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Title: Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated March 3, 1852.


  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882


  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887

Source Document

Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter



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Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated March 3, 1852., Original located at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washinton, D.C., file 7002., (accessed December 16, 2017)


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TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski and

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Constantinople Mch 3rd 1852

My dear Spencer

Thy letter, and Marys, of Jan'y 20th, have been received, welcomed, and cried and laughed over, as much as was good. I grieved at the exiguity of thy salary, but more at the loss of thy time. What a pity that Mr Henry, Mr Jewett, and thou, (I do observe order of rank and precedence in naming you) all men specially calculated to increase in your respective ways the sum of human knowledge, should have all "shot madly from your spheres" (I quote from Father Ritchie. Qu. Isn't that old fool dead yet?) and insanely devoted yourselves to the answering of foolish letters, directing of packages to literary societies, reading of proof sheets, and other mechanical operations pertaining unto the diffusion of knowledge! When I am Emperor, I'll turn you all out, put, clerkly, thick-headed men in your places, and set you at work at your old vocations again.

There hath been Lord Arthur Hay, a young militaire returning from India, where he served several years, and as mad about -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- Natural History as you & Agassiz. His talk is of snakes, crocodiles, camels humps single and double, bird's gizzards, deer's horns and salamanders. Apropos of salamanders. I do conceive that in a brook at a place called Hunkiat Skeleosi, I discovered a new one, and my [argument?] is this. In Vermont, be many salamanders (the boys call 'em evets) and of divers sorts. All these have I seen, but not any such as that in the brookling aforesaid. Argal it is new, and I do name it Salamandrosus Maribus, which is as good Latin as a poor naturalist can afford to use, and is moreover recommendable on insinuating a prettyish compliment to thy wife, as who should say Mary's Salamander. In collections I have done little, partly because soon after Mrs Marsh's illness, I had my self a very severe attack of some biliary bedevilment, and was confined, with some suffering and much peril, for nearly two months, and am even yet not well, and further, because in winter all manners, of reptiles do hide and conceal themselves, an observation which I believe to be origin -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- al. Nevertheless some cold-weather fish and the like I have. In Alexandria, a city founded by Alexander the Great near the river Nilus in the year B.C. (when was it?) Mrs M. hath a living ostrich, 6 feet or more high What'll you give for him? When your spirit-cask was tapped it was found that is the spirit, to have shrunk grieviously cask not half full, nor near it. Qu., was it owing to cold weather, and will it expand, so as to fill the cask when the thermometer rises to 80o, or was there some other cause of defalcation? I don't quarrel about the printing of my letter, I am oblivious of its contents, for I wrote it currente calarno, but after I sent it off, I remembered that I had forgotten to remember to speak of two common and remarkable atmospheric phenomena, viz. the great increase of the apparent size of small objects near the horizon in the valley of the Nile, and the mirage. Truly my -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- letter was the play of Hamlet, with the part of the prince omitted. I shall write to Henry, & speak of these things, which I observed often. It is odd that we saw the mirage very often between, Cairo & Suez, but never in the Arabian Pennisula, scarcely in the Great Wadee el Arabia.

I will remember Mr Haldemann. Of Coleopteras there be more here, as the Spanish minister a renowned entomologist saith, than anywhere else in the same limits. Of mantis and certain most incredible grasshopper, I have seen several. Fowls there be few. Of game birds we have pheasants (the true), partridges, quails and ducks. Bremer shall have eggs enough for an omelet. Of water fowl scarcely any but ducks, gulls, terns, ames damnées, & cormorants, of which latter I have seen a hundred at a time perched on the roof of a palace. Camels are not bred, and seldom seen, here. I may get a skull elsewhere. You want me to write a book. I will be advised on that subject, but in the N.Y. Times, after a certain space, there will appear a discourse of camels, by an anonymous author. Give me your opinion of it. I thank you for your attention about the barometers, but have not heard from Mr. Green. Our love attends you both, and our sovereign lady shall write unto your spouse. Let us be remembered to Gen & Mrs C. & the brother. yours truly G P Marsh

[The following appears at the top of the page beginning " Contantinople Mch 3rd 1852"]
Mch 14 -- This letter was truly written when it been date, but accidentally left behind The author of the Discourse of Deserts and camels happens to be here, and I think he will send a dozen sheets thereof to the N.Y.Times by this mail. Criticism is hard, and I will faithfully report your strictures to him. We are [...] having winter in earnest.

[The following appears on the left margin of the same page]
Warmest winter ever known here. Minimum thus far 26o Only thrice below 32o At sunrise from 40o to 44o generally & rises 10 degrees or so, sometimes 15o in course of day --

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