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MSS.4.838

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Newport R.I.

Nov. 27, 1864

My Dear Miss Whitney

Being in Boston, the other day, I eagerly availed myself of the opportunity of seeing your statues, especially the "Africa" which had interested me so much, ever since you kindly showed me the statuette at Watertown, several years ago. I was confirmed in my admiration of its design, pose & expression; & it seems to me one of the very noblest works that American sculpture has produced.

With this utterance of feeling, may I dare hope forgiveness, if I renew, after two years of special preparation for such criticism, my expressions of regret that you did [in pencil: not?]

finally accept the African type of feature as your model? I do assure you, from intimate personal observation, that this type is capable of the very highest treatment & that for anything of the colossal or grandiose order it is most singularly available. I have never seen more noble or impressive heads than some in my regiment, which yet would have conveyed fully, even without color, the African type; & I believe that had you seen them they would as inevitably have modified the features of your statue as did your interview with Harriet Tubman the hair. The aesthetic effect of your statue would thus not be marred, & it's moral [deletion: effe] symbolism greatly enhanced. Because precisely that which has

held Africa down has been the prejudice of the nations against this physical type. It is nothing for her to rise & abnegate her own features in rising; she must rise as God made her of not at all. To my eye, all that your statue asserts, the features of the face deny: & I believe that every one, in proportion as he appreciates the spirit of the whole, would appreciate the added triumph of Africanized features. And especially now, since Story has (it is said) gone out of his way to give such features to Cleopatra, it seems the more desirable for you to use them when they lie directly in your way.

Very possibly the majority of persons would approve your present course; but it would be that majority

which has least real appreciation of your statue; most persons have not discovered the resources of the negro physique; I never knew it myself till I had the opportunity of thorough study.

I am sure you will do me the justice to see that every word I write is prompted by admiration of your powers & by a wish to see them yet more fully exhibited. Until the "Africa" is executed in marble, [deletion: &] it is not yet too late.

I think I mentioned to you, when speaking before on this subject,the French statuette in bronze, of the African woman at the fountain, at Wendell Phillips' house. Have you ever seen it. Will you meet me in Boston & go there with me at some time? I wish you could see that statuette, though the type of face seemed to me too narrow, & more mulatto than negro.

Most cordially your friend

T. W. Higginson.

[marginal note:] P.S. My wife has just reminded me of a young colored girl at Pigeon Cove who would be an admirable model of feature for you. - a face & figure large & statuesque, broad, placid, intelligent, attractive, having great size without coarseness, very dignified & refined manners & strong calm nature.

Letter from Thomas Wentworth Higginson, to Anne Whitney, 1864 November 27

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