In following Morse’s career at this critical period it will be necessary to record his experiences both as painter and inventor, for there was no thought of abandoning his profession in his mind at first; on the contrary, he still had hopes of ultimate success, and it was his sole means of livelihood. It is true that he at times gave way to fits of depression. In a letter to his brother Richard before leaving Europe he had thus given expression to his fears:—
“I have frequently felt melancholy in thinking of my prospects for encouragement when I return, and your letter found me in one of those moments. You cannot, therefore, conceive with what feelings I read your offer of a room in your new house. Give me a resting-place and I will yet move the country in favor of the arts. I return with some hopes but many fears. Will my country employ me on works which may do it honor? I want a commission from Government to execute two pictures from the life of Columbus, and I want eight thousand dollars for each, and on these two I will stake my reputation as an artist.”
It was in his brother Richard’s house that he took the first step towards the construction of the apparatus which was to put his invention to a practical test. This was the manufacture of the saw-toothed type by which he proposed to open and close the circuit and produce his conventional signs. He did not choose the most appropriate place for this operation, for his sister-in-law rather pathetically remarked: “He melted the lead which he used over the fire in the grate of my front parlor, and, in his operation of casting the type, he spilled some of the heated metal upon the drugget, or loose carpeting, before the fireplace, and upon a flagbottomed chair upon which his mould was placed.”
He was also handicapped by illness just after his return, as we learn from the following letter to his friend Fenimore Cooper. In this letter he also makes some interesting comments on New York and American affairs, but, curiously enough, he says nothing of his invention:
“February 21, 1833. Don’t scold at me. I don’t deserve a scolding if you knew all, and I do if you don’t know all, for I have not written to you since I landed in November. What with severe illness for several weeks after my arrival, and the accumulation of cares consequent on so long an absence from home, I have been overwhelmed and distracted by calls upon my time for a thousand things that pressed upon me for immediate attention; and so I have put off and put off what I have been longing (I am ashamed to say for weeks if not months) to do, I mean to write to you.
“The truth is, my dear sir, I have so much to say that I know not where to commence. I throw myself on your indulgence, and, believing you will forgive me, I commence without further apology.