprise, and not, with
prodigal profuseness, lavished them on thy harmless subjects, thou hadst
still been monarch of the sea and air; all would have blessed thee as the
restorer of peace, and as the deliverer of the ocean from western
despotism. But alas! how art thou fallen an everlasting example of
overreaching oppression.

"This evening there is a fine fair wind from northeast carrying us on at
the rate of five or six knots. This is the cause of the foregoing
rhapsody. Had it been otherwise than a fair wind I should never have
been in spirits to have written so much stuff."

Still tantalized by baffling head winds and alternating calms and gales,
they were, however, gradually approaching the coast. Omitting the entries
of the next eleven days, I shall quote the final pages of the journal.

"_Wednesday, 18th October._ Last night was a sleepless night to us all.
Everything wore the appearance of a hard storm; all was dull in the
cabin; scarce a word was spoken; every one wore a serious aspect and, as
any one came from the deck into the cabin, the rest put up an inquisitive
and apprehensive look, with now and then a faint, 'Well, how does it look
now?' Our captain, as well as the passenger captain, were both alarmed,
and were poring over the chart in deep deliberation. A syllable was now
and then caught from them, but all seemed despairing.

"At ten o'clock we lay to till twelve; at four again till five. Rainy,
thick, and hazy, but not blowing very hard. All is dull and dismal; a
dreadful state of suspense, between feelings of exquisite joy in the hope
of soon seeing home, and feelings of gloomy apprehension that a few hours
may doom us to destruction.

"_Half-past seven._... Heaven be praised! The joyful tidings are just
announced of _Land!!_ Oh! who can conceive our feelings now? The wretch
condemned to the scaffold, who receives, at the moment he expects to die,
the joyful reprieve, he can best conceive the state of our minds.

"The land is Cape Cod, distant about ten miles. Joyful, joyful is the
thought. To-night we shall, in all probability, be in Boston. We are
going at the rate of seven knots.

"_Half-past 9._ Manomet land in sight.

"_Ten o'clock._ Cape Ann in sight.

"_Eleven o'clock._ Boston Light in sight.

"_One o'clock._ HOME!!!"

On board the Ship Ceres
Boston Harbour

My Dear Parents,

Thanks to a kind Providence who
has preserved me through all dangers, I have at
length arrived in my native land. I send this
just to prepare you, I shall be with you as
soon as I can possibly get on shore. We have
had 58 days passage long, boisterous, and dangerous,
but more when I see you. Pray tell me
by the bearer if I shall find all well.

Your very affectionate Son,
Samuel B. Morse

October 18, 1875]


APRIL 10, 1816--OCTOBER 5, 1818

Very little success at home.--Portrait of ex-President John Adams.--
Letter to Allston on sale of his "Dead Man restored to Life."--Also
apologizes for hasty temper.--Reassured by Allston.--Humorous letter from
Leslie.--Goes to New Hampshire to paint portraits.--Concord.--Meets Miss
Lucretia Walker.--Letters to his parents concerning her.--His parents
reply.--Engaged to Miss Walker.--His parents approve.--Many portraits
painted.--Miss Walker's parents consent.--Success in Portsmouth.--Morse
and his brother invent a pump.--Highly endorsed by President Day and Eli
Whitney.--Miss Walker visits Charlestown.--Morse's religious
convictions.--More success in New Hampshire.--Winter in Charleston, South
Carolina.--John A. Alston.--Success.--Returns north.--Letter from his
uncle Dr. Finley.--Marriage.

There is no record of the meeting of the parents and the long-absent son,
but it is easy to picture the joy of that occasion, and to imagine the
many heart-to-heart conversations when all differences, political and
otherwise, were smoothed over.

He remained at home that winter, but seems to have met with but slight
success in his profession. His "Judgment of Jupiter" was much admired,
but found no purchaser, nor did he receive any commissions for such large
historical paintings as it was his ambition to produce. He was asked by a
certain Mr. Joseph Delaplaine, of Philadelphia, to paint a portrait of
ex-President John Adams for _half_ price, the portrait to be engraved and
included in "Delaplaine's Repository of the Lives and Portraits of
Distinguished American Characters," and, from letters of a later date, I
believe that Morse consented to this.

It appears that he must also have received but few, if any, orders for
portraits, for, in the following summer, he started on a painting tour
through New Hampshire, which proved to be of great moment to him in more
ways than one.

Before we follow him on that tour, however, I shall quote from a letter
written by him to his friend Washington Allston:--

Boston, April 10, 1816.

MY DEAR SIR,--I have but one moment to write you by a vessel which sails
to-morrow morning. I wrote Leslie by New Packet some months since and am
hourly expecting an answer.

I congratulate you, my dear sir, on the sale of your picture of the "Dead
Man." I suppose you will have received notice, before this reaches you,
that the Philadelphia Academy of Arts have purchased it for the sum of
thirty-five hundred dollars. Bravo for our country!

I am sincerely rejoiced for you and for the disposition which it shows of
future encouragement. I really think the time is not far distant when we
shall be able to settle in our native land with profit as well as
pleasure. Boston seems struggling in labor to bring forth an institution
for the arts, but it will miscarry; I find it is all forced. They can
talk, and talk, and say what a fine thing it would be, but nothing is
done. I find by experience that what you have often observed to me with
respect to settling in Boston is well founded. I think it will be the
last in the arts, though, without doubt, it is capable of being the
first, if the fit would only take them. Oh! how I miss you, my dear sir.
I long to spend my evenings again with you and Leslie. I shall certainly
visit Italy (should I live and no unforeseen event take place) in the
course of a year or eighteen months. Could there not be some arrangement
made to meet you and Leslie there?

He lived, but the "unforeseen event" occurred to make him alter all his
plans. Further on in this same letter he says:--

"My conscience accuses me, and hardly too, of many instances of
pettishness and ill-humor towards you, which make me almost hate myself
that I could offend a temper like yours. I need not ask you to forgive
it; I know you cannot harbor anger a minute, and perhaps have forgotten
the instances; but I cannot forget them. If you had failings of the same
kind and I could recollect any instances where you had spoken pettishly
or ill-natured to me, our accounts would then have been balanced, they
would have called for mutual forgetfulness and forgiveness; but when, on
reflection, I find nothing of the kind to charge you with, my conscience
severely upbraids me with ingratitude to you, to whom (under Heaven) I
owe all the little knowledge of my art which I possess. But I hope still
I shall prove grateful to you; at any rate, I feel my errors and must
mend them."

Mr. Allston thus answers this frank appeal for forgiveness:--

MY DEAR SIR,--I will not apologize for having so long delayed answering
your kind letter, being, as you well know, privileged by my friends to be
a lazy correspondent. I was sorry to find that you should have suffered
the recollection of any hasty expressions you might have uttered to give
you uneasiness. Be assured that they never were remembered by me a moment
after, nor did they ever in the slightest degree diminish my regard or
weaken my confidence in the sincerity of your friendship or the goodness
of your heart. Besides, the consciousness of warmth in my own temper
would have made me inexcusable had I suffered myself to dwell on an
inadvertent word from another. I therefore beg you will no longer suffer
any such unpleasant reflections to disturb your mind, but that you will
rest assured of my unaltered and sincere esteem.

Your letter and one I had about the same time from my sister Mary brought
the first intelligence of the sale of my picture, it being near three
weeks later when I received the account from Philadelphia. When you
recollect that I considered the "Dead Man" (from the untoward fate he had
hitherto experienced) almost literally as a _caput mortuum_, you may
easily believe that I was most agreeably surprised to hear of the sale.
But, pleased as I was on account of the very seasonable pecuniary supply
it would soon afford me, I must say that I was still more gratified at
the encouragement it seemed to hold out for my return to America.

His friend Leslie, in a letter from London of May 7, 1816, writes: "Mr.
West said your picture would have been more likely than any of them to
obtain the prize had you remained."

In another letter from Leslie of September 6, 1816, occurs this amusing

"The _Catalogue Raisonné_ appeared according to promise, but is not near
so good as the one last year. At the conclusion the author says that Mr.
Payne Knight told the directors it was the custom of the Greek nobility
to strip and exhibit themselves naked to the artists in various
attitudes, that they might have an opportunity of studying fine form.
Accordingly those public-spirited men, the directors, have determined to
adopt the plan, and are all practising like mad to prepare themselves for
the ensuing exhibition, when they are to be placed on pedestals.

"It is supposed that Sir G. Beaumont, Mr. Long, Mr. Knight, etc., will
occupy the principal lights. The Marquis of Stafford, unfortunately,
could not recollect the attitude of any one antique figure, but was found
practising having the head of the Dying Gladiator, the body of the
Hercules, one leg of the Apollo, and the other of the Dancing Faun,
turned the wrong way. Lord Mulgrave, having a small head, thought of
representing the Torso, but he did not know what to do with his legs, and
was afraid that, as Master of the Ordnance, he could not dispense with
his _arms_."

In the beginning of August, 1816, the young man started out on his quest
for money. This was frankly the object of his journey, but it was
characteristic of his buoyant and yet conscientious nature that, having
once made up his mind to give up, for the present, all thoughts of
pursuing the higher branches of his art, he took up with zest the
painting of portraits.

So far from degrading his art by pursuing a branch of it which he held to
be inferior, he still, by conscientious work, by putting the best of
himself into it, raised it to a very high plane; for many of his
portraits are now held by competent critics to rank high in the annals of
art, by some being placed on a level with those of Gilbert Stuart.

On August 8, 1816, he writes to his parents from Concord, New

"I have been in this place since Monday evening. I arrived safely....
Massabesek Pond is very beautiful, though seen on a dull day. I think
that one or two elegant views might be made from it, and I think I must
sketch it at some future period.

"I have as yet met with no success in portraits, but hope, by
perseverance, I shall be able to find some. My stay in this place depends
on that circumstance. If none offer, I shall go for Hanover on Saturday

"The scenery is very fine on the Merrimack; many fine pictures could be
made here alone. I made a little sketch near Contoocook Falls yesterday.
I go this morning with Dr. McFarland to see some views. Colonel Kent's
family are very polite to me, and I never felt in better spirits; the
weather is now fine and I feel as though I was growing fat."

CONCORD, August 16, 1816.

I am still here and am passing my time very agreeably. I have painted
five portraits at fifteen dollars each and have two more engaged and many
more talked of. I think I shall get along well. I believe I could make an
independent fortune in a few years if I devoted myself exclusively to
portraits, so great is the desire for good portraits in the different
country towns.

He must have been a very rapid worker to have painted five portraits in
eight days; but, perhaps, on account of the very modest price he
received, these were more in the nature of quick sketches.

The next letter is rather startling when we recall his recent assertions
concerning "Mrs. Love" and the joys of a bachelor existence.

CONCORD, August 20, 1816.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--I write you a few lines just to say I am well and very
industrious. Next day after to-morrow I shall have received one hundred
dollars, which I think is pretty well for three weeks. I shall probably
stay here a fortnight from yesterday.

I have other attractions besides money in this place. Do you know the
Walkers of this place? Charles Walker Esq., son of Judge Walker, has two
daughters, the elder, very beautiful, amiable, and of an excellent
disposition. This is her character in town. I have enquired particularly
of Dr. McFarland respecting the family, and his answer is every way
satisfactory, except that they are not professors of religion. He is a
man of family and great wealth. This last, you know, I never made a
principal object, but it is somewhat satisfactory to know that in my

I may flatter myself, but I think I might be a successful suitor.

You will, perhaps, think me a terrible harum-scarum fellow to be
continually falling in love in this way, but I have a dread of being an
old bachelor, and I am now twenty-five years of age.

There is still no need of hurry; the young lady is but sixteen. But all
this is thinking aloud to you; I make you my confidants; I wish your
advice; nothing shall be done precipitately.

Of course all that I say is between you and me, for it all may come to
nothing; I have _some experience_ that way.

What I have done I have done prayerfully. I have prayed to the Giver of
every good gift that He will direct me in this business; that, if it will
not be to his glory and the good of his Kingdom, He will frustrate all;
that, if He grants me prosperity, He will grant me a heart to use it
aright; and, if adversity, that He will teach me submission to his will;
and that, whatever may be my lot here, I may not fall short of eternal
happiness hereafter.

I hope you will remember me in your prayers, and especially in reference
to a connection in life.

I do not think that his parents took this matter very seriously at first.
His was an intensely affectionate nature, and they had often heard these
same raptures before. However, like wise parents, they did not scoff. His
mother wrote on August 23, 1816, in answer: "With respect to the other
confidential matter, I hope the Lord will direct you to a proper choice.
We know nothing of the family, good or bad. We do not wish you to be an
old bachelor, nor do we wish you to precipitate yourself and others into
difficulties which you cannot get rid of."

In the same letter his father says: "In regard to the subject on which
you ask our advice, we refer it, after the experience you have had, and
with the advice you have often had from us, to your own judgment. Be not
hasty in entering into any engagement; enquire with caution and delicacy;
do everything that is honorable and gentlemanly respecting yourself and
those concerned. 'Pause, ponder, sift.--Judge before friendship--then
confide till death.' (Young.) Above all, commit the subject to God in
prayer and ask his guidance and blessing. I am glad to find you are doing

How well he obeyed his father's injunctions may be gathered from the
following letter, which speaks for itself:--

CONCORD, September 2, 1816.

MY DEAR PARENTS,--I have just received yours of August 29. I leave town
to-morrow morning, probably for Hanover, as there is no conveyance direct
to Walpole.

I have had no more portraits since I wrote you, so that I have received
just one hundred dollars in Concord. The last I took for ten dollars, as
the person I painted obtained four of my sitters for me....

With respect to the confidential affair, everything is successful beyond
my most sanguine expectations. The more I know of her the more amiable
she appears. She is very beautiful and yet no coquetry; she is modest,
quite to diffidence, and yet frank and open-hearted. Wherever I have
enquired concerning her I have invariably heard the same character
of--"remarkably amiable, modest, and of a sweet disposition." When you
learn that this is the case I think you will not accuse me of being hasty
in bringing the affair to a crisis. I ventured to tell her my whole
heart, and instead of obscure and ambiguous answers, which some would
have given to tantalize and pain one, she frankly, but modestly and
timidly, told me it was mutual. Suffice it to say we are _engaged_.

If I know my parents I know they will be pleased with this amiable girl.
Unless I was confident of it, I should never have been so hasty. I have
not yet mentioned it to her parents; she requested me to defer it till
next summer, or till I see her again, lest she should be thought hasty.
She is but sixteen and is willing to wait two or three years if it is for
our mutual interest.

Never, never was a human being so blest as I am, and yet what an
ungrateful wretch I have been. Pray for me that I may have a grateful
heart, for I deserve nothing but adversity, and yet have the most
unbounded prosperity.

The father replies to this characteristic letter on September 4, 1816:--

"I have just received yours of the 2d inst. Its contents were deeply
interesting to us, as you will readily suppose. It accounts to us why you
have made so long a stay at Concord.... So far as we can judge from your
representations (which are all we have to judge from), we cannot refuse
you our approbation, and we hope that the course, on which you have
entered with your characteristic rapidity and decision, will be pursued
and issue in a manner which will conduce to the happiness of all

"We think _her_ parents should be made acquainted with the state of the
business, as she is so young and the thing so important to them."

The son answers this letter, from Walpole, New Hampshire, on September 7,
1816, thus naively: "You think the parents of the young lady should be
made acquainted with the state of the business. I feel some degree of
awkwardness as it respects that part of the affair; I don't know the
manner in which it ought to be done. I wish you would have the goodness
to write me immediately (at Walpole, to care of Thomas Bellows, Esq.) and
inform me what I should say. Might I communicate the information by

Here he gives a detailed account of the family, and, for the first time,
mentions the young lady's name--Lucretia Pickering Walker--and

"You ask how the family have treated me. They are all aware of the
attachment between us, for I have made my attention so open and so marked
that they all must have perceived it. I know that Lucretia must have had
some conversation with her mother on the subject, for she told me one
day, when I asked her what her mother thought of my constant visits, that
her mother said she 'didn't think I cared much about her,' in a pleasant
way. All the family have been extremely polite and attentive to me; I
received constant invitations to dinner and tea, indeed every
encouragement was given me....

"I painted two hasty sketches of scenery in Concord. I meet with no
success in Walpole. _Quacks_ have been before me."

There is always a touch of quaint, dry humor in his mother's letters in
spite of their great seriousness, as witness the following extracts from
a letter of September 9, 1816:--

"We hope you will feel more than ever the absolute necessity laid upon
you to procure for yourself and those you love a maintenance, as neither
of you can subsist long upon air.... Remember it takes a great many
hundred dollars to _make_ and to _keep_ the pot a-boiling.

"I wish to see the young lady who has captivated you so much. I hope she
loves religion, and that, if you and she form a connection for life, some
_five or six years hence_, you may go hand in hand to that better world
where they neither marry nor are given in marriage....

"You have not given us any satisfaction in respect to many things about
the young lady which you ought to suppose we should be anxious to know.
All you have told us is that she is handsome and amiable. These are good
as far as they go, but there are a great many etcs., etcs., that we want
to know.

"Is she acquainted with domestic affairs? Does she respect and love
religion? How many brothers and sisters has she? How old are they? Is she
healthy? How old are her parents? What will they be likely to do for her
some years hence, say when she is twenty years old?

"In your next answer at least some of these questions. You see your
mother has not lived twenty-seven years in New England without learning
to ask questions."

These questions he had already answered in a letter which must have
crossed his mother's.

On September 23, 1816, he writes from Windsor, Vermont:--

"I am still here but shall probably leave in a week or two. I long to get
home, or, at least, as far on my way as _Concord_. I think I shall be
tempted to stay a week or two there.... I do not like Windsor very much.
It is a very dissipated place, and dissipation, too, of the lowest sort.
There is very little gentleman's society."

WINDSOR, VERMONT, September 28, 1816.

I am still in this place.... I have written Lucretia on the subject of
acquainting her parents, and I have no doubt she will assent.... I hear
her spoken of in this part of the country as very celebrated, both for
her beauty and, particularly, for her disposition; and this I have heard
without there being the slightest suspicion of any attachment, or even
acquaintance, between us. This augurs well most certainly. I know she is
considered in Concord as the first girl in the place. (You know I always
aimed highest.) The more I think of this attachment the more I think I
shall not regret the _haste_ (if it may be so called) of this proposed

I am doing pretty well in this place, better than I expected; I have one
more portrait to do before I leave it.... I should have business, I
presume, to last me some weeks if I could stay, but I long to get home
_through Concord_....

Mama's scheme of painting a large landscape and selling it to General
Bradley for two hundred dollars, must give place to another which has
just come into my head: that of sending to you for my great canvas and
painting the quarrel at Dartmouth College, as large as life, with all the
portraits of the trustees, overseers, officers of college, and students;
and, if I finish it next week, to ask five thousand dollars for it and
then come home in a coach and six and put Ned to the blush with his
nineteen subscribers a day. Only think, $5000 a week is $260,000 a year,
and, if I live ten years, I shall be worth $2,600,000; a very pretty
fortune for this time of day. Is it not a grand scheme?

The remark concerning his brother Sidney Edwards's subscribers refers to
a religious newspaper, the "Boston Recorder," founded and edited by him.
It was one of the first of the many religious journals which, since that
time, have multiplied all over the country.

Continuing his modestly successful progress, he writes next from Hanover,
on October 3, 1816:--

"I arrived in this place on Tuesday evening and am painting away with all
my might. I am painting Judge Woodward and lady, and think I shall have
many more engaged than I can do. I painted seven portraits at Windsor,
one for my board and lodging at the inn, and one for ten dollars, very
small, to be sent in a letter to a great distance; so that in all I
received eighty-five dollars in money. I have five more engaged at
Windsor for next summer. So you see I have not been idle.

"I _must_ spend a fortnight at Concord, so that I shall not probably be
at home till early in November.

"I think, with proper management, that I have but little to fear as to
this world. I think I can, with industry, average from two to three
thousand dollars a year, which is a tolerable income, though _not equal
to_ $2,600,000!"

CONCORD, October 14, 1816.

I arrived here on Friday evening in good health and spirits from Hanover.
I painted four portraits altogether in Hanover, and have many engaged for
next summer. I presume I shall paint some here, though I am uncertain.

I found Lucretia in good health, very glad to see me. She improves on
acquaintance; she is, indeed, a most amiable, affectionate girl; I know
you will love her. She has consented that I should inform her parents of
our attachment. I have, accordingly, just sent a letter to her father
(twelve o'clock), and am now in a state of suspense anxiously waiting his
answer. Before I close this, I hope to give you the result.

_Five o'clock._ I have just called and had a conversation (by request)
with Mr. Walker, and I have the satisfaction to say: "I have Lucretia's
parents' entire approbation." Everything successful! Praise be to the
giver of every good gift! What, indeed, shall I render to Him for all his
unmerited and continually increasing mercies and blessings?

In a letter to Miss Walker from a girl friend we find the following:--

"You appear to think, dear Lucretia, that I am possessed of quite an
insensible _heart_; pardon me if I say the same of you, for I have heard
that several have become candidates for your affections, but that you
remained unmoved until Mr. M., of Charlestown, made his appearance, when,
I understand, you did hope that his sentiments in your favor were

"I rejoice to hear this, for, though I am unacquainted with that
gentleman, yet, when I heard he was likely to become a successful suitor,
I have made some enquiries concerning him, and find he is possessed of
every excellent and amiable quality that I should wish the person to have
who was to become the husband of so dear a friend as yourself."

Morse must have returned home about the end of October, for we find no
more letters until the 14th of December, when he writes from Portsmouth,
New Hampshire:--

"I should have written you sooner but I have been employed in settling
myself. I thought it best not to be precipitate in fixing on a place to
board and lodge, but first to sound the public as to my success. Every
one thinks I shall meet with encouragement, and, on the strength of this,
I have taken lodgings and a room at Mrs. Hinge's in Jaffrey Street; a
very excellent and central situation.... I shall commence on Monday
morning with Governor Langdon's portrait. He is very kind and attentive
to me, as, indeed, are all here, and will do everything to aid me. I wish
not to raise high expectations, but I think I shall succeed tolerably

About this time Finley Morse and his brother Edwards had jointly devised
and patented a new "flexible piston-pump," from which they hoped great
things. Edwards, always more or less of a wag, proposed to call it
"Morse's Patent Metallic Double-headed Ocean-Drinker and Deluge-Spouter
Valve Pump-Boxes."

It was to be used in connection with fire-engines, and seems really to
have been an excellent invention, for President Jeremiah Day, of Yale
College, gave the young inventors his written endorsement, and Eli
Whitney, the inventor of the cotton-gin, thus recommends it: "Having
examined the model of a fire-engine invented by Mr. Morse, with pistons
of a new construction, I am of opinion that an engine may be made on that
principle (being more simple and much less expensive), which would have a
preference to those in common use."

In the letters of the year 1817 and of several following years, even in
the letters of the young man to his _fiancée,_ many long references are
made to this pump and to the varying success in introducing it into
general use. I shall not, however, refer to it again, and only mention it
to show the bent of Morse's mind towards invention.

He spent some time in the early part of 1817 in Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, meeting with success in his profession. Miss Walker was also
there visiting friends, so we may presume that his stay was pleasant as
well as profitable.

In February of that year he accompanied his _fiancée_ to Charlestown, his
parents, naturally, wishing to make the acquaintance of the young lady,
and then returned to Portsmouth to finish his work there.

The visit of Miss Walker to Charlestown gave great satisfaction to all
concerned. On March 4, 1817, Morse writes to his parents from Portsmouth:
"I am under the agreeable necessity (shall I say) of postponing my return
... in consequence of a _press of business_. I shall have three begun
to-night; one sat yesterday (a large one), and two will sit to-day
(small), and three more have it in serious contemplation. This unexpected
occurrence will deprive me of the pleasure of seeing you this week at

And on the next day, March 5, he writes: "The unexpected application of
three sitters at a time completely stopped me. Since I wrote I have taken
a first sitting of a fourth (large), and a fifth (large) sits on Friday
morning; so you see I am over head and ears in business."

As it is necessary to a clear understanding of Morse's character to
realize the depth of his religious convictions, I shall quote the
following from this same letter of March 5:--

"I wish much to know the progress of the Revival, how many are admitted
next communion, and any religious news.

"I have been in the house almost ever since I came from home sifting the
scheme of Universal Salvation to the bottom. What occasioned this was an
occurrence on the evening of Sunday before last. I heard the bell ring
for lecture and concluded it was at Mr. Putnam's; I accordingly sallied
out to go to it, when I found that it was in the Universalist

"As I was out and never in a Universalist meeting, I thought, for mere
curiosity, I would go in. I went into a very large meeting-house; the
meeting was overflowing with people of both sexes, and the singing the
finest I have heard in Portsmouth. I was struck with the contrast it made
to Mr. Putnam's sacramental lecture; fifteen or sixteen persons thinly
scattered over the house, and the choir consisting of four or five whose
united voice could scarcely be heard in the farthest corner of the
church, and, when heard, so out of harmony as to set one's teeth on edge.

"The reflections which this melancholy contrast caused I could not help
communicating to Mr. Putnam in the words of Mr. Spring's sermon,
'_something must be done_.' He agreed it was a dreadful state of society
here but almost gave up as hopeless. I told him he never should yield a
post like this to the Devil without a struggle; and, at any rate, I told
him that the few Christians that there were (and, indeed, they are but as
one to one thousand) could pray, and I thought it was high time. I told
him I would do all in my power to assist him in any scheme where I could
be of use."

The year 1817 was spent by the young man in executing the commissions
which had been promised him the year before in New Hampshire. In all his
journeyings back and forth the road invariably led through Concord, and
the pure love of the young people for each other increased as the months
rolled by. I shall not profane the sacredness of this love by introducing
any of the more intimate passages of their letters of this and of later
years. The young girl responded readily to the religious exhortations of
her _fiancé_ and became a sincere and devout Christian.

It will not be necessary to follow him in this journey, as the
experiences were but a repetition of those of the year before. He painted
many portraits in Concord, Hanover, and other places, and finally
concluded to venture on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, where his
kinsman, Dr. Finley, and Mr. John A. Alston had urged him to come,
assuring him good business.

On January 27, 1818, he arrived in that beautiful Southern city and thus
announced his arrival to his parents: "I find myself in a new climate,
the weather warm as our May. I have been introduced to a number of
friends. I think my prospects are favorable."

At first, however, the promised success did not materialize, and it was
not until after many weeks of waiting that the tide turned. But it did
turn, for an excellent portrait of Dr. Finley, one of the best ever
painted by Morse, aroused the enthusiasm of the Charlestonians, and
orders began to pour in, so that in a few weeks he was engaged to paint
one hundred and fifty portraits at sixty dollars each. Quite an advance
over the meagre fifteen dollars he had received in New England. But for
some of his more elaborate productions he received even more, as the
following extract from a letter of Mr. John A. Alston, dated April 7,
1818, will prove:--

"I have just received your favor of the 30th ultimo, and thank you very
cordially for your goodness in consenting to take my daughter's
full-length likeness in the manner I described, say twenty-four inches in
length. I will pay you most willingly the two hundred dollars you require
for it, and will consider myself a gainer by the bargain. I shall expect
you to decorate this picture with the most superb landscape you are
capable of designing, and that you will produce a masterpiece of
painting. I agree to your taking it with you to the northward to finish
it. Be pleased to represent my daughter in the finest attitude you can

Mr. Alston was a generous patron and paid the young artist liberally for
the portraits of his children. In recognition of this Morse presented him
with his most ambitious painting, "The Judgment of Jupiter." Mr. Alston
prized this picture highly during his lifetime, but after his death it
was sold and for many years was lost sight of. It was purchased long
afterwards in England by an American gentleman, who, not knowing who the
painter was, gave it to a niece of Morse's, Mrs. Parmalee, and it is
still, I believe, in the possession of the family.

While he was in Charleston his father wrote to him of the dangerous
illness of his mother with what he called a "peripneumony," which, from
the description, must have been the term used in those days for
pneumonia. Her life was spared, however, and she lived for many years
after this.

In June of the year 1818, Morse returned to the North and spent the
summer in completing such portraits as he had carried with him in an
unfinished state, and in painting such others as he could procure
commissions for. He planned to return to Charleston in the following
year, but this time with a young wife to accompany him.

His uncle, Dr. Finley, writing to him on June 16, says:--

"Your letter of 2d instant, conveying the pleasing intelligence of your
safe and very short passage and happy meeting with your affectionate
parents at your own home, came safe to hand in due time.... And so
Lucretia was expected and you intended to surprise her by your
unlooked-for presence.

"Finley, I am afraid you will be too happy. You ought to meet a little
rub or two or you will be too much in the clouds and forget that you are
among mortals. Let me see if I cannot give you a friendly twist

"Your pictures--aye--suppose I should speak of them and what is said of
them during your absence. I will perform the office of him who was placed
near the triumphal car of the conqueror to abuse him lest he should be
too elated.

"Well--'His pictures,' say people, 'are undoubtedly good likenesses, but
he paints carelessly and in too much haste and his draperies are not well
done. He must be more attentive or he will lose his reputation.' 'See,'
say others, 'how he flatters.' 'Oh!' says another, 'he has not flattered
me'; etc., etc.

"By the bye, I saw old General C.C. Pinckney yesterday, and he told me,
in his laughing, humorous way, that he had requested you to draw his
brother Thomas twenty years younger than he really was, so as to be a
companion to his own when he was twenty years younger than at this time,
and to flatter him as he had directed Stuart to do so to him."

Morse had now abandoned his idea of soon returning to Europe; he
renounced, for the present, his ambition to devote himself to the
painting of great historical pictures, and threw himself with enthusiasm
into the painting of portraits. He had an added incentive, for he wished
to marry at once, and his parents and those of his _fiancée_ agreed that
it would be wise for the young people to make the venture. Everything
seemed to presage success in life, at least in a modest way, to the young

On the 6th of October, 1818, the following notice appeared in the New
Hampshire "Patriot," of Concord: "Married in this town, October 1st, by
Rev. Dr. McFarland, Mr. Samuel F.B. Morse (the celebrated painter) to
Miss Lucretia Walker, daughter of Charles Walker, Esq."

On the 5th of October the young man writes to his parents:--

"I was married, as I wrote you I should be, on Tuesday morning last. We
set out at nine o'clock and reached Amherst over bad roads at night. The
next day we continued our journey through Wilton to New Ipswich, eighteen
miles over one of the worst roads I ever travelled, all uphill and down
and very rocky, and no tavern on the road. We enquired at New Ipswich our
best route to Northampton, where we intended to go to meet Mr. and Mrs.
Cornelius, but we found on enquiry that there were nothing but
cross-roads and these very bad, and no taverns where we could be
comfortably accommodated. Our horse also was tired, so we thought our best
way was to return. Accordingly the next day we started for Concord, and
arrived on Friday evening safe home again.

"Lucretia wishes to spend this week with her friends, so that I shall
return (Providence permitting) on this day week, and reach home by
Tuesday noon, probably to dinner. We are both well and send a great deal
of love to you all. Mr. and Mrs. Walker wish me to present their best
respects to you. We had delightful weather for travelling, and got home
just in season to escape Saturday's rain."


NOVEMBER 19, 1818--MARCH 31, 1821.

Morse and his wife go to Charleston, South Carolina.--Hospitably
entertained and many portraits painted.--Congratulates Allston on his
election to the Royal Academy.--Receives commission to paint President
Monroe.--Trouble in the parish at Charlestown.--Morse urges his parents
to leave and come to Charleston.--Letters of John A. Alston.--Return to
the North.--Birth of his first child.--Dr. Morse and his family decide to
move to New Haven.--Morse goes to Washington.--Paints the President under
difficulties.--Hospitalities.--Death of his grandfather.--Dr. Morse
appointed Indian Commissioner.--Marriage of Morse's future mother-in-law.
--Charleston again.--Continued success.--Letters to Mrs. Ball.--
Liberality of Mr. Alston.--Spends the summer in New Haven.--Returns to
Charleston, but meets with poor success.--Assists in founding Academy of
Arts, which has but a short life.--Goes North again.

The young couple decided to spend the winter in Charleston, South
Carolina, where Morse had won a reputation the previous winter as an
excellent portrait-painter, and where much good business awaited him.

The following letter was written to his parents:--

THURSDAY, November 19, 1818, 5 o'clock P.M.

