Bachelor

Emily Dykes

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Sep 26, 2005
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In many places it is written that Millet lived with Archibald Butt and another man named (I believe) Blanton Winship, c. 1910-11. Accounts of this have given me the impression that all three were bachelors at the time. However, I know that in 1879 or so, Millet married Elizabeth Merrill and had four children with her. Did she die, or what?
 
May 12, 2005
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Hi, Emily:

I’m not privy to all the information about this, because so much is still being researched, but my understanding is that there was a living arrangement between these three men. Some have raised suspicions about the men’s sexuality but those researching Archie Butt are of the firm opinion that he, at least, was not gay.

Millet, however, was definitely gay, and fairly openly so, despite his marriage. This fact poses the possibility of "guilt by association" for Archie, which may be a hurdle for biographers of both men. Millet’s biographer has not yet finished his opus (and that really is what it will be), so full details of the artist’s personal and public life remain to be revealed. There is, however, a journalist who is working on a story that, I fear, will focus too heavily on Millet’s sexuality. I hope the biographer goes to press beforehand, since the subject of homosexuality might be handled less objectively in the article than in the book.

Millet’s close relationship with Archie was much commented on in the press, with references that modern readers could interpret as romantic, but in all the letters and private papers that have been accessed so far there’s no proof of anything but a friendship between the two. Archie seems to have had serious relationships with women, including one notable Washington lady

Someone else can probably answer your question about Millet’s wife. I have pictures of his English house and garden at Broadway and an article (circa 1916) that indicates Mrs. Millet still lived in the home at that time.

Best wishes,
Randy
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Lily MIllet preferred the Broadway home and is buried in England. It is believed that Frank's ashes are divided between East Bridgewater, Massachusetts and Broadway,England. There is a small receptacle built into his Massachusetts headstone for ashes. Frank and Lily had four children, 3 sons and a daughter Kate. Little Edwin (named after artist Edwin Austin Abbey) died young of diptheria. Edwin Austin Abbey was a frequent guest at Frank's little studio. So much in fact that he carved his initials into the door.
Lily had a rather unique marriage. Frank loved beauty, had a great devotion to his beautiful wife (who was a difficult individual by many accounts), but most assuredly had a passionate pre-marriage affair with Charles Warren Stoddard.Charles Warren Stoddard is best known for his homoerotic tales collected as South-Sea Idyls and The Island of Tranquil Delights. They lived together about a year in Venice after which Charles left Frank and returned to England. This desertion nearly destroyed Frank who returned to East Bridgewater and with the help of his father Asa, built a small studio and house for Frank next door to the family homestead on Plymouth Road. Frank married the sister of his college room mate at Harvard whose name was Royal Merrick. Frank travelled widely in his various and varied tasks in the art arena, Lily leading often a separate life back in Broadway, where he would rejoin her as schedule permitted. As to his romantic proclivities after marriage, it is hard to know, although letters reveal a marked interest in his own gender.Peter Engstrom has written the most well- researched bio on Millet, and the manuscript is in the hands of an agent. Technically he is the Millet family biographer, and has their seal of approval for his research. I hope it is published soon. Another good insight into the life of Frank is Soldier of Fortune, which Frank's granddaughter Joyce wrote. Frank often stayed with bachelor friends and did live for a time with Archie Butt while maintaining a work studio in Washington D.C.- but then Archie shared digs at various times with other bachelors. It was not an unusual thing-but of course, we will never know for certain all that was involved in that close relationship. There is a large amount of evidence to support Archie Butt's involvement in romantic attachments to women-but the possibility of bisexuality is a consideration.
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Randy and Shelley,

Although I have never, personally, researched the subject of Millet's sexuality, my curiosity was piqued when, recently, I perused his final letter, posted at Queenstown from Titanic. I don't have the text to hand, but I recall that one extract from the missive ran something akin to:

There are a lot of "our people" on board.

