Letter from G. P. A. HEALY to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated August 10, 1852.
My dear Marsh, Since the receipt of your most delightful letter, dated I hardly dare
say when, however, here goes Jany 1st 1852. My affairs have nearly driven me
melancholy mad which has prevented my writing to you all this time, my letters to my
wife had alarming symptoms of insanity, so she thought it better to leave the
children with her Mother at Versailles, and join me, which I am happy to say she did
last April; since that time I have gradually arrived at the conclusion that the
world is not going to distruction just yet; I am in the same state as the old woman,
who had been looking all her life for a contented mind, but now she had ceased to
expect it, she felt happy. -- It is true that my large picture ran me in debt six
thousand dollars, & loss by exhibition one thousand, but I am happy to say, it
is now finely
placed in Faneuil Hall, where in all human probability it will remain.
I begin to fear that I am not so good a yankee! as if I had remained all my life in dear Boston, for my friends smile with their peculiarly thin lips, look at me with their small sharp eyes, and say in our most melodious nasal Well I guess you'r not very to think we'r going to pay you $10,000. for a thing that is done; nevertheless two thousand have been subscribed, & there are those who wildly talk of as much more, but I have lost my "faith, not in woman," but in the friends of Webster, so expect no more, and sit down contented, being only five thousand out of pocket: but My dear friend, think of what immense advantage, artistically speaking, the experience of this canvas has been to me, should I be so fortunate as to pay off my debt before I return to Paris next Spring. I feel I shall have great reason to rejoice in having undertaken the Webster picture.
We passed last Sunday at Nahant, with our friends the Paiges, I was told there, that Mr. Webster, speaking of himself, said, he did not know why his step was so feeble, he added, I shall not live long; I heard also that his mind was never more brilliant, yesterday he passed through this city en route for Washington, where I understand his services are much required
We truly sympathised with all your privations, sufferings, & sickness in the Desert & near the black Sea, notwithstanding which, you have made me crazy to see, what you have seen, neither Warburton or any other Egyptian traveller has ever given me so vivid a description of the pictures yet to be seen in that Country. I anticipate a work on the East from your pen that will be a valuable addition to English literature. We sincerely rejoice to learn how much better in health dear Mrs. Marsh has become, handsomer she could not, long may she continue to improve; I was disappointed in not meeting her sister in Washington last winter.
Now that I consider my large
picture settled, my plan is, to pass the winter partly in the cities of Washington & Baltimore, thence to Europe in the Spring, & after a year's more study, it is my intention to visit you in Constantinople (for they all say your friend Scott will be elected) I should like to go sooner, but I wish to make myself still more master of the human figure, & then I shall be in a position really to profit by my visit, Mrs. Healy tells me I shall have to go alone, as she has no idea of seeing Turks in black coats, she wishes to see the as they used to be! -- I have often thought of you in that warm place this summer, of late we have had much rain & all nature has been greatly refreshed by it, I learn the heat in Europe has been excessive, so it was here during June up to within the last 10 days -- The glorious 4th passed off bravely--lots of noise punch & patriotism, & a beautiful Feu d'Artifice made up the amusements of the day. However those who speak truth with a wholesome disregard to poetry would say, that the weather was "" You know the maxim of the little patriote of the "Il faut faire transpirer le corps social" to ensure purity of the physical and political system.
I have just learned that our friend Markoe is nominated to Stockholm, with real pleasure, as I know his friends have worked hard for him during the past year.
Mrs Healy joins me in kindest regards to yourself, Mrs. Marsh and Miss Paine &
believer [me] Most Sincerely yoursGeo. P. A. Healy
P.S. The only critique on my picture which I think worth repeating, I heard one evening while waiting to see a friend at Willard's, one of the whist party, while dealing, said to a person newly arrived in Washington have you seen Healy's picture, no, was the reply, but the questions followed, what do you think of it? The young Lady said, "Well! it is considerable of a daub, but the likeness of Webster is pretty good.
References in this letter:
The American portrait painter, George Peter Alexander Healy (1813-1894), was one of the most popular artists of his time. He is known for his paintings of presidents, statesman, and members of Society on both sides of the Atlantic. A native of Boston, he studied in France under Antoine-Jean Gros and established a studio in Paris. In 1840, the U.S. Minister to France, General Lewis Cass, introduced Healy to King Louis Phillippe, and his reputation was established in Europe. In all, Healy made thirty trans-Atlantic trips but settled in Chicago at the behest of a wealthy Illinois businessman, William Butler Ogden.