We have arrived thus far on our voyage safely through the kind protection
of Providence. We have had a very rough passage attended with many
dangers and more fears, but have graciously been delivered from them all.
It is seven days since we left New York. If you recollect that was the
time of my last passage in this same vessel. She is an excellent vessel
and has the best captain and accommodations in the trade.

Lucretia was a little seasick in the roughest times, but, on the whole,
bore the voyage extremely well. She seems a little downcast this
afternoon in consequence of feeling as if she was going among strangers,
but I tell her she will overcome it in ten minutes' interview with Uncle
and Aunt Finley and family.

She is otherwise very well and sends a great deal of love to you all.
Please let Mr. and Mrs. Walker know of our arrival as soon as may be. I
will leave the remainder of this until I get up to town. We hope to go up
when the tide changes in about an hour.


We are safely housed under the hospitable roof of Uncle Finley, where
they received us, as you might expect, with open arms. He has provided
lodgings for us at ten dollars per week. I have not yet seen them; shall
go directly.

I received a letter from Richard at Savannah; he writes in fine spirits
and feels quite delighted with the hospitable people of the South.

This refers to his brother Richard Carey Morse, who was still pursuing
his theological studies.

The visit of the young couple to Charleston was a most enjoyable one, and
the artist found many patrons eager to be immortalized by his brush.

On December 22, 1818, he writes to his parents:--

"Lucretia is well and contented. She makes many friends and we receive as
much attention from the hospitable Carolinians as we can possibly attend
to. She is esteemed quite handsome here; she has grown quite fleshy and
healthy, and we are as happy in each other as you can possibly wish us.

"There are several painters arrived from New York, but I fear no
competition; I have as much as I can do."

As a chronicle of fair weather, favorable winds, and blue skies is apt to
grow monotonous, I shall pass rapidly over the next few years, only
selecting from the voluminous correspondence of that period a few
extracts which have more than a passing interest.

On February 4, 1819, he writes to his friend and master, Washington
Allston, who had now returned to Boston:--

"Excuse my neglect in not having written you before this according to my
promise before I left Boston. I can only plead as apology (what I know
will gratify you) a multiplicity of business. I am painting from morning
till night and have continual applications. I have added to my list, this
season only, to the amount of three thousand dollars; that is since I
left you. Among them are three full lengths to be finished at the North,
I hope in Boston, where I shall once more enjoy your criticisms.

"I am exerting my utmost to improve; every picture I try to make my best,
and in the evening I draw two hours from the antique as I did in London;
for I ought to inform you that I fortunately found a fine 'Venus de
Medicis' without a blemish, imported from Paris sometime since by a
gentleman of this city who wished to dispose of it; also a young Apollo
which was so broken that he gave it to me, saying it was useless. I have,
however, after a great deal of trouble, put it together entirely, and
these two figures, with some fragments,--hands, feet, etc.,--make a good
academy. Mr. Fraser, Mr. Cogdell, Mr. Fisher, of Boston, and myself meet
here of an evening to improve ourselves. I feel as much enthusiasm as
ever in my art and love it more than ever. A few years, at the rate I am
now going on, will place me independent of public patronage.

"Thus much for myself, for you told me in one of your letters from London
that I must be more of an egotist or you should be less of one in your
letters to me, which I should greatly regret.

"And now, permit me, my dear sir, to congratulate you on your election to
the Royal Academy. I know you will believe me when I say I jumped for joy
when I heard it. Though it cannot add to your merit, yet it will extend
the knowledge of it, especially in our own country, where we are still
influenced by foreign opinion, and more justly, perhaps, in regard to
taste in the fine arts than in any other thing."

On March 1, 1819, the Common Council of Charleston passed the following

"Resolved unanimously that His Honor the Intendant be requested to
solicit James Monroe, President of the United States, to permit a
full-length likeness to be taken for the City of Charleston, and that Mr.
Morse be requested to take all necessary measures for executing the said
likeness on the visit of the President to this city.

"Resolved unanimously that the sum of seven hundred and fifty dollars be
appropriated for this purpose.

"Extract from the minutes.

"Clerk of Council."

This portrait of President Monroe was completed later on and still hangs
in the City Hall of Charleston. I shall have occasion to refer to it

Morse, in a letter to his parents of March 26, 1819, says:--

"Two of your letters have been lately received detailing the state of the
parish and church. I cannot say I was surprised, for it is what might be
expected from Charlestown people.... As to returning home in the way I
mentioned mama need not be at all uneasy on that score. It is necessary I
should visit Washington, as the President will stay so short a time here
that I cannot complete the head unless I see him in Washington.... Now as
to the parish and church business, I hope all things will turn out right
yet, and I can't help wishing that nothing may occur to keep you any
longer in that nest of vipers and conspirators. I think with Edwards
decidedly that, on mama's account alone, you should leave a place which
is full of the most unpleasant associations to all the family, and retire
to some place of quiet to enjoy your old age.

"Why not come to Charleston? Here is a fine place for usefulness, a
pleasant climate especially for persons advanced in life, and your
children here; for I think seriously of settling in Charleston. Lucretia
is willing, and I think it will be much for my advantage to remain
through the year. Richard can find a place here if he will, and Edwards
can come on and be _Bishop_ or _President_ or _Professor_ in some of the
colleges (for I can't think of him in a less character) after he has

"I wish seriously you would think of this. Your friends here would
greatly rejoice and an opening could be found, I have no doubt.
Christians want their hands strengthened, and a veteran soldier, like
papa, might be of great service here in the infancy of the _Unitarian
Hydra_, who finds a population too well adapted to receive and cherish
its easy and fascinating tenets."

All this refers to a movement organized by the enemies of Dr. Morse to
oust him from his parish in Charlestown. He was a militant fighter for
orthodoxy and an uncompromising foe to Unitarianism, which was gradually
obtaining the ascendancy in and near Boston. The movement was finally
successful, as we shall see later, but they did not go as far from their
old haunts as Charleston.

I shall not attempt to argue the rights and wrongs of the case, which
seem to have been rather complicated, for Dr. Morse, more than a year
after this, in writing to a friend says: "The events of the last fifteen
months are still involved in impenetrable mystery, which I doubt not will
be unravelled in due time."

The winter and spring of 1819 were spent by the young couple both
pleasantly and profitably in Charleston. The best society of that
charming city opened its arms to them and orders flowed in in a steady
stream. Mr. John A. Alston was a most generous patron, ordering many
portraits of his children and friends, and sometimes insisting on paying
the young man even more than the price agreed upon.

In a letter to Morse he says: "Which of my friends was it who lately
observed to you that I had a picture mania? You made, I understand, a
most excellent reply, 'You wished I would come to town, then, and bite a
dozen.' Indeed, my very good sir, was it in my power to excite in them a
just admiration of your talents, I would readily come to town and bite
the whole community."

And in another letter of April 10, 1819, Mr. Alston says: "Your portrait
of my daughter was left in Georgetown [South Carolina], at the house of a
friend; nearly all of the citizens have seen it, and I really think it
will occasion you some applications.... Every one thought himself at
liberty to make remarks. Some declared it to be a good likeness, while
others insisted it was not so, and several who made such remarks, I
_knew_ had _never_ seen my daughter. At last a rich Jew gentleman
observed, 'it was the _richest_ piece of painting he had ever seen.' This
being so much in character that I assure you, sir, I could contain myself
no longer, which, spreading among the audience, occasioned not an
unpleasant moment."

Morse and his young wife returned to the North in the early summer of
1819, and spent the summer and fall with his parents in Charlestown. The
young man occupied himself with the completion of the portraits which he
had brought with him from the South, and his wife was busied with
preparations for the event which is thus recorded in a letter of Dr.
Morse's to his son Sidney Edwards at Andover: "Since I have been writing
the above, Lucretia has presented us with a fine granddaughter and is
doing well. The event has filled us with joy and gratitude."

The child was christened Susan Walker Morse. In the mean time the
distressing news had come from Charleston of the sudden death of Dr.
Finley, to whose kindly affection and influence Morse owed much of the
pleasure and success of his several visits to Charleston.

Affairs had come to a crisis in the parish at Charlestown, and Dr. Morse
decided to resign and planned to move to New Haven, Connecticut, with his
family in the following spring.

The necessity for pursuing his profession in the most profitable field
compelled Morse to return to Charleston by way of Washington in November,
and this time he had to go alone, much against his inclinations.

He writes to his mother from New York on November 28, 1819: "I miss
Lucretia and little Susan more than you can think, and I shall long to
have us all together at New Haven in the spring."

His object in going to Washington was to paint the portrait of the
President, and of this he says in a letter: "I began on Monday to paint
the President and have almost completed the head. I am thus far pleased
with it, but I find it very perplexing, for he cannot sit more than ten
or twenty minutes at a time, so that the moment I feel engaged he is
called away again. I set my palette to-day at ten o'clock and waited
until four o'clock this afternoon before he came in. He then sat ten
minutes and we were called to dinner. Is not this trying to one's

"_December 17, 1819._ I have been here nearly a fortnight. I commenced
the President's portrait on Monday and shall finish it to-morrow. I have
succeeded to my satisfaction, and, what is better, to the satisfaction of
himself and family; so much so that one of his daughters wishes me to
copy the head for her. They all say that mine is the best that has been
taken of him. The daughter told me (she said as a secret) that her father
was delighted with it, and said it was the only one that in his opinion
looked like him; and this, too, with Stuart's in the room.

"The President has been very kind and hospitable to me; I have dined with
him three times and taken tea as often; he and his family have been very
sociable and unreserved. I have painted him at his house, next room to
his cabinet, so that when he had a moment to spare he would come in to

"Wednesday evening Mrs. Monroe held a drawing-room. I attended and made
my bow. She was splendidly and tastily dressed. The drawing-room and
suite of rooms at the President's are furnished and decorated in the most
splendid manner; some think too much so, but I do not. Something of
splendor is certainly proper about the Chief Magistrate for the credit of
the nation. Plainness can be carried to an extreme, and in national
buildings and establishments it will, with good reason, be styled

"_December 23, 1819._ It is obviously for my interest to hasten to
Charleston, as I shall there be immediately at work, and this is the more
necessary as there is a fresh gang of adventurers in the brush line gone
to Charleston before me."

A short while after this he received the news of the death of his
grandfather, Jedediah Morse, at Woodstock, Connecticut, on December 29,
aged ninety-four years. Mr. Prime says of him: "He was a strong man in
body and mind, an able and upright magistrate, for eighteen years one of
the selectmen of the town, twenty-seven years town clerk and treasurer,
fifteen years a member of the Colonial and State Legislature, and a
prominent, honored, and useful member and officer of the church."

In January of the year 1820, Dr. Morse, realizing that it would be for
the best interests of all concerned to relinquish his pastorate at
Charlestown, turned his active brain in another direction, and resolved
to carry out a plan which he had long contemplated. This was to secure
from the Government at Washington an appointment as commissioner to the
Indians on the borders of the United States of those early days, in order
to enquire into their condition with a view to their moral and physical
betterment. To this end he journeyed to Washington and laid his project
before the President and the Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun. He was
most courteously entertained by these gentlemen and received the

In the following spring with his son Richard he travelled through the
northwestern frontiers of the United States, and gained much valuable
information which he laid before the Government. As he was a man of
delicate constitution, we cannot but admire his indomitable spirit in
ever devising new projects of usefulness to his fellow men. It was
impossible for him to remain idle.

But it is not within the scope of this work to follow him on his
journeys, although his letters of that period make interesting reading.
While he was in Washington his wife, writing to him on January 27, 1820,
says: "Mrs. Salisbury and Abby drank tea with us day before yesterday.
They told us that Catherine Breese was married to a lieutenant in the
army. This must have been a very sudden thing, and I should suppose very
grievous to Arthur."

Little did the good lady think as she penned these words that, many years
afterwards, her beloved eldest son would take as his second wife a
daughter of this union. Why this marriage should have been "grievous" to
the father, Arthur Breese, I do not know, unless all army officers were
classed among the ungodly by the very pious of those days. As a matter of
fact, Lieutenant, afterwards Captain, Griswold was a most gallant

In the mean time Finley Morse had reached Charleston in safety after a
tedious journey of many days by stage from Washington, and was busily
employed in painting. On February 4, 1820, he writes to his mother:--

"I received your good letter of the 19th and 22d ult., and thank you for
it. I wish I had time to give you a narrative of my journey as you wish,
but you know '_time is money_,' and we must '_make hay while the sun
shines_,' and '_a penny saved is a penny got_," and '_least said soonest
mended_,' and a good many other wise sayings which would be quite pat,
but I can't think of them.

"The fact is I have scarcely time to say or write a word. I am busily
employed in getting the cash, or else Ned's almanac for March will
foretell falsely.

"I am doing well, although the city fairly swarms with painters. I am the
only one that has as much as he can do; all the rest are complaining. I
wish I could divide with some of them, very clever men who have families
to support, and can get nothing to do.... I feel rejoiced that things
have come to such a crisis in Charlestown that our family will be
released from that region of trouble so soon.

"Keep up your spirits, mother, the Lord will show you good days according
to those in which you have seen evil....

"I am glad Lucretia and the dear little Susan intend meeting me at New
Haven. I think this by far the best plan; it will save me a great deal of
time, which, as I said before, is money.

"I shall have to spend some time in New Haven getting settled, and I wish
to commence painting as soon as possible, for I have more than a summer's
work before me in the President's portrait and Mrs. Ball's.

"As soon as the cash comes in, mother, it shall all be remitted except
what I immediately want. You may depend upon it that nothing shall be
left undone on my part to help you and the rest of us from that hole of

"I think it very probable I shall return by the middle of May; it will
depend much on circumstances, however. I wish very much to be with my
dear wife and daughter. I must contrive to bring them with me next season
to Charleston, though it may be more expensive, yet I do not think that
should be a consideration. I think that a man should be separated from
his family but very seldom, and then under cases of absolute necessity,
as I consider the case to be at present with me: that is, I think they
should not be separated for any length of time. If I know my own
disposition I am of a domestic habit, formed to this habit, probably, by
the circumstances that have been so peculiar to our family in
Charlestown. I by no means regret having such a habit if it can be
properly regulated; I think it may be carried to excess, and shut us from
the opportunities of doing good by mixing with our fellow men."

This pronouncement was very characteristic of the man. He was always, all
through his long life, happiest when at home surrounded by all his
family, and yet he never shirked the duty of absenting himself from home,
even for a prolonged period, when by so doing he could accomplish some
great or good work.

That a portrait-painter's lot is not always a happy one may be
illustrated by the following extracts from letters of Morse to the Mrs.
Ball whom he mentions in the foregoing letter to his mother, and who
seems to have been a most capricious person, insisting on continual
alterations, and one day pleased and the next almost insulting in her

MADAM,--Supposing that I was dealing not only with a woman of honor, but,
from her professions, with a Christian, I ventured in my note of the 18th
inst., to make an appeal to your conscience in support of the justness of
my demand of the four hundred dollars still due from you for your
portrait. By your last note I find you are disposed to take an advantage
of that circumstance of which I did not suppose you capable. My sense of
the justness of my demand was so strong, as will appear from the whole
tenor of that note, that I venture this appeal, not imagining that any
person of honor, of the least spark of generous feeling, and more
especially of Christian principle, could understand anything more than
the enforcing my claim by an appeal to that principle which I knew should
be the strongest in a real Christian.

Whilst, however, you have chosen to put a different construction on this
part of the note, and supposed that I left you to say whether you would
pay me anything or nothing, you have (doubtless unconsciously) shown that
your conscience has decided in favor of the whole amount which is my due,
and which I can never voluntarily relinquish.

You affirm in the first part of your note that, after due consideration,
you think the real value of the picture is four hundred dollars (without
the frame), yet, had your crop been good, your conscience would have
adjudged me the remaining four hundred dollars without hesitation; and
again (if your crop should be good) you could pay me the four hundred
dollars next season.

Must I understand from this, madam, that the goodness or badness of your
crop is the scale on which your conscience measures your obligation to
pay a just debt, and that it contracts or expands as your crop increases
or diminishes? Pardon me, madam, if I say that this appears to be the
case from your letter.

My wish throughout this whole business has been to accommodate the time
and terms of payment as much to your convenience as I could consistently
with my duty to my family and myself. As a proof of this you need only
advert to my note of yesterday, in which I inform you that I am paying
interest on money borrowed for the use of my family which your debt, if
it had been promptly paid, would have prevented.

And in another letter he says:--

"I completed your picture in the summer with two others which have given,
as far as I can learn, entire satisfaction. Yours was painted with the
same attention and with the same ability as the others, and admired as a
picture, after it was finished, as much by some as the others, and more
by many.

"Among these latter were the celebrated Colonel Trumbull and Vanderlyn,
painters of New York.... You cannot but recollect, madam, that when you
yourself with your children visited it, not withstanding you expressed
yourself before them in terms so strong against it and so wounding to my
feelings, yet all your children dissented from you, the youngest saying
it was 'mama,' and the eldest, 'I am sure, mother, it is very like

"Your picture, from the day I commenced it, has been the source of one of
my greatest trials, and, if it has taught me in any degree patience and
forbearance, I shall have abundant reason to be thankful for the

In the end he consented to take less than had been agreed upon in order
to close the incident.

As a happy contrast to this episode we have the following quotation from
a letter to his wife written on February 17, 1820:--

"Did I tell you in my last that Colonel Alston insisted on giving me
_two hundred dollars_ more than I asked for the picture of little Sally,
and a commission to paint her again full length next season, smaller than
the last and larger than the first portrait, for which I shall receive
four hundred dollars? He intimates also that I am to paint a picture
annually for him. Is not he a strange man? (as people say here). I wish
some more of the great fortunes in this part of the country would be as
strange and encourage other artists who are men of genius and starving
for want of employment."

Morse returned to the North in the spring of 1820 and joined his mother
and his wife and daughter in New Haven, where they had preceded him and
where they were comfortably and agreeably settled, as will appear from
the following sentence in a letter to his good friend and mentor, Henry
Bromfield, of London, dated August, 1820: "You will perceive by the
heading of this letter that I am in New Haven. My father and his family
have left Charlestown, Massachusetts, and are settled in this place. My
own family also, consisting of wife and daughter, are pleasantly settled
in this delightful spot. I have built me a fine painting-room attached to
my house in which I paint my large pictures in the summer, and in the
winter I migrate to Charleston, South Carolina, where I have commissions
sufficient to employ me for some years to come."

He returned to Charleston in the fall of 1820 and was again compelled to
go alone. He writes to his wife on December 27: "I feel the separation
this time more than ever, and I felt the other day, when I saw the
steamship start for New York, that I had almost a mind to return in her."

From this sentence we learn that the slow schooner of the preceding years
had been supplanted by the more rapid steamship, but that is,
unfortunately, all he has to say of this great step forward in human

Further on in this same letter he says: "I am occupied fully so that I
have no reason to complain. I have not a _press_ like the first season or
like the last, but still I can say I am all the time employed.... My
President pleases very much; I have heard no dissatisfaction expressed.
It is placed in the great Hall in a fine light and place.... Mrs. Ball
wants some alterations, that is to say every five minutes she would like
it to be different. She is the most unreasonable of all mortals;
derangement is her only apology. I can't tell you all in a letter, must
wait till I see you. I shall get the rest of the cash from her shortly."

Just at this time the wave of prosperity on which the young man had so
long floated, began to subside, for he writes to his wife on January 28,

"I wish I could write encouragingly as to my professional pursuits, but I
cannot. Notwithstanding the diminished price and the increase of exertion
to please, and although I am conscious of painting much better portraits
than formerly (which, indeed, stands to reason if I make continual
exertion to improve), yet with all I receive no new commissions, cold and
procrastinating answers from those to whom I write and who had put their
names on my list. I give less satisfaction to those whom I have painted;
I receive less attention also from some of those who formerly paid me
much attention, and none at all from most."

But with his usual hopefulness he says later on in this letter:--

"Why should I expect my sky to be perpetually unclouded, my sun to be
never obscured? I have thus far enjoyed more of the sunshine of
prosperity than most of my fellow men. 'Shall I receive good at the hands
of the Lord and shall I not also receive evil?'"

In this letter, a very long one, he suggests the establishment of an
academy or school of painting in New Haven, so that he may be enabled to
live at home with his family, and find time to paint some of the great
historical works which he still longed to do. He also tells of the
formation of such an academy in Charleston:--

"Since writing this there has been formed here an Academy of Arts to be
erected immediately. J.R. Poinsett, Esq., is President, and six others
with myself are chosen Directors. What this is going to lead to I don't
know. I heard Mr. Cogdell say that it was intended to have lectures read,
among other things. I feel not very sanguine as to its success, still I
shall do all in my power to help it on as long as I am here."

His forebodings seem to have been justified, for Mr. John S. Cogdell, a
sculptor, thus writes of it in later years to Mr. Dunlap:--

"The Legislature granted a charter, but, my good sir, as they possessed
no powers under the constitution to confer taste or talent, and possessed
none of those feelings which prompt to patronage, they gave none to the
infant academy.... The institution was allowed from apathy and opposition
to die; but Mr. Poinsett and myself with a few others have purchased,
with a hope of reviving, the establishment."

Referring to this academy the wife in New Haven, in a letter of February
25, 1821, says: "Mr. Silliman says he is not much pleased to hear that
they have an academy for painting in Charleston. He is afraid they will
decoy you there."

On March 11, 1821, Morse answers thus: "Tell Mr. Silliman I have stronger
_magnets_ at New Haven than any academy can have, and, while that is the
case, I cannot be decoyed permanently from home."

I wonder if he used the word "magnets" advisedly, for it was with
Professor Silliman that he at that time pursued the studies in physics,
including electricity, which had so interested him while in college, and
it was largely due to the familiarity with the subject which he then
acquired that he was, in later years, enabled successfully to perfect his

On the 12th of March, 1821, another daughter was born to the young
couple, and was named Elizabeth Ann after her paternal grandmother. The
child lived but a few days, however, much to the grief of her parents and

Charleston had now given all she had to give to the young painter, and he
packed his belongings to return home with feelings both of joy and of
regret. He was overjoyed at the prospect of so soon seeing his dearly
loved wife and daughter, and his parents and brothers; at the same time
he had met with great hospitality in Charleston; had made many firm
friends; had impressed himself strongly on the life of the city, as he
always did wherever he went, and had met with most gratifying success in
his profession. A partial list of the portraits painted while he was
there gives the names of fifty-five persons, and, as the prices received
are appended, we learn that he received over four thousand dollars from
his patrons for these portraits alone.

On March 31, 1821, he joyfully announces his homecoming: "I just drop you
a hasty line to say that, in all probability, your husband will be with
you as soon, if not sooner than this letter. I am entirely clear of all
sitters, having outstayed my last application; have been engaged in
finishing off and packing up for two days past and contemplate embarking
by the middle or end of the coming week in the steamship for New York.
You must not be surprised, therefore, to see me soon after this reaches
you; still don't be disappointed if I am a little longer, as the winds
most prevalent at this season are head winds in going to the North. I am
busy in collecting my dues and paying my debts."


MAY 23, 1821--DECEMBER 17, 1824

Accompanies Mr. Silliman to the Berkshires.--Takes his wife and daughter
to Concord, New Hampshire.--Writes to his wife from Boston about a
bonnet.--Goes to Washington, D.C.--Paints large picture of House of
Representatives.--Artistic but not financial success.--Donates five
hundred dollars to Yale.--Letter from Mr. DeForest.--New York
"Observer."--Discouragements.--First son born.--Invents marble-carving
machine.--Goes to Albany.--Stephen Van Rensselaer.--Slight encouragement
in Albany.--Longing for a home.--Goes to New York.--Portrait of
Chancellor Kent.--Appointed attaché to Legation to Mexico.--High hopes.--
Takes affecting leave of his family.--Rough journey to Washington.--
Expedition to Mexico indefinitely postponed.--Returns North.--Settles in
New York.--Fairly prosperous.

Much as Morse longed for a permanent home, where he could find continuous
employment while surrounded by those he loved, it was not until many
years afterwards and under totally different circumstances that his dream
was realized. For the present the necessity of earning money for the
support of his young family and for the assistance of his ageing father
and mother drove him continually forth to new fields, and on May 23,
1821, which must have been only a few weeks after his return from the
South, he writes to his wife from Pittsfield, Massachusetts:--

"We are thus far on our tour safe and sound. Mr. Silliman's health is
very perceptibly better already. Last night we lodged at Litchfield; Mr.
Silliman had an excellent night and is in fine spirits.

"At Litchfield I called on Judge Reeves and sat a little while.... I
called at Mr. Beecher's with Mr. Silliman and Judge Gould; no one at
home. Called with Mr. Silliman at Dr. Shelden's, and stayed a few
moments; sat a few moments also at Judge Gould's.

"I was much pleased with the exterior appearance of Litchfield; saw at a
distance Edwards's pickerel pond.

"We left at five this morning, breakfasted at Norfolk, dined at
Stockbridge. We there left the stage and have hired a wagon to go on to
Middlebury, Vermont, at our leisure. We lodge here to-night and shall
probably reach Bennington, Vermont, to-morrow night.

"I have made one slight pencil sketch of the Hoosac Mountain. At
Stockbridge we visited the marble quarries, and to-morrow at Lanesborough
shall visit the quarries of fine white marble there.

"I am much delighted with my excursion thus far. To travel with such a
companion as Mr. Silliman I consider as highly advantageous as well as

This is all the record I have of this particular trip. The Mr. Beecher
referred to was the father of Henry Ward Beecher.

Later in the summer he accompanied his wife and little daughter to
Concord, New Hampshire, and left them there with her father and mother.
Writing to her from Boston on his way back to New Haven, he says in
characteristically masculine fashion:--

"I have talked with Aunt Bartlett about getting you a bonnet. She says
that it is no time to get a fashionable winter bonnet in Boston now, and
that it would be much better if you could get it in New York, as the
Bostonians get their fashions from New York and, of course, much later
than we should in New Haven. She thinks that white is better than blue,
etc., etc., etc., which she can explain to you much better than I can.
She is willing, however, to get you any you wish if you still request it.
She thinks, if you cannot wait for the new fashion, that your black
bonnet put into proper shape with black plumes would be as _tasty_ and
fashionable as any you could procure. I think so, too. You had better
write Aunt particularly about it."

While Morse had conscientiously tried to put the best of himself into the
painting of portraits, and had succeeded better than he himself knew, he
still longed for wider fields, and in November, 1821, he went to
Washington, D.C., to begin a work which he for some time had had in
contemplation, and which he now felt justified in undertaking. This was
to be a large painting of the House of Representatives with many
portraits of the members. The idea was well received at Washington and he
obtained the use of one of the rooms at the Capitol for a studio, making
it easy for the members to sit for him. It could not have been all plain
sailing, however, for his wife says to him in a letter of December 28,
1821: "Knowing that perseverance is a trait in your character, we do not
any of us feel surprised to hear you have overcome so many obstacles. You
have undertaken a great work.... Every one thinks it must be a very
popular subject and that you will make a splendid picture of it."

Writing to his wife he says:--

"I am up at daylight, have my breakfast and prayers over and commence the
labors of the day long before the workmen are called to work on the
Capitol by the bell. This I continue unremittingly till one o'clock, when
I dine in about fifteen minutes and then pursue my labors until tea,
which scarcely interrupts me, as I often have my cup of tea in one hand
and my pencil in the other. Between ten and eleven o'clock I retire to
rest. This has been my course every day (Sundays, of course, excepted)
since I have been here, making about fourteen hours' study out of the

"This you will say is too hard, and that I shall injure my health. I can
say that I never enjoyed better health, and my body, by the simple fare I
live on, is disciplined to this course. As it will not be necessary to
continue long so assiduously I shall not fail to pursue it till the work
is done.

"I receive every possible facility from all about the Capitol. The
doorkeeper, a venerable man, has offered to light the great chandelier
expressly for me to take my sketches in the evening for two hours
together, for I shall have it a candlelight effect, when the room,
already very splendid, will appear ten times more so."

On the 2d of January, 1822, he writes: "I have commenced to-day taking
the likenesses of the members. I find them not only willing to sit, but
apparently esteeming it an honor. I shall take seventy of them and
perhaps more; all if possible. I find the picture is becoming the subject
of conversation, and every day gives me greater encouragement. I shall
paint it on part of the great canvas when I return home. It will be
eleven feet by seven and a half feet.... It will take me until October
next to complete it."

The room which he painted was then the Hall of Representatives, but is
now Statuary Hall. As a work of art the painting is excellent and is
highly esteemed by artists of the present day. It contains eighty

His high expectations of gaining much profit from its exhibition and of
selling it for a large sum were, however, doomed to disappointment. It
did not attract the public attention which he had anticipated and it
proved a financial loss to him. It was finally sold to an Englishman, who
took it across the ocean, and it was lost sight of until, after
twenty-five years, it was found by an artist friend, Mr. F.W. Edmonds, in
New York, where it had been sent from London. It was in a more or less
damaged condition, but was restored by Morse. It eventually became the
property of the late Daniel Huntington, who loaned it to the Corcoran
Gallery of Art in Washington, where it now hangs.[1]

[Footnote 1: This painting has recently been purchased by the Trustees of
the Corcoran Gallery.]

I find no more letters of special interest of the year 1822, but Mr.
Prime has this to record: "In the winter of 1822, notwithstanding the
great expenses to which Mr. Morse had been subjected in producing this
picture, and before he had realized anything from its exhibition, he made
a donation of five hundred dollars to the library fund of Yale College;
probably the largest donation in proportion to the means of the giver
which that institution ever received."

The corporation, by vote, presented the thanks of the board in the
following letter:--

December 4th, 1822.

DEAR SIR,--I am directed by the corporation of this college to present to
you the thanks of the board for your subscription of five hundred dollars
for the enlargement of the library. Should this example of liberality be
generally imitated by the friends of the institution, we should soon have
a library creditable to the college and invaluable to men of literary and
philosophic research.

With respectful and grateful acknowledgment,

Your obedient servant,

While he was at home in New Haven in the early part of 1823 he sought
orders for portraits, and that he was successful in at least one instance
is evidenced by the following letter:--

Mr. D.C. DeForest's compliments to Mr. Morse. Mr. DeForest desires to
have his portrait taken such as it would have been six or eight years
ago, making the necessary calculation for it, and at the same time making
it a good likeness in all other respects.

This reason is not to make himself younger, but to appear to children and
grandchildren more suitably matched as to age with their mother and

If Mr. Morse is at leisure and disposed to undertake this work, he will
please prepare his canvas and let me know when he is ready for my

30th March, 1823.

Whether Morse succeeded to the satisfaction of Mr. DeForest does not
appear from the correspondence, but both this portrait and that of Mrs.
DeForest now hang in the galleries of the Yale School of the Fine Arts,
and are here reproduced so that the reader may judge for himself.

[Illustration: MR. D.C. DE FOREST MRS. D.C. DE FOREST
From "Thistle Prints." Copyright Detroit Publishing Co.
From a painting by Morse now in the Gallery of the Yale School of the
Fine Arts]

On the 17th of May, 1828, the first number of the New York "Observer" was
published. While being a religious newspaper the prospectus says it
"contains also miscellaneous articles and summaries of news and
information on every subject in which the community is interested."

This paper was founded and edited by the two brothers Sidney E. and
Richard C. Morse, who had abandoned respectively the law and the
ministry. It was very successful, and became at one time a power in the
community and is still in existence.

The editorial offices were first established at 50 Wall Street, but later
the brothers bought a lot and erected a building at the corner of Nassau
and Beekman Streets, and that edifice had an important connection with
the invention of the telegraph. On the same site now stands the Morse
Building, a pioneer sky-scraper now sadly dwarfed by its gigantic

The year 1823 was one of mingled discouragement and hope. Compelled to
absent himself from home for long periods in search of work, always
hoping that in some place he would find enough to do to warrant his
bringing his family and making for them a permanent home, his letters
reflect his varying moods, but always with the underlying conviction that
Providence will yet order all things for the best. The letters of the
young wife are pathetic in their expressions of loneliness during the
absence of her husband, and yet of forced cheerfulness and submission to
the will of God.

On the 17th of March, 1823, another child was born, a son, who was named
for his maternal grandfather, Charles Walker. The child was at first very
delicate, and this added to the anxieties of the fond mother and father,
but he soon outgrew his childish ailments.