I had considered, previously, that Millet may have been referring here to other passengers with Washington connections, or very possibibly, other artists. Another possibility now presents itself!

Best Regards,
Ben
 

Emily Dykes

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Sep 26, 2005
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Thank you all very much for the information. You see, I'm primarily an Archie Butt enthusiast and I'm currently attempting to write an historical fiction novel (NOT a true biography) about him, so it's important that I understand exactly (or as close to that as possible) what was going on with people with whom he was close.

Again, I'm much obliged.
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Uh-oh! This "our people" comment could easily lead to another session of everybody flexing their gaydar muscles. Which is fun, but speculative, but fun, but pointless, but fun, but a little unfair, but fun...
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Brian,

Please be assured that I have no "outing" motive in referring to the extract from Millet's letter.

Thus far, I've been rather confounded by the "our people" comment. It begs the inevitable question; "What people"?. I thought it might be interesting - for completion's sake - to establish just which "people" he was referring to.
 
May 12, 2005
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Hi, Brian and Ben:

When I first read that letter Millet wrote I had no idea he was gay (or bisexual, whatever), so I didn’t make the connection either. At the time I thought it was just some snobby comment about the "in" crowd. And it may have been, for all we know. But the new information sure offers a more tangible explanation. It is definitely intriguing to wonder about who "our people" were, and research may uncover a few more candidates, but for the most part these men’s secret will remain one.

Shelley, thanks for updating us on Peter’s book. I didn’t want to name him before you did, since you’re close to him. There are many people looking forward to his biography of Millet, which I imagine has been a labor of love.

Randy
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Yes, it has been a labor of love, of course made closer still by his actually living in Millet's own studio. I have seen the manuscript and the files of research, and it put all thought of doing any bio myself right out of my head-for nothing could equal this effort. Frank was no social snob, so it would not be in character to say "our people" and mean some status thing was implied. I would believe that of Col. Gracie though. Maybe it just meant, people he knew, too bad he did not say , "our friends", so we are left to speculate.
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Ben - I didn't mistake your motives. Sorry if I gave that impression. And I actually have no idea what he could have meant. As much as I like the connotation we've just given it, it strikes me as unlikely!
 
May 22, 2006
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Can anyone offer information about the subject of Millet's Wandering Thoughts and if they have any knowledge of when it was produced. Too, I am interested in knowing who Parsons, Sargent and Millet allowed in to the Broadway commune...Is there a list of American women who lived among them at Broadway? Is there any information about sexual openness and if mistresses were present in this group? Too, was Olivier Merson involved with these men? Mary Motley
 
Apr 11, 2001
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You may see a copy of it at this link below. It came up for sale a couple of years ago, and the last I heard it was in the possession of a family member. I will try to get more information on this. Oddly enough I got just yesterday a letter from a man in England who is writing on the Broadway school and asked the same question. I will collect a few notes and get back to you on the subject of the Broadway "regulars".
http://www.jssgallery.org/Other_Artists/Millet_Francis_D/Wandering_Thoughts.html
 
Apr 11, 2001
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http://www.jssgallery.org/Essay/Broadway/Broadway.htm
The link above will be useful I think in giving an impression of the free spirit- anything goes atmosphere at Broadway. Not only painters but writers, actors and all sorts of wooly "Bohemians" frolicked with Frank at Broadway. Edwin Austin Abbey, a long-time friend and frequent visitor at Frank's studio in East Bridgewater was a Broadway habituee, as well as famous muralist Blashfield, Fred Barnard and a bevy of children including all of Frank's menage, his wife Lily and a posse of famous writers from Henry James to Ed Gosse. I suspect Frank would have felt right at home in a hippie commune of the 1960's! It all sounds like it must have been heaps of fun with Frank as benign, whimsical host and his beautiful Lily as muse. She preferred it to America. I suspect wherever Frank travelled, there was much laughter, beauty and good times of one sort or another.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Many letters of the Broadway Colony still survive and are a great source of information on the doings at Frank's house-

Edmund Gosse: 'Nothing we do scandalizes the villagers. Fred Barnard, with an enormous stage slouch hat over his shoulders, chased one of the Americans down the village street, the man chased screaming all the time and trying to escape up lamp-posts and down wells. Not a villager smiled ... Whatever we do or say or wear or sing they only say "Them Americans is out again".'

