James also knew, I think, about working an audience. I am sure that while this was a Clerc Memorial it was also a fundraiser. It appears that even in 1874 the funding of an institution like the Asylum in Hartford was still much a voluntary exercise? So when he starts with this quote and describes Laurent’s audience, distinguished for rank, beauty and intelligence, he might be also referring to those gathered that day? He had me with distinguished!
“Inspired by the occasion, by the presence of an assembly so distinguished for rank, beauty, and intelligence, and more than all by the sight of his beloved instructor and benefactor, whose sad, patient eye, pale cheek, and slender form spoke of toil, suffering, and self-sacrifice, for which the decorations that shone on his breast -gifts from the crowned heads of France, of Russia, and of Sweden - could be but a slight and feeble acknowledgment, Laurent Clerc looked into the depths of his soul, analyzed the sentiments and emotions that took shape and being at the thought of Sicard, and gave to the world his beautiful definition of Gratitude."
And Laurent truly had gotten a lot from Sicard and I can believe that something akin to what James reported may actually have been percolating around in Laurent’s mind. Laurent surely had a lot to be grateful for, as did those assembled that day in Hartford, on September 10, 1874.