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Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated April 13, 1853.

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Title: Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated April 13, 1853.


  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882


  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887

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Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter



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Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated April 13, 1853., Original located at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washinton, D.C., file 7002., (accessed January 21, 2018)

Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated April 13, 1853.

Transcribed by :

TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski and

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Naples April 13'-1853

Dear Baird

At 10 this morning, I despatched to the P.O. a letter from my wife to thine, at 12 M. we received hers & yours of Mch 5" 8"- & 9- and now at one P.M., having nothing else to do, I sit down to reply. This cometh of idleness, which is the mother of punctuality. Yours of January was never received, & very likely is pigeon-holed in the State Department. Send always your missives to G. Miller, U.S. Dispatch Agt. London, & they will be forwarded. I rejoice with you in your 'expeditions,' but I don't see who is to describe the non-descripts, or where the skin and bones of them are to be stored. You refused the collections of the exploring exp., for want of room, and yet you employ a legion of collectors. I have some things for you at Constantinople, if not thrown away in my absence, which I fear, but tis odd, that I can't get you a lizard or a salamander. Money won't hire man or boy to catch them. I have bid on high as three piasters. (12 1/2 cents) a head, but in vain. My Croat gardener, I verily believe, would butcher any of my neighbors, if he thought it would do me a pleasure, but neither he nor any of his brethren will catch a newt, well knowing that I shall pickle them. We waited orders at Florence 7 weeks, & got them just as we were starting -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- for Siena & Volterra. We then concluded to come hither for a week, & get a shy at Sicily, before we were overtaken by the ship which takes us to Athens, but we lost nine days waiting for a steamer at Leghorn, & have now been here more than two weeks, unable to get to Sicily for want of a decent boat. We now expect the Cumberland every hour, & shall lose Trinacria altogether. Vesuvius is quiet, but en revanche we are having daily and nightly earthquakelings, and the priests are saying masses and other things, in the hope of getting up an eruption and letting off the steam by that safety valve. The earthquake as gently as a sucking dove, & I haven't been able to feel it, but some of our friends, blessed, with more sensitive organizations, have been shaken into a tolerably comfortable state of panic. My quaking is of another sort. I tremble at Presidents and such like, Secretaries of State and influential Democrats, and am as uncomfortable as Damocles with the sword suspended over him. Seriously, I wish to remain where I am, and look upon a recall as a great evil, but I do not know that I have any reason to expect to escape it. I am no better than my Whig colleagues, & I suppose my only chance is in the undesirebleness of my post. I go back to Athens with great reluctance, seeing that I go without pay. The Tuscan camels are onehumped, -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- not Bactrian, & there would be, I imagine, not the smallest difficulty in getting a living one from the G.D. through any scientific society in Tuscanny you exchange with. I examined a skeleton the other day, & was surprised to see that the spinal processes are not longer than in other quadrupeds. They are even shorter than in the antelope, & the only difference is, that the longest are farther back than those of the antelope. I have seen many hundreds of skeletons in the Desert, & it seems to me that their processes were much longer in them, but perhaps I have forgotten. I am ashamed to speak of my camel article again, but I should be very glad to save it, having no copy of a considerable part of it. I cannot account for the shameful way in which Raymond has treated me about it, & the fate of it has discouraged me from any further attempts in the same way.

Your printed account of the doings of the S. Inst. shows great activity. I had never heard of anything later than the 2'-vol. of transcations, & knew nothing of the other publications, the titles of some of which interest me much A friend of mine, a Dane, at Constantinople, a very excellent mathematician & astronomer, is engaged in preparing a work more wanted than any other I know, & the Smith. Inst. ought to publish it, or one like it. Its German title -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- will be Handbuch füs reisende Geographen. It will contain advice about portable instruments of all sorts & their use with formula tables c in a compressed & convenient form. I know of no such thing & I have never been a day in Turkey without feeling the want of it. Ask Mr. Henry,, if he will encourage it. The author is Peters, a brother of the astronomer & traveller. He is very highly esteemed by Humboldt, Littrow, other German savants, & in geodesics & practical astronomy, in the theory & practice of scientific observations in short is very learned.

Tell the President, that my wife turned Democrat two years ago, because the custom house people at Boston charged duty on some gewgaws she sent home from Egypt. She has been a savage free-trader ever since, & if the General turns me out, he ought to let her stay. I will be secretary of legation attaché, anything he pleases. Besides, I never liked Mr. Fillmore, & have a crow to pick with him when I get home. I would n't have voted for him if he had been the candidate, but gone with democracy rather. In fact Europe makes one mightily
-------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- [This text is written at the top of page beginning "Naples April 13' 1853']
inclined to Democracy, & if I stay a year or two longer, I shall go home a desperate radical. Remember me kindly to Jewett & the General & Mrs Churchill. Mary knows I love her, without being told of it-


G P Marsh

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