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Monday, July 15, 1889

Monday, July 15, 1889

7.50 P.M. W. in parlor, but as the afternoon had turned very cool, he had pulled down the window sash and sat there with his blue gown closely folded about him. I had not been there but a little while before Frank and Tom Harned came up and in. W. talked freely. To Frank's question as to his health, he said, "Oh! I get along middling—I guess I can say I am middling." Afterwards addressing Tom—"The weather has taken a fine change—I am sure I enjoy it: I have been hoping we would have a week of it, now it has given us a taste!" But again, had not been out in his chair. I brought him proof from Brown of the "laughing philosopher" picture, now photo-engraved. W. seemed to take much pleasure out of contemplating it. He said, "I cannot see it well, but it appears all right." Here he laughed heartily—held it out from him some distance—"What a fat old duffer of a story-teller it is, too!"

Talk developed towards Millet, then the "L'Angelus." W. said, "I thought I saw the original of that at Quincy Shaw's, up in Massachusetts, years ago—but I guess I didn't—probably saw a copy, or a copy of a copy, as often is the case." He admitted the greatness of Millet's "most famous picture," but insisted—"There is one of Millet's pictures—not so well known—I have seen it—which seems to me the gem of his creations—at least, of such as I have known. The plot of it was simply this—a girl going home with the cows of an evening—a small stream running lazily along—the cattle tempted forward to the water, mildly drinking. I can conceive of nothing more directly encountered in nature than this piece—its simplicity, its grand treatment, the atmosphere, the time of day: not a break in the power of its statement. I looked at it long and long—was fascinated—fascinated to it—could hardly leave it at all. This picture more than any other to my judgment confirmed Millet—justified his position, heroism—assured his future."

In reading proof of Gilchrist's speech W. had put a question mark upon the use of "prosperity" in the sentence reading—"The prosperity of this occasion" etc. Gilchrist very positively to me reasserted the word, whereat W. laughed—"Let it go in, then—I shall not object—I claim no authority—if it is a fit word for his use, let it be used! As I have often said, 'This is not my funeral: let the cortege proceed!'" But he has made verbal suggestions to all hands which have been wisely adopted. Read him from Unity a description of Morse's preparing bust of George Eliot. W. said fervently, "Well—I hope his work is such as to justify that ardent paragraph!" Stayed but briefly after the Harned's left. Happy to find W. improved.

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