Morse's active mind was ever bent on invention, and in this year he
devised and sought to patent a machine for carving marble statues,
"perfect copies of any model." He had great hopes of pecuniary profit
from this invention and it is mentioned many times in the letters of this
and the following year, but he found, on enquiry, that it was not
patentable, as it would have been an infringement on the machine of
Thomas Blanchard which was patented in 1820.

So once more were his hopes of independence blasted, as they had been in
the case of the pump and fire-engine. He longed, like all artists, to be
free from the petty cares and humiliations of the struggle for existence,
free to give full rein to his lofty aspirations, secure in the confidence
that those he loved were well provided for; but, like most other
geniuses, he was compelled to drink still deeper of the bitter cup, to
drain it to the very dregs.

In the month of August, 1823, he went to Albany, hoping through his
acquaintance with the Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer, to establish
himself there. He painted the portrait of the Patroon, confident that, by
its exhibition, he would secure other orders. In a letter to his wife he

"I have found lodgings--a large front room on the second story,
twenty-five by eighteen feet, and twelve feet high--a fine room for
painting, with a neat little bedroom, and every convenience, and board,
all for six dollars a week, which I think is very reasonable. My landlord
is an elderly Irish gentleman with three daughters, once in independent
circumstances but now reduced. Everything bears the appearance of
old-fashioned gentility which you know I always liked. Everything is neat
and clean and genteel.... Bishop Hobart and a great many acquaintances
were on board of the boat upon which I came up to this city.

"I can form no idea as yet of the prospect of success in my profession
here. If I get enough to employ me I shall go no farther; if not, I may
visit some of the smaller towns in the interior of the State. I await
with some anxiety the result of experiments with my machine. I hope the
invention may enable me to remain at home."

"_16th of August._ I have not as yet received any application for a
portrait. Many tell me I have come at the wrong time--the same tune that
has been rung in my ears so long. I hope the right tune will come by and
by. The winter, it is said, is the proper season, but, as it is better in
the South at that season and it will be more profitable to be there, I
shall give Albany a thorough trial and do my best. If I should not find
enough to employ me here, I think I shall return to New York and settle
there. This I had rather not do at present, but it may be the best that I
can do. Roaming becomes more and more irksome. Imperious necessity alone
drives me to this course. Don't think by this I am faint-hearted; I shall
persevere in this course, painful as is the separation from my family,
until Providence clearly points out my duty to return."

"_August 22._ I have something to do. I have one portrait in progress and
the promise of more. One hundred dollars will pay all my expenses here
for three months, so that the two I am now painting will clear me in that
respect and all that comes after will be clear gain. I am, therefore,
easier in my mind as to this. The portrait I am now painting is Judge
Moss Kent, brother of the Chancellor. He says that I shall paint the
Chancellor when he returns to Albany, and his niece also, and from these
particulars you may infer that I shall be here for some little time
longer, just so long as my good prospects continue; but, should they
fail, I am determined to try New York City, and sit down there in my
profession permanently. I believe I have now attained sufficient
proficiency to venture there. My progress may be slow at first, but I
believe it will be sure. I do not like going South and I have given up
the idea of New Orleans or any Southern city, at least for the present.
Circumstances may vary this determination, but I think a settlement in
New York is more feasible now than ever before. I shall be near you and
home in cases of emergency, and in the summer and sickly season can visit
you at New Haven, while you can do the same to me in New York until we
live again at New Haven altogether. I leave out of this calculation the
_machine for sculpture_. If that should entirely succeed, my plans would
be materially varied, but I speak of my present plan as if that had

"_August 24._ I finished Mr. Kent's picture yesterday and received the
money for it.... Mr. Kent is very polite to me, and has introduced me to
a number of persons and families, among others to the Kanes--very wealthy
people--to Governor Yates, etc. Mr. Clinton's son called on me and
invited me to their house.... I have been introduced to Señor Rocafuerto,
the Spaniard who made so excellent a speech before the Bible Society last
May. He is a very handsome man, very intelligent, full of wit and
vivacity. He is a great favorite with the ladies and is a man of wealth
and a zealous patriot, studying our manners, customs, and improvements,
with a view of benefiting his own countrymen in Peru.... I long to be
with you again and to see you all at _home_. I fear I dote on _home_ too
much, but mine is such an uncommon home, such a delightful home, that I
cannot but feel strongly my privation of its pleasures."

"_August 27._ My last two letters have held out to you some encouraging
prospects of success here, but now they seem darkened again. I have had
nothing to do this week thus far but to wait patiently. I have advertised
in both of the city papers that I should remain one week to receive
applications, but as yet it has produced no effect....

"Chancellor Kent is out of town and I was told yesterday would not be in
until the end of next month. If I should have nothing to do in the mean
time it is hardly worth while to stay solely for that. Many have been
talking of having their portraits painted, but there it has thus far
ended. I feel a little perplexed to know what to do. I find nothing in
Albany which can profitably employ my leisure hours. If there were any
pictures or statuary where I could sketch and draw, it would be
different.... I have visited several families who have been very kind to
me, for which I am thankful....

"I shall leave Albany and return to New York a week from to-day if there
is no change in my prospects.... The more I think of making a push at New
York as a permanent place of residence in my profession, the more proper
it seems that it should be pretty soon. There is now no rival that I
should fear; a few more years may produce one that would be hard to
overcome. New York does not yet feel the influx of wealth from the
Western canal but in a year or two she will feel it, and it will be
advantageous to me to be previously identified among her citizens as a

"It requires some little time to become known in such a city as New York.
Colonel T---- is growing old, too, and there is no artist of education
sufficiently prominent to take his place as President of the Academy of
Arts. By becoming more known to the New York public, and exerting my
talents to discover the best methods of promoting the arts and writing
about them, I may possibly be promoted to his place, where I could have a
better opportunity of doing _something for the arts in our country_, the
object at which I aim."

"_September 3._ I have nothing to do and shall pack up on the morrow for
New York unless appearances change again. I have not had full employment
since I have been in Albany and I feel miserable in doing nothing. I
shall set out on Friday, and perhaps may go to New Haven for a day or two
to look at you all."

He did manage to pay a short visit to his home, and then he started for
New York by boat, but was driven by a storm into Black Rock Harbor and
continued his journey from there by land. Writing home the day after his
arrival he says: "I have obtained a place to board at friend Coolidge's
at two dollars and twenty-five cents a week, and have taken for my studio
a fine room in Broadway opposite Trinity Churchyard, for which I am to
pay six dollars and fifty cents a week, being fifty cents less than I
expected to pay."

There has been some increase in the rental price of rooms on Broadway
opposite Trinity Churchyard since that day.

Further on he says:--

"I shall go to work in a few days vigorously. It is a half mile from my
room to the place where I board, so that I am obliged to walk more than
three miles every day. It is good exercise for me and I feel better for
it. I sleep in my room on the floor and put my bed out of sight during
the day, as at Washington. I feel in the spirit of 'buckling down to it,'
and am determined to paint and study with all my might this winter."

The loving wife is distressed at the idea of his sleeping on the floor,
and thus expresses herself in a letter which is dated, curiously enough,
November 31: "You know, dear Finley, I have always set my face as a flint
and have borne my testimony against your sleeping on the floor. Indeed,
it makes my heart ache, when I go to bed in my comfortable chamber, to
think of my dear husband sleeping without a bedstead. Your mother says
she sent one to Richard, which he has since told her was unnecessary as
he used a settee, and which you can get of him. But, if it is in use, do
get one or I shall take no comfort."

Soon after his arrival in New York he began the portrait of Chancellor
Kent, and writing of him he says:--

"He is not a good sitter; he scarcely presents the same view twice; he is
very impatient and you well know that I cannot paint an impatient person;
I must have my mind at ease or I cannot paint.

"I have no more applications as yet, but it is not time to expect them.
All the artists are complaining, and there are many of them, and they are
all poor. The arts are as low as they can be. It is no better at the
South, and all the accounts of the arts or artists are of the most
discouraging nature."

The portrait of the Chancellor seems not to have brought him more orders,
for a little later he writes to his wife: "I waited many days in the hope
of some application in my profession, but have been disappointed until
last evening I called and spent the evening with my friend Mr. Van
Schaick, and told him I had thought of painting some little design from
the 'Sketch Book,' so as not to be idle, and mentioned the subject of
Ichabod Crane discovering the headless horseman.

"He said: 'Paint it for me and another picture of the same size, and I
will take them of you.' So I am now employed....

"_My secret scheme_ is not yet disclosable, but I shall let you know as
soon as I hear anything definite."

Still later he says:--

"I have seen many of the artists; they all agree that little is doing in
the city of New York. It seems wholly given to commerce. Every man is
driving at one object--the making of money--not the spending of it....

"My _secret scheme_ looks promising, but I am still in suspense; you
shall know the moment it is decided one way or the other."

His brother, Sidney Edwards, in a letter to his parents of December 9,
1823, says: "Finley is in good spirits again; not because he has any
prospect of business here, but he is dreaming of the gold mines of

As his _secret_ was now out, he explains it fully in the following letter
to his wife, dated December 21, 1823:--

"My cash is almost gone and I begin to feel some anxiety and perplexity
to know what to do. I have advertised, and visited, and hinted, and
pleaded, and even asked one man to sit, but all to no purpose.... My
expenses, with the most rigid economy, too, are necessarily great; my
rent to-morrow will amount to thirty-three dollars, and I have nothing to
pay it with.

"What can I do? I have been here five weeks and there is not the smallest
prospect _now_ of any difference as to business. I am willing to stay and
wish to stay if there is anything to do. The pictures that I am painting
for Mr. Van Schaick will not pay my expenses if painted here; my rent and
board would eat it all up.

"I have thought of various plans, but what to decide upon I am completely
at a loss, nor can I decide until I hear definitely from Washington in
regard to my Mexico expedition. Since Brother Sidney has hinted it to you
I will tell you the state of it. I wrote to General Van Rensselaer, Mr.
Poinsett, and Colonel Hayne, of the Senate, applying for some situation
in the legation to Mexico soon to be sent thither. I stated my object in
going and my wish to go free of expense and under government protection.

"I received a letter a few days ago from General Van Rensselaer in which
he says: 'I immediately laid your request before the President and
seconded it with my warmest recommendations. It is impossible to predict
the result at present. If our friend Mr. Poinsett is appointed minister,
which his friends are pressing, he will no doubt be happy to have you in
his suite.'

"Thus the case rests at present. If Mr. Poinsett is appointed I shall
probably go to Mexico, if not, it will be more doubtful.... If I go I
should take my picture of the House of Representatives, which, in the
present state of favorable feeling towards our country, I should probably
dispose of to advantage.

"All accounts that I hear from Mexico are in the highest degree favorable
to my enterprise, and I hear much from various quarters."

As can well be imagined, his wife did not look with unalloyed pleasure on
this plan. She says in a letter of December 25, 1823: "I have felt much
for you, my dearest Finley, in all your trials and perplexities. I was
sorry to hear you had been unsuccessful in obtaining portraits. I hope
you will, ere long, experience a change for the better.... As to the
Mexico plan, I know not what to think of it. How can I consent to have
you be at such a distance?"

However, convinced by her husband that it would be for his best interests
to go, she reluctantly gave her consent and he used every legitimate
effort to secure the appointment. He was finally successful. Mr. Poinsett
was not appointed as minister; this honor was bestowed on the Honorable
Ninian Edwards, of Illinois, but Morse was named as one of his suite.

In a note from the Honorable Robert Young Hayne, who, it will be
remembered, was the opponent of Daniel Webster in the great debates on
States' Rights in the Senate, Morse was thus apprised of his appointment:
"Governor Edwards's suite consists of Mr. Mason, of Georgetown, D.C.,
secretary of the legation; Mr. Hodgson, of Virginia, private secretary;
and yourself, attaché."

Morse had great hopes of increasing his reputation as a painter and of
earning much money in Mexico. He was perfectly frank in stating that his
principal object in seeking an appointment as attaché was that he might
pursue his profession, and, in a letter to Mr. Edwards of April 15, 1824,
he thus explains why he considers this not incompatible with his duties
as attaché: "That the pursuit of my profession will not be derogatory to
the situation I may hold I infer from the fact that many of the ancient
painters were ambassadors to different European courts, and pursued their
professions constantly while abroad. Rubens, while ambassador to the
English court, executed some of his finest portraits and decorated the
ceiling of the chapel of White Hall with some of his best historical

When it was finally decided that he should go, he made all his
preparations, including a bed and bedding among his impedimenta, being
assured that this was necessary in Mexico, and bade farewell to his

His father, his wife and children, and his sister-in-law accompanied him
as far as New York. Writing of the parting he says: "A thousand affecting
incidents of separation from my beloved family crowded upon my
recollection. The unconscious gayety of my dear children as they
frolicked in all their wonted playfulness, too young to sympathize in the
pangs that agitated their distressed parents; their artless request to
bring home some trifling toy; the parting kiss, not understood as meaning
more than usual; the tears and sad farewells of father, mother, wife,
sister, family, friends; the desolateness of every room as the parting
glance is thrown on each familiar object, and 'farewell, farewell' seemed
written on the very walls,--all these things bear upon my memory, and I
realize the declaration that 'the places which now know us shall know us
no more.'"

Painted by Morse]

It must be borne in mind that a journey in those days, even one from New
York to Washington, was not a few hours' ride in a luxurious Pullman, but
was fraught with many discomforts, delays, and even dangers.

As an example of this I shall quote the first part of a letter written by
Morse from Washington to his wife on April 11, 1824:--

"I lose not a moment in informing you of my safe arrival, with all my
baggage, in good order last evening. I was much fatigued, went to bed
early, and this morning feel perfectly refreshed and much better for my

"After leaving you on Wednesday morning I had but just time to reach the
boat before she started. In the land carriage we occupied three stages
over a very rough road. In crossing a small creek in a ferry-boat the
stage ahead of ours left the boat a little too soon and came near
upsetting in the water, which would have put the passengers into a
dangerous situation. As it was the water came into the carriage and wet
some of the baggage. It was about an hour before they could get the stage
out of the water.

"Next came our turn. After travelling a few miles the springs on one side
gave way and let us down, almost upsetting us. We got out without
difficulty and, in a few minutes, by putting a rail under one side, we
proceeded on again, jocosely telling the passengers in the third stage
that it was their turn next.

"When we arrived at the boat in the Delaware to our surprise the third
stage came in with a rail under one side, having met with a similar
accident a few miles after we left them. So we all had our turn, but no
injury to any of us."

His high hopes of success in this enterprise were soon doomed to be
shattered, and once again he was made to suffer a bitter disappointment.

On April 19 he writes: "I am at this moment put into a very embarrassing
state of suspense by a political occurrence which has caused a great
excitement here, and will cause considerable interest, no doubt,
throughout the country. This morning a remonstrance was read in the House
of Representatives from the Honorable Ninian Edwards against Mr.
Crawford, which contains such charges and of so serious a nature as has
led to the appointment of a select committee, with power to send for
persons and papers in order to a full investigation; and I am told by
many members of Congress that Mr. Edwards will undoubtedly be sent for,
which will occasion, of course, a great delay in his journey to Mexico,
if not cause a suspension of his going until the next season."

The Mr. Crawford alluded to was William Harris Crawford, at that time a
prominent candidate for the Presidency in the coming election.

With his customary faith in an overruling Providence, Morse says later in
the same letter: "This delay and suspense tries me more than distance or
even absence from my dear family. If I could be on my way and pursuing my
profession I should feel much better. But all will be for the best;
though things look dark I can and will trust Him who will make my path of
duty plain before me. This satisfies my mind and does not allow a single
desponding thought."

The sending of the legation was indefinitely postponed, and Morse, much
disappointed but resolved not to be overwhelmed by this crushing of his
high hopes, returned to New Haven.

He spent the summer partly at home and partly in Concord, New Hampshire
(where his wife and children had gone to visit her father), and in
Portsmouth, Portland, and Hartford, having been summoned to those cities
by patrons who wished him to paint their portraits.

We can imagine that the young wife did not grieve over the failure of the
Mexican trip. Her letters to her husband at that period are filled with
expressions of the deepest affection, but with an undertone of
melancholy, due, no doubt, to the increasing delicacy of her health,
never very robust.

In the fall of 1824 Morse resolved to make another assault on the purses
of the solid men of New York, and he established himself at 96 Broadway,
where, for a time, he had the satisfaction of having his wife and
children with him. They, however, returned later to New Haven, and on
December 5, 1824, he writes to his wife:--

"I am fully employed and in excellent spirits. I am engaged in painting
the full-length portrait of Mr. Hone's little daughter, a pretty little
girl just as old as Susan. I have made a sketch of the composition with
which I am pleased, and so are the father and mother. I shall paint her
with a cat set up in her lap like a baby, with a towel under its chin and
a cap on its head, and she employed in feeding it with a spoon....

"I am as happy and contented as I can be without my dear Lucrece and our
dear children, but I hope it will not be long before we shall be able to
live together without these separations."

"_December 17, 1824._ I have everything very comfortable at my rooms. My
two pupils, Mr. Agate and Mr. Field, are very tractable and very useful.
I have everything 'in Pimlico,' as mother would say.

"I have begun, and thus far carried on, a system of neatness in my
painting-room which I never could have with Henry. Everything has its
place, and every morning the room is swept and all things put in

"I have as much as I can do in painting. I do not mean by this that I
have the overflow that I had in Charleston, nor do I wish it. A hard
shower is soon over; I wish rather the gentle, steady, continuing rain. I
feel that I have a character to obtain and maintain, and therefore my
pictures must be carefully studied. I shall not by this method paint so
fast nor acquire property so fast, but I shall do what is better, secure
a continuance of patronage and success.

"I have no disposition to be a nine days' wonder, all the rage for a
moment and then forgotten forever; compelled on this very account to
wander from city to city, to shine a moment in one and then pass on to

In a letter of a later date he says:--

"I am going on prosperously through the kindness of Providence in raising
up many friends who are exerting themselves in my favor. My storms are
partly over, and a clear and pleasant day is dawning upon me."


JANUARY 4, 1825--NOVEMBER 18, 1825

Success in New York.--Chosen to paint portrait of Lafayette.--Hope of a
permanent home with his family.--Meets Lafayette in Washington.--Mutually
attracted.--Attends President's levee.--Begins portrait of Lafayette.--
Death of his wife.--Crushed by the news.--His attachment to her.--Epitaph
composed by Benjamin Silliman.--Bravely takes up his work again.--
Finishes portrait of Lafayette.--Describes it in letter of a later date.
--Sonnet on death of Lafayette's dog.--Rents a house in Canal Street, New
York.--One of the founders of National Academy of Design.--Tactful
resolutions on organization.--First thirty members.--Morse elected first
president.--Reëlected every year until 1845.--Again made president in
1861.--Lectures on Art.--Popularity.

It is a commonly accepted belief that a particularly fine, clear day is
apt to be followed by a storm. Meteorologists can probably give
satisfactory scientific reasons for this phenomenon, but, be that as it
may, how often do we find a parallel in human affairs. A period of
prosperity and happiness in the life of a man or of a nation is almost
invariably followed by calamities, small or great; but, fortunately for
individuals and for nations, the converse is also true. The creeping
pendulum of fate, pausing for an instant at its highest point, dips down
again to gather impetus for a higher swing.

And so it was with Morse. Fate was preparing for him a heavy blow, one of
the tragedies of his eventful life, and, in order to hearten him for the
trial, to give him strength to bear up under it, she cheered his
professional path with the sun of prosperity.

Writing to his wife from New York on January 4, 1825, he says:--

"You will rejoice with me, I know, in my continued and increasing
success. I have just learned in confidence, from one of the members of
the committee of the corporation appointed to procure a full-length
portrait of Lafayette, that they have designated me as the painter of it,
and that a subcommittee was appointed to wait on me with the information.
They will probably call to-morrow, but, until it is thus officially
announced to me, I wish the thing kept secret, except to the family,
until I write you more definitely on the subject, which I will do the
moment the terms, etc., are settled with the committee.

"I shall probably be under the necessity of going to Washington to take
it immediately (the corporation, of course, paying my expenses). But of
this in my next."

"_January 6, 1825._ I have been officially notified of my appointment to
paint the full-length portrait of Lafayette for the City of New York, so
that you may make it as public as you please.

"The terms are not definitely settled; the committee is disposed to be
very liberal. I shall have at least seven hundred dollars--probably one
thousand. I have to wait until an answer can be received from Washington,
from Lafayette to know when he can see me. The answer will arrive
probably on Wednesday morning; after that I can determine what to do
about going on.

"The only thing I fear is that it is going to deprive me of my dear
Lucretia. Recollect the old lady's saying, often quoted by mother, 'There
is never a convenience but there ain't one'; I long to see you."

It was well for the young man that he did not realize how dreadfully his
jesting fears were to be realized.

Further on he says: "I have made an arrangement with Mr. Durand to have
an engraving of Lafayette's portrait. I receive half the profits.
Vanderlyn, Sully, Peale, Jarvis, Waldo, Inman, Ingham, and some others
were my competitors in the application for this picture."

"_January 8._ Your letter of the 5th I have just received, and one from
the committee of medical students engaging me to paint Dr. Smith's
portrait for them when I come to New Haven. They are to give me one
hundred dollars. I have written them that I should be in New Haven by the
1st of February, or, at farthest, by the 6th; so that it is only
prolonging for a little longer, my dear wife, the happy meeting which I
anticipated for the 25th of this month. Events are not under our own

"When I consider how wonderfully things are working for the promotion of
the great and _long-desired_ event--that of being constantly with my dear
family--all unpleasant feelings are absorbed in this joyful anticipation,
and I look forward to the spring of the year with delightful prospects of
seeing my dear family permanently settled with me in our own hired house
here. There are more encouraging prospects than I can trust to paper at
present which must be left for your private ear, and which in magnitude
are far more valuable than any encouragement yet made known to me. Let us
look with thankful hearts to the Giver of all these blessings."

"_Washington, February 8, 1825._ I arrived safely in this city last
evening. I find I have no time to lose, as the Marquis will leave here
the 23d. I have seen him and am to breakfast with him to-morrow, and to
commence his portrait. If he allows me time sufficient I have no fear as
to the result. He has a noble face. In this I am disappointed, for I had
heard that his features were not good. On the contrary, if there is any
truth in expression of character, there never was a more perfect example
of accordance between the face and the character. He has all that noble
firmness and consistency, for which he has been so distinguished,
strongly indicated in his whole face.

"While he was reading my letters I could not but call to mind the leading
events of his truly eventful life. 'This is the man now before me, the
very man,' thought I, 'who suffered in the dungeon of Olmütz; the very
man who took the oaths of the new constitution for so many millions,
while the eyes of thousands were fixed upon him (and which is so
admirably described in the Life which I read to you just before I left
home); the very man who spent his youth, and his fortune, and his time,
to bring about (under Providence) our happy Revolution; the friend and
companion of Washington, the terror of tyrants, the firm and consistent
supporter of liberty, the man whose beloved name has rung from one end of
this continent to the other, whom all flock to see, whom all delight to
honor; this is the man, the very identical man!' My feelings were almost
too powerful for me as I shook him by the hand and received the greeting
of--'Sir, I am exceedingly happy in your acquaintance, and especially on
such an occasion.'"

Thus began an acquaintance which ripened into warm friendship between
Morse and Lafayette, and which remained unbroken until the death of the

"_February 10, 1825._ I went last night to the President's levee, the
last which Mr. Monroe will hold as President of the United States. There
was a great crowd and a great number of distinguished characters, among
whom were General Lafayette; the President-elect, J.Q. Adams; Mr.
Calhoun, the Vice-President elect; General Jackson, etc. I paid my
respects to Mr. Adams and congratulated him on his election. He seemed in
some degree to shake off his habitual reserve, and, although he
endeavored to suppress his feelings of gratification at his success, it
was not difficult to perceive that he felt in high spirits on the
occasion. General Jackson went up to him and, shaking him by the hand,
congratulated him cordially on his election. The General bears his defeat
like a man, and has shown, I think, by this act a nobleness of mind which
will command the respect of those who have been most opposed to him.

"The excitement (if it may be called such) on this great question in
Washington is over, and everything is moving on in its accustomed channel
again. All seem to speak in the highest terms of the order and decorum
preserved through the whole of this imposing ceremony, and the good
feeling which seems to prevail, with but trivial exceptions, is thought
to augur well in behalf of the new administration."

(There was no choice by the people in the election of that year, and John
Quincy Adams had been chosen President by a vote of the House of

"I went last night in a carriage with four others--Captain Chauncey of
the navy; Mr. Cooper, the celebrated author of the popular American
novels; Mr. Causici (pronounced Cau-see-chee), the sculptor; and Mr.
Owen, of Lanark, the celebrated philanthropist.

"Mr. Cooper remarked that we had on board a more singularly selected
company, he believed, than any carriage at the door of the President,
namely, a _misanthropist_ (such he called Captain Chauncey, brother of
the Commodore), a _philanthropist_ (Mr. Owen), a _painter_ (myself), a
_sculptor_ (Mr. Causici), and an _author_ (himself).

"The Mr. Owen mentioned above is the very man I sometimes met at Mr.
Wilberforce's in London, and who was present at the interesting scene I
have often related that occurred at Mr. Wilberforce's. He recollected the
circumstance and recognized me, as I did him, instantly, although it is
twelve years ago.

"I am making progress with the General, but am much perplexed for want of
time; I mean _his time_. He is so harassed by visitors and has so many
letters to write that I find it exceedingly difficult to do the subject
justice. I give him the last sitting in Washington to-morrow, reserving
another sitting or two when he visits New York in July next. I have gone
on thus far to my satisfaction and do not doubt but I shall succeed
entirely, if I am allowed the requisite number of sittings. The General
is very agreeable. He introduced me to his son by saying: 'This is Mr.
Morse, the painter, the son of the geographer; he has come to Washington
to take the topography of my face.' He thinks of visiting New Haven again
when he returns from Boston. He regretted not having seen more of it when
he was there, as he was much pleased with the place. He remembers
Professor Silliman and others with great affection.

"I have left but little room in this letter to express my affection for
my dearly loved wife and children; but of that I need not assure them. I
long to hear from you, but direct your letters next to New York, as I
shall probably be there by the end of next week, or the beginning of the
succeeding one.

"Love to all the family and friends and neighbors. Your affectionate
husband, as ever."

Alas! that there should have been no telegraph then to warn the loving
husband of the blow which Fate had dealt him.

As he was light-heartedly attending the festivities at the White House,
and as he was penning these two interesting letters to his wife, letters
which she never read, and anticipating with keenest pleasure a speedy
reunion, she lay dead at their home in New Haven.

His father thus conveys to him the melancholy intelligence:--

"_February 8th, 1825._ My affectionately beloved Son,--Mysterious are the
ways of Providence. My heart is in pain and deeply sorrowful while I
announce to you the sudden and unexpected death of your dear and
deservedly loved wife. Her disease proved to be an _affection of the
heart_--incurable, had it been known. Dr. Smith's letter, accompanying
this, will explain all you will desire to know on this subject.

"I wrote you yesterday that she was convalescent. So she then appeared
and so the doctor pronounced. She was up about five o'clock yesterday
P.M. to have her bed made as usual; was unusually cheerful and social;
spoke of the pleasure of being with her dear husband in New York ere
long; stepped into bed herself, fell back with a momentary struggle on
her pillow, her eyes were immediately fixed, the paleness of death
overspread her countenance, and in five minutes more, without the
slightest motion, her mortal life terminated.

"It happened that just at this moment I was entering her chamber door
with Charles in my arms, to pay her my usual visit and to pray with her.
The nurse met me affrighted, calling for help. Your mother, the family,
our neighbors, full of the tenderest sympathy and kindness, and the
doctors thronged the house in a few minutes. Everything was done that
could be done to save her life, but her 'appointed time' had come, and no
earthly power or skill could stay the hand of death.

"It was the Lord who gave her to you, the chiefest of all your earthly
blessings, and it is He that has taken her away, and may you be enabled,
my son, from the heart to say: 'Blessed be the name of the Lord.'... The
shock to the whole family is far beyond, in point of severity, that of
any we have ever before felt, but we are becoming composed, we hope on
grounds which will prove solid and lasting.

"I expect this will reach you on Saturday, the day after the one we have
appointed for the funeral, when you will have been in Washington a week
and I hope will have made such progress in your business as that you will
soon be able to return....

"You need not hurry home. Nothing here requires it. We are all well and
everything will be taken good care of. Give yourself no concern on that
account. Finish your business as well as you will be able to do it after
receiving this sad news."

This blow was an overwhelming one. He could not, of course, compose
himself sufficiently to continue his work on the portrait of Lafayette,
and, having apprised the General of the reason for this, he received from
the following sympathetic letter:--

I have feared to intrude upon you, my dear sir, but want to tell you how
deeply I sympathize in your grief--a grief of which nobody can better
than me appreciate the cruel feelings.

You will hear from me, as soon as I find myself again near you, to finish
the work you have so well begun.

Accept my affectionate and mournful sentiment.


The day after he received his father's letter he left Washington and
wrote from Baltimore, where he stopped over Sunday with a friend, on
February 13:--

MY DEAR FATHER,--The heart-rending tidings which you communicated reached
me in Washington on Friday evening. I left yesterday morning, spend this
day here at Mr. Cushing's, and set out on my return home to-morrow. I
shall reach Philadelphia on Monday night, New York on Tuesday night, and
New Haven on Wednesday night.

Oh! is it possible, is it possible? Shall I never see my dear wife again?

But I cannot trust myself to write on this subject. I need your prayers
and those of Christian friends to God for support. I fear I shall sink
under it.

Oh! take good care of her dear children.

Your agonized son,

Another son had been born to him on January 20, 1825, and he was now left
with three motherless children to provide for, and without the sustaining
hope of a speedy and permanent reunion with them and with his beloved

Writing to a friend more than a month after the death of his wife, he

"Though late in performing the promise I made you of writing you when I
arrived home, I hope you will attribute it to anything but forgetfulness
of that promise. The confusion and derangement consequent on such an
afflicting bereavement as I have suffered have rendered it necessary for
me to devote the first moments of composure to looking about me, and to
collecting and arranging the fragments of the ruin which has spread such
desolation over all my earthly prospects.

"Oh! what a blow! I dare not yet give myself up to the full survey of its
desolating effects. Every day brings to my mind a thousand new and fond
connections with dear Lucretia, all now ruptured. I feel a dreadful void,
a heart-sickness, which time does not seem to heal but rather to

"You know the intensity of the attachment which existed between dear
Lucretia and me, never for a moment interrupted by the smallest cloud; an
attachment founded, I trust, in the purest love, and daily strengthening
by all the motives which the ties of nature and, more especially, of
religion, furnish.

"I found in dear Lucretia everything I could wish. Such ardor of
affection, so uniform, so unaffected, I never saw nor read of but in her.
My fear with regard to the measure of my affection toward her was not
that I might fail of 'loving her as my own flesh,' but that I should put
her in the place of Him who has said, 'Thou shalt have no other Gods but
me.' I felt this to be my greatest danger, and to be saved from this
_idolatry_ was often the subject of my earnest prayers.

"If I had desired anything in my dear Lucretia different from what she
was, it would have been that she had been _less lovely_. My whole soul
seemed wrapped up in her; with her was connected all that I expected of
happiness on earth. Is it strange, then, that I now feel this void, this
desolateness, this loneliness, this heart-sickness; that I should feel as
if my very heart itself had been torn from me?

"To any one but those who knew dear Lucretia what I have said might seem
to be but the extravagance of an excited imagination; but to you, who
knew the dear object I lament, all that I have said must but feebly
shadow her to your memory."

Now in New York Public Library]

It was well for him that he found constant occupation for his hand and
brain at this critical period of his life. The Fates had dealt him this
cruel blow for some good reason best known to themselves. He was being
prepared for a great mission, and it was meet that his soul, like gold,
should be purified by fire; but, at the same time, that the blow might
not utterly overwhelm him, success in his chosen profession seemed again
to be within his grasp.

