Six Months at the White House/XXII
Mr. Seward, whose conversation much of the time, while sitting, was like that of a man soliloquizing aloud, told me on one occasion two or three good stories. Referring to the numerous portraits painted of him at different times, he said, that of all artists whom he had known, Henry Inman was most rapid in execution. For the full-length portrait, painted while he was Governor, for the city of New York, Inman required but two or three sittings of an hour each, with an additional quarter of an hour for the standing figure. This drew out something from me in relation to Elliott's whole length of him, painted at the same period. "My experience with Elliott," he rejoined, "who was then in the beginning of his career, was a very different affair. He seemed to think me like Governor Crittenden's hen." Laughing at the recollection, he lighted a cigar, and continued: "One day the Governor was engaged with his Council, when his little boy, of five or six years, came into the chamber, and said, 'Father, the black hen is setting.' 'Go away, my son,' returned the Governor; 'I am very busy.' The child disappeared, but soon returned, and putting his head in at the door, repeated the information. 'Well, well,' replied the Governor, 'you must not bother me now; let her set.' The door was shut, but soon afterward again cautiously opened, in the midst of a profound discussion, and the words rang out, 'But father, she is setting on one egg!' The Governor turned around, and looking into the dilated eyes of the excited little fellow, replied dryly, 'Well, my son, I think we will let her set. Her time is not very precious!'"
Another was of General R----, formerly of the New York State Senate. At the regular session one day, the General gave notice that the following day he would introduce a bill providing a thermometer for every institution of learning in the State. The next morning the clerk was in his private office at the usual hour, reading the bills aloud, and placing them on file for the business of the day. A gentleman who prided himself upon his classical attainments was present, and, as the clerk read the notice given by Senator R----, he was informed that a word borrowed from another language should, according to the rule, always be given its native pronunciation. The original of thermometer, the gentleman said, was a French term, which should be pronounced accordingly. By a process of reasoning the clerk was convinced; and when the bill was announced, he read it according to instructions. General R---- was observed to look up from writing, and fix his eye upon the clerk. The second reading passed, and he rose to his feet, bending forward upon his desk, listening intently, his eyebrows gradually contracting. "Third reading. Senator R---- gave notice of a bill to provide a thermométre for every institution of learning in the State." By this time the attention of the entire house was drawn to the General. "Ther--what?" he demanded, in a stentorian tone. "Thermométre," quietly responded the confident clerk. "Thermometer! thermometer! you ---- fool; don't you know what a thermometer is?" thundered the enraged Senator, amid roars of laughter.
Speaking once of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, Mr. Seward remarked, that, as statesmen, they could not well be compared; "they were no more alike than a Grecian temple and a Gothic church."
I was much interested in an opinion he once expressed of equestrian statues. He said a grand character should never be represented in this form. It was ignoring the divine in human nature to thus link man with an animal, and seemed to him a degradation of true art. "Bucephalus," in marble or bronze was well enough by itself. Place "Alexander" upon his back, and though the animal gained a degree of interest, the man lost immeasurably.