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Letter from HIRAM POWERS to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated June 18, 1853.

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Title: Letter from HIRAM POWERS to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated June 18, 1853.


  • Powers, Hiram, 1805-1873


  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882

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Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter



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Letter from HIRAM POWERS to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated June 18, 1853., Original located at the University of Vermont's Special Collections in the George Perkins Marsh Collection, filed by date., (accessed January 19, 2018)

Letter from HIRAM POWERS to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated June 18, 1853.

Transcribed by : Ralph H. Orth

TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski andEllen M Thomson

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Florence June 18th 1853--

My Dear Marsh

Your letter has given us much satisfaction as your letters always do, although you have not this time told us how your Dear Wife is. We presume that she is not in feebler health than she was--or you would have told us so.

Miss Paine is now here but will leave in a day or two, I do not yet know in what direction -- We hope that George will come back here--for we miss him much. The children especial[l]y, had become quite attached to him. George has sterling qualities in him, which will be more fully developed some years hence. He is now fermenting into solid manhood Some boys are men--that is--as much so as they ever will be at 18, but this is not the case with George. The materials are there, but not yet ripened -- What he hears he lays up in his memory and, although it may be contrary to his notions at the moment, and he may dispute it, if it really is the thing he finally concludes so, and adopts it -- He disputes after conviction in order to make a handsome retreat ----

I remember how I used to do this at his age, and I am afraid that I have not quite got over it yet owing probably, to certain humps situated near the crown of the head, and just above the ears -- George has these humps largely, but he will controul them--they are most useful when under the helm of prudence -- They constitute the furnace and boiler of the mind, causality and comparison the Engine -- George's character will be made up late ----

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I have received the document for the Patent, and it has been signed and properly Certified to by Mr Binda our Consul at Leghorn. It was drawn up by a Mr Stoughton at Washington and as far as I can judge it has been properly done. It concludes as follows.

"Having thus fully described the nature of my invention, what I claim therein as new, and desire to secure by letters Patent is, The forming of perforations or throats to the cutting edges of files or rasps, for allowing the particles cut away to pass through, and to prevent the instrument from clogging or choking, substantially as described"

This seems to me, to cover the whole ground and I do not see how it could be evaded

I suppose that it has been presented by this time at the Patent Office --

They are getting up a subscription at Cincinnati for my "America" I do not know how much has been raised but the sum proposed is $20,000 -- No one has written to me about this but I have seen it in the newspapers. I hear indirectly, that it is proposed to exhibit the Statue for the benefit of the subscribers and then place it permanently in Cincinnati -- I am afraid the scheme wo'n't succeed, but it may, for there are some who are determined to carry it through if possible ----

Two persons have each proposed to buy it of me, and I think that I might get $10,000 for it in this way. They would exhibit it for money -- I have not yet committed myself to any arrangement yet. I have done nothing that appears to please every body as much -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- as does "America" now that it is so far advanced in marble, and I begin to believe that it would be Successful as an Exhibition at home ----

I have modelled 3 busts at £200 each this spring and I am to begin another on Monday. At this price they pay -- "Washington" is blocking out in marble, and a fine block it is, happily ----

I still get orders for the busts of "Proserpine" the "Slave" and "Psyche" and I have five orders for "Diana" I would model some new ideal busts if I could find time.

And now, to leave small matters for greater ones -- What is the Great Polar Bear going to do? Shall we see his teeth or his stump of a tail. It seems that he must either fight or wheel right about, for he has so committed himself as to leave no other alternative. I suppose that he thought that John Bull and Bull Frog would'n't agree, and that the bird with two heads could'n't leave her own nest, and so he might enjoy his Turkey all by himself, but he finds now that there are more coming to his dinner than were invited or expected. Will he try to accommodate them all with a Slice or will he defer the roast to a more convenient time? -- The Polar Bear is said to be untameable, but I think this will be proved to be a mistake, the experiment is now being tried. England and France have met him face to face. They tremble but they will not give way, but Russia must and submit to be tamed in the most humiliating manner -- This will prove a severe blow to Russia. It will be known, that she can be handled, and the reaction will give her trouble at home as well as abroad ---- -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- Mr Corry (you mention him as your probable successor) is a relation of ours if I mistake not. He married a Niece of mine--the daughter of my poor brother Philander--but I am not sure that the one you mention is not his brother -- With all good wishes for Mr Corry, I had much rather that he would not have your place, for setting aside considerations of friendship, you are the best qualified by far, for the office. When shall we come back to the good old policy of "Is he honest--is he capable?" When they make me President of the United States, I intend to turn over a new leaf in this respect. I shall have it published in large hand bills that "Any man who asks me for an office directly or indirectly shall never have one" Genl Pearce has failed to do this and the consequence is, that he is covered with fleas. They assail him night and day, and what with biting and scratching he is almost mad -- If I were at home I would make a Caricature of this. The office seekers should be fleas, and Pierce their victim. The fleas should have monster mens heads, their noses elongated into probes. Pierce should be flying and they jumping after him, each one carrying his recommendations upon his back, a bed bug or two, such as Lester and others might be introduced for variety --

We have another little daughter, now about a month old, who unites with us in most affectionate regards to you and yours. Do write to me often and believe me yours Sincerely

H. Powers

-------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- I have time to add another half Sheet to my letter. You mention the fact, that the Greeks used color in their Architecture and intimate that new light has been thrown upon this Subject, by the late excavations near you. This reminds me to ask you about coloring Statues.