Writing to his parents from New York, on April 8, 1825, he says:--

"I have as much as I can do, but after being fatigued at night and having
my thoughts turned to my irreparable loss, I am ready almost to give up.
The thought of seeing my dear Lucretia, and returning home to her, served
always to give me fresh courage and spirits whenever I felt worn down by
the labors of the day, and now I hardly know what to substitute in her

"To my friends here I know I seem to be cheerful and happy, but a
cheerful countenance with me covers an aching heart, and often have I
feigned a more than ordinary cheerfulness to hide a more than ordinary

"I am blessed with prosperity in my profession. I have just received
another commission from the corporation of the city to paint a
common-sized portrait of Rev. Mr. Stanford for them, to be placed in the

The loss of his young wife was the great tragedy of Morse's life. Time,
with her soothing touch, healed the wound, but the scar remained. Hers
must have been, indeed, a lovely character. Professor Benjamin Silliman,
Sr., one of her warmest friends, composed the epitaph which still remains
inscribed upon her tombstone in the cemetery at New Haven. (See opposite



With a heavy heart, but bravely determining not to be overwhelmed by this
crushing blow, Morse took up his work again. He finished the portrait of
Lafayette, and it now hangs in the City Hall in New York. Writing of it
many years later to a gentleman who had made some enquiries concerning
it, he says:--

"In answer to yours of the 8th instant, just received, I can only say it
is so long since I have seen the portrait I painted of General Lafayette
for the City of New York, that, strange to say, I find it difficult to
recall even its general characteristics.

"That portrait has a melancholy interest for me, for it was just as I had
commenced the second sitting of the General at Washington that I received
the stunning intelligence of Mrs. Morse's death, and was compelled
abruptly to suspend the work. I preserve, as a gratifying memorial, the
letter of condolence and sympathy sent in to me at the time by the
General, and in which he speaks in flattering terms of the promise of the
portrait as a likeness.

"I must be frank, however, in my judgment of my own works of that day.
This portrait was begun under the sad auspices to which I have alluded,
and, up to the close of the work, I had a series of constant
interruptions of the same sad character. A picture painted under such
circumstances can scarcely be expected to do the artist justice, and as a
work of art I cannot praise it. Still, it is a good likeness, was very
satisfactory to the General, and he several times alluded to it in my
presence in after years (when I was a frequent visitor to him in Paris)
in terms of praise.

"It is a full-length, standing figure, the size of life. He is
represented as standing at the top of a flight of steps, which he has
just ascended upon a terrace, the figure coming against a glowing sunset
sky, indicative of the glory of his own evening of life. Upon his right,
if I remember, are three pedestals, one of which is vacant as if waiting
for his bust, while the two others are surmounted by the busts of
Washington and Franklin--the two associated eminent historical characters
of his own time. In a vase on the other side is a flower-the
helianthus--with its face toward the sun, in allusion to the
characteristic stern, uncompromising consistency of Lafayette-a trait of
character which I then considered, and still consider, the great
prominent trait of that distinguished man."

Morse, like many men who have excelled in one branch of the fine arts,
often made excursions into one of the others. I find among his papers
many scraps of poetry and some more ambitious efforts, and while they do
not, perhaps, entitle him to claim a poet's crown, some of them are
worthy of being rescued from oblivion. The following sonnet was sent to
Lafayette under the circumstances which Morse himself thus describes:--

"Written on the loss of a faithful dog of Lafayette's on board the
steamboat which sank in the Mississippi. The dog, supposing his master
still on board, could not be persuaded to leave the cabin, but perished
with the vessel.

"Lost, from thy care to know thy master free
  Can we thy self-devotion e'er forget?
'Twas kindred feeling in a less degree
  To that which thrilled the soul of Lafayette.
  He freely braved our storms, our dangers met,
Nor left the ship till we had 'scaped the sea.
  Thine was a spark of noble feeling bright
Caught from the fire that warms thy master's heart.
His was of Heaven's kindling, and no small part
  Of that pure fire is His. We hail the light
Where'er it shines, in heaven, in man, in brute;
We hail that sacred light howe'er minute,
  Whether its glimmering in thy bosom rest
  Or blaze full orb'd within thy master's breast."

This was sent to General Lafayette on the 4th of July, 1825, accompanied
by the following note:--

"In asking your acceptance of the enclosed poetic trifle, I have not the
vanity to suppose it can contribute much to your gratification; but if it
shall be considered as an endeavor to show to you some slight return of
gratitude for the kind sympathy you evinced towards me at a time of deep
affliction, I shall have attained my aim. Gladly would I offer to you any
service, but, while a whole nation stands waiting to answer the
expression of your smallest wish, my individual desire to serve you can
only be considered as contending for a portion of that high honor which
all feel in serving you."

Concealing from the world his great sorrow, and bravely striving always
to maintain a cheerful countenance, Morse threw himself with energy into
his work in New York, endeavoring to keep every minute occupied.

He seems to have had his little daughter with him for a while, for in a
letter of March 12, 1825, occurs this sentence: "Little Susan has had the
toothache once or twice, and I have promised her a doll if she would have
it out to-day--I am this moment stopped by her coming in and showing me
the _tooth out_, so I shall give her the doll."

But he soon found that it would be impossible for him to do justice to
his work and at same time fulfil his duties as a parent, and for many
years afterwards his motherless children found homes with different
relatives, but the expense of their keep and education was always borne
by their father.

On the 1st of May, 1825, he moved into new quarters, having rented an
entire house at No. 20 Canal Street for the sum of four hundred dollars a
year, and he says, "My new establishment will be very commodious for my
professional studies, and I do not think its being so far '_up town_'
will, on the whole, be any disadvantage to me."

"May 26, 1825. I have at length become comfortably settled and begin to
feel at home in my new establishment. All things at present go smoothly.
Brother Charles Walker and Mr. Agate join with me in breakfast and tea,
and we find it best for convenience, economy, and time to dine from
home,--it saves the perplexity of providing marketing and the care of
stores, and, besides, we think it will be more economical and the walk
will be beneficial."  While success in his profession seemed now assured,
and while orders poured in so fast that he gladly assisted some of his
less fortunate brother artists by referring his would-be patrons to them,
he also took a deep interest in the general artistic movement of the

He was, by nature, intensely enthusiastic, and his strong personality
ever impressed itself on individuals and communities with which he came
in contact. He was a born leader of men, and, like so many other leaders,
often so forgetful of self in his eager desire for the general good as to
seriously interfere with his material prosperity. This is what happened
to him now, for he gave so liberally of himself in the formation of a new
artistic body in New York, and in the preparation of lectures, that he
encroached seriously on time which might have been more lucratively

His brother Sidney comments on this in a letter to the other brother
Richard: "Finley is well and in good spirits, though not advancing very
rapidly in his business. He is full of the Academy and of his lectures--
can hardly talk on any other subject. I despair of ever seeing him rich
or even at ease in his pecuniary circumstances from efforts of his own,
though able to do it with so little effort. But he may be in a better
way, perhaps, of getting a fortune in his present course than he would be
in the laborious path which we are too apt to think is the only road to
wealth and ultimate ease."

We have seen that Morse was one of the founders of an academy of art in
Charleston, South Carolina, and we have seen that, after his departure
from that city, this academy languished and died. Is it an unfair
inference that, if he had remained permanently in Charleston, so sad a
fate would not have overtaken the infant academy? In support of this
inference we shall now see that he was largely instrumental in bringing
into being an artistic association, over which he presided for many
years, and which has continued to prosper until, at the present day, it
is the leading artistic body in this country.

When Morse settled in New York in 1825 there existed an American Academy
of Arts, of which Colonel Trumbull, the celebrated painter, was the
president. While eminent as a painter, Trumbull seems to have lacked
executive ability and to have been rather haughty and overbearing in his
manner, for Morse found great dissatisfaction existing among the
professional artists and students.

At first it was thought that, by bringing their grievances before the
board of directors of the Academy, conditions might be changed, and on
the 8th of November, 1825, a meeting was called in the rooms of the
Historical Society, and the "New York Drawing Association" was formed,
and Morse was chosen to preside over its meetings. It was not intended,
at first, that this association should be a rival of the old Academy, but
that it should give to its members facilities which were difficult of
attainment in the Academy, and should, perhaps, force that institution to
become more liberal.

It was not successful in the latter effort, for at a meeting of the
Drawing Association on the evening of the 14th of January, 1825, Morse,
the president, proposed certain resolutions which he introduced by the
following remarks:--

"We have this evening assumed a new attitude in the community; our
negotiations with the Academy are at an end; our union with it has been
frustrated after every proper effort on our part to accomplish it. The
two who were elected as directors from our ticket have signified their
non-acceptance of the office. We are therefore left to organize ourselves
on a plan that shall meet the wishes of us all.

"A plan of an institution which shall be truly liberal, which shall be
mutually beneficial, which shall really encourage our respective arts,
cannot be devised in a moment; it ought to be the work of great caution
and deliberation and as simple as possible in its machinery. Time will be
required for the purpose. We must hear from distant countries to obtain
their experience, and it must necessarily be, perhaps, many months before
it can be matured.

"In the mean time, however, a preparatory, simple organization can be
made, and should be made as soon as possible, to prevent dismemberment,
which may be attempted by outdoor influence. On this subject let us all
be on our guard; let us point to our public documents to any who ask what
we have done and why we have done it, while we go forward minding only
our own concerns, leaving the Academy of Fine Arts as much of our
thoughts as they will permit us, and, bending our attention to our own
affairs, act as if no such institution existed.

"One of our dangers at present is division and anarchy from a want of
organization suited to the present exigency. We are now composed of
artists in the four arts of design, namely, painting, sculpture,
architecture, and engraving. Some of us are professional artists, others
amateurs, others students. To the professed and practical artist belongs
the management of all things relating to schools, premiums, and lectures,
so that amateur and student may be most profited. The amateurs and
students are those alone who can contend for the premiums, while the body
of professional artists exclusively judge of their rights to premiums and
award them.

"How shall we first make the separation has been a question which is a
little perplexing. There are none of us who can assume to be the body of
artists without giving offence to others, and still every one must
perceive that, to organize an academy, there must be the distinction
between professional artists, amateurs who are students, and professional
students. The first great division should be the body of professional
artists from the amateurs and students, constituting the body who are to
manage the entire concerns of the institution, who shall be its officers,

"There is a method which strikes me as obviating the difficulty; place it
on the broad principle of the formation of any society--universal
suffrage. We are now a mixed body; it is necessary for the benefit of all
that a separation into classes be made. Who shall make it?

"Why, obviously the body itself. Let every member of this association
take home with him a list of all the members of it. Let each one select
for himself from the whole list _fifteen_, whom he would call
professional artists, to be the ticket which he will give in at the next

"These fifteen thus chosen shall elect not less than _ten_, nor more than
_fifteen_, professional artists, in or out of the association, who shall
(with the previously elected fifteen) constitute the body to be called
the National Academy of the Arts of Design. To these shall be delegated
the power to regulate its entire concerns, choose its members, select its
students, etc.

"Thus will the germ be formed to grow up into an institution which we
trust will be put on such principles as to encourage--not to depress--the
arts. When this is done our body will no longer be the Drawing
Association, but the National Academy of the Arts of Design, still
including all the present association, but in different capacities.

"One word as to the name 'National Academy of the Arts of Design.' Any
less name than 'National' would be taking one below the American Academy,
and therefore is not desirable. If we were simply the 'Associated
Artists,' their name would swallow us up; therefore 'National' seems a
proper one as to the arts of design. These are painting, sculpture,
architecture, and engraving, while the fine arts include poetry, music,
landscape gardening, and the histrionic arts. Our name, therefore,
expresses the entire character of our institution and that only."

From this we see that Morse's enthusiasm was tempered with tact and
common sense. His proposals were received with unanimous approval, and on
the 15th of January, 1826, the following fifteen were chosen:--S.F.B.
Morse, Henry Inman, A.B. Durand, John Frazee, William Wall, Charles C.
Ingham, William Dunlap, Peter Maverick, Ithiel Town, Thomas S. Cummings,
Edward Potter, Charles C. Wright, Mosely J. Danforth, Hugh Reinagle,
Gerlando Marsiglia. These fifteen professional artists added by ballot to
their number the following fifteen:--Samuel Waldo, William Jewett, John
W. Paradise, Frederick S. Agate, Rembrandt Peale, James Coyle, Nathaniel
Rogers, J. Parisen, William Main, John Evers, Martin E. Thompson, Thomas
Cole, John Vanderlyn (who declined), Alexander Anderson, D.W. Wilson.

Thus was organized the National Academy of Design. Morse was elected its
first president and was annually reëlected to that office until the year
1845, when, the telegraph having now become an assured success, he felt
that he could not devote the necessary time and thought to the interests
of the Academy, and he insisted on retiring.

In the year 1861 he was prevailed upon by Thomas S. Cummings, one of the
original academicians, but now a general, to become again the president,
and he served in that office for a year. The General, in a letter to Mr.
Prime in 1873, says, "and, I may add, was beloved by all."

I shall not attempt to give a detailed account of the early struggles of
the Academy, closely interwoven though they be with Morse's life. Those
who may be interested in the matter will find them all detailed in
General Cummings' "Records of the National Academy of Design."

Morse prepared and delivered a number of lectures on various subjects
pertaining to the fine arts, and most of these have been preserved in
pamphlet form. In this connection I shall quote again from the letter of
General Cummings before alluded to:--

"Mr. Morse's connection with the Academy was doubtless unfavorable in a
pecuniary point of view; his interest in it interfering with professional
practice, and the time taken to enable him to prepare his course of
lectures materially contributed to favor a distribution of his labors in
art to other hands, and it never fully returned to him. His 'Discourse on
Academies of Art,' delivered in the chapel of Columbia College, May,
1827, will long stand as a monument of his ability in the line of art

"As an historical painter Mr. Morse, after Allston, was probably the best
prepared and most fully educated artist of his day, and should have
received the attention of the Government and a share of the distributions
in art commissions."

That his efforts were appreciated by his fellow artists and by the
cultivated people of New York is thus modestly described in a letter to
his parents of November 18, 1825:--

"I mentioned that reputation was flowing in upon me. The younger artists
have formed a drawing association at the Academy and elected me their
president. We meet in the evenings of three days in a week to draw, and
it has been conducted thus far with such success as to have trebled the
number of our association and excited the attention and applause of the
community. There is a spirit of harmony among the artists, every one
says, which never before existed in New York, and which augurs well for
the success of the arts.

"The artists are pleased to attribute it to my exertions, and I find in
them in consequence expressions and feelings of respect which have been
very gratifying to me. Whatever influence I have had, however, in
producing this pleasant state of things, I think there was the
preparation in the state of mind of the artists themselves. I find a
liberal feeling in the younger part of them, and a refinement of manners,
which will redeem the character of art from the degradation to which a
few dissipated interlopers have, temporarily, reduced it.

"A Literary Society, admission to which must be by unanimous vote, and
into which many respectable literary characters of the city have been
denied admission, has chosen me a member, together with Mr. Hillhouse and
Mr. Bryant, poets. This indicates good feelings towards me, to say the
least, and, in the end, will be of advantage, I have no doubt."


JANUARY 1, 1826--DECEMBER 5, 1829

Success of his lectures, the first of the kind in the United States.--
Difficulties of his position as leader.--Still longing for a home.--Very
busy but in good health.--Death of his father.--Estimates of Dr. Morse.--
Letters to his mother.--Wishes to go to Europe again.--Delivers address
at first anniversary of National Academy of Design.--Professor Dana
lectures on electricity.--Morse's study of the subject.--Moves to No. 13
Murray Street.--Too busy to visit his family.--Death of his mother.--A
remarkable woman.--Goes to central New York.--A serious accident.--Moral
reflections.--Prepares to go to Europe.--Letter of John A. Dix.--Sails
for Liverpool.--Rough voyage.--Liverpool.

January 1, 1826

MY DEAR PARENTS,--I wish you all a Happy New Year! Kiss my little ones as
a New Year's present from me, which must answer until I visit them, when
I shall bring them each a present if I hear good accounts from them....

The new year brings with it many painful reflections to me. When I
consider what a difference a year has accomplished in my situation; that
one on whom I depended so much for domestic happiness at this time last
year gave me the salutations of the season, and now is gone where years
are unknown; and when I think how mysteriously I am separated from my
little family, and that duty may keep me I know not how much longer in
this solitary state, I have much that makes the present season far from
being a Happy New Year to me. But, mysterious as things seem in regard to
the future, I know that all will be ordered right, and I have a great
deal to say of mercy in the midst of judgment, and a thousand unmerited
blessings with all my troubles.

But why do I talk of troubles? My cup is overflowing with blessings. As
far as outward circumstances are concerned, Providence seems to be
opening an honorable and useful course to me. Oh! that I may be able to
bear prosperity, if it is his will to bestow it, or be denied it if not
accompanied with his blessing....

I am much engaged in my lectures, have completed two, nearly, and hope to
get through the four in season for my turn at the Athenæum. These
lectures are of great importance to me, for, if well done, they place me
alone among the artists; I being the only one who has as yet written a
course of lectures in our country. Time bestowed on them is not,
therefore, misspent, for they will acquire me reputation which will yield
wealth, as mother, I hope, will live to see.

"_January 15, 1826._ On this day I seem to have the only moment in the
week in which I can write you, for I am almost overwhelmed by the
multitude of cares that crowd upon me.... I find that the path of duty,
though plain, is not without its roughness. I can say but in one word
that the Association of Artists, of whom I am president, after
negotiations of some weeks with the Academy of Fine Arts to come into it
on terms of mutual benefit, find their efforts unavailing, and have
separated and formed a new academy to be called, probably, the National
Academy of the Arts of Design. I am at its head, but the cares and
responsibility which devolve on me in consequence are more than a balance
for the honor. The battle is yet to be fought for the need of public
favor, and were it not that the entire and perfect justness of our cause
is clear to me in every point of view, I should retire from a contest
which would merely serve to rouse up all the 'old Adam' to no profit; but
the cause of the artists seems, under Providence, to be, in some degree,
confided to me, and I cannot shrink from the cares and troubles at
present put upon me. I have gone forward thus far, asking direction from
above, and, in looking around me, I feel that I am in the path of duty.
May I be kept in it and be preserved from the temptations, the various
and multiplied and complicated temptations, to which I know I shall be
exposed. In every step thus far I feel an approving conscience; there is
none I could wish to retrace....

"I fear you will think I have but few thoughts for you all at home, and
my dear little ones in particular. I do think of them, though, very
often, with many a longing to have a home for them under a parent's roof,
and all my efforts now are tending distantly to that end; but when I
shall ever have a home of my own, or whether it will ever be, I know not.
The necessity for a second connection on their account seems pressing,
but I cannot find my heart ready for it. I am occasionally rallied on the
subject, but the suggestion only reminds me of her I have lost, and a
tear is quite as ready to appear as a smile; or, if I can disguise it, I
feel a pang within that shows me the wound is not yet healed. It is
eleven months since she has gone, but it seems but yesterday."

"_April 18, 1826._ I don't know but you will think I have forgotten how
to write letters, and I believe this is the first I have written for six

"The pressure of my lectures became very great towards the close of them,
and I was compelled to bend my whole attention to their completion. I did
not expect, when I delivered my first, that I should be able to give more
than two, but the importance of going through seemed greater as I
advanced, and I was strengthened to accomplish the whole number, and, if
I can judge from various indications, I think I have been successful. My
audience, consisting of the most fashionable and literary society in the
city, regularly increased at each successive lecture, and at the last it
was said that I had the largest audience ever assembled in the room.

"I am now engaged on Lafayette in expectation of completing it for our
exhibition in May, after which time I hope I shall be able to see you for
a day or two in New Haven. I long to see you all, and those dear children
often make me feel anxious, and I am often tempted to break away and have
a short look at them, but I am tied down here and cannot move at present.
All that I am doing has some reference to their interest; they are
constantly on my mind.

"... My health was never better with all my intense application, sitting
in my chair from seven in the morning until twelve or one o'clock the
next morning, with only about an hour's intermission. I have felt no
permanent inconvenience. On Saturday night, generally, I have felt
exceedingly nervous, so that my whole body and limbs would shake, but
resting on the Sabbath seemed to give me strength for the next week.
Since my mind is relieved from my lectures I have felt new life and
spirits, and feel strong to accomplish anything."

"_May 10, 18S6._ I have just heard from mother and feel anxious about
father. Nothing but the most imperious necessity prevents my coming
immediately to New Haven; indeed, as it is, I will try and break away
sometime next week, if possible, and pass one day with you, but how to do
it without detriment to my business I don't know....

"I have longed for some time for a little respite, but, like our good
father, all his sons seem destined for most busy stations in society, and
constant exertions, not for themselves alone, but for the public

Whether this promised visit to New Haven was paid or not is not recorded,
but it is to be hoped that it was made possible, for the good husband and
father, the faithful worker for the betterment of mankind, was called to
his well-earned rest on the 9th of June, 1826.

Of him Dr. John Todd said, "Dr. Morse lived before his time and was in
advance of his generation." President Dwight of Yale found him "as full
of resources as an egg is of meat"; and Daniel Webster spoke of him as
"always thinking, always writing, always talking, always acting." Mr.
Prime thus sums up his character: "He was a man of genius, not content
with what had been and was, but originating and with vast executive
ability combining the elements to produce great results. To him more than
to any other one man may be attributed the impulses given in his day to
religion and learning in the United States. A polished gentleman in his
manners; the companion, correspondent, and friend of the most eminent men
in Church and State; honored at the early age of thirty-four with the
degree of Doctor of Divinity by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland;
sought by scholars and statesmen from abroad as one of the foremost men
of his country and time."

The son must have felt keenly the loss of his father so soon after the
death of his wife. The whole family was a singularly united one, each
member depending on the others for counsel and advice, and the father,
who was but sixty-five when he died, was still vigorous in mind, although
of delicate constitution.

Later in this year Morse managed to spend some time in New Haven, and he
persuaded his mother to seek rest and recuperation in travel,
accompanying her as far as Boston and writing to her there on his return
to New Haven.

"_September 20, 1826._ I arrived safely home after leaving you yesterday
and found that neither the house nor the folks had run away.... Persevere
in your travels, mother, as long as you think it does you good, and tell
Dick to brush up his best bows and bring home some lady to grace the now
desolate mansion."

On November 9, 1826, he writes to his mother from New York:--

"Don't think I have forgotten you all at home because I have been so
remiss in writing you lately. I feel guilty, however, in not stealing
some little time just to write you one line. I acknowledge my fault, so
please forgive me and I will be a _better boy_ in future.

"The fact is I have been engaged for the last three days during all my
leisure moments in something unusual with me,--I mean _electioneering_.
'Oh! what a sad boy!' mother will say. 'There he is leaving everything at
sixes and sevens, and driving through the streets, and busying himself
about those _poison politics_.' Not quite so fast, however.

"I have not neglected my own affairs, as you will learn one of these
days. I have an historical picture to paint, which will occupy me for
some time, for a proprietor of a steamboat which is building in
Philadelphia to be the most splendid ever built. He has engaged
historical pictures of Allston, Vanderlyn, Sully, and myself, and
landscapes of the principal landscape painters, for a gallery on board
the boat. I consider this as a new and noble channel for the
encouragement of painting, and in such an enterprise and in such company
I shall do my best.

"What do you think of sparing me for about one year to visit Paris and
Rome to finish what I began when in Europe before? My education as a
painter is incomplete without it, and the time is rapidly going away when
my age will render it impossible to profit by such studies, even if I
should be able, at a future time, to visit Europe again.... I can,
perhaps, leave my dear little ones at their age better than if they were
more advanced, and, as my views are ultimately to benefit them, I think
no one will accuse me of neglecting them. If they do, they know but
little of my feelings towards them."

The mother's answer to this letter has not been preserved, but whether
she dissuaded him from going at that time, or whether other reasons
prevented him, the fact is that he did not start on the voyage to Europe
(the return trip proving so momentous to himself and to the world) until
exactly three years later.

I shall pass rapidly over these intervening three years. They were years
of hard work, but of work rewarded by material success and increasing
honor in the community.

On May 8, 1827, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the National
Academy of Design, Morse, its president, delivered an address before a
brilliant audience in the chapel of Columbia College. This address was
considered so remarkable that, at the request of the Academy, it was
published in pamphlet form. It called forth a sharp review in the "North
American," which voiced the opinions of those who were hostile to the new
Academy, and who considered the term "National" little short of arrogant.
Morse replied to this attack in a masterly manner in the "Journal of
Commerce," and this also was published in pamphlet form and ended the

In the year 1827, Professor James Freeman Dana, of Columbia College,
delivered a series of lectures on the subject of electricity at the New
York Athenæum. Professor Dana was an enthusiast in the study of that
science, which, at that time, was but in its infancy, and he foresaw
great and beneficial results to mankind from this mysterious force when
it should become more fully understood.

Morse, already familiar with the subject from his experiments with
Professor Silliman in New Haven, took a deep interest in these lectures,
and he and Professor Dana became warm friends. The latter, on his side a
great admirer of the fine arts, spent many hours in the studio of the
artist, discussing with him the two subjects which were of absorbing
interest to them both, art and electricity. In this way Morse became
perfectly familiar with the latest discoveries in electrical science, so
that when, a few years later, his grand conception of a simple and
practicable means of harnessing this mystic agent to the uses of mankind
took form in his brain, it found a field already prepared to receive it.
I wish to lay particular emphasis on this point because, in later years,
when his claims as an inventor were bitterly assailed in the courts and
in scientific circles, it was asserted that he knew nothing whatever of
the science of electricity at the time of his invention, and that all its
essential features were suggested to him by others.

In the year 1828, Morse again changed his quarters, moving to a suite of
rooms at No. 13 Murray Street, close to Broadway, for which he paid a
"great rent," $500, and on May 6 of that year he writes to his mother:

"Ever since I left you at New Haven I have been over head and ears in
arrangements of every kind. It is the busiest time of the whole year as
it regards the National Academy. We have got through the arrangement of
our exhibition and yesterday opened it to the guests of the Academy. We
had the first people in the city, ladies and gentlemen, thronging the
room all day, and the voice of all seemed to be--'It is the best
exhibition of the kind that has been seen in the city.'

"I am now arranging my rooms; they are very fine ones. I shall be through
in a few days, and then I hope to be able to come up and see you, for I
feel very anxious about you, my dear mother. I do most sincerely
sympathize with you in your troubles and long to come up and take some of
the care and burden from you, and will do it as soon as my affairs here
can be arranged so that I can leave them without serious detriment to
them.... What a siege you must have had with your _help_, as it is most
strangely called in New Haven. I am too aristocratic for such doings as
_help_ would make those who live in New Haven endure. Ardently as I am
attached to New Haven the plague of _help_ will probably always prevent
my living there again, for I would not put up with 'the world turned
upside down,' and therefore should give offense to their _helpinesses_,
and so lead a very uncomfortable life."

From this our suspicion is strengthened that the servant question belongs
to no time or country, but is and always has been a perennial and
ubiquitous problem.

"_May 11, 1888._ I feel very anxious about you, dear mother. I heard
through Mr. Van Rensselaer that you were better, and I hope that you will
yet see many good days on earth and be happy in the affection of your
children and friends here, before you go, a little before them, to join
those in heaven."

While expressing anxiety about his mother's health, he could not have
considered her condition critical, for on the 18th of May he writes

"I did hope so to make my arrangements as to have been with you in New
Haven yesterday and to-day, but I am so situated as to be unable to leave
the city without great detriment to my business.... Unless, therefore,
there is something of pressing necessity, prudence would dictate to me to
take advantage of this season, which has generally been the most
profitable to others in the profession, and see if I cannot get my share
of something to do. It is a great struggle with me to know what I ought
to do. Your situation and that of the family draw me to New Haven; the
state of my finances keeps me here. I will come, however, if, on the
whole, you think it best."

Again are the records silent as to whether the visit was paid or not, but
his anxiety was well founded, for his mother's appointed time had come,
and just ten days later, on the 28th of May, 1828, she died at the age of

Thus within the space of three years the hand of death had removed the
three beings whom Morse loved best. His mother, while, as we have seen,
stern and uncompromising in her Puritan principles, yet possessed the
faculty of winning the love as well as the respect of her family and
friends. Dr. Todd said of her home: "An orphan myself and never having a
home, I have gone away from Dr. Morse's house in tears, feeling that such
a home must be more like heaven than anything of which I could conceive."

Mr. Prime, in his biography of Morse, thus pays tribute to her:--

"Two persons more unlike in temperament, it is said, could not have been
united in love and marriage than the parents of Morse. The husband was
sanguine, impulsive, resolute, regardless of difficulties and danger. She
was calm, judicious, cautious, and reflecting. And she, too, had a will
of her own. One day she was expressing to one of the parish her intense
displeasure with the treatment her husband had received, when Dr. Morse
gently laid his hand upon her shoulder and said, 'My dear, you know we
must throw the mantle of charity over the imperfections of others.' And
she replied with becoming spirit, 'Mr. Morse, charity is not a fool.'"

In the summer of 1828, Morse spent some time in central New York,
visiting relatives and painting portraits when the occasion offered. He
thus describes a narrow escape from serious injury, or even death, in a
letter to his brother Sidney, dated Utica, August 17, 1828:--

"In coming from Whitesboro on Friday I met with an accident and a most
narrow escape with my life. The horse, which had been tackled into the
wagon, was a vicious horse and had several times run away, to the danger
of Mr. Dexter's life and others of the family. I was not aware of this or
I should not have consented to go with him, much less to drive him

"I was alone in the wagon with my baggage, and the horse went very well
for about a mile, when he gradually quickened his pace and then set out,
in spite of all check, on the full run. I kept him in the road,
determined to let him run himself tired as the only safe alternative; but
just as I came in sight of a piece of the road which had been concealed
by an angle, there was a heavy wagon which I must meet so soon that, in
order to avoid it, I must give it the whole road.

"This being very narrow, and the ditches and banks on each side very
rough, I instantly made up my mind to a serious accident. As well as the
velocity of the horse would allow me, however, I kept him on the side,
rough as it was, for about a quarter of a mile pretty steadily,
expecting, however, to upset every minute; when all at once I saw before
me an abrupt, narrow, deep gully into which the wheels on one side were
just upon the point of going down. It flashed across me in an instant
that, if I could throw the horse down into the ditch, the wheels of the
wagon might, perhaps, rest equipoised on each side, and, perhaps, break
the horse loose from the wagon.

"I pulled the rein and accomplished the object in part. The sudden plunge
of the horse into the gully broke him loose from the wagon, but it at the
same time turned one of the fore wheels into the gully, which upset the
wagon and threw me forwards at the moment when the horse threw up his
heels, just taking off my hat and leaving me in the bottom of the gully.
I fell on my left shoulder, and, although muddied from head to foot, I
escaped without any injury whatever; I was not even jarred painfully. I
found my shoulder a little bruised, my wrist very slightly scratched, and
yesterday was a little, and but very little, stiffened in my limbs, and
to-day have not the slightest feeling of bruise about me, but think I
feel better than I have for a long time. Indeed, my health is entirely
restored; the riding and country air have been the means of restoring me.
I have great cause of thankfulness for so much mercy and for such special
preserving care."

[Illustration: ELIZABETH A. MORSE
Painted by Morse]

The historian or the biographer who is earnestly desirous of presenting
an absolutely truthful picture of men and of events is aided in his task
by taking into account the character of the men who have made history. He
must ask the question: "Is it conceivable that this man could have acted
thus and so under such and such circumstances when his character, as
ultimately revealed through the perspective of time, has been
established? Could Washington and Lincoln, for example, have been
actuated by the motives attributed to them by their enemies?"

Like all men who have become shining marks in the annals of history,
Morse could not hope to escape calumny, and in later years he was accused
of actions, and motives were imputed to him, which it becomes the duty of
his biographer to disprove on the broad ground of moral impossibility.

Among his letters and papers are many rough drafts of thoughts and
observations on many subjects, interlined and annotated. Some were
afterwards elaborated into letters, articles, or lectures; others seem to
have been the thought of the moment, which he yet deemed worth writing
down, and which, perhaps better than anything else, reveal the true
character of the man.

The following was written by him in pencil on Sunday, September 6, 1829,
at Cooperstown, New York:--

"That temptations surround us at every moment is too evident to require
proof. If they cease from without they still act upon us from within
ourselves, and our most secret thoughts may as surely be drawn from the
path of duty by secret temptation, by the admission of evil suggestions,
and they will affect our characters as injuriously as those more palpable
and tangible temptations that attack our sense.

