“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 order....
“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 another.”
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.—Reelected 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.