Gibson, the English Sculptor at Rome, not only colors his Statues, imitating the flesh eyes, hair amp;c., but declares that the Greeks did it. This matter is attracting considerable attention and discussion just now. Some are in favor of it, but the great majority is against it. I am of the latter, and have ventured to doubt Gibsons declaration. It may be a fact that some of the Greek Sculptors did this, and we know, that Statues were made of different materials, Such as Ivory Gold, precious Stones amp;c. I have seen bronzes with vacant eyes, probably once filled with artificial eyes or with precious Stones, but, that the Greeks really attempted to color Statues like wax figures I doubt. The Greeks may have done this, but not in the time of the great Greek Artists. Is this So?

Your knowledge of Greek History and Ancient Art, may answer this question, and Set me right, if wrong in my present conclusions -- But so far as the principle involved goes, I do not care whether the Greeks did it or not, for I consider it wrong, and no Authority could make it right in my mind.

The ground I take is, that Sculpture -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- I mean imitative Sculpture, does not require color, that its expression is full and complete without it, and that color is a deterio[r]ation -- My argument is this--

Form gives expression. We know what is meant by form. Change the form, and you change the meaning, or expression -- When I am about to Strike, I present a certain arrangement of my form & my purpose is perceived in that arrangement. About to leap I present another arrangement. If I laugh it is seen in the features of my face--if I weep, this is also perceived in the form assumed by grief or pain -- In short, the ever changing form is but a correspondence to the varying feeling and purpose of the Soul. Color has nothing to do with this--Color can do nothing indeed without form, but it adds to form. What does it add? It adjoins a material body to form -- This material body is not seen in a pure piece of marble, but the Spiritual body is seen in it. The soul is in it, but not the flesh -- The Painter adds the flesh but no Sentiment. To what is Spiritual he adds what is material, and to the voluptuary this would be agreeable but not to a chaste mind. Who would wish to see a Venus perfectly nude, and colored imperfectly, but sufficiently colored to attract the sensual ----

I say imperfectly colored--because it is quite impossible to color a marble figure perfectly throughout. The flesh might be done pretty well, but then we must have artificial eyes, real hair, a wig in short, and the eyelashes and brows must be inserted to look like life -- Marble hair if well done, seems natural, we do not miss any thing in it, but color -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- it and we miss the hairs, we see Solid hair There is no getting over this excepting by putting a wig over it. We Should not begin a thing unless we can finish it, one part should be done as well as another or it should not be attempted ---- These remarks do not apply to architecture of course. The rain bow is an arch and its colors belong to it. It is composed of colors, and its very body is light ----

Gibson is half mad, they say upon this subject, and he means to color all his future works I am told. I really hope that his example will not be followed for if it should be, good bye to genuine sculpture. We shall see a bastard art Spring up--neither painting nor sculpture but mongrel ----

I do not condemn color; on the contrary, colors delight me beyond measure if properly presented in nature, and in pictures; and I have no doubt that the Ancient Temples were greatly improved by a judicious application of colors. Colors correspond to substances. Forms correspond to purposes -- Form shows us what a thing is--color what it is of -- For example--we see a human face -- It is the color of bronze, and we say it is a face in bronze -- It is the color of marble and we say it is of marble--it is flesh color, and we examine it closely and find perhaps that it is really a human face and so on -- In painting, Form gives expression and color, illusion, but the latter not always. Paint a board flesh color, and it fails to deceive as we see by the form that it is not flesh but paint an arm flesh color, and we may be deceived by it -- How would it do to paint the Apollo? ----

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You mention the new rage--turning of tables. I believed in this until I saw it done, and then I doubted. I found that a very small matter had been left out in all the descriptions I had read of it. It had been forgotten to say that the hands must be kept continually on the same spot, the hands must move with the table else the table will not go. Now the question with me was which starts first! the hands or the table? If the table, why then it moves the hands. If the hands, why then the hands move the table. If the table has power to start it has power to carry the hands along with it, and thus overcome considerable resistance. Remove the pressure of the hands but not the contact, and the table should go on gliding under the fingers which might remain Stationary. But no table will do this it would Seem, and until one can be found that will I must believe that it is muscular, and not magnetic power that moves it.

I have tried a curious experiment with a bit of pine wood about 5 inches long and the size of a common pencil, shaped thus, and hung upon a needle like a compass [image] a bit of glass inserted for a socket in order to avoid friction -- Place the hands about it as if to clasp it and it will soon begin to turn round steadily but slowly. It may be that the air rarified by the warmpth of the hands--and ascending--causes the motion but a lighted taper held over it did not cause any motion. It is a very simple thing to try, and it would amuse you to do it--be careful not to breath[e] in its direction ----

Gould and Kellogg send best good wishes -- You will not complain that this letter is too short ----

H. P --

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