"This life is a state of discipline; a school in which to form character.
There is not an event that comes to our knowledge, not a sentence that we
read, not a person with whom we converse, not an act of our lives, in
short, not a thought which we conceive, but is acting upon and moulding
that character into a shape of good or evil; and, however unconscious we
may be of the fact, a thought, casually conceived in the solitariness and
silence and darkness of midnight, may so modify and change the current of
our future conduct that a blessing or a curse to millions may flow from

"All our thoughts are mysteriously connected with good or evil. Their
very habits, too, like the habits of our actions, are strengthened by
indulgence, and, according as we indulge the evil or the good, our
characters will partake of the moral character of each. But actions
proceed from thoughts; we act as we think. Why should we, then, so
cautiously guard our actions from impropriety while we give a loose rein
to our thoughts, which so certainly, sooner or later, produce their
fruits in our actions?

"God in his wisdom has separated at various distances sin and the
consequence of sin. In some instances we see a sin instantly followed by
its fruits, as of revenge by murder. In others we see weeks and months
and years, aye, and ages, too, elapse before the fruits of a single act,
the result, perhaps, of a single thought, are seen in all their varieties
of evil.

"How long ere the fruits of one sin in Paradise will cease to be visible
in the moral universe?

"If this reasoning is correct, I shall but cheat myself in preserving a
good moral outward appearance to others if every thought of the heart, in
the most secret retirement, is not carefully watched and checked and
guarded from evil; since the casual indulgence of a single evil thought
in secret may be followed, long after that thought is forgotten by me,
and when, perhaps, least expected, by overt acts of evil.

"Who, then, shall say that in those pleasures in which we indulge, and
which by many are called, and apparently are, innocent, there are not
laid the seeds of many a corrupt affection? Who shall say that my
innocent indulgence at the card table or at the theatre, were I inclined
to visit them, may not produce, if not in me a passion for gaming or for
low indulgence, yet in others may encourage these views to their ruin?

"Besides, 'Evil communications corrupt good manners,' and even places
less objectionable are studiously to be avoided. The soul is too precious
to be thus exposed.

"Where then is our remedy? In Christ alone. 'Cleanse thou me from secret
faults. Search me, O God, and know my thoughts; try me and know my ways
and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way which is

This is but one of many expressions of a similar character which are to
be found in the letters and notes, and which are illuminating.

Morse was now making ready for another trip to Europe. He had hoped, when
he returned home in 1815, to stay but a year or two on this side and then
to go back and continue his artistic education, which he by no means
considered complete, in France and Italy. We have seen how one
circumstance after another interfered to prevent the realization of this
plan, until now, after the lapse of fourteen years, he found it possible.
His wife and his parents were dead; his children were being carefully
cared for by relatives, the daughter Susan by her mother's sister, Mrs.
Pickering, in Concord, New Hampshire, and the boys by their uncle,
Richard C. Morse, who was then happily married and living in the family
home in New Haven.

The National Academy of Design was now established on a firm footing and
could spare his guiding hand for a few years. He had saved enough money
to defray his expenses on a strictly economical basis, but, to make
assurance doubly sure, he sought and received commissions from his
friends and patrons in America for copies of famous paintings, or for
original works of his own, so that he could sail with a clear conscience
as regarded his finances.

His friends were uniformly encouraging in furthering his plan, and he
received many letters of cordial good wishes and of introduction to
prominent men abroad. I shall include the following from John A. Dix, at
that time a captain in the army, but afterwards a general, and Governor
of New York, who, although he had been an unsuccessful suitor for the
hand of Miss Walker, Morse's wife, bore no ill-will towards his rival,
but remained his firm friend to the end:--

COOPERSTOWN, 27th October, 1829.

MY DEAR SIR,--I have only time to say that I have been absent in an
adjacent county and fear there is not time to procure a letter for you to
Mr. Rives before the 1st. I have written to Mr. Van Buren and he will
doubtless send you a letter before the 8th. Therefore make arrangements
to have it sent after you if you sail on the 1st.

I need not say I shall be very happy to hear from you during your
sojournment abroad. Especially tell me what your impressions are when you
turn from David's picture with Romulus and Tatius in the foreground, and
Paul Veronese's Marriage at Cana directly opposite, at the entrance of
the picture gallery in the Louvre.

We are all well and all desire to be remembered. I have only time to add
my best wishes for your happiness and prosperity.

Yours truly and constantly,

The Mr. Rives mentioned in the letter was at that time our Minister to
France, and the Mr. Van Buren was Martin Van Buren, then Secretary of
State in President Jackson's Cabinet, and afterwards himself President of
the United States.

The following is from the pencilled draft of a letter or the beginning of
a diary which was not finished, but ends abruptly:--

"On the 8th November, 1829, I embarked from New York in the ship
Napoleon, Captain Smith, for Liverpool. The Napoleon is one of those
splendid packets, which have been provided by the enterprise of our
merchants, for the accommodation of persons whose business or pleasure
requires a visit to Europe or America.

"Precisely at the appointed hour, ten o'clock, the steamboat with the
passengers and their baggage left the Whitehall dock for our gallant
ship, which was lying to above the city, heading up the North River,
careening to the brisk northwest gale, and waiting with apparent
impatience for us, like a spirited horse curvetting under the rein of his
master, and waiting but his signal to bound away. A few moments brought
us to her side, and a few more saw the steamboat leave us, and the sad
farewells to relatives and friends, who had thus far accompanied us, were
mutually exchanged by the waving of hands and of handkerchiefs. The
'Ready about,' and soon after the 'Mainsail haul' of the pilot were
answered by the cheering 'Ho, heave, ho' of the sailors, and, with the
fairest wind that ever blew, we fast left the spires and shores of the
great city behind us. In two hours we discharged our pilot to the south
of Sandy Hook, with his pocket full of farewell letters to our friends,
and then stood on our course for England.

"Four days brought us to the Banks of Newfoundland, one third of our
passage. Many of our passengers were sanguine in their anticipations of
our making the shortest passage ever known, and, had our subsequent
progress been as great as at first, we should doubtless have accomplished
the voyage in thirteen days, but calms and head winds for three days on
the Banks have frustrated our expectations.

"There is little that is interesting in the incidents of a voyage. The
indescribable listlessness of seasickness, the varied state of feeling
which changes with the wind and weather, have often been described. These
I experienced in all their force. From the time we left the Banks of
Newfoundland we had a continued succession of head winds, and when within
one fair day's sail of land, we were kept off by severe gales directly
ahead for five successive days and nights, during which time the uneasy
motion of the ship deprived us all of sleep, except in broken intervals
of an half-hour at a time. We neither saw nor spoke any vessel until the
evening of the ----, when we descried through the darkness a large vessel
on an opposite course from ourselves; we first saw her cabin lights. It
was blowing a gale of wind before which we were going on our own course
at the rate of eleven miles an hour. It was, of course, impossible to
speak her, but, to let her know that she had company on the wide ocean,
we threw up a rocket which for splendor of effect surpassed any that I
had ever seen on shore. It was thrown from behind the mizzenmast, over
which it shot arching its way over the main and foremasts, illuminating
every sail and rope, and then diving into the water, piercing the wave,
it again shot upwards and vanished in a loud report. To our companion
ship the effect must have been very fine.

"The sea is often complained of for its monotony, and yet there is great
variety in the appearance of the sea."

Here it ends, but we learn a little more of the voyage and the landing in
England from a letter to a cousin in America, written in Liverpool, on
December 5, 1829:--

"I arrived safely in England yesterday after a long, but, on the whole,
pleasant, passage of twenty-six days. I write you from the inn (the
King's Arms Hotel) at which I put up eighteen years ago. This inn is the
one at which Professor Silliman stayed when he travelled in England, and
which he mentions in his travels. The old Frenchman whom he mentions I
well remember when I was here before. I enquired for him and am told he
is still living, but I have not seen him.

"There is a large black man, a waiter in the house, who is quite a
polished man in his manners, and an elderly white man, with white hair,
who looks so respectable and dignified that one feels a little awkward at
first in ordering him to do this or that service; and the chambermaids
look so venerable and matronly that to ask them for a pitcher of water
seems almost rude to them. But I am in a land where domestic servants are
the best in the world. No servant aspires to a higher station, but feels
a pride in making himself the first in that station. I notice this, for
our own country presents a melancholy contrast in this particular."

Here follows a description of the voyage, and he continues:--

"Yesterday we anchored off the Floating Light, sixteen miles from the
city, unable to reach the dock on account of the wind, but the
post-office steamboat (or steamer, as they call them here) came to us
from Liverpool to take the letter-bags, and I with other passengers got
on board, and at twelve o'clock I once more placed my foot on English

"The weather is true English weather, thick, smoky, and damp. I can see
nothing of the general appearance of the city. The splendid docks, which
were building when I was here before, are now completed and extend along
the river. They are really splendid; everything about them is solid and
substantial, of stone and iron, and on so large a scale.

"I have passed my baggage through the custom-house, and on Monday I
proceed on my journey to London through Birmingham and Oxford. Miss
Leslie, a sister of my friend Leslie of London, is my _compagnon de
voyage_. She is a woman of fine talents and makes my journey less tedious
and irksome than it would otherwise be.... I have a long journey before
me yet ere I reach Rome, where I intended to be by Christmas Day, but my
long voyage will probably defeat my intention."


DECEMBER 6, 1829--FEBRUARY 6, 1830

Journey from Liverpool to London by coach.--Neatness of the cottages.--
Trentham Hall.--Stratford-on-Avon.--Oxford.--London.--Charles R. Leslie.
--Samuel Rogers.--Seated with Academicians at Royal Academy lecture.--
Washington Irving.--Turner.--Leaves London for Dover.--Canterbury
Cathedral.--Detained at Dover by bad weather.--Incident of a former
visit.--Channel steamer.--Boulogne-sur-Mer.--First impressions of
France.--Paris.--The Louvre.--Lafayette.--Cold in Paris.--Continental
Sunday.--Leaves Paris for Marseilles in diligence.--Intense cold.--
Dijon.--French funeral.--Lyons.--The Hôtel Dieu.--Avignon.--Catholic
church services.--Marseilles.--Toulon.--The navy yard and the galley
slaves.--Disagreeable experience at an inn.--The Riviera.--Genoa.

Morse was now thirty-eight years old, in the full vigor of manhood, of a
spare but well-knit frame and of a strong constitution. While all his
life, and especially in his younger years, he was a sufferer from
occasional severe headaches, he never let these interfere with the work
on hand, and, by leading a sane and rational life, he escaped all serious
illnesses. He was not a total abstainer as regards either wine or
tobacco, but was moderate in the use of both; a temperance advocate in
the true sense of the word.

His character had now been moulded both by prosperity and adversity. He
had known the love of wife and children, and of father and mother, and
the cup of domestic happiness had been dashed from his lips. He had
experienced the joy of the artist in successful creation, and the
bitterness of the sensitive soul irritated by the ignorant, and all but
overwhelmed by the struggle for existence. He had felt the supreme joy of
swaying an audience by his eloquence, and he had endured with fortitude
the carping criticism of the envious. Through it all, through prosperity
and through adversity, his hopeful, buoyant nature had triumphed.
Prosperity had not spoiled him, and adversity had but served to refine.
He felt that he had been given talents which he must utilize to the
utmost, that he must be true to himself, and that, above all, he must
strive in every way to benefit his fellow men.

This motive we find recurring again and again in his correspondence and
in his ultimate notes. Not, "What can I do for myself?" but "What can I
do for mankind?" Never falsely humble, but, on the contrary, properly
proud of his achievements, jealous of his own good name and fame and
eager _honestly_ to acquire wealth, he yet ever put the public good above
his private gain.

He was now again in Europe, the goal of his desires for many years, and
he was about to visit the Continent, where he had never been. Paris, with
her treasures of art, Italy, the promised land of every artist, lay
before him.

We shall miss the many intimate letters to his wife and to his parents,
but we shall find others to his brothers and to his friends, perhaps a
shade less unreserved, but still giving a clear account of his
wanderings, and, from a mass of little notebooks and sketch-books, we can
follow him on his pilgrimage and glean some keen observations on the
peoples and places visited by him. It must be remembered that this was
still the era of the stage-coach and the diligence, and that it took many
days to accomplish a journey which is now made in almost the same number
of hours.

On Christmas Day, 1829, he begins a letter from Dover to a favorite
cousin, Mrs. Margaret Roby, of Utica, New York:--

"When I left Liverpool I took my seat upon the outside of the coach, in
order to see as much as possible of the country through which I was to
pass. Unfortunately the fog and smoke were so dense that I could see
objects but a few yards from the road. Occasionally, indeed, the fog
would become less dense, and we could see the fine lawns of the seats of
the nobility and gentry, which were scattered on our route, and which
still retained their verdure. Now and then the spire and towers of some
ancient village church rose out of the leafless trees, beautifully simple
in their forms, and sometimes clothed to the very tops with the evergreen
ivy. It was severely cold; my eyebrows, hair, cap, and the fur of my
cloak were soon coated with frost, but I determined to keep my seat
though I suffered some from the cold.

"Their fine natural health, or the frosty weather, gave to the
complexions of the peasantry, particularly the females and children, a
beautiful rosy bloom. Through all the villages there was the appearance
of great comfort and neatness,--a neatness, however, very different from
ours. Their nicely thatched cottages bore all the marks of great
antiquity, covered with brilliant green moss like velvet, and round the
doors and windows were trained some of the many kinds of evergreen vines
which abound here. Most of them also had a trim courtyard before their
doors, planted with laurel and holly and box, and sometimes a yew cut
into some fantastic shape. The whole appearance of the villages was neat
and venerable; like some aged matron who, with all her wrinkles, her
stooping form, and grey locks, preserves the dignity of cleanliness in
her ancient but becoming costume.

"At Trentham we passed one of the seats of the Marquis of Stafford,
Trentham Hall. Here the Marquis has a fine gallery of pictures, and among
them Allston's famous picture of 'Uriel in the Sun.'

"I slept the first night in Birmingham, which I had no time to see on
account of darkness, smoke, and fog: three most inveterate enemies to the
seekers of the picturesque and of antiquities. In the morning, before
daylight, I resumed my journey towards London. At Stratford-on-Avon I
breakfasted, but in such haste as not to be able to visit again the house
of Shakespeare's birth, or his tomb. This house, however, I visited when
in England before. At Oxford, the city of so many classical
recollections, I stopped but a few moments to dine. I was here also when
before in England. It is a most splendid city; its spires and domes and
towers and pinnacles, rising from amid the trees, give it a magnificent
appearance as you approach it.

"Before we reached Oxford we passed through Woodstock and Blenheim, the
seat of the Duke of Marlborough, whose splendid estates are at present
suffering from the embarrassment of the present Duke, who has ruined his
fortunes by his fondness for play.

"Darkness came on after leaving Oxford; I saw nothing until arriving in
the vicinity of the great metropolis, which has, for many miles before
you enter it, the appearance of a continuous village. We saw the
brilliant gas-lights of its streets, and our coach soon joined the throng
of vehicles that rattled over its pavements. I could scarcely realize
that I was once more in London after fourteen years' absence.

"My first visit was to my old friend and fellow pupil, Leslie, who seemed
overjoyed to see me and has been unremitting in his attentions during my
stay in London. Leslie I found, as I expected, in high favor with the
highest classes of England's noblemen and literary characters. His
reputation is well deserved and will not be ephemeral.

"I received an invitation to breakfast from Samuel Rogers, Esq., the
celebrated poet, which I accepted with my friend Leslie. Mr. Rogers is
the author of 'Pleasures of Memory,' of 'Italy,' and other poems. He has
not the proverbial lot of the poet,--that of being poor,--for he is one
of the wealthiest bankers and lives in splendid style. His collection of
pictures is very select, chosen by himself with great taste.

"I attended, a few evenings since, the lecture on anatomy at the Royal
Academy, where I was introduced to some of the most distinguished
artists; to Mr. Shee, the poet and author as well as painter; to Mr.
Howard, the secretary of the Academy; to Mr. Hilton, the keeper; to Mr.
Stothard, the librarian; and several others. I expected to have met and
been introduced to Sir Thomas Lawrence, the president, but he was absent,
and I have not had the pleasure of seeing him. I was invited to a seat
with the Academicians, as was also Mr. Cole, a member of our Academy in
New York. I was gratified in seeing America so well represented in the
painters Leslie and Newton. The lecturer also paid, in his lecture, a
high compliment to Allston by a deserved panegyric, and by several
quotations from his poems, illustrative of principles which he advanced.

"After the lecture I went home to tea with Newton, accompanied by Leslie,
where I found our distinguished countryman, Washington Irving, our
Secretary of Legation, and W.E. West, another American painter, whose
portrait of Lord Byron gave him much celebrity. I passed a very pleasant
evening, of course.

"The next day I visited the National Gallery of pictures, as yet but
small, but containing some of the finest pictures in England. Among them
is the celebrated 'Raising of Lazarus' by Sebastian del Piombo, for which
a nobleman of this country offered to the late proprietor sixteen
thousand pounds sterling, which sum was refused. I visited also Mr.
Turner, the best landscape painter living, and was introduced to him....

"I did not see so much of London or its curiosities as I should have done
at another season of the year. The greater part of the time was night--
literally night; for, besides being the shortest days of the year (it not
being light until eight o'clock and dark again at four), the smoke and
fog have been most of the time so dense that darkness has for many days
occupied the hours of daylight....

"On the 22d inst., Tuesday, I left London, after having obtained in due
form my passports, for the Continent, in company with J. Town, Esq., and
N. Jocelyn, Esq., American friends, intending to pass the night at
Canterbury, thirty-six miles from London. The day was very unpleasant,
very cold, and snowing most of the time. At Blackheath we saw the palace
in which the late unfortunate queen of George IV resided. On the heath
among the bushes is a low furze with which it is in part covered. There
were encamped in their miserable blanket huts a gang of gypsies. No
wigwams of the Oneidas ever looked so comfortless. On the road we
overtook a gypsy girl with a child in her arms, both having the stamp of
that singular race strongly marked upon their features; black hair and
sparkling black eyes, with a nut-brown complexion and cheeks of russet
red, and not without a shrewd intelligence in their expression.

"At about nine o'clock we arrived at the Guildhall Tavern in the
celebrated and ancient city of Canterbury. Early in the morning, as soon
as we had breakfasted, we visited the superb cathedral. This stupendous
pile is one of the most distinguished Gothic structures in the world. It
is not only interesting from its imposing style of architecture, but from
its numerous historical associations. The first glimpse we caught of it
was through and over a rich, decayed gateway to the enclosure of the
cathedral grounds. After passing the gate the vast pile--with its three
great towers and innumerable turrets, and pinnacles, and buttresses, and
arches, and painted windows--rose in majesty before us. The grand centre
tower, covered with a grey moss, seemed like an immense mass of the
Palisades, struck out with all its regular irregularity, and placed above
the surrounding masses of the same grey rocks. The bell of the great
tower was tolling for morning service, and yet so distant, from its
height, that it was scarcely heard upon the pavement below.

"We entered the door of one of the towers and came immediately into the
nave of the church. The effect of the long aisles and towering, clustered
pillars and richly carved screens of a Gothic church upon the imagination
can scarcely be described--the emotion is that of awe.

"A short procession was quickly passing up the steps of the choir,
consisting of the beadle, or some such officer, with his wand of office,
followed by ten boys in white surplices. Behind these were the
prebendaries and other officers of the church; one thin and pale, another
portly and round, with powdered hair and sleepy, dull, heavy expression
of face, much like the face that Hogarth has chosen for the 'Preacher to
his Sleepy Congregation.' This personage we afterward heard was Lord
Nelson, the brother of the celebrated Nelson and the heir to his title.

"The service was read in a hurried and commonplace manner to about thirty
individuals, most of whom seemed to be the necessary assistants at the
ceremonies. The effect of the voices in the responses and the chanting of
the boys, reverberating through the aisles and arches and recesses of the
church, was peculiarly imposing, but, when the great organ struck in, the
emotion of grandeur was carried to its height,--I say nothing of
devotion. I did not pretend on this occasion to join in it; I own that my
thoughts as well as my eyes were roaming to other objects, and gathering
around me the thousand recollections of scenic splendor, of terror, of
bigotry, and superstition which were acted in sight of the very walls by
which I was surrounded. Here the murder of Thomas à Becket was
perpetrated; there was his miracle-working shrine, visited by pilgrims
from all parts of Christendom, and enriched with the most costly jewels
that the wealth of princes could purchase and lavish upon it; the very
steps, worn into deep cavities by the knees of the devotees as they
approached the shrine, were ascended by us. There stood the tomb of Henry
IV and his queen; and here was the tomb of Edward, the Black Prince, with
a bronze figure of the prince, richly embossed and enamelled, reclining
upon the top, and over the canopy were suspended the surcoat and casque,
the gloves of mail and shield, with which he was accoutred when he fought
the famous battle of Crécy. There also stood the marble chair in which
the Saxon kings were crowned, and in which, with the natural desire that
all seemed to have in such cases, I could not avoid seating myself. From
this chair, placed at one end of the nave, is seen to best advantage the
length of the church, five hundred feet in extent.

"After the service I visited more at leisure the tombs and other
curiosities of the church. The precise spot on which Archbishop Becket
was murdered is shown, but the spot on which his head fell on the
pavement was cut out as a relic and sent to Rome, and the place filled in
with a fresh piece of stone, about five inches square....

"In the afternoon we left Canterbury and proceeded to Dover, intending to
embark the next morning (Thursday, December 24) for Calais or Boulogne in
the steamer. The weather, however, was very unpromising in the morning,
being thick and foggy and apparently preparing for a storm. We therefore
made up our minds to stay, hoping the next day would be more favorable;
but Friday, Christmas Day, came with a most violent northeast gale and
snowstorm. Saturday the 26th, Sunday the 27th, and, at this moment,
Monday the 28th, the storm is more violent than ever, the streets are
clogged with snow, and we are thus embargoed completely for we know not
how long a time to come.

"Notwithstanding the severity of the weather on Thursday, we all ventured
out through the wind and snow to visit Dover Castle, situated upon the
bleak cliffs to the north of the town....

"The castle, with its various towers and walls and outworks, has been the
constant care of the Government for ages. Here are the remains of every
age from the time of the Romans to the present. About the centre of the
enclosure stand two ancient ruins, the one a tower built by the Romans,
thirty-six years after Christ, and the other a rude church built by the
Saxons in the sixth century. Other remains of towers and walls indicate
the various kinds of defensive and offensive war in different ages, from
the time when the round or square tower, with its loopholes for the
archers and crossbowmen, and gates secured by heavy portcullis, were a
substantial defence, down to the present time, when the bastion of
regular sides advances from the glacis, mounted with modern ordnance,
keeping at a greater distance the hostile besiegers.

"Through the glacis in various parts are sally-ports, from one of which,
opening towards the road to Ramsgate, I well remember seeing a corporal's
guard issue, about fifteen years ago, to take possession of me and my
sketch-book, as I sat under a hedge at some distance to sketch the
picturesque towers of this castle. Somewhat suspicious of their
intentions, I left my retreat, and, by a circuitous route into the town,
made my escape; not, however, without ascertaining from behind a distant
hedge that I was actually the object of their expedition. They went to
the spot where I had been sitting, made a short search, and then returned
to the castle through the same sally-port.

"At that time (a time of war not only with France but America also) the
strictest watch was kept, and to have been caught making the slightest
sketch of a fortification would have subjected me to much trouble. Times
are now changed, and had Jack Frost (the only commander of rigor now at
the castle) permitted, I might have sketched any part of the interior or

"_Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, December 29, 1829._ This morning at ten
o'clock, after our tedious detention, we embarked from Dover in a steamer
for this place instead of Calais. I mentioned the steamer, but, cousin,
if you have formed any idea of elegance, or comfort, or speed in
connection with the name of steamer from seeing our fine steamboats, and
have imagined that English or French boats are superior to ours, you may
as well be undeceived. I know of no description of packet-boats in our
waters bad enough to convey the idea. They are small, black, dirty,
confined things, which would be suffered to rot at the wharves for want
of the least custom from the lowest in our country. You may judge of the
extent of the accommodations when I tell you that there is in them but
one cabin, six feet six inches high, fourteen feet long, eleven feet
wide, containing eight berths.

"Our passage was, fortunately, short, and we arrived in the dominions of
'His Most Christian Majesty' Charles X at five o'clock. The transition
from a country where one's own language is spoken to one where the
accents are strange; from a country where the manners and habits are
somewhat allied to our own to one where everything is different, even to
the most trifling article of dress, is very striking on landing after so
short an interval from England to France.

"The pier-head at our landing was filled with human beings in strange
costume, from the grey _surtout_ and belt of the _gendarmes_ to the broad
twilled and curiously plaited caps of the masculine women; which latter
beings, by the way, are the licensed porters of baggage to the

"_Paris, January 7, 1830._ Here have I been in this great capital of the
Continent since the first day of the year. I shall remember my first
visit to Paris from the circumstance that, at the dawn of the day of the
new year, we passed the Porte Saint-Denis into the narrow and dirty
streets of the great metropolis.

"The Louvre was the first object we visited. Our passports obtained us
ready admittance, and, although our fingers and feet were almost frozen,
we yet lingered three hours in the grand gallery of pictures. Indeed, it
is a long walk simply to pass up and down the long hall, the end of which
from the opposite end is scarcely visible, but is lost in the mist of
distance. On the walls are twelve hundred and fifty of some of the _chefs
d'oeuvre_ of painting. Here I have marked out several which I shall copy
on my return from Italy.

"I have my residence at present at the Hôtel de Lille, which is situated
very conveniently in the midst of all the most interesting objects of
curiosity to a stranger in Paris,--the palace of the Tuileries, the
Palais Royal, the Bibliothèque Royale, or Royal Library, and numerous
other places, all within a few paces of us. On New Year's Day the
equipages of the nobility and foreign ambassadors, etc., who paid their
respects to the King and the Duke of Orléans, made considerable display
in the Place du Carrousel and in the court of the Tuileries.

"At an exhibition of manufactures of porcelain, tapestry, etc., in the
Louvre, where were some of the most superb specimens of art in the world
in these articles, we also saw the Duchesse de Berri. She is the mother
of the little Duc de Bordeaux, who, you know, is the heir apparent to the
crown of France. She was simply habited in a blue pelisse and blue
bonnet, and would not be distinguished in her appearance from the crowd
except by her attendants in livery.

"I cannot close, however, without telling you what a delightful evening I
passed evening before last at General Lafayette's. He had a soirée on
that night at which there were a number of Americans. When I went in he
instantly recognized me; took me by both hands; said he was expecting to
see me in France, having read in the American papers that I had embarked.
He met me apparently with great cordiality, then introduced me to each of
his family, to his daughters, to Madame Lasterie and her two daughters
(very pretty girls) and to Madame Rémusat,[1] and two daughters of his
son, G.W. Lafayette, also very accomplished and beautiful girls. The
General inquired how long I intended to stay in France, and pressed me to
come and pass some time at La Grange when I returned from Italy. General
Lafayette looks very well and seems to have the respect of all the best
men in France. At his soirée I saw the celebrated Benjamin Constant, one
of the most distinguished of the Liberal party in France. He is tall and
thin with a very fair, white complexion, and long white, silken hair,
moving with all the vigor of a young man."

[Footnote 1: This was not, of course, the famous Madame de Rémusat;
probably her daughter-in-law.]

In a letter to his brothers written on the same day, January 7th, he

"If I went no farther and should now return, what I have already seen and
studied would be worth to me all the trouble and expense thus far
incurred. I am more and more satisfied that my expedition was wisely

"You cannot conceive how the cold is felt in Paris, and, indeed, in all
France. Not that their climate is so intensely cold as ours, but their
provision against the cold is so bad. Fuel is excessively high; their
fireplaces constructed on the worst possible plan, looking like great
ovens dug four or five feet into the wall, wasting a vast deal of heat;
and then the doors and windows are far from tight; so that, altogether,
Paris in winter is not the most comfortable place in the world.

"Mr. Town and I, and probably Mr. Jocelyn, set out for Italy on Monday by
the way of Chalons-sur-Saone, Lyons, Avignon, and Nice. I long to get to
Rome and Naples that I may commence to paint in a warm climate, and so
keep warm weather with me to France again....

"I don't know what to do about writing letters for the 'Journal of
Commerce.' I fear it will consume more of my time than the thing is
worth, and will be such a hindrance to my professional studies that I
must, on the whole, give up the thought of it. My time here is worth a
guinea a minute in the way of my profession. I could undoubtedly write
some interesting letters for them, but I do not feel the same ease in
writing for the public that I do in writing to a friend, and, in
correcting my language for the press, I feel that it is going to consume
more of my time than I can spare. I will write if I can, but they must
not expect it, for I find my pen and pencil are enemies to each other. I
must write less and paint more. My advantages for study never appeared so
great, and I never felt so ardent a desire to improve them."

Morse spent about two weeks in Paris visiting churches, picture
galleries, palaces, and other show places. He finds the giraffe or
camelopard the most interesting animal at the Jardin des Plantes, and he
dislikes a ceiling painted by Gros: "It is allegorical, which is a class
of painting I detest." He deplores the Continental Sunday: "Oh! that we
appreciated in America the value of our Sabbath; a Sabbath of rest from
labor; a Sabbath of moral and religious instruction; a Sabbath the
greatest barrier to those floods of immorality which have in times past
deluged this devoted country in blood, and will again do it unless the
Sabbath gains its ascendancy once more."

From an undated and unfinished draft of a letter to his cousin, Mrs.
Roby, we learn something of his journey from Paris to Rome, or rather of
the first part of it:--

"I wrote you from Paris giving you an account of my travels to that city,
and I now improve the first moments of leisure since to continue my
journal. After getting our passports signed by at least half a dozen
ambassadors preparatory to our long journey, we left Paris on Wednesday,
January 13, at eight o'clock, for Dijon, in the diligence. The weather
was very cold, and we travelled through a very uninteresting country. It
seemed like a frozen ocean, the road being over an immense plain unbroken
by trees or fences.

"We stopped a few moments at Melun, at Joigny and Tonnerre, which latter
place was quite pretty with a fine-looking Gothic church. We found the
villages from Paris thus far much neater and in better style than those
on the road from Boulogne.

"Our company consisted of Mr. Town, of New York, Mr. Jocelyn, of New
Haven, a very pretty Frenchwoman, and myself. The Frenchwoman was quite a
character; she could not talk English nor could we talk French, and yet
we were talking all the time, and were able to understand and be

"At four o'clock the next morning we _dined!!_ at Montbar, which place we
entered after much detention by the snow. It was so deep that we were
repeatedly stopped for some time. At a picturesque little village, called
Val de Luzon, where we changed horses, the country began to assume a
different character. It now became mountainous, and, had the season been
propitious, many beautiful scenes for the pencil would have presented
themselves. As it was, the forms of the mountains and the deep valleys,
with villages snugly situated at the bottom, were grateful to the eye
amidst the white shroud which everywhere covered the landscape. We could
but now and then catch a glimpse of the scenery through our coach window
by thawing a place in the thickly covered glass, which was so plated with
the arborescent frost as not to yield to the warmth of the sun at midday.

"We arrived at Dijon at nine o'clock on Saturday evening, after three
days and two nights of fatiguing riding. The diligence is, on the whole,
a comfortable carriage for travelling. I can scarcely give you any idea
of its construction; it is so unlike in many respects to our stage-coach.
It is three carriage-bodies together upon one set of wheels. The forward
part is called the _coupé_, which holds but three persons, and, from
having windows in front so that the country is seen as you travel, is the
most expensive. The middle carriage is the largest, capable of holding
six persons, and is called the _intérieur_. The other, called the
_derrière_, is the cheapest, but is generally filled with low people. The
_intérieur_ is so large and so well cushioned that it is easy to sleep in
it ordinarily, and, had it not been for the sudden stops occasioned by
the clogging of the wheels in the snow, we should have had very good
rest; but the discordant music made by the wheels as they ground the
frozen snow, sounding like innumerable instruments, mostly discordant,
but now and then concordant, prevented our sound sleep.

"The cold we found as severe as any I have usually experienced in
America. The snow is as deep upon the hills, being piled up on each side
of the road five or six feet high. The water in our pitchers froze by the
fireside, and the glass on the windows, even in rooms comfortably warmed,
was encrusted with arborescent frost. The floors, too, of all the rooms
are paved with bricks or tiles, and, although comfortable in summer, are
far from desirable in such a winter.

