Daguerreotypes & Jeremiah Gurney

February 24th:

A beautiful day with a fair wind but not a great deal of it. Gained 227 miles in the last 24 hours.

Williams is not so well today; side stiff and painful. He thinks he has taken some cold in it. I am disappointed that he does not recover from his accident sooner – but then I ought not to utter one word of complaint, and only be very, very thankful to our kind and merciful Father for his goodness in sparing him as he did. It makes me shudder when I think of that fall. It might have been so very, very much worse. Oh, how dreadful, if he had been taken away. Sometimes I feel as if I could not love him enough or do enough for him so thankful and glad am I to feel that he is still beside me, my own beloved husband.

Our little Willie was quite sick when he first woke this morning, but seems pretty well now. I wish I knew if he indeed had the whooping cough. I was quite amused with Willie this morning. I had been walking with him on deck and he stood at the head of the steps waiting for Noah to bring him some bread. While standing there, his attention was attracted to some sailors on the opposite side. After looking at them for a few moments, he looked to me and said, “Mama that man“, pointing at him, “looks like Punch.” His little eyes undoubtedly see some likeness to his English worship, but as the remark had been heard I did not like to give a very particular look. Willie’s power of observation is indeed wonderful. Indeed, before two years old, he knew a great many animals as seeing them in prints. Never mind if on the most minute scale and badly done, he never made a mistake. A wolf never was named for a fox, etc. His father, and indeed myself, often amused ourselves by perhaps tracing the outlines of cows’ heads. He had only to see the lines drawn. He would call out a cow. But instead of going on with the body of the cow we would add to the head the long, curved neck of a horse. Willie would instantly say, “Why that’s a horse”. I have also done it with just the outline of the back of a horse or a cow. The child would know instantly – and so it was and is with all other animals that he knew anything of.

Willie, when just 25 months, excited my surprise one day. I was dressing, and Willie had been sitting on the floor behind me playing a little, when I heard him say, “why this looks like Mama”. I turned around and found the little fellow had opened a small closet under my berth and there on the floor had a daguerreotype taken of me three years before. It was miserable, many of my family on seeing it did not know it, and my friends who knew me well were surprised when they heard that I had ever sat for that not-at-all, in their opinion, likeness. But bad as it was, I could see the likeness, though it certainly was something approaching a caricature. But Willie’s quick eye instantly traced the likeness, though he said, “it is not pretty Mama.” I then showed him a daguerreotype likeness of his father taken some three and one-half years before. He instantly said it was Papa. This likeness I think was quite good, though anything but flattering. However, some of Williams’ most intimate friends had pronounced it no likeness. Even Horatia did not know it. But Willie guessed it. While in New York I took Willie to have his likeness taken, intending to have three if they could be taken good. Of this I had my doubts and the young man in the reception room added by shaking his head and saying that he, Willie, seemed to be very restless, amusing himself with whatever presented. However, I tried it, and never was anything more successful. He had four excellent ones taken – one for Mr. Gurney. It was a pretty sight indeed to see the little fellow. He sat just as Mr. Gurney and myself fixed him, and then was fully taken up with the toy or picture Mr. Gurney held up to his attention. When Mr. Gurney handed me the first one to look at, I saw at once it was good, called Willie to me, who was then on the floor playing, and asked him who that was. He looked and smiled and at once said, “Willie”.