Ed Gosse:
'A mediaeval ruin, a small ecclesiastical edifice, which was very roughly repaired so as to make a kind of refuge for us, and there, in the morning, Henry James and I would write, while Abbey and Millet painted on the floor below, and Sargent and Parsons tilted their easels just outside. We were all within shouting distance, and not much serious work was done, for we were in towering spirits and everything was food for laughter. Henry James was the only sedate one of all - benign, indulgent but grave, and not often unbending beyond a genial chuckle.'

Another letter, written by Edwin Austin Abbey, tells more: "Millet is painting two interiors, Barnard is doing various sketches, and I've been painting a little watercolour of a very draughty church. There are three models down from town all eating their heads off today... F. Anstey Guthrie is coming this week to stay with us awhile, and later on Austin Dobson. 'We have music until the house won't stand it. Sargent is going elaborately through Wagner's trilogy, recitatives and all ... Miss Gertrude Giswold sings to us like an angel.' There are also tales of games and dancing:'We really do have a gay summer, pretending to work and sometimes working ... until four, and then tennis until dinner time, and after dinner, dancing and music and various cheering games in the studio, but mostly dancing.'

Sadly, when Abbey married, his wife Mary was a little too straight-laced for Frank and the Gang, so that put an end to Edwin's happy days! They bought a place about 40 miles away in Fairford, then Sargent followed-until soon "wedding bells broke up that old gang of mine" so to speak!
But for a while it sounded divine, the Gloucester train came daily with turpentine and tubes of paint and "nubile gals" to pose as models. Places to set up an easel had to be rented on the village green, there were so many budding "artistes"!
 
May 22, 2006
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Thanks Shelley- Have you come across any information on an American artist named Sadie Waters? She was painted by Millet and Parsons had her stay at his Bedford Garden home in the 1890s-
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Oh yes, her Virgin of the Roses (La Vierge aux Rosiers) is well-known and was an exhibition piece for the 1900 exhibit in Brussels of religious themes, then later in New York. Her work was seen in the famous French Salon on the Champs Elysee from 1891 until her death. She was also a pupil of Merson who took great pains with in refining her drawing abilities. You may also be able to find a copy of The Chrysanthemum, a nude study of a young girl with a basket of mums.
Here is a quote which sums up her talent:
"In this epoch of feverish uncertainty, of heated
discussions and rivalries in art matters, the quiet, calm figure of Sadie
Waters has a peculiar interest and charm generated by her tranquil and
persistent pursuit of an ideal--an ideal she attained in her later
works, an ideal of the highest mental order, mystical and human, and so
far removed from the tendencies of our time that one might truthfully
say, it stands alone. Her talents were manifold. She was endowed with the
best of artistic qualities. She cultivated them diligently, and slowly
acquired the handicraft and skill which enabled her to express herself
without restriction. In her miniatures she learned to be careful,
precise, and delicate; in her work from nature she was human; and in her
studies of illuminating she gained a perfect understanding of ornamental
painting and forms; and the subtle ambiance of the beautiful old churches
and convents where she worked and pored over the ancient missals, and
softly talked with the princely robed Monsignori, no doubt did much to
develop her love for the Beautiful Story, the delicate myth of
Christianity--and all this, all these rare qualities and honest efforts
we find in her last picture, The Virgin.

"The beauty and preciseness of this composition, the divine feeling not
without a touch of motherly sentiment, its delicacy so rare and so pure,
the distinction of its coloring, are all past expression, and give it a
place unique in the nineteenth century."--_Paul W. Bartlett_, Paris,
1903.
I have a list of Millet's paintings and will check on the date he painted Sadie.