"At Dijon we stopped over the Sabbath, for the double purpose of avoiding
travelling on that day and from really needing a day of rest. On Sunday
morning we enquired of our landlord, Mons. Ripart, of the Hôtel du Parc,
for a Protestant church, and were informed that there was not any in the
place. We learned, however, afterwards that there was one, but too late
to profit by the information. We walked out in the cold to find some
church, and, entering a large, irregular Gothic structure, much out of
repair, we pressed towards the altar where the funeral service of the
Catholic Church was performing over a corpse which lay before it. The
priests, seven or eight in number, were in the midst of their ceremonies.
They had their hair shorn close in front, but left long behind and at the
sides, and powdered, and, while walking, covered partially with a small,
black, pyramidal velvet cap with a tuft at the top. While singing the
service they held long, lighted wax tapers in their hands. There was much
ceremony, but scarcely anything that was imposing; its heartlessness was
so apparent, especially in the conduct of some of the assistants, that it
seemed a solemn mockery. One in particular, who seemed to pride himself
on the manner in which he vociferated 'Amen,' was casting his eyes among
the crowd, winking and laughing at various persons, and, from the
extravagance of his manners, bawling out most irreverently and closing by
laughing, I wondered that he was not perceived and rebuked by the

"As the procession left the church it was headed by an officer bearing a
pontoon;[1] then one bearing the silver crucifix; then eight or ten boys
with lighted wax tapers by the side of the corpse; then followed the
priests, six or eight in number, and then the relatives and friends of
the deceased. At the grave the priests and assistants chanted a moment,
the coffin was lowered, the earth thrown upon it, and then an elder
priest muttered something over the grave, and, with an instrument
consisting of a silver ball with a small handle, made the sign of the
cross over the body, which ceremony was repeated by each one in the
procession, to whom in succession the instrument was handed.

[Footnote 1: This must be a mistake.]

"There were, indeed, two or three real mourners. One young man in
particular, to whom the female might have been related as wife or sister,
showed all the signs of heartfelt grief. It did not break out into
extravagant gesture or loud cries, but the tears, as they flowed down his
manly face, seemed to be forced out by the agony within, which he in vain
endeavored to suppress. The struggle to restrain them was manifest, and,
as he made the sign of the cross at the grave in his turn, the feebleness
with which he performed the ceremony showed that the anguish of his heart
had almost overcome his physical strength. I longed to speak to him and
to sympathize with him, but my ignorance of the language of his country
locked me out from any such purpose....

"Accustomed to the proper and orderly manner of keeping the Sabbath so
universal in our country, there are many things that will strike an
American not only as singular but disgusting. While in Paris we found it
to be customary, not only on week days but also on the Sabbath, to have
musicians introduced towards the close of dinner, who play and sing all
kinds of songs. We supposed that this custom was a peculiarity of the
capital, but this day after dinner a hand-organ played waltzes and songs,
and, as if this were not enough, a performer on the guitar succeeded,
playing songs, while two or three persons with long cards filled with
specimens of natural history--lobsters, crabs, and shells of various
kinds--were busy in displaying their handiwork to us, and each concluded
his part of the ceremony by presenting a little cup for a contribution."

The letter ends here, and, as I have found but few more of that year, we
must depend on his hurriedly written notebooks for a further record of
his wanderings.

Leaving Dijon on January 18, Morse and his companions continued their
journey through Châlons-sur-Saone, to Macon and Lyons, which they reached
late at night. The next two days were spent in viewing the sights of
Lyons, which are described at length in his journal. Most of these notes
I shall omit. Descriptions of places and of scenery are generally
tiresome, except to the authors of them, and I shall transcribe only such
portions as have a more than ordinary personal or historic interest. For
instance the following entry is characteristic of Morse's simple
religious faith:--

"From the Musee we went to the Hôtel Dieu, a hospital on a magnificent
and liberal scale. The apartments for the sick were commodiously and
neatly arranged. In one of them were two hundred and twelve cots, all of
which showed a pale or fevered face upon the pillow. The attendants were
women called 'Sisters of Charity,' who have a peculiar costume. These are
benevolent women who (some of them of rank and wealth) devote themselves
to ministering to the comfort and necessities of the wretched.

"Benevolence is a trait peculiarly feminine. It is seen among women in
all countries and all religions, and although true religion sets out this
jewel in the greatest beauty, yet superstition and false religions cannot
entirely destroy its lustre. It seems to be one of those virtues
permitted in a special manner by the Father of all good to survive the
ruins of sin on earth, and to withstand the attacks of Satan in his
attempts on the happiness of man; and to woman in a marked manner He has
confided the keeping of this virtue. She was first in the transgression
but last at the cross."

Leaving Lyons at four o'clock on the morning of the 22d, they journeyed
slowly towards Avignon, delayed by the condition of the roads covered by
an unusual fall of snow which was now melting under the breath of a warm
breeze from the south. On the way they pass "between the two hills a
telegraph making signals." This was, of course, a semaphore by means of
which visual signals were made.

Reaching Avignon on the night of the 23d, they went the next day, which
was Sunday, in search of a Protestant church, but none was to be found in
this ancient city of the Popes, so they followed a fine military band to
the church of St. Agricola and attended the services there, the band
participating and making most glorious music.

Morse, with his Puritan background and training, was not much edified by
the ritual of the Catholic Church, and, after describing it, he adds:--

"I looked around the church to ascertain what was the effect upon the
multitude assembled. The females, kneeling in their chairs, many with
their prayer-books reading during the whole ceremony, seemed part of the
time engaged in devotional exercises. Far be it from me to say there were
not some who were actually devout, hard as it is to conceive of such a
thing; but this I will say, that everything around them, instead of
aiding devotion, was calculated entirely to destroy it. The imagination
was addressed by every avenue; music and painting pressed into the
service of--not religion but the contrary--led the mind away from the
contemplation of all that is practical in religion to the charms of mere
sense. No instruction was imparted; none seems ever to be intended. What
but ignorance can be expected when such a system prevails?...

"Last evening we were delighted with some exquisite sacred music, sung
apparently by men's voices only, and slowly passing under our windows.
The whole effect was enchanting; the various parts were so harmoniously
adapted and the taste with which these unknown minstrels strengthened and
softened their tones gave us, with the recollection of the music at the
church, which we had heard in the morning, a high idea of the musical
talent of this part of the world. We have observed more beautiful faces
among the women in a single day in Avignon than during the two weeks we
were in Paris."

After a three days' rest in Avignon, visiting the palace of the Popes and
other objects of interest, and being quite charmed with the city as a
whole and with the Hôtel de l'Europe in particular, the little party left
for Marseilles by way of Aix. The air grows balmier as they near the
Mediterranean, and they are delighted with the vineyards and the olive
groves. The first sight of the blue sea and of the beautiful harbor of
Marseilles rouses the enthusiasm of the artist, and some days are spent
in exploring the city.

The journal continues:--

"_Thursday, January 28._ Took our seats in the Malle Poste for Toulon and
experienced one of those vexations in delay which travellers must expect
sometimes to find. We had been told by the officer that we must be ready
to go at one o'clock. We were, of course, ready at that time, but not
only were we not called at one, but we waited in suspense until six
o'clock in the evening before we were called, and before we left the city
it was seven o'clock; thus consuming a half-day of daylight which we had
promised ourselves to see the scenery, and bringing all our travelling in
the night, which we wished specially to avoid. Besides this, we found
ourselves in a little, miserable, jolting vehicle that did not, like the
diligence, suffer us to sleep.

"Thus we left Marseilles, pursuing our way through what seemed to us a
wild country, with many a dark ravine on our roadside and impending
cliffs above us; a safe resort for bandits to annoy the traveller if they
felt disposed."

At Toulon they visited the arsenal and navy yard.

"We saw many ships of all classes in various states of equipment, and
every indication, from the activity which pervaded every department, that
great attention is paying by the French to their marine. Their ships have
not the neatness of ours; there seems to be a great deal of ornament, and
such as I should suppose was worse than useless in a ship of war.

"We noticed the galley slaves at work; they had a peculiar dress to mark
them. They were dressed in red frocks with the letters 'G a l' stamped on
each side of the back, as they were also on their pantaloons. The worst
sort, those who had committed murder, had been shipped lately to Brest.
Those who had been convicted twice had on a green cap; those who were
ordinary criminals had on a red cap; and those who were least criminal, a
blue cap.

"A great mortality was prevailing among them. There are about five
hundred at this place, and I was told by the sentinel that twenty-two had
been buried yesterday. Three bodies were carried out whilst we were in
the yard. We, of course, did not linger in the vicinity of the

"On Saturday, January 30, we left Toulon in a _voiture_ or private
carriage, the public conveyances towards Italy being now uncertain,
inconvenient, and expensive. There were five of us and we made an
agreement in writing with a _vetturino_ to carry us to Nice, the first
city in Italy, for twenty-seven francs each, the same as the fare in the
diligence, to which place he agreed to take us in two days and a half. Of
course necessity obliges us in this instance to travel on the Sabbath,
which we tried every means in our power to avoid.

"At twelve we stopped at the village of Cuers, an obscure, dirty place,
and stopped at an inn called 'La Croix d'Or' for breakfast. We here met
with the first gross imposition in charges that occurred to us in France.
Our _déjeuner_ for five consisted of three cups of miserable coffee,
without milk or butter; a piece of beef stewed with olives for two;
mutton chops for five; eggs for five; some cheese, and a meagre dessert
of raisins, hazel nuts, and olives, with a bottle of sour _vin
ordinaire;_ and for this we were charged fifteen francs, or three francs
each, while at the best hotels in Paris, and in all the cities through
which we passed, we had double the quantity of fare, and of the best
kind, for two francs and sometimes for one and one half francs. All
parleying with the extortionate landlord had only the effect of making
him more positive and even insolent; and when we at last threw him the
money to avoid further detention, he told us to mark his house, and, with
the face of a demon, told us we should never enter his house again. We
can easily bear our punishment. As we resumed our journey we were saluted
with a shower of stones."

The journal continues and tells of the slow progress along the Riviera,
through Cannes, which was then but an unimportant village; Nice, at that
time belonging to Italy, and where they saw in the cathedral Charles
Felix, King of Sardinia. It took them many days to climb up and down the
rugged road over the mountains, while now the traveller is whisked under
and around the same mountains in a few hours.

"At eleven we had attained a height of at least two thousand feet and the
precipices became frightful, sweeping down into long ravines to the very
edge of the sea; and then the road would wind at the edge of the
precipice two or three thousand feet deep. Such scenes pass so rapidly it
is impossible to make note of them.

"From the heights on which La Turbia stands, with its dilapidated walls,
we see the beautiful city of Monaco, on a tongue of land extending into
the sea."

The great gambling establishment of Monte Carlo did not invade this
beautiful spot until many years later, in 1856.

The travellers stopped for a few hours at Mentone,--"a beautiful place
for an artist,"--passed the night at San Remo, and, sauntering thus
leisurely along the beautiful Riviera, arrived in Genoa on the 6th of

[Illustration: JEREMIAH EVARTS
From a portrait painted by Morse owned by Sherman Evarts, Esq.]


FEBRUARY 6, 1880--JUNE 15, 1830

Serra Palace in Genoa.--Starts for Rome.--Rain in the mountains.--A
brigand.--Carrara.--First mention of a railroad.--Pisa.--The leaning
tower.--Rome at last.--Begins copying at once.--Notebooks.--Ceremonies at
the Vatican.--Pope Pius VIII.--Academy of St. Luke's.--St Peter's.--
Chiesa Nuova.--Painting at the Vatican.--Beggar monks.--Fata of the
Annunciation.--Soirée at Palazzo Simbaldi.--Passion Sunday.--Horace
Vernet.--Lying in state of a cardinal.--_Miserere_ at Sistine Chapel.--
Holy Thursday at St Peter's.--Third cardinal dies.--Meets Thorwaldsen at
Signor Persianis's.--Manners of English, French, and Americans.--Landi's
pictures.--Funeral of a young girl.--Trip to Tivoli, Subiaco.--Procession
of the _Corpus Domini._--Disagreeable experience.

The enthusiastic artist was now in Italy, the land of his dreams, and his
notebooks are filled with short comments or longer descriptions of
churches, palaces, and pictures in Genoa and in the other towns through
which he passed on his way to Rome, or with pen-pictures of the wild
country through which he and his fellow travellers journeyed.

In Genoa, where he stopped several days, he was delighted with the
palaces and churches, and yet he found material for criticism:--

"The next place of interest was the Serra Palace, now inhabited by one of
that family, who, we understood, was insane. After stopping a moment in
the anteroom, the ceiling of which is painted in fresco by Somnio, we
were ushered into the room called the most splendid in Europe, and, if
carving and gilding and mirrors and chandeliers and costly colors can
make a splendid room, this is certainly that room. The chandeliers and
mirrored sides are so arranged as to create the illusion that the room is
of indefinite extent. To me it appeared, on the whole, tawdry, seeing it
in broad daylight. In the evening, when the chandeliers are lighted, I
have no doubt of its being a most gorgeous exhibition, but, like some
showy belle dressed and painted for evening effect, the daylight turns
her gold into tinsel and her bloom into rouge.

"After having stayed nearly four days in Genoa, and after having made
arrangements with our honest _vetturino_, Dominique, to take us to Rome,
stopping at various places on the way long enough to see them, we retired
late to bed to prepare for our journey in the morning.

"On Wednesday morning, February 10, we rose at five o'clock, and, after
breakfast of coffee, etc., we set out at six on our journey towards

I shall not follow them every step of the way, but shall select only the
more personal entries in the diary.

"A little after eleven o'clock we stopped at a single house upon a high
hill overlooking the sea, to breakfast. It has the imposing title of
'Locanda della Gran Bretagna.' We expected little and got less, and had a
specimen of the bad faith of these people. We enquired the price of our
_déjeuner_ before we ordered it, which is always necessary. We were told
one franc each, but after our breakfast, we were told one and a half
each, and no talking with the landlord would alter his determination to
demand his price. There is no remedy for travellers; they must pay or be

"At one o'clock we left this hole of a place, where we were more beset
with beggars and spongers than at any place since we had been in Italy."

Stopping overnight at Sestri, they set out again on the 11th at five
o'clock in the morning:--

"It was as dark as the moon, obscured by thick clouds, would allow it to
be, and, as we left the courtyard of the inn, it began to rain violently.
Our road lay over precipitous mountains away from the shore, and the
scenery became wild and grand. As the day dawned we found ourselves in
the midst of stupendous mountains rising in cones from the valleys below.
Deep basins were formed at the bottom by the meeting of the long slopes;
clouds were seen far below us, some wasting away as they sailed over the
steeps, and some gathering denseness as they were detained by the cold,
snowy peaks which shot up beyond. Now and then a winding stream glittered
at the bottom of some deep ravine amidst the darkness around it, and
occasionally a light from the cottage of some peasant glimmered like a
star through the clouds.

"As we labored up the steep ascent little brawling cascades without
number, from the heights far above us, in milky streams, gathering power
from innumerable rills, dashed at our feet, and, passing down through the
artificial passages beneath the road, swept down into the valleys in
torrents, and swelling the rivers, whose broad beds were seen through the
openings, rushed with irresistible power to the sea.

"We found, from the violence of the storm, that the road was heavy and
much injured in some parts by the washing down of rocks from the heights.
Some of great size lay at the sides recently thrown down, and now and
then one of some hundred pounds' weight was found in the middle of the

"We continued to ascend about four hours until we came again from a
region of summer into the region of snow, and the height from the sea was
greater than we had at any time previously attained. The scenery around
us, too, was wilder and more sterile. The Apennines here are very grand,
assuming every variety of shape and color. Long slopes of clay color were
interlocked with dark browns sprinkled with golden yellow; slate blue and
grey, mixed with greens and purples, and the pure, deep ultramarine blue
of distant peaks finished the background."

After breakfasting at Borghetto at a miserable inn, where they were much
annoyed by beggars of all descriptions, they continued their journey
through much the same character of country for the rest of the day, and
towards dark they met with a slight adventure:--

"Our road was down a steep declivity winding much in the same way as at
Finale. Precipices were at the side without a protecting barrier, and we
felt some uneasiness at our situation, which was not decreased by
suddenly finding our coach stopped and a man on horseback (or rather
muleback) stopping by the side of the coach. It was but for a moment; our
_vetturino_ authoritatively ordered him to pass on, which he did with a
_'buona sera_,' and we never parted with a companion more gladly. From
all the circumstances attending it we were inclined to believe that he
had some design upon us, but, finding us so numerous, thought it best not
to run the risk."

Spezia was their resting-place for that night, and, after an early start
the next morning, they reached the banks of the Vara at nine o'clock.

"We had a singular time in passing the river in a boat. Many women of the
lower orders crossed at the same time. The boat being unable to approach
the shore, we were obliged to ride papoose-back upon the shoulders of the
brawny watermen for some little distance; but what amused us much was the
perfect _sang-froid_ with which the women, with their bare legs, held up
their clothes above the knees and waded to the boat before us....

"At half-past twelve we came in sight of Carrara. This place we went out
of our course to see, and at one o'clock entered the celebrated village,
prettily situated in a valley at the base of stupendous mountains. A deep
ravine above the village contains the principal quarries of most
exquisite marbles for which this place has for so many ages been famous.
The clouds obscuring the highest peaks, and ascending from the valleys
like smoke from the craters of many volcanoes, gave additional grandeur
to a scene by nature so grand in itself.

"After stopping at the Hôtel de Nouvelle Paros, which we found a
miserable inn with bad wine, scanty fare and high charges, we took a
hasty breakfast, and procuring a guide we walked out to see the
curiosities of the place. It rained hard and the road was excessively
bad, sometimes almost ankle-deep in mud. Notwithstanding the forbidding
weather and bad road, we labored up the deep ravine on the sides of which
the excavations are made. Dark peaks frowned above us capped with clouds
and snow; white patches midway the sides showed the veins of the marble,
and immense heaps of detritus, the accumulation of ages, mountains
themselves, sloped down on each side like masses of piled ice to the very
edge of the road. The road itself, white with the material of which it is
made, was composed of loose pieces of the white marble of every size....
Continuing the ascent by the side of a milky stream, which rushed down
its rocky bed, and which here and there was diverted off into aqueducts
to the various mills, we were pointed to the top of a high hill by the
roadside where was the entrance to a celebrated grotto, and at the base
close by, a cavern protected a beautiful, clear, crystal fountain, which
gushed from up the bottom forming a liquid, transparent floor, and then
glided to mingle its pure, unsullied waters with the cloudy stream that
rushed by it.

"Climbing over piles of rock like refined sugar and passing several
wagons carrying heavy blocks down the road, we arrived at the mouth of
the principal quarry where the purest statuary marble is obtained. I
could not but think how many exquisite statues here lay entombed for
ages, till genius, at various times, called them from their slumbers and
bid them live....

"On our return we again passed the wagons laden with blocks, and mules
with slabs on each side sometimes like the roof of a house over the
mule.... The wagons and oxen deserve notice. The former are very badly
constructed; they are strong, but the wheels are small, in diameter about
two feet and but about three inches wide, so sharp that the roads must
suffer from them. The oxen are small and, without exception,
mouse-colored. The driver, and there is usually one to each pair, sits on
the yoke between them, and, like the oarsman of a boat, with his back
towards the point towards which he is going. Two huge blocks were chained
upon one of these wagons, and behind, dragging upon the ground by a chain,
was another. Three yoke of these small oxen, apparently without fatigue,
drew the load thus constructed over this wretched road. An enterprising
company of Americans or English, by the construction of a railroad, which
is more practicable than a canal, but which latter might be constructed,
would, I should think, give great activity to the operations here and
make it very profitable to themselves."

It is rather curious to note that this is the first mention of a railroad
made by Morse in his notes or letters, although he was evidently aware of
the experiments which were being made at that time both in Europe and
America, and these must have been of great interest to him. It is also
well to bear in mind that the great development of transportation by rail
could not occur until the invention of the telegraph had made it possible
to send signals ahead, and, in other ways, to control the movement of
traffic. At the present day the railroad at Carrara, which Morse saw in
his visions of the future, has been built, but the ox teams are also
still used, and linger as a reminder of more primitive days.

Continuing their journey, the travellers spent the night at Lucca, and in
the morning explored the town, which they found most interesting as well
as neat and clean. Leaving Lucca, "with much reluctance," on the 18th,
the journal continues:--

"At half-past five, at sunset, Pisa with its leaning tower (the _duomo_
of the cathedral and that of the baptistery being the principal objects
in the view), was seen across the plain before us. Towards the west was a
long line of horizon, unbroken, except here and there by a low-roofed
tower or the little pyramidal spire of a village church. To the southeast
the plain stretched away to the base of distant blue mountains, and to
the east and the north the rude peaks through which we had travelled,
their cold tops tinged with a warmer glow, glittered beyond the deep
brown slopes, which were more advanced and confining the plain to
narrower limits."

They found the Hôtel Royal de l'Hussar an excellent inn, and, the next
day being Sunday, they attended an English service and heard an excellent
sermon by the Reverend Mr. Ford, an Englishman.

"In the evening we walked to the famous leaning tower, the cathedral, the
baptistery, and Campo Santo, which are clustered together in the northern
part of the city. In going there we went some distance along the quay,
which was filled with carriages and pedestrians, among whom were many
masques and fancy dresses of the most grotesque kind. It is the season of
Carnival, and all these fooleries are permitted at this time. We merely
glanced at the exterior of the celebrated buildings, leaving till
to-morrow a more thorough examination."

"_Monday, February 16._ We rose early and went again to the leaning tower
and its associated buildings. The tower, which is the _campanile_ of the
cathedral and is about one hundred and ninety feet high, leans from its
perpendicular thirteen feet. We ascended to the top by a winding
staircase. One ascending feels the inclination every step he takes, and,
when he reaches the top and perceives that that which should be
horizontal is an inclined plane, the sensation is truly startling. It is
difficult to persuade one's self that the tower is not actually falling,
and I could not but imagine at intervals that it moved, reasoning myself
momentarily into security from the fact that it had thus stood for ages.
I could not but recur also to the fact that once it stood upright; that,
although ages had been passed in assuming its present inclination to the
earth, the time would probably come when it would actually fall, and the
idea would suggest itself with appalling force that that time might be
now. The reflection suggested by one of our company that it would be a
glorious death, for one thus perishing would be sure of an imperishable
name, however pleasing in romantic speculation, had no great power to
dispel the shrinking fear produced by the vivid thought of the
possibility when on the top of the tower.... The _campanile_ is not the
only leaning tower in Pisa. We observed that several varied from the
perpendicular, and the sides of many of the buildings, even parts of the
cathedral and the baptistery, inclined at a considerable angle. The soil
is evidently unfavorable to the erection of high, heavy buildings."

After a side trip to Leghorn and further loitering along the way,
stopping but a short time in Florence, which he purposed to visit and
study at his leisure later on, he saw, at nine o'clock on the morning of
February 20, the dome of St. Peter's in the distance, and, at two o'clock
he and his companions entered Rome through the Porta del Popolo.

Taking lodgings at No. 17 Via de Prefetti, he spent the first few days in
a cursory examination of the treasures by which he was surrounded, but he
was eager to begin at once the work for which he had received
commissions, and on March 7 he writes home:--

"I have begun to copy the 'School of Athens' from Raphael for Mr. R.
Donaldson. The original is on the walls of one of the celebrated Camera
of Raphael in the Vatican. It is in fresco and occupies one entire side
of the room. It is a difficult picture to copy and will occupy five or
six weeks certainly. Every moment of my time, from early in the morning
until late at night, when not in the Vatican, is occupied in seeing the
exhaustless stores of curiosities in art and antiquities with which this
wonderful city abounds.

"I find I can endure great fatigue, and my spirits are good, and I feel
strong for the pleasant duties of my profession. I feel particularly
anxious that every gentleman who has given me a commission shall be more
than satisfied that he has received an equivalent for the sum generously
advanced to me. But I find that, to accomplish this, I shall need all my
strength and time for more than a year to come, and that will be little
enough to do myself and them justice. I am delighted with my situation
and more than ever convinced of the wisdom of my course in coming to

Morse's little notebooks and sketch-books are filled with short, abrupt
notes on the paintings, religious ceremonies, and other objects of
interest by which he is surrounded, but sometimes he goes more into
detail. I shall select from these voluminous notes only those which seem
to me to be of the greatest interest.

"_March 17._ Mr. Fenimore Cooper and family are here. I have passed many
pleasant hours with them, particularly one beautiful moonlight evening
visiting the Coliseum. After the Holy Week I shall visit Naples, probably
with Mr. Theodore Woolsey, who is now in Rome.

"_March 18._ Ceremonies at the Consistory; delivery of the cardinals'
hats. At nine o'clock went to the Vatican; two large fantails with
ostrich feathers; ladies penned up; Pope; cardinals kiss his hand in
rotation; address in Latin, tinkling, like water gurgling from a bottle.
The English cardinal first appeared, went up and was embraced and kissed
on each cheek by the Pope; then followed the others in the same manner;
then each new cardinal embraced in succession all the other cardinals;
after this, beginning with the English cardinal, each went to the Pope,
and he, putting on their heads the cardinal's hat, blessed them in the
name of the Trinity. They then kissed the ring on his hand and his toe
and retired from the throne. The Pope then rose, blessed the assembly by
making the sign of the cross three times in the air with his two fingers,
and left the room. His dress was a plain mitre of gold tissue, a rich,
garment of gold and crimson, embroidered, a splendid clasp of gold, about
six inches long by four wide, set with precious stones, upon his breast.
He is very decrepit, limping or tottering along, has a defect in one eye,
and his countenance has an expression of pain, especially as the new
cardinals approached his toe.[1]

[Footnote 1: This was Pope Pius VIII.]

"The cardinals followed the Pope two and two with their train-bearers.
After a few minutes the doors opened again and a procession, headed by
singers, entered chanting as they went. The cardinals followed them with
their train-bearers; they passed through the Consistory, and thus closed
the ceremony of presenting the cardinals' hats.

"A multitude of attendants, in various costumes, surrounded the pontiff's
throne during the ceremony, among whom was Bishop Dubois of New York....

"Academy of St. Luke's: Raphael's skull; Harlow's picture of the making
of a cardinal; said to have been painted in twelve days; I don't believe
it. 'The Angels appearing to the Shepherds,' by Bassan--good for color;
much trash in the way of portraits. Lower rooms contain the pictures for
the premiums; some good; all badly colored. Third Room: Bas-reliefs for
the premiums. Fourth Room: Smaller premium pictures; bad. Fifth Room:
Drawings; the oldest best, modern bad.

"_Friday, March 19._ We went to St. Peter's to see the procession of
cardinals singing in the Capella. Cardinals walked two and two through
St. Peter's, knelt on purple velvet cushions before the Capella in
prayer, then successively kissed the toe of the bronze image of St. Peter
as they walked past it.

"This statue of St. Peter, as a work of art, is as execrable as possible.
Part of the toe and foot is worn away and polished, not by the kisses,
but by the wiping of the foot after the kisses by the next comer
preparatory to kissing it; sometimes with the coat-sleeve by a beggar;
with the corner of the cloak by the gentlemen; the shawl by the females;
and with a nice cambric handkerchief by the attendant at the ceremony,
who wiped the toe after each cardinal's performance. This ceremony is
variously performed. Some give it a single kiss and go away; others kiss
the toe and then touch the forehead to it and kiss the toe again,
repeating the operation three times."

The ceremonies and ritual of the Roman Catholic Church, while appealing
to the eye of the artist, were repugnant to his Puritan upbringing, and
we find many scornful remarks among his notes. In fact he was, all his
life, bitterly opposed to the doctrines of Rome, and in later years, as
we shall see, he entered into a heated controversy with a prominent
ecclesiastic of that faith in America.

"_March 21._ Chiesa Nuova at seven o'clock in the evening; a sacred opera
called 'The Death of Aaron.' Church dark; women not admitted; bell rings
and a priest before the altar chants a prayer, after which a boy, about
twelve years old apparently, addresses the assembly from the pulpit. I
know not the drift of his discourse, but his utterance was like the same
gurgling process which I noticed in the orator who addressed the Pope. It
was precisely like the fitful tone of the Oneida interpreter.

"_Tuesday, March 23._ At the Vatican all the morning. While preparing my
palette a monk, decently habited for a monk, who seemed to have come to
the Vatican for the purpose of viewing the pictures, after a little time
approached me and, with a very polite bow, offered me a pinch of snuff,
which, of course, I took, bowing in return, when he instantly asked me
alms. I gave him a _bajocco_ for which he seemed very grateful. Truly
this is a nation of beggars.

"_Wednesday, March 24._ Vatican all the morning. Saw in returning a great
number of priests with a white bag over the left shoulder and begging of
the persons they met. This is another instance of begging and robbing
confined to one class.

"_Thursday, March 25._ _Festa_ of the Annunciation; Vatican shut. Doors
open at eight of the Chiesa di Minerva; obtained a good place for seeing
the ceremony. At half-past nine the cardinals began to assemble; Cardinal
Barberini officiated in robes, white embroidered with gold; singing;
taking off and putting on mitres, etc.; jumping up and bowing; kissing
the ring on the finger of the cardinal; putting incense into censers;
monotonous reading, or rather whining, of a few lines of prayer in Latin;
flirting censers at each cardinal in succession; cardinals bowing to one
another; many attendants at the altar; cardinals embrace one another;
after mass a contribution among the cardinals in rich silver plate. Enter
the virgins in white, with crowns, two and two, and candles; they kiss
the hem of the garment of one of the cardinals; they are accompanied by
three officers and exit. Cardinals' dresses exquisitely plaited;
sixty-two cardinals in attendance....

"Palazzo Simbaldi: At half-past eight the company began to assemble in
the splendid saloon of this palace, to which I was invited. The singers,
about forty in number, were upon a stage erected at the end of the room;
white drapery hung behind festoons with laurel wreaths (the walls were
painted in fresco). Four female statues standing on globes upheld seven
long wax-lights; the instrumental musicians, about forty, were arranged
at the foot of these statues; _sala_ was lighted principally by six glass
chandeliers; much female beauty in the room; dresses very various.

"Signora Luigia Tardi sang with much judgment and was received with great
applause. A little girl, apparently about twelve years old, played upon
the harp in a most exquisite manner, and called forth _bravas_ of the
Italians and of the foreigners bountifully.

"The manners of the audience were the same as those of fashionable
society in our own country, and indeed in any other country; the display
in dress, however, less tasteful than I have seen in New York. But, in
truth, I have not seen more beauty and taste in any country, combined
with cultivation of mind and delicacy of manner, than in our own. At one
o'clock in the morning, or half-past six Italian time, the concert was

"_Saturday, March 27._ On returning to dinner I found at the post-office,
to my great joy, the first letter from America since I left it.

"_Sunday, March 28._ Passion Sunday. Kept awake nearly all last night by
a severe toothache; sent for a dentist and had the tooth extracted, for
which he had the conscience to ask me three dollars--he took two. Was
prevented by this circumstance from going to church this morning; went in
the afternoon, and, after church, to St. Peter's; found all the crosses
covered with black and all the pictures veiled. There were a great many
in the church to hear the music which is considered very fine; some of it
I was well pleased with, but it is by no means so impressive as the
singing of the nuns at the Trinita di Monti, to which church we repaired
at vespers.

"In St. Peter's we found a procession of about forty nuns; some of them
were very pretty and their neat white headdresses, and kerchiefs, and
hair dressed plain, gave a pleasing simplicity to their countenances.
Some, looked arch enough and far from serious.

"_Monday, March 29._ Early this morning was introduced to the Chevalier
Horace Vernet, principal of the French Academy; found him in the
beautiful gardens of the Academy. He came in a _négligé_ dress, a cap, or
rather turban, of various colors, a parti-colored belt, and a cloak. He
received me kindly, walked through the antique gallery of casts, a long
room and a splendid collection selected with great judgment.

"_Wednesday, March 31._ Early this morning was waked by the roar of a
cannon; learned that it was the anniversary of the present Pope's
election. Went to the Vatican; the colonnade was filled with the
carriages of the cardinals; that of the new English cardinal, Weld, was
the most showy.

