April 18.WENT out three or four miles to the house of Quincy Shaw, to see a collection of J. F. Millets pictures. Two rapt hours. Never before have I been so penetrated by this kind of expression. I stood long and long before the Sower. I believe what the picture-men designate the first Sower, as the artist executed a second copy, and a third, and, some think, improved in each. But I doubt it. There is something in this that could hardly be caught againa sublime murkiness and original pent fury. Besides this masterpiece, there were many others, (I shall never forget the simple evening scene, Watering the Cow,) all inimitable, all perfect as pictures, works of mere art; and then it seemd to me, with that last impalpable ethic purpose from the artist (most likely unconscious to himself) which I am always looking for. To me all of them told the full story of what went before and necessitated the great French revolutionthe long precedent crushing of the masses of a heroic people into the earth, in abject poverty, hungerevery right denied, humanity attempted to be put back for generationsyet Natures force, titanic here, the stronger and hardier for that repressionwaiting terribly to break forth, revengefulthe pressure on the dykes, and the bursting at lastthe storming of the Bastilethe execution of the king and queenthe tempest of massacres and blood. Yet who can wonder?
The true France, base of all the rest, is certainly in these pictures. I comprehend Field-People Reposing, the Diggers, and the Angelus in this opinion. Some folks always think of the French as a small race, five or five and a half feet high, and ever frivolous and smirking. Nothing of the sort. The bulk of the personnel of France, before the revolution, was large-sized, serious, industrious as now, and simple. The revolution and Napoleons wars dwarfd the standard of human size, but it will come up again. If for nothing else, I should dwell on my brief Boston visit for opening to me the new world of Millets pictures. Will America ever have such an artist out of her own gestation, body, soul?
Sunday, April 17.An hour and a half, late this afternoon, in silence and half light, in the great nave of Memorial hall, Cambridge, the walls thickly coverd with mural tablets, bearing the names of students and graduates of the university who fell in the secession war.