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Letter from GEORGE P. MARSH to CHARLES E. NORTON, dated April 1881.

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Title: Letter from GEORGE P. MARSH to CHARLES E. NORTON, dated April 1881.


  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882


  • Norton, Charles Eliot

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Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter



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Type of Resource: text

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Letter from GEORGE P. MARSH to CHARLES E. NORTON, dated April 1881., 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 GEORGE P. MARSH to CHARLES E. NORTON, dated April 1881.

Transcribed by : Ralph H. Orth

TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski and, Mary Lehman

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

April 1881

My dear Mr Norton

I am much obliged to you for your interesting letter of which I certainly had not merited by any recent contributions to the international postal service, to your address, between Italy and the U. States. I had not even acknowledged your valuable volume of studies. This is my excuse; the vol. arrived when I was absent from Florence, and on my return I found a great accumulation of business which must be attended to, pena la scomunica, and which occupied me until I came to Rome. I did not however neglect to examine the volume enough to see that it was of much historical and critical value, but I am ashamed to say that I did not even ascertain what value you set on the religious spirit that animated the medieval builders, which I hold in the same estimation as I do as that of the "sad sincerity" of the architects and sculptors of Mekong and of Boro Boddor. I will confess besides, that though my hand is not paralyzed, it is nevertheless so stiffened by
- - - - - - - -
that I make inability to write an excuse for many epistolary shortcomings

Your archaeological association promises much -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- good work and will, I doubt not, more than fulfil its promises. I wish some American money & American energy might be spent on Italian soil, where I believe there is still more, not of antiquity only, but of art, under the sod, than above or upon it. Lanciani has done a good thing by his [...] in his epigraphy of the Colosseum, and the government even does what it can, by retrenching the foolish expenditures in big ships and big guns, and saving a little for better purposes. I am afraid, however that the Moltke's argument to show that the chief end of man is to mutilate and slay his fellow men, is doing a good deal still further to demoralize Europe, already infatuated with admiration of murderers in uniform. In Italy indeed, we do not insist on the uniform, but worship an assasin en bourgeois, and hold that a righteous indignation against crime is worse than crime itself. I cannot make Italy an exception to the pessimistic views which I entertain with regard to the future of all modern governments. Signs of progress, indeed there are, and men superior to their age but they are but rari nantes; the masses are sinking lower and lower; the old [national?] superstitions are reviving, one sign of which among many is the restoration of the old festas--days of idleness & vice. Witness the late Carneval, more costly and more brutal than any for the last 30 years. The administration of criminal justice is a pure mockery, and serves rather to protect than to punish crime. I have [no?] hope except in the better education of women, which may teach [... ...] to repect themselves by compelling men to respect them. My observation of American society, as [I] have studied it abroad, has forced [...] me the conviction, that, with the important exception of the progress of woman, there has been no intellectual general gain within the two generations I have been familiar with since my school boy days. Some better scholars are now trained indeed, but the are below the standard of 60 years since. I used to think ignorance was essentially negative, a mere vacuous defect of knowledge. I now regard it as a positive quality, that does not come by nature, but is laboriously acquired, a darkness that can be felt. I believe that the reading of flashy novels is the principal agency in the intellectual degradation which -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- appears to me as common in England as with us. Its most conspicuous effect in England is the rehabilitation of Popery, which really seems to threaten the [...] establishment of Vaticanism as the national fetichism. But enough of these fancies of a dotard, which will perhaps prove to you that there are struldbrugs among Americans.

Very truly yours,

Geo P Marsh.Prof C E Norton

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