"_Thursday, April 1._ Went in the evening to the soirée of the Chevalier
Vernet, director of the French Academy. He is a gentleman of elegant
manners and sees at his soirées the first society in Rome. His wife is
highly accomplished and his daughter is a beautiful girl, full of
vivacity, and speaks English fluently.... During the evening there was
music; his daughter played on the piano and others sang. There was chess,
and, at a sideboard, a few played cards. The style was simple, every one
at ease like our soirées in America. Several noblemen and dignitaries of
the Church were present."

On April 4, Palm Sunday, he attended the services at the Sistine Chapel,
which he found rather tedious, with much mummery. Going from there to the
cancellerie he describes the following scene:--

"Cardinal Giulio Maria della Somaglia in state on an elevated bed of
cloth-of-gold and black embroidered with gold, his head on a black velvet
cushion embroidered with gold, dressed in his robes as when alive. He
officiated, I was told, on Ash Wednesday. Four wax-lights, two on each
side of the bed; great throng of people of all grades through the suite
of apartments--the cancellerie--in which he lived; they were very
splendid, chiefly of crimson and gold. The cardinal has died unpopular,
for he has left nothing to his servants by his will; he directed,
however, that no expense should be spared in his funeral, wishing that it
might be splendid, but, unfortunately for him, he has died precisely at
that season of the year (the Holy Week) when alone it is impossible,
according to the church customs, to give him a splendid burial."

"_Wednesday, April 7._ Went to the Piazza Navone, being market-day, in
search of prints. The scene here is very amusing; the variety of wares
exposed, and the confusion of noises and tongues, and now and then a
jackass swelling the chorus with his most exquisite tones.

"At three o'clock went to St. Peter's to see ceremonies at the Sistine
Chapel. Cardinals asleep; monotonous bawling, long and tedious; candles
put out one by one, fifteen in number; no ceremonies at the altar;
cardinals present nineteen in number; seven yawns from the cardinals;
tiresome and monotonous beyond description.

"After three hours of this most tiresome chant, all the candles having
been extinguished, the celebrated _Miserere_ commenced. It is, indeed,
sublime, but I think loses much of its effect from the fatigue of body,
and mind, too, in which it is heard by the auditors. The _Miserere_ is
the composition of the celebrated Allegri, and for giving the effect of
wailing and lamentation, without injury to harmony, it is one of the most
perfect of compositions. The manner of sustaining a strain of concord by
new voices, now swelling high, now gradually dying away, now sliding
imperceptibly into discord and suddenly breaking into harmony, is
admirable. The imagination is alive and fancies thousands of people in
the deepest contrition. It closed by the cardinals clapping their hands
for the earthquake."

On April 8 (Holy Thursday), Morse went early with Mr. Fenimore Cooper and
other Americans to St. Peter's. After describing some of the preliminary
ceremonies he continues:--

"Having examined the splendid chair in which he was to be borne, and
while he was robing in another apartment, we found that, although we
might have a complete view of the Pope and the ceremonies before and
after the benediction, yet the principal effect was to be seen below. We
therefore left our place at the balcony, where we could see nothing but
the crowd, and hastened below. On passing into the hall we were so
fortunate as to be just in season for the procession from the Sistine
Chapel to the Pauline. The cardinals walked in procession, two and two,
and one bore the host, while eight bearers held over him a rich canopy of
silver tissue embroidered with gold.

"Thence we hastened to the front of St. Peter's, where, in the centre
upon the highest step, we had an excellent view of the balcony, and,
turning round, could see the immense crowd which had assembled in the
piazza and the splendid square of troops which were drawn up before the
steps of the church. Here I had scarcely time to make a hasty sketch, in
the broiling sun, of the window and its decorations, before the
precursors of the Pope, the two large feather fans, made their appearance
on each side of the balcony, which was decorated with crimson and gold,
and immediately after the Pope, with his mitre of gold tissue and his
splendid robes of gold and jewels, was borne forward, relieving finely
from the deep crimson darkness behind him. He made the usual sign of
blessing, with his two fingers raised. A book was then held before him in
which he read, with much motion of his head, for a minute. He then rose,
extending both his arms--this was the benediction--while at the same
moment the soldiers and crowd all knelt; the cannon from the Castle of
St. Angelo was discharged, and the bells in all the churches rang a
simultaneous peal.

"The effect was exceedingly grand, the most imposing of all the
ceremonies I have witnessed. The Pope was then borne back again. Two
papers were thrown from the balcony for which there was a great scramble
among the crowd."

On Friday, April 9 (Good Friday), many of the ceremonies so familiar to
visitors to Rome during Holy Week are described at length in the
notebooks, but I shall omit most of these. The following note, however,
seems worthy of being recorded:--

"On our way to St. Peter's I ought to have noticed our visit to a palace
in which another cardinal (the third who has died within a few days) was
lying in state--Cardinal Bertazzoli.

"It is a singular fact, of which I was informed, that about the same time
last year three cardinals died, and that it was a common remark that when
one died two more soon followed, and the Pope always created three
cardinals at a time."

"_Friday, April 16._ At the Vatican all day. I went to the soirée of the
Signor Persianis in the evening. Here I had the pleasure of meeting for
the first line with the Chevalier Thorwaldsen, the great Danish sculptor,
the first now living. He is an old man in appearance having a profusion
of grey hair, wildly hanging over his forehead and ears. His face has a
strong Northern character, his eyes are light grey, and his complexion
sandy; he is a large man of perfectly unassuming manners and of most
amiable deportment. Daily receiving homage from all the potentates of
Europe, he is still without the least appearance of ostentation. He
readily assented to a request to sit for his portrait which I hope soon
to take.

"_Tuesday, April 27._ My birthday. How time flies and to how little
purpose have I lived!!

"_Wednesday, April 28._ I have noticed a difference in manners between
the English, French, and Americans. If you are at the house of a friend
and should happen to meet Englishmen who are strangers to you, no
introduction takes place unless specially requested. The most perfect
indifference is shown towards you by these strangers, quite as much as
towards a chair or table. Should you venture a word in the general
conversation, they might or might not, as the case may be, take notice of
it casually, but coldly and distantly, and even if they should so far
relax as to hold a conversation with you through the evening, the moment
they rise to go all recognition ceases; they will take leave of every one
else, but as soon think of bowing to the chair they had left as to you.

"A Frenchman, on the contrary, respectfully salutes all in the room,
friends and strangers alike. He seems to take it for granted that the
friends of his friend are at least entitled to respect if not to
confidence, and without reserve he freely enters into conversation with
you, and, when he goes, he salutes all alike, but no acquaintance ensues.

"An American carries his civility one step further; if he meets you
afterwards, in other company, the fact that he has seen you at this
friend's and had an agreeable chit-chat is introduction enough, and,
unless there is something _peculiar_ in your case, he will ever after
know you and be your friend. This is not the case with the two former.

"The American is in this, perhaps, too unsuspicious and the others may
have good reasons for their mode, but that of the Americans has more of
generous sincerity and frankness and kindness in it.

"_Friday, April 30._ Painting all day except two hours at the Colonna
Palace--Landi's pictures--horrible!! How I was disappointed. I had heard
Landi, the Chevalier Landi, lauded to the skies by the Italians as the
greatest modern colorist. He was made a chevalier, elected a member of
the Academy at Florence and of the Academy of St. Luke in Rome, and there
were his pictures which I was told I must by all means see. They are not
merely bad, they are execrable. There is not a redeeming point in a
single picture that I saw, not one that would have placed him on a level
with the commonest sign-painter in America. His largest work in his rooms
at present is the 'Departure of Mary Queen of Scots from Paris.' The
story is not told; the figures are not grouped but huddled together; they
are not well-drawn individually; the character is vulgar and tame; there
is no taste in the disposal of the drapery and ornaments, no effect of
_chiaroscuro._ It is flimsy and misty, and, as to color, the quality to
which I was specially directed, if total disregard of arrangement, if the
scattering of tawdry reds and blues and yellows over the picture, all
quarrelling for the precedence; if leather complexions varied by those of
chalk, without truth or depth or tone, constitute good color, then are
they finely colored. But, if Landi is a colorist, then are Titian and
Veronese never more to be admired. In short, I have never met with the
works of an artist who had a name like Landi's so utterly destitute of
even the shadow of merit. There is but one word which can express their
character, they are _execrable!_

"It is astonishing that with such works of the old masters before them as
the Italians have, they should not perceive the defects of their own
painters in this particular. Cammuccini is the only one among them who
possesses genius in the higher departments, and he only in drawing; his
color is very bad.

"A funeral procession passed the house to-day. On the bier, exposed as is
customary here, was a beautiful young girl, apparently of fifteen,
dressed in rich laces and satins embroidered with gold and silver and
flowers tastefully arranged, and sprinkled also with real flowers, and at
her head was placed a coronet of flowers. She had more the appearance of
sleep than of death. No relative appeared near her; the whole seemed to
be conducted by the priests and monks and those hideous objects in white
hoods, with faces covered except two holes for the eyes."

In early May, Morse, in company with other artists, went on a sketching
trip to Tivoli, Subiaco, Vico, and Vara. This must have been one of the
happiest periods of his life. He was in Italy, the cradle of the art he
loved; he was surrounded by beauty, both natural and that wrought by the
hand of man; he had daily intercourse with congenial souls, and home,
with its cares and struggles, seemed far away. His notebooks are largely
filled with simple descriptions of the places visited, but now and then
he indulges in rhapsody. At Subiaco he comes upon this scene:--

"Upon a solitary seat (a fit place for meditation and study), by a gate
which shut the part of the terrace near the convent from that which goes
round the hill, sat a monk with his book. He seemed no further disturbed
by my passing than to give me the usual salutation.

"I stopped at a little distance from him to look around and down into the
chasm below. It was enchanting in spite of the atmosphere of the sirocco.
The hills covered with woods, at a distance, reminded me of my own
country, fresh and variegated; the high peaks beyond were grey from
distance, and the sides of the nearer mountains were marked with many a
winding track, down one of which a shepherd and his sheep were
descending, looking like a moving pathway. No noise disturbed the silence
but the distant barking of the shepherd's dog (as he, like a busy
marshal, kept the order of his procession unbroken) mixing with the faint
murmuring of the waterfall and the song of the birds that inhabited the
ilex grove. It was altogether a place suited to meditation, and, were it
consistent with those duties which man owes his fellow man, here would be
the spot to which one, fond of study and averse to the noise and bustle
of the world, would love to retire."

Returning to Rome on June 3, after enjoying to the full this excursion,
from which he brought back many sketches, he found the city given over to
ceremony after ceremony connected with the Church. Saint's day followed
saint's day, each with its appropriate (or, from the point of view of the
New Englander, inappropriate) pageant; or some new church was dedicated
and the nights made brilliant with wonderful pyrotechnical displays. He
went often with pleasure to the Trinita di Monti, where the beautiful
singing of the nuns gave him special pleasure.

Commenting sarcastically on a display of fireworks in honor of St.
Francesco Caracciolo, he says:--

"As far as whizzing serpents, wheels, port-fires, rockets, and other
varieties of pyrotechnic art could set forth the humility of the saint,
it was this night brilliantly displayed."

And again, in describing the procession of the _Corpus Domini_, "the most
splendid of all the church ceremonies," it is this which particularly
impresses him:--

"Next came monks of the Franciscan and Capuchin orders, with their brown
dresses and heads shaved and such a set of human faces I never beheld.
They seemed, many of them, like disinterred corpses, for a moment
reanimated to go through this ceremony, and then to sink back again into
their profound sleep. Pale and haggard and unearthly, the wild eye of the
visionary and the stupid stare of the idiot were seen among them, and it
needed no stretch of the imagination to find in most the expression of
the worst passions of our nature. They chanted as they went, their
sepulchral voices echoing through the vaulted piazza, while the bell of
St. Peter's, tolling a deep bass drone, seemed a fitting accompaniment
for their hymns."

Later, on this same day, while watching a part of the ceremonies on the
Gorso, he has this rather disagreeable experience:--

"I was standing close to the side of the house when, in an instant,
without the slightest notice, my hat was struck off to the distance of
several yards by a soldier, or rather a poltroon in a soldier's costume,
and this courteous manoeuvre was performed with his gun and bayonet,
accompanied with curses and taunts and the expression of a demon in his

"In cases like this there is no redress. The soldier receives his orders
to see that all hats are off in this religion of force, and the manner is
left to his discretion. If he is a brute, as was the case in this
instance, he may strike it off; or, as in some other instances, if the
soldier be a gentleman, he may ask to have it taken off. There was no
excuse for this outrage on all decency, to which every foreigner is
liable and which is not of infrequent occurrence. The blame lies after
all, not so much with the pitiful wretch who perpetrates this outrage, as
it does with those who gave him such base and indiscriminate orders."


JUNE 17, 1830--FEBRUARY 2, 1831

Working hard.--Trip to Genzano.--Lake of Nemi.--Beggars.--Curious
festival of flowers at Genzano.--Night on the Campagna.--Heat in Rome.--
Illumination of St. Peter's.--St. Peter's Day.--Vaults of the Church.--
Feebleness of Pope.--Morse and companions visit Naples, Capri, and
Amalfi.--Charms of Amalfi.--Terrible accident.--Flippancy at funerals.--
Campo Santo at Naples.--Gruesome conditions.--Ubiquity of beggars.--
Convent of St. Martino.--Masterpiece of Spagnoletto.--Returns to Rome.--
Faints portrait of Thorwaldsen.--Presented to him in after years by John
Taylor Johnston.--Given to King of Denmark.--Reflections on the social
evil and the theatre.--Death of the Pope.--An assassination.--The
Honorable Mr. Spencer and Catholicism.--Election of Pope Gregory XVI.

During all these months Morse was diligently at work in the various
galleries, making the copies for which he had received commissions, and
the day's record almost invariably begins with "At the Colonna Palace all
day"; or, "At the Vatican all day"; or wherever else he may have been
working at the time.

The heat of the Roman summer seems not yet to have inconvenienced him,
for he does not complain, but simply remarks: "Sun almost vertical,...
houses and shops shut at noon." He has this to say of an Italian
institution: "Lotteries in Rome make for the Government eight thousand
scudi per week; common people venture in them; are superstitious and
consult _cabaliste_ or lucky numbers; these tolerated as they help sell
the tickets."

While working hard, he occasionally indulged himself in a holiday, and on
June 16 he, in company with three other artists, engaged a carriage for
an excursion to Albano, Aricia, and Genzano, "to witness at the latter
place the celebrated _festa infiorata_, which occurs every year on the
17th of June."

After spending the night at Albano, which they found crowded with artists
of various nationalities and with other sight-seers, "We set out for
Genzano, a pleasant walk of a little more than a mile through a winding
carriage-road, thickly shaded with fine trees of elm and chestnut and
ilex. A little fountain by the wayside delayed us for a moment to sketch
it, and we then continued our way through a straight, level, paved road,
shaded on each side with trees, into the pretty village of Genzano."

Finding that the principal display was not until the afternoon, they
strolled to the Lake of Nemi, "situated in a deep basin, the crater of a
volcano." Those Italian lakes which he had so far seen, while lovely and
especially interesting from their historical or legendary associations
and the picturesque buildings on their shores, seemed to the artist (ever
faithful to his native land) less naturally attractive than the lakes
with which he was familiar at home--Lake George, Otsego Lake, etc. He had
not yet seen Como or Maggiore. Then he touches upon the great drawback to
all travelling in Italy:--

"Throughout the day, wherever we went, beggars in every shape annoyed us,
nor could we scarcely hear ourselves talk when on the borders of the lake
for the swarms which importuned us. A foolish Italian, in the hope
probably of getting rid of them, commenced giving a _mezzo biochi_ to
each, and such a clamor, such devouring eyes, such pushing and bawling,
such teasing importunity for more, and from some who had received and
concealed their gift, I could not have conceived, nor do I ever wish
again to see so disgusting a sight. The foolish fellow who invented this
plan of satisfying an Italian beggar's appetite found to his sorrow that,
instead of thanks, he obtained curses and an increase of importunity....

"After dinner we again walked to Genzano, whither we found were going
great multitudes of every class; elegant equipages and _vetture_ racing
with each other; donkeys and horses and foot travellers; and not among
the least striking were the numbers of women, some of whom were
splendidly dressed, all riding on horseback, a foot in each stirrup, and
riding with as much ease and fine horsemanship as the men.

"When we arrived at Genzano the decoration of the streets had commenced.
Two of the principal and wide streets ascend a little, diverging from
each other, from the left side of the common street which goes through
the village. The middle of these streets was the principal scene of
decoration. On each side of the centre of the street, leaving a
good-sized sidewalk, were pillars at a distance of eight or nine feet
from each other composed of the evergreen box and tufted at the top with
every variety of flowers. They were in many places also connected by
festoons of box. The pavement of the street between the pillars in both
streets, and for a distance of at least one half a mile, was most
exquisitely figured with flowers of various colors, looking like an
immense and gorgeously figured carpet.

"The devices were in the following order which I took note of on the
spot: first, a temple with four columns of yellow flowers (the flower of
the broom) containing an altar on which was the Holy Sacrament. In the
pediment of the temple a column surmounted by a halfmoon, which is the
arms of the Colonna family. Second was a large crown. Third, the Holy
Sacrament again with various rich ornaments. Fourth, stars and circles.
Fifth, a splendid coat-of-arms as accurate and rich as if emblazoned in
permanent colors, with a cardinal's hat and a shield with the words
_'prudens'_ and _'fidelis'_ upon it."

There were twenty of these wonderful floral decorations on the pavement
of one street and fourteen on that of the other and all are described in
the notes, but I have particularized enough to show their character. The
journal continues:--

"All these figures were as elegantly executed as if made for permanency,
some with a minuteness truly astonishing. Among other decorations of the
day was the free-will offering of one of the people who had it displayed
at the side of his shop on a rude pedestal. It was called the 'Flight
into Egypt,' and represented Joseph and Mary and the infant on an ass,
and all composed of shrubs and flowers. It was, indeed, a most
ludicrous-looking affair; Joseph with a face (if such it might be called)
of purple flowers and a flaxen wig, dressed in a coarse pilgrim's cape
studded over with yellow flowers, was leading by a hay band a green
donkey, made of a kind of heath grass, with a tail of lavender and hoofs
of cabbage leaves. Of this latter composition were also the sandals of
Mary, whose face, as well as that of the _bambino_, was also of purple
flowers and shapeless. The frock of the infant was of the gaudiest red
poppy. It excited the laughter of almost all who saw it, except now and
then some of the ignorant lower classes would touch their hats, cross
themselves, and mumble a prayer."

After describing some of the picturesque costumes of the _contadini_, he

"It was nearly dark before the procession, to which all these
preparations had reference, began to move. At length the band of music
was heard at the lower end of one of the streets, and a man, in ample
robes of scarlet and blue, with a staff, was seen leading the procession,
which need be no further described than to say it consisted of the usual
quantity of monks chanting, with wax-tapers in their hands, crosses, and
heavy, unwieldy banners which endanger the heads of the multitude as they
pass; of a fine band of music playing beautiful waltzes and other
compositions, and a _quantum suff._ of men dressed in the garb of
soldiers to keep the good people uncovered and on their knees.

"The head of the procession had arrived at the top of the street when--
crack! pop!--went forty or fifty crackers, which had been placed against
the walls of a house near us, and which added wonderfully to the
solemnity of the scene, and, accordingly, were repeated every few
seconds, forming a fine accompaniment to the waltzes and the chanting of
the monks. In a few minutes all the beauty of the flower-carpeted street
was trodden out, and the last of the procession had hardly passed before
all the flowers disappeared from the pillars, and all was ruin and

"The procession halted at a temporary altar at the top of the street, and
we set out on our return at the same moment down the street, facing the
immense multitude which filled the whole street. We had scarcely
proceeded a third of the distance down when we suddenly saw all before us
uncovered and upon their knees. We alone formed an exception, and we
continued our course with various hints from those around us to stop and
kneel, which we answered by talking English to each other in a louder
tone, and so passed for unchristian _forestieri_, and escaped unmolested,
especially as the soldiers were all at the head of the street.

"The effect, however, was exceedingly grand of such a multitude upon
their knees, and, could I have divested myself of the thought of the
compulsory measures which produced it and the object to which they knelt,
the picture of the Virgin, I should have felt the solemnity of a scene
which seemed in the outward act to indicate such a universal reverence
for Him who alone rightfully claims the homage and devotion of the

Whether this curious custom still persists in Genzano I know not;
Baedeker is silent on the subject.

It was nearly dark before they started on the drive back to Rome, and
quite dark after they had gone a short distance.

"We passed the tombs of the Horatii and Curiatii, which looked much
grander in the light of the torches than in the day, and, driving hastily
through Albano, came upon the Campagna once more. It was still more like
a desert in the night than in the day, for it was an interminable ocean,
and the masses of ruins, coming darker than the rest, seemed like
deserted wrecks upon its bosom.

"It is considered dangerous in the summer to sleep while crossing the
Campagna; indeed, in certain parts of it, over the Pontine Marshes in
July and August, it is said to be certain, death, but, if the traveller
can keep awake, there is no danger. In spite of the fears which we
naturally entertained lest it might be already dangerous, most of us
could not avoid sleeping, nor could I, with every effort made for that

The days following his return to Rome were employed chiefly in copying at
the Colonna Palace. The heat was now beginning to grow more oppressive,
and we find this note on June 21:--

"In the cool of the morning you see the doors of the cafes thronged with
people taking their coffee and sitting on chairs in the streets for some
distance round. At _mezzo giorno_ the streets are deserted, the
shop-doors are closed, and all is still; they have all gone to their
_siesta_, their midday sleep. At four o'clock all is bustle again; it
seems a fresh morning; the streets and cafés are thronged and the Corso
is filled with the equipages of the wealthy, enjoying till quite dark
the cool of the evening air.

"The sun is now oppressively warm; the heat is unlike anything I have
felt in America. There is a scorching character about it which is
indescribable, and the glare of the light is exceedingly painful to the
eyes. The evenings are delightful, cool and clear, showing the lustre of
the stars gloriously.

"_June 28._ In the evening went to the piazza of St. Peter's to witness
the illumination of its magnificent dome and the piazza. The change from
the smaller to the larger illumination is one of the grandest spectacles
I ever beheld.

"The lanterns which are profusely scattered over it, showing its whole
form in lines of fire, glow brighter and brighter as the evening advances
from twilight to dark, till it seems impossible for its brilliance to
increase. The crowds below, on foot and in carriages, are in breathless
expectation. The great bell of St. Peter's at length strikes the hour of
nine, and, at the first stroke, a great ball of light is seen ascending
the cross to its pinnacle. This is the signal for thousands of
assistants, who are concealed over its vast extent, to light the great
lamps, and in an instant all is motion, the whole mass is like a living
thing, fire whirling and flashing over it in all directions, till the
vast pile blazes as if lighted with a thousand suns. The effect is truly
magical, for the agents by whom this change is wrought are invisible."

After the illumination of St. Peter's he went to the Castle of St. Angelo
where he witnessed what he describes as the grandest display of fireworks
he had ever seen.

"_Tuesday, June 29._ This day is St. Peter's day, the grandest _festa_ of
the Romish Church. I went with Mr. B. early to St. Peter's to see the
ceremonies. The streets were filled with equipages, among which the
splendid scarlet-and-gold equipages of the cardinals made the most
conspicuous figure. Cardinal Weld's carriage was the richest, and next in
magnificence was that of Cardinal Barberini.

"On entering St. Peter's we found it hung throughout with crimson damask
and gold and filled with people, except a wide space in the centre with
soldiers on each side to keep it open for the procession. We passed up
near the statue of St. Peter, who was to-day dressed out in his papal
robes, his black face (for it is of bronze) looking rather frightful from
beneath the splendid tiara which crowned his head, and the
scarlet-and-gold tissue of his robes.

"Having a little time to spare, we followed a portion of the crowd down
the steps beside the pedestal of the statue of St. Veronica into the
vaults beneath the church, which are illuminated on this festival. Mass
was performing in several of the splendid chapels, whose rich decorations
of paintings and sculpture are but once a year revealed to the light,
save from the obscure glimmering of the wax-taper, which is carried by
the guide, to occasional visitors. It is astonishing what a vast amount
of expense is here literally buried.

"The ornamented parts are beneath the dome; the other parts are plain,
heavy arches and low, almost numberless, and containing the sarcophagi of
the Popes and other distinguished characters. The illumination here was
confined to a single lamp over each arch, which rather made darkness
visible and gave an awful effect to some of the gloomier passages.

"In one part we saw, through a long avenue of arches, an iron-grated
door; within was a dim light which just sent its feeble rays upon some
objects in its neighborhood, not strong enough to show what they were. It
required no great effort of the imagination to fancy an emaciated,
spectral figure of a monk poring over a large book which lay before him.
It might have been as we imagined; we had not time to examine, for the
sound of music far above us summoned us into the regions of day again,
and we arrived in the body of the church just as the trumpets were
sounding from the balcony within the church over the great door of
entrance. The effect of the sound was very grand, reverberating through
the lofty arches and aisles of the church.

"We got sight of the head of the procession coming in at the great door,
and soon after the Pope, borne in his crimson chair of state, and with
the triple crown upon his head and a crimson, gold-embroidered mantilla
over his shoulders, was seen entering accompanied by his fan-bearers and
other usual attendants, and after him the cardinals and bishops. The
Pope, as usual, made the sign of the cross as he went.

"The procession passing up the great aisle went round to the back of the
great altar, where was the canopy for the Pope and seats for the
cardinals and bishops. The Pope is too feeble to go through the ceremony
of high mass; it was, therefore, performed before him by one of the
cardinals. There was nothing in this ceremony that was novel or
interesting; it was the same monotonous chant from the choir, the same
numberless bowings, and genuflections, and puffings of incense, and
change of garments, and fussing about the altar. All that was new was the
constant bustle about the Pope, kissing of his toe and his hand, helping
him to rise and to sit again, bringing and taking away of cushions and
robes and tiaras and mitres, and a thousand other little matters that
would have enraged any man of weak nerves, if it did not kill him. After
two hours of this tedious work (the people in the mean time perfectly
inattentive), the ceremony ended, and the Pope was again borne through
the church and the crowd returned."

On July 7, Morse, with four friends, left Rome at four o'clock in the
morning for Naples, where they arrived on the 11th after the usual
experiences; beggars continually marring the peaceful beauty of every
scene by their importunities; good inns, with courteous landlords and
servants, alternating with wretched taverns and insolent attendants. The
little notebook detailing the first ten days' experiences in Naples is
missing, and the next one takes up the narrative on July 24, when he and
his friends are in Sorrento. I shall not transcribe his impressions of
that beautiful town or those of the island of Capri. These places are too
familiar to the visitor to Italy and have changed but little in the last
eighty years.

Prom Capri they were rowed over to Amalfi, and narrowly escaped being
dashed on the rocks by the sudden rising of a violent gale. At Amalfi
they found lodgings in the Franciscan monastery, which is still used as
an inn, and here I shall again quote from the journal:--

"The place is in decay and is an excellent specimen of their monastic
buildings. It is now in as romantic a state as the most poetic
imagination could desire. Here are gloomy halls and dark and decayed
rooms; long corridors of chambers, uninhabited except by the lizard and
the bat; terraces upon the brow of stupendous precipices; gloomy cells
with grated windows, and subterranean apartments and caverns. Remains of
rude frescoes stain the crumbling ceiling, and ivy and various wild
plants hang down from the opening crevices and cover the tops of the
broken walls.

"A rude sundial, without a gnomon, is almost obliterated from the wall of
the cloisters, but its motto, '_Dies nostri quasi umbra super terram et
nulli est mora_', still resists the effects of decay, as if to serve the
appropriate purpose of the convent's epitaph. At the foot of the long
stairs in the great hall is the ruined chapel, its altar broken up and
despoiled of its pictures and ornaments.

"We were called to dinner by our host, who was accompanied by his wife, a
very pretty woman, two children, the elder carried by the mother, the
younger by the old grandparent, an old man of upwards of eighty, who
seemed quite pleased with his burden and delighted to show us his charge.
The whole family quite prepossessed us in their favor; there seemed to be
an unusual degree of affection displayed by the members towards each
other which we could not but remark at the time. Our dining apartment was
the old _domus refectionis_ of the convent, as its name, written over the
door which led into the choir, manifested. After an excellent dinner we
retired to our chambers for the night.

"_Tuesday, July 27._ We all rested but badly last night. The heat was
excessive, the insects, especially mosquitoes, exceedingly troublesome,
and the sound of the waves, as they beat against the rocks and chafed the
beach in the gusty night, and the howling of the wind, which for a time
moaned through the deserted chambers of the convent, all made us
restless. I rose several times in the night and, opening my window,
looked out on the dark waters of the bay, till the dawn over the
mountains warned me that the time for sleep was passing away, and I again
threw myself on the bed to rest. But scarcely had I lost myself in sleep
before the sound of loud voices below and wailings again waked me. I
looked out of my window on the balcony below; it was filled with armed
men; soldiers and others like brigands with muskets were in hurried
commotion, calling to each other from the balcony and from the terraced
steps below.

"While perplexed in conjecturing the meaning of what I saw, Mr. C. called
at my door requesting me to rise, as the whole house was in agitation at
a terrible accident which had occurred in the night. Dressing in great
haste, I went into the contiguous room and, looking out of the window
down upon a terrace some thirty feet below, saw the lifeless body of a
man, with spots of blood upon his clothes, lying across the font of
water. A police officer with a band of men appeared, taking down in
writing the particulars for a report. On enquiry I found that the body
was that of the old man, the father of our host, whom we had seen the
evening before in perfect health. He had the dangerous habit of walking
in his sleep and had jumped, it is supposed, in that state out of his
chamber window which was directly beneath us; at what time in the night
was uncertain. His body must have been beneath me while I was looking
from my window in the night.

"Our host, but particularly his brother, seemed for a time almost
inconsolable. The lamentations of the latter over the bloody body (as
they were laying it out in the room where we had the evening before
dined), calling upon his father and mingling his cries with a chant to
the Virgin and to the saints, were peculiarly plaintive, and, sounding
through the vacant halls of the convent, made a melancholy impression
upon us all.... Soon after breakfast we went downstairs; several priests
and funeral attendants had arrived; the poor old man was laid upon a bed,
the room darkened, and four wax-lights burned, two each side of the bed. A
short time was taken in preparation, and then upon a bier borne by four
bearers, a few preceding it with wax-lights, the body, with the face
exposed, as is usual in Italy, was taken down the steep pathway to its
long home.

"I could not help remarking the total want of that decent deportment in
all those officiating which marks the conduct of those that attend the
interment of the dead in our own country. Even the priests 'seemed to be
in high glee, talking and heartily laughing with each other; at what it
perplexed me to conjecture.

"I went into the room in which the old man had slept; all was as he had
left it. Over the head of the bed were the rude prints of the Virgin and
saints, which are so common in all the houses of Italy, and which are
supposed to act as charms by these superstitious people. The lamp was on
the window ledge where he had placed it, and his scanty wardrobe upon a
chair by the bedside. Over the door was a sprig of laurel, placed there
since his death.

"The accident of the morning threw a gloom over the whole day; we,
however, commenced our sketches from different parts of the convent, and
I commenced a picture, a view of Amalfi from the interior of the grotto."

Several of the notebooks are here missing, and from the next in order we
find that the travellers must have lingered in or near Sorrento until
August 30, when they returned to Naples.

The next entry of interest, while rather gruesome, seems to be worth

"_Wednesday, September 1._ Morning painting. In the afternoon took a ride
round the suburbs and visited the Campo Santo. The Campo Santo is the
public burial-place. It is a large square enclosure having high walls at
the sides and open at the top. It contains three hundred and sixty
vaults, one of which is opened every day to receive the dead of that day,
and is not again opened until all the others in rotation have been

"As we entered the desolate enclosure the only living beings were three
miserable-looking old women gathered together upon the stone of one of
the vaults. They sat as if performing some incantation, mumbling their
prayers and counting their beads; and one other of the same fraternity,
who had been kneeling before a picture, left her position as we entered
and knelt upon another of the vaults, where she remained all the time we
were present, telling her beads.

"At the farther end of the enclosure was a large portable lever to raise
the stones which covered the vaults. Upon the promise of a few _grains_
the stone of the vault for the day was raised, and, with the precaution
of holding our kerchiefs to our noses, we looked down into the dark
vault. Death is sufficiently terrible in itself, and the grave in its
best form has enough of horror to make the stoutest heart quail at the
thought, but nothing I have seen or read of can equal the Campo Santo for
the most loathsome and disgusting mode of burial. The human, carcasses of
all ages and sexes are here thrown in together to a depth of, perhaps,
twenty feet, without coffins, in heaps, most of them perfectly naked, and
left to corrupt in a mass, like the offal from a slaughter house. So
disgusting a spectacle I never witnessed. There were in sight about
twenty bodies, men, women, and children. A child of about six years, with
beautiful fair hair, had fallen across the body of a man and lay in the
attitude of sleeping.

"But I cannot describe the positions of all without offence, so I
forbear. We were glad to turn away and retrace our steps to our carriage.
Never, I believe, in any country, Christian or pagan, is there an
instance of such total want of respect for the remains of the dead."

[Illustration: DE WITT CLINTON
Painted by Morse. Property of the Metropolitan Museum of Art]

On September 5, he again reverts to the universal plague of beggars in

"In passing through the country you may not take notice of a pretty child
or seem pleased with it; so soon as you do the mother will instantly
importune you for '_qualche cosa_' for the child. Neither can you ask for
a cup of cold water at a cottage door, nor ask the way to the next
village, nor even make the slightest inquiry of a peasant on any subject,
but the result will be '_qualche cosa, signore_.' The first act which a
child is taught in Italy is to hold out its hand to beg. Children too
young to speak I have seen holding out their little hands for that
purpose, and so mechanical is this action that I have seen, in one
instance, a boy of nine years nodding in his sleep and yet at regular
intervals extending his hand to beg. Begging is here no disgrace; on the
contrary, it is made respectable by the customs of the Church."

On September 6, after visiting the catacombs, he goes to the Convent of
St. Martino, and indulges in this rhapsody:--

"From a terrace and balcony two views of the beautiful scenery of the
city and bay are obtained. From the latter place especially you look down
upon the city which is spread like a model far beneath you. There is a
great deal of the sublime in thus looking down upon a populous city; one
feels for the time separated from the concerns of the world.

"We forget, while we consider the insignificance of that individual man,
moving in yonder street and who is scarcely visible to us, that we
ourselves are equally insignificant. It is in such a situation that the
superiority of the mind over the body is felt. Paradoxical as it may at
first seem, its greatness is evinced in the feeling of its own
littleness.... After gazing here for a while we were shown into the
chapel through the choir.... In the sacristy is a picture of a dead
Christ with the three Marys and Joseph, by Spagnoletto, not only the
finest picture by that master, but I am quite inclined to say that it is
the finest picture I have yet seen. There is in it a more perfect union
of the great qualities of art,--fine conception, just design, admirable
disposition of _chiaroscuro_, exquisite color,--whether truth is
considered or choice of tone in congruity with the subject's most
masterly execution and just character and expression. If any objection
were to be made it would, perhaps, be in the particular of character,
which, in elevation, in ideality, falls far short of Raphael. In other
points it has not its superior."

Returning to Rome on September 14, the only entries I find in the journal
for the first few days are, "Painting all day at home," and a short
account of a soirée at the Persianis'.

"_Monday, September 20._ Began the portrait of the celebrated sculptor
Thorwaldsen. He is a most amiable man and is universally respected. He
was never married. In early life he had two children by a mistress; one,
a daughter, is now in a convent. It was said that a noble lady of
England, of great fortune, became attached to him, and he no less to her,
but that the circumstance of his having two illegitimate children
prevented a marriage. He is the greatest sculptor of the age. I have
studied his works; they are distinguished for simple dignity, just
expression, and truth in character and design. The composition is also
characterized by simplicity. These qualities combined endow them with
that beauty which we so much admire in the works of Greece, whether in
literature or art. Thorwaldsen cannot be said to imitate the antique; he
rather seems to be one born in the best age of Grecian art; imbued with
the spirit of that age, and producing from his own resources kindred

The following letter was written by Morse before he left Rome for Naples,
but can be more appropriately introduced at this point:--


MY DEAR SIR,--I had hoped to have the pleasure of painting your portrait,
for which you were so good as to promise to sit, before I left Rome for
Naples; but the weather is becoming so oppressive, and there being a
party of friends about to travel the same road, I have consented to join
them. I shall return to Rome in September or October, and I therefore beg
you will allow me then to claim the fulfilment of your kind promise.

What a barrier, my dear sir, is difference of language to social
intercourse! I never felt the curse that befell the architects of Babel
so sensibly as now, since, as one of the effects of their folly, I am
debarred from the gratification and profit which I had promised myself in
being known to you.

With highest respect, etc.

Curiously enough, Morse never learned to speak a foreign language
fluently, although he could read quite easily French and, I believe,
German and Italian, and from certain passages in his journal we infer
that he could make himself understood by the Italians.

The portrait of Thorwaldsen was completed and became the property of
Philip Hone, Esq., who had given Morse a commission to paint a picture
for one hundred dollars, the subject to be left to the discretion of the
artist. Mr. Hone valued the portrait highly, and it remained in his
gallery until his death. It was then sold and Morse lost track of it for
many years. In 1868, being particularly desirous of gaining possession of
it again, for a purpose which is explained in a letter quoted a little
farther on, he instituted a search for it, and finally learned that it
had been purchased by Mr. John Taylor Johnston for four hundred dollars.
Before he could enter into negotiations for its purchase, Mr. Johnston
heard of his desire to possess it, and of his reasons for this wish, and
he generously insisted on presenting it to Morse.

I shall now quote the following extracts from a letter written in
Dresden, on January 23, 1868, to Mr. Johnston:--

MY DEAR SIR,--Your letter of the 6th inst. is this moment received, in
which I have been startled by your most generous offer presenting me with
my portrait of the renowned Thorwaldsen, for which he sat to me in Rome
in 1831.

I know not in what terms, my dear sir, to express to you my thanks for
this most acceptable gift. I made an excursion to Copenhagen in the
summer of 1856, as a sort of devout pilgrimage to the tombs of two
renowned Danes, whose labors in their respective departments--the one,
Oersted, of science, the other, Thorwaldsen, of art--have so greatly
enriched the world.

The personal kindness of the late King Frederick VII, who courteously
received me at his castle of Fredericksborg, through the special
presentation of Colonel Raslof (more recently the Danish Minister at
Washington); the hospitalities of many of the principal citizens of
Copenhagen; the visits to the tomb and museum of the works of
Thorwaldsen, and to the room in which the immortal Oersted made his
brilliant electro-magnetic discovery; the casual and accidental
introduction and interview with a daughter of Oersted,--all created a
train of reflection which prompted me to devise some suitable mode of
showing to these hospitable people my appreciation of their friendly
attentions, and I proposed to myself the presentation to His Majesty the
King of Denmark of this portrait of Thorwaldsen, for which he sat to me
in Rome, and with which I knew he was specially pleased.

My desire to accomplish this purpose was further strengthened by the
additional attention of the King at a later period in sending me the
decoration of his order of the Danebrog. From the moment this purpose was
formed, twelve years ago, I have been desirous of obtaining this
portrait, and watching for the opportunity of possessing it again.

Here follows a detailed account of the circumstances of the painting of
the portrait and of its disappearance, with which we are familiar, and he
closes by saying:--

"This brief history will show you, my dear sir, what a boon you have
conferred upon me. Indeed, it seems like a dream, and if my most cordial
thanks, not merely for the _gift_, but for the graceful and generous
manner in which it has been offered, is any compensation, you may be sure
they are yours.

"These are no conventional words, but they come from a heart that can
gratefully appreciate the noble sentiments which have prompted your
generous act."

Returning from this little excursion into later years, I shall take up
the narrative again as revealed in the notebooks. While occasionally
visiting the opera and the theatre, Morse does not altogether approve of
them, and, on September 21, he indulges in the following reflections on
them and on the social evil:--

"No females of openly dissolute character were seen, such as occupy
particular parts of the theatre in England and America. Indeed, they
never appear on the streets of Rome in that unblushing manner as in
London, and even in New York and Philadelphia. It must not from hence be
inferred that vice is less frequent here than elsewhere; there is enough
of it, but it is carried on in secret; it is deeper and preys more on the
vitals of society than with us. This vice with us, like a humor on the
skin, deforms the surface, but here it infects the very heart; the whole
system is affected; it is rotten to the core.

"Theatres here and with us are different institutions. Here, where
thousands for want of thought, or rather matter for thought, would die of
ennui, where it is an object to escape from home and even from one's
self, the theatre serves the purpose of a momentary excitement. A new
piece, a new performer, furnishes matter for conversation and turns off
the mind from the discussion of points of theology or politics. The
theatre is therefore encouraged by the Government and is guarded against
the abuses of popular assemblage by strong military guards.

"But what have we to do with theatres in America? Have we not the whole
world of topics for discussion or conversation open to us? Is not truth
in religion, politics, and science suffered to be assailed by enemies
freely, and does it not, therefore, require the time of all intelligent
men to study, and understand, and defend, and fortify themselves in
truth? Have we time to throw away?

"More than this, have we not homes where domestic endearments charm us,
where domestic duties require our attention, where the relations of wife,
of husband, of children have the ties of mutual affection and mutual
confidence to attach us to our firesides? Need we go abroad for
amusement? Can the theatre, with all its tinsel finery, attract away from
home the man who has once tasted the bliss of a happy family circle? Is
there no pleasure in seeing that romping group of children, in the heyday
of youth, amuse themselves ere they go to rest; is there no pleasure in
studying the characters of your little family as they thus undisguisedly
display themselves, and so give you the opportunity of directing their
minds to the best advantage? Is there no amusement in watching the
development of the infant mind and in assisting its feeble efforts?

"He must be of most unsocial mould who can leave the thousand charms of
home to pass those precious hours in the noxious atmosphere of a theatre,
there to be excited, to return at midnight, to rise from a late bed, to
pass the best hours of the day in a feverish reverie succeeded by the
natural depression which is sure to follow, and to crave a renewed
indulgence. Repeated renewal causes indifference and ennui to succeed,
till excitement is no longer produced, but gives place to a habit of
listless indifference, or a spirit of captious criticism.

"_Monday, November 8, 1830._ A year to-day since I left home.

"_Tuesday, November 9._ Ignorance at post-office. Sent letters for United
States to England, because the United States belong to England!

"_Wednesday, December 1._ Many reports for some days past prepared us for
the announcement of the death of the Pope, Pius VIII, who died last
evening at nine o'clock at the Quirinal Palace."

The ceremonies connected with the funeral of the dead Pope and with the
choice of his successor are described at great length, and the eye of the
artist was fascinated by the wealth of color and the pomp, while his
Protestant soul was wearied and disgusted by the tediousness and mummery
of the ceremonials.

"_December 14._ Much excitement has been created by fear of revolution,
but from what cause I cannot learn. Many arrests and banishments have
occurred, among whom are some of the Bonaparte family. Artists are
suspected of being Liberals.

"An assassination occurred at one of the altars in St. John Lateran a few
weeks ago. A young man, jealous of a girl, whom he thought to be more
partial to another, stabbed her to the heart while at mass.

"_Saturday, January 1, 1831._ At the beginning of the year, as with us,
you hear the salutation of '_felicissimo capo d'anno_,' and the custom of
calling and felicitating friends is nearly the same as in New York, with
this difference, indeed, that there is no cheer in Rome as with our good
people at home.

"_Friday, January 14._ In the afternoon Count Grice and the Honorable Mr.
Spencer, son of Earl Spencer, who has within a few years been converted
to the Catholic faith, called. Had an interesting conversation with him
on religious topics, in which the differences of the Protestant and
Catholic faiths were discussed; found him a candid, fair-minded man, but
evidently led away by a too easy assent to the sophistry and fable which
have been dealt out to him. He gave me a slight history of his change; I
shall see him again.

"_Tuesday, January 18._ Called with Count Grice on the Honorable Mr.
Spencer at the English College and was introduced to the rector, Dr.
Wiseman. After a few moments went into the library with Mr. Spencer and
commenced the argument, in which being interrupted we retired to his
room, where for three hours we discussed various points of difference in
our faith. Many things I urged were not answered, such as the fruits of
the Catholic religion in the various countries where it prevails; the
objection concerning forbidding to marry; idolatry of the Virgin Mary,
etc., etc.; yet there is a gentleness, an amiability in the man which
makes me think him sincere but deceived.

"_Wednesday, February 2._ Went this morning at ten o'clock to hear a
sermon by Mr. Spencer in the chapel of the English College. It was on the
occasion of the _festa_ of the purification of the Virgin. Many parts
were good, and I could agree with him in the general scope of his

"While we were in the chapel the cannon of St. Angelo announced the
election of the new Pope. I hurried to the Quirinal Palace to see the
ceremony of announcing him to the people, but was too late. The ceremony
was over, the walled window was broken down and the cardinals had
presented the new Pope on the balcony. He is Cardinal Cappellari who has
taken the title of Gregorio XVI. To-morrow he will go to St. Peter's."


FEBRUARY 10, 1831--SEPTEMBER 12, 1831.

Historic events witnessed by Morse.--Rumors of revolution.--Danger to
foreigners.--Coronation of the new Pope.--Pleasant experience.--Cause of
the revolution a mystery.--Bloody plot foiled.--Plans to leave for
Florence.--Sends casts, etc., to National Academy of Design.--Leaves
Rome.--Dangers of the journey.--Florence.--Description of meeting with
Prince Radziwill in Coliseum at Rome.--Copies portraits of Rubens and
Titian in Florence.--Leaves Florence for Venice.--Disagreeable voyage on
the Po.--Venice, beautiful but smelly.--Copies Tintoret's "Miracle of the
Slave."--Thunderstorms.--Reflections on the Fourth of July.--Leaves
Venice.--Recoaro.--Milan.--Reflections on Catholicism and art.--Como and
Maggiore.--The Rigi.--Schaffhausen and Heidelberg.--Evades the quarantine
on French border.--Thrilling experience.--Paris.

It was Morse's good fortune to have been a spectator, at various times
and in different places, of events of more or less historical moment. We
have seen that he was in England during the War of 1812; that he
witnessed the execution of the assassin of a Prime Minister; that he was
a keen and interested observer of the festivities in honor of a Czar of
Russia, a King of France, and a famous general (Blücher); and although
not mentioned in his correspondence, he was fond of telling how he had
seen the ship sailing away to distant St. Helena bearing the conquered
Napoleon Bonaparte into captivity. Now, while he was diligently pursuing
his art in Rome, he was privileged to witness the funeral obsequies of
one Pope and the ceremonies attendant upon the installation of his
successor. In future years the same good fortune followed him.

His presence on these occasions was not always unattended by danger to
himself. His discretion during the years of war between England and
America saved him from possible annoyance or worse, and now again in Rome
he was called upon to exercise the same virtue, for the Church had
entered upon troublous times, and soon the lives of foreigners were in
danger, and many of them left the city.

On Thursday, February 10, there is this entry in the journal: "The
revolutions in the Papal States to the north at Bologna and Ancona, and
in the Duchy of Modena, have been made known at Rome. Great consternation
prevails." We learn further that, on February 12, "Rumors of conspiracy
are numerous. The time, the places of rendezvous, and even the numbers
are openly talked of. The streets are filled with the people who gaze at
each other inquisitively, and apprehension seems marked on every face.
The shops are shutting, troops are stationed in the piazzas, and
everything wears a gloomy aspect. At half-past seven a discharge of
musketry is heard. Among the reports of the day is one that the
Trasteverini have plotted to massacre the _forestieri_ in case of a

While the festivities of the Carnival were, on account of these
disturbances, ordered by the Pope to be discontinued, the religious
ceremonies were still observed, and, going to St. Peter's one day--"to
witness the ceremonies of consecration as a bishop and coronation as a
king of the Pope"--Morse had this pleasant experience:--

"The immense area seemed already filled; a double line of soldiers
enclosed a wide space, from the great door through the middle of the
church, on each side of the altar, and around the richly enclosed space
where were erected the two papal thrones and the seats for the cardinals.
Into this soldier-invested space none but the privileged were permitted
to enter; ambassadors, princes, dukes, and nobles of every degree were
seen, in all their splendor of costume, promenading.

"I was with the crowd without, making up my mind to see nothing of the
ceremonies, but, being in full dress, and remembering that, on former
occasions, I had been admitted as a stranger within the space, I
determined to make the effort again. I therefore edged myself through the
mass of people until I reached the line of soldiers, and, catching the
eye of the commanding officer as he passed by, I beckoned to him, and, as
he came to me, I said, '_Sono un Americano, un forestiero, signore_,'
which I had no sooner said than, taking me by the hand, he drew me in,
and, politely bowing, gave me leave to go where I pleased."

From this point of vantage he had an excellent view of all the
ceremonies, which were much like the others he had witnessed and do not
need to be described.

He wanted very much to go to Florence at this time to fulfil some of the
commissions he had received for copies of famous paintings in that city,
but his departure was delayed, for, as he notes on February 13:--

"There are many alarming rumors, one in particular that the Trasteverini
and Galleotti, or galley slaves, have been secretly armed by the
Government, and that the former are particularly incensed against the
_forestieri_ as the supposed instigators of the revolution.... These
facts have thrown us all into alarm, for we know not what excesses such
men may be guilty of when excited by religious enthusiasm to revenge
themselves on those they call heretics. We are compelled, too, to remain
in Rome from the state of the country, it being not safe to travel on
account of brigands who now infest the roads.

"_February 15._ I have never been in a place where it was so difficult to
ascertain the truth as in this city. I have enquired the reason of this
movement hostile to the Government, but cannot ascertain precisely its
object. Some say it is to deprive the Pope of his temporal power,--and
some Catholics seem to think that their religion would flourish the
better for it; others that it is a plan, long digested, for bringing all
Italy under one government, having it divided into so many federative
states, like the United States....

"The Trasteverini seem to be a peculiar class, proud, as believing
themselves to be the only true descendants from the ancient Romans, and,
therefore, hating the other Romans. Poor from that very pride; ignorant
and attached to their faith, they are the class of all others to be
dreaded in a season of anarchy. It is easy by flattery, by a little
distribution of money, and by a cry of danger to their religion, to rouse
them to any degree of enthusiasm, and no one can set bounds to the
excesses of such a set of fiends when let loose upon society.

"The Government at present have them in their interest, and, while that
is the case, no danger is to be dreaded. It is in that state of anarchy
which, for a longer or shorter period, intervenes in the changes of
government, between the established rule of the one and of the other,
that such a class of men is to be feared.

"_February 17._ The plan said to have been determined on by the
conspirators was this: The last night of the Carnival was fixed for the
execution of the plan. This was Tuesday night when it is customary to
have the _moccoletti_, or small wax-candles, lighted by the crowd. The
conspirators were each to be placed, as it were by accident, by the side
of a soldier (which in so great a crowd could be done without suspicion),
and, when the cannon fired which gave the signal for closing the course,
it was also to serve as a signal for each one to turn upon the soldier
and, by killing him, to seize his arms. This would, indeed, have been a
bloody scene, and for humanity's sake it is well that it was discovered
and prevented.

"_February 20._ I learn that the Pope is desirous of yielding to the
spirit of the times, and is disposed to grant a constitution to the
people, but that the cardinals oppose it. He is said also to be prepared
to fly from Rome, and even has declared his intention of resigning the
dignity of Pope and retiring again to the solitude of the convent.

"_February 24._ It seems to be no longer doubtful that a revolutionary
army is approaching Rome from the revolted provinces, and that they
advance rapidly.... The city is tranquil enough; no troops are seen,
except at night a sentinel at some corner cries as you pass, '_Chi
viva?_' and you are obliged to cry, '_Il Papa_'; which one may surely do
with a good conscience, for he is entitled to great respect for his
personal character.

"_February 25._ Went to-day to get my passport viséed for Florence,
whither I intended to go on Tuesday next, but am advised by the consul
and others not to risk the journey at present, as it is unsafe."

I break the continuity of the narrative for a moment to note that while
Morse was making copies of famous paintings in Rome, and studying
intelligently the works of the old masters, he was not forgetful of the
young academy at home, which he had helped to found and of which he was
still president. On March 1 he writes jubilantly to the secretary, J.L.
Morton, that he has succeeded in obtaining by gift a number of casts of
ancient and modern sculpture which he will send home by the first
opportunity. Among the generous donors he mentions Thorwaldsen, Daniel
Coit, Esq., Richard Wyatt, Esq., Signor Trentanove, and George Washington
Lee, Esq. He adds at the end of the letter:--

"I leave Rome immediately and know not when I shall be allowed to rest,
the revolution here having turned everything into confusion, rendering
the movements of travellers uncertain and unsafe, and embarrassing my
studies and those of other artists exceedingly. I shall try to go to
Florence, but must pass through the two hostile armies and through a
country which, in a season of confusion like the present, is sure to be
infested with brigands. If I reach Florence in safety and am allowed to
remain, which is somewhat doubtful, you shall hear of me again, either
directly or through my brothers."

Mr. Morton, answering this letter on May 22, informs Morse of his
reëlection as president of the National Academy of Design, and adds: "By
the by, talking of coming back, do try and make your arrangements as soon
as possible. We want you very much, if it is only to set us all right
again. We begin to feel the want of our _Head Man_."

Reverting to the journal again, we find this note: "March 3. For some
days past I have been engaged in packing up and taking leave, and
yesterday was introduced by the Count le Grice to Cardinal Weld, who
received me very politely, presented me with a book, and sent me two
letters of introduction to London."

On March 4, Morse, with four companions, started from Rome on the
seemingly perilous journey to Florence. They passed through the lines of
both armies, but, contrary to their expectations, they were most
courteously treated by the officers on both sides. It is true that they
learned afterwards that they came near being arrested at Civita
Castellana, where the Papal army was assembled in force, for--"When we
took leave of the Marquis at Terni he told us that it was well we left
Civita Castellana as we did, for an order for our arrest was making out,
and in a few minutes more we should not have been allowed to leave the
place. Indeed, when I think of the case, it was a surprising thing that
we were allowed to go into all parts of the place, to see their position,
to count their men and know their strength, and then to immediately pass
over to their enemy and to give him, if we chose, all the information
that any spy could have given."

It is not within the province of this work to deal at length with the
political movements of the times. As we have seen, Morse was fortunate in
avoiding danger, and we learn from history that this revolt, which
threatened at one time to become very serious, was eventually suppressed
by the Papal arms aided by the Austrians.

Having passed safely through the zone of danger, they travelled on, and,
on March 9:--

"At half-past three the _beautiful city_ was seen to our left reposing in
sunshine in the wide vale of the Arno. The Duomo and the Campanile were
the most conspicuous objects. At half-past four we entered Florence and
obtained rooms at the Leone Bianco in the Via Vigna Nuova.

"_March 10._ We found to-day, to our great discomfiture, that we are
allowed by the police to stay but three days in the city. No entreaties
through our consul, nor offers of guaranty on his part, availed to soften
towards us the rigor of the decree, which they say applies to all
foreigners. I have written to our consul at Leghorn to petition the
Government for our stay, as Mr. Ombrosi, the United States Consul here,
is not accredited by the Government."

He must have succeeded in obtaining permission to remain, although the
fact is not noted in the journal, for the next entry is on April 11, and
finds him still in Florence. It begins: "Various engagements preventing
my entering regularly in my journal every day's events as they occurred,
I have been compelled to make a gap, which I fill up from recollection."

Before following him further, however, I shall quote from a letter
written to his brothers on April 15, but referring to events which
happened some time before:--

"We have recently heard of the disasters of the Poles. What noble people;
how deserving of their freedom. I must tell you of an interesting
circumstance that occurred to me in relation to Poland. It was in the
latter part of June of last year, just as I was completing my
arrangements for my journey to Naples, that I was tempted by one of those
splendid moonlight evenings, so common in Italy, to visit once more the
ruins of the Coliseum. I had frequently been to the Coliseum in company,
but now I had the curiosity to go alone--I wished to enjoy, if possible,
its solitude and its solemn grandeur unannoyed by the presence of any

"It was eleven o'clock when I left my lodgings and no one was walking at
that hour in the solitary streets of Rome. From the Corso to the Forum
all was as still as in a deserted city. The ruins of the Forum, the
temples and pillars, the Arch of Titus and the gigantic arcade of the
Temple of Peace, seemed to sleep in the gravelike stillness of the air.
The only sound that reached my ears was that of my own footsteps. I
slowly proceeded, stopping occasionally, and listening and enjoying the
profound repose and the solemn, pure light, so suited to the ruined
magnificence around me. As I approached the Coliseum the shriek of an owl
and the answering echo broke the stillness for a moment, and all was
still again.

"I reached the entrance, before which paced a lonely sentinel, his arms
flashing in the moonbeams. He abruptly stopped me and told me I could not
enter. I asked him why. He replied that his orders were to let no one
pass. I told him I knew better, that he had no such orders, that he was
placed there to protect visitors, and not to prevent their entrance, and
that I should pass. Finding me resolute (for I knew by experience his
motive was merely to extort money), he softened in his tone, and wished
me to wait until he could speak to the sergeant of the guard. To this I
assented, and, while he was gone, a party of gentlemen approached also to
the entrance. One of them, having heard the discourse between the
sentinel and myself, addressed me. Perceiving that he was a foreigner, I
asked him if he spoke English. He replied with a slight accent, 'Yes, a
little. You are an Englishman, sir?' 'No,' I replied, 'I am an American
from the United States.' 'Indeed,' said he, 'that is much better'; and,
extending his hand, he shook me cordially by the hand, adding, 'I have a
great respect for your country and I know many of your countrymen.' He
then mentioned Dr. Jarvis and Mr. Cooper, the novelist, the latter of
whom he said was held in the greatest estimation in Europe, and nowhere
more so than in his country, Poland, where his works were more sought
after than those of Scott, and his mind was esteemed of an equal if not
of a superior cast.

"This casual introduction of literary topics furnished us with ample
matter for conversation while we were not engaged in contemplating the
sublime ruins over which, when the sentinel returned, we climbed. I asked
him respecting the literature of Poland, and particularly if there were
now any living poets of eminence. He observed: 'Yes, sir, I am happily
travelling in company with the most celebrated of our poets,
Meinenvitch'; and who, as I understood him, was one of the party walking
in another part of the ruins.

"Engaged in conversation we left the Coliseum together and slowly
proceeded into the city. I told him of the deep interest with which
Poland was regarded in the United States, and that her heroes were spoken
of with the same veneration as our own. As some evidence of this
estimation I informed him of the monument erected by the cadets of West
Point to the memory of Kosciusko. With this intelligence he was evidently
much affected; he took my hand and exclaimed with great enthusiasm and
emphatically: 'We, too, sir, shall be free; the time is coming; we too
shall be free; my unhappy country will be free.' (This was before the
revolution in France.)

"As I came to the street where we were to part he took out his notebook,
and, going under the lamp of a Madonna, near the Piazza Colonna, he
wished me to write my name for him among the other names of Americans
which he had treasured in his book. I complied with his request. In
bidding me adieu he said: 'It will be one of my happiest recollections of
Rome that the last night which I passed in this city was passed in the
Coliseum, and with an American, a citizen of a free country. If you
should ever visit Warsaw, pray enquire for Prince----; I shall be
exceedingly glad to see you.'

"Thus I parted with this interesting Pole. That I should have forgotten a
Polish name, pronounced but once, you will not think extraordinary. The
sequel remains to be told. When the Polish revolution broke out, what was
my surprise to find the poet Meinenvitch and a prince, whose name seemed
like that which he pronounced to me, and to which was added--'just
returned from Italy'--among the first members of the provisional

Morse assured himself afterwards, and so noted it in his journal, that
this chance acquaintance was Prince Michael Jerome Radziwill, who had
served as lieutenant in the war of independence under Kosciusko; fought
under Napoleon in Russia (by whom he was made a brigadier-general); and,
shortly after the meeting in the Coliseum, was made general-in-chief of
the Polish army. After the defeat of this army he was banished to central
Russia until 1836, when he retired to Dresden.

Reverting again to the notebooks, we find that Florence, with her wealth
of beauty in architecture, sculpture, and painting, appealed strongly to
the artist, and the notes are chiefly descriptions of what he sees, and
which it will not be necessary to transcribe. He had, during all the time
he was in Italy, been completing, one after another, the copies for which
he had received commissions, and had been sending them home. He thus
describes to his friend, Mr. Van Schaick, the paintings made for him:--

"_Florence, May 12, 1831._ I have at length completed the two pictures
which you were so kind as to commission me to execute for you, and they
are packed in a case, ready to send to you from Leghorn by the first
opportunity, through Messrs. Bell, de Yongh & Co. of that city.

"As your request was that these pictures should be heads, I have chosen
two of the most celebrated in the gallery of portraits in the Florence
Gallery. These are the heads of Rubens and Titian from the portraits by
themselves. As the portraits of the two great masters of color they will
alone be interesting, but they are more so from giving a fair specimen of
their two opposite styles of color. That of Rubens, from its gaiety, will
doubtless be more popular, but that of Titian, from its sobriety and
dignity, pleases me better. In hanging the pictures they should be placed
apart. The styles are so opposed that, were they placed near to each
other, they would mutually affect each other unfavorably. Rubens may be
placed in more obscurity, but Titian demands to be more in the light.

"I have no time to add, as I am preparing to leave Florence on Monday for
Bologna and Venice."

Travelling in Italy in those days was fraught with many annoyances, for,
in addition to the slow progress made in the _vetture_, there seems to
have been (judging from the journal) a _dogana_, or custom-house, every
few miles, where the luggage and clothing of travellers were examined,
sometimes hastily and courteously, sometimes with more rigor. And yet
this leisurely rate of progress, the travellers walking up most of the
hills, must have had a charm unknown to the present-day tourist, who is
whisked unseeing through the most characteristic parts of a foreign
country. The beautiful scenery of the Apennines was in this way enjoyed
to the full by the artist, but I shall not linger over the journey nor
shall I include any notes concerning Bologna. He found the city most
interesting--"A piece of porphyry set in verd antique"--and those to whom
he had letters of introduction more hospitable than in any other city in

From Bologna the route lay through Ferrara and then to Pontelagoscuro on
the river Po, where he was to take the courier boat for Venice, down the
Po and through a canal. To add to the discomforts of this part of the
trip it rained steadily for several days, and, on May 22, Morse paints
this dreary picture:--

"When we waked this morning we found it still raining and, apparently, so
to continue all day. The rainy day at a country inn, so exquisitely
described by Irving in all its disagreeable features, is now before us. A
solitary inn with nothing indoors to attract; cold and damp and dark. The
prospect from the windows is a low muddy foreground, the north bank of
the muddy Po; a pile of brushwood, a heap of offal, a melancholy group of
cattle, who show no other signs of life than the occasional sly attack by
one of them upon a poor, dripping, half-starved dog, who, with tail
between his legs, now and then ventures near them to search for his
miserable meal. Beyond, on the river, a few barks silently lying upon the
stream, and on the opposite bank some buildings with a church and a
campanile dimly seen through the mist. After coffee we were obliged to go
to the _dogana_ to see to the searching of all our trunks and luggage.
The principals were present and we were not severely searched. A
Frenchman, however, who had come on a little before us, was stripped to
his skin, some papers were found upon him, and I understand he has made
his escape and they are now searching for him....

"At 2.30, after having dined, we waded through the mud in a pelting rain
to the _dogana_ for our luggage, and, after getting completely wet, we
embarked on board the courier boat, with a cabin seven feet long, six
feet wide, and six high, into which six of us, having a gentleman from
Trieste and his mother added to our number, were crowded, with no
beds.... Rain, rain, rain!!! in torrents, cold and dreary through a
perfectly flat country.... At ten o 'clock we arrived at a place called
Cavanella, where is a _locanda_ upon the canal which should have been
open to receive us, but they were all asleep and no calling would rouse
them. So we were obliged to go supperless to bed, and such abed! There
being no room to spread mattresses for six in the cabin, three dirty
mattresses, without sheets or blankets, were laid on the floor of the
forward cabin (if it might so be called). This cabin was a hole down into
which two or three steps led. We could not stand upright,--indeed,
kneeling, our heads touched the top,--and when stretched at full length
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 cafés are crowded with elegantly dressed females and
their gallants. Chairs are placed in great numbers under the awnings
before the cafés. 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, '_Très dangèreux, monsieur, très

"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-Honoré. 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 fête.
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, _à 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 Liège 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 Liège (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 Débats" 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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ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.