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Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated August 23, 1850.

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Title: Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated August 23, 1850.


  • 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 August 23, 1850., Original located at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washinton, D.C., file 7002., (accessed January 23, 2018)

Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated August 23, 1850.

Transcribed by :

TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski and

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Constantinople Aug 23 1850

My dear old young friend

I was fully resolved not to write you until I could say 'herewith I send a cask of of fish' but yours of July 7'--which I have just received is irresistable. However, I don't anticipate much, for I have been collecting the small fish of the Bospherous for several weeks, and have now about 20 species, with ten or twelve individuals of a kind, in spirits. They will be sent to Smyrna next week, & be shipped from there about the middle of September. The larger fish are interesting, but I don't know what to do with them. There are many lizards and salamanders, but the lizards are almost impossible to catch, & besides the people are afraid of them. Scorpions are not yet in season. They will be plenty in October. I have a good many snails & some bestimi I suppose that hibernate in summer! What ignorant wretches! It is a real hibernicism isn't it. I shall pick you up all the rubbish I can, but I think I shall only send the fishes next week, & keep the rest to fill a box. The other day, I found my fisherman had caught a dozen fish whose sting is poisonous, & lest I should be hurt he had carefully cut off the dangerous part! Well I told him that was just what I wanted. So he has -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- gone in search of more. I could do a great deal better for you, but the expense of every material & of every sort of work is so enormous, that the revenue of the Smithsonian wouldn't suffice for one naturalist at Constantinople. I have seen nothing so rich in ichthyology as the fish market of Naples. It is wonderful what a variety of curious sea-bred creatures they eat there. I thought of you every time I went out. I am rejoiced, with my whole heart, at the success of both your translations I hope to be at home at Washington again some day and shall be very happy to promote your views so far as I am able. You will be a great aid and comfort to Jewett and will find him a most efficient and able auxiliary. I learn from Garrigue that he is entirely content with your works & hope it will be a lucrative affair for both of you. The text, I confess, disappoints me. It is far from being full enough. Do you add anything? Well, I claim a part of the credit. Qui facit per alium c and didn't I recommend you to Garrigue

I wish the Smithsonian would send out a few sets of meteorological instruments to be used here and at other missionary stations. Our missionaries are a truly noble set of men, & as remarkable in talent as for devotion to their cause. There are many excellent observers among them, and whatever they undertake -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- be faithfully and thoroughly done. We mean to go to Egypt this winter & back by May at Syria, if my poor wife is well enough : What particular thing do you want me to look for in those countries? I wish I had two or three barometers. I would carry one along & observe at every resting place, and by leaving one at Alexandria & another at Beirout I suppose some interesting results might be arrived at. We shall try to go to Petra ( this is a little confidential) but I am afraid Mrs M. can't cross the desert -- Our objects are health, instruction, & economy. This you'll think odd, but actually our expense in traveling in the necessarily expensive way Mrs M.s health obliged us to do in Italy were much less than they are here. Pera is unquestionably the most extravagant city in the world & I am assured one can spend three or four months in traveling in Egypt, Arabia & Syria, with every convenience for less money than we can stay here.

The natural history of the Bospherous, though you would find it interesting & full of life, is not striking to an ignoramus. There being no forests and scarcely any trees, there are few birds. Hawks of various kinds abound. There are a few storks, two kinds of gulls very abundant & very tame, and the ame damnee by thousands. -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- There are many fish principally small, and quite a variety of shell fish, but in coleoptera, as I learn from Mr Souza, the Spanish minister who is a good entomologist, and others, it is the richest place in the world. I have added a few remarkable ones, & shall catch more.

We had the most delightful journey imaginable through France & Italy. Mrs M. had a portable bed in the carriage. We traveled thirty miles or so a day, & stopped when & where we pleased. It was to me a great thing to see Italy in the winter. All the plants I particularly cared for, cork oaks ilex aloes, palms, olives, myrtles, umbrella pines, lemons & oranges, you know are evergreens. So I lost nothing in the way of vegetation, & had the great advantage of seeing the real surface, and getting a clear notion of the remarkable physical geography of Western Italy, which in summer is hidden from the traveler by the vines & the foliage of the deciduous trees. Vesuvius we saw in all its glory. I went to the mountain almost every day & night during the eruption, and of course got a good idea of all the phases of that sublime phenomenon. In short, I enjoyed more during the winter than I thought I -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- could in the rest of my life, and yet I have said nothing of pictures, and statues and ruins. I can't tell you how much I long to get back among these scenes, and I pray you to make any sacrifice--conscience excepted--to purchase the same pleasures.

We live at Therapia, a dozen miles from Stamboul, but still in Constantinople The summer climate is a celestial one, that of winter horrid. Since the first of June, with not half a dozen exceptions, every day has been equal to our very finest in America & I believe, with proper care, it is as healthful as it is agreeable. Pera is a wretched place Stamboul would be very pleasant for winter, but we are not permitted to live there. The diplomatic circle is much superior to that at Washington, but we are so scattered that we do not meet often. There is some other good society, but in general the people know nothing but languages, which they have acquired at the cost of everything else.

The death of Gen. Taylor. gave me a great shock. I know it was likely to prove a great injury to me, but I believe -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- I thought of some of my friends before myself.

Only a week before the Presidents death Mr Clayton wrote me promising to try to have my compensation raised. This I am afraid is all over now. I can't at all judge what effect Gen. T 's decease will have on the slavery question, but I hope it will not complicate it more. I doubt not you will bring home rich treasures from your Northern tour. Take care of yourself, my dear boy. You are destined to great things, if you do not exhaust yourself too early by over-work. Spirits of wine costs here as much as liguid gold. Send me cash through Yasigi and Goddard of Boston, or anybody there in the Smyrna trade, to the care of the American Consul at Smyrna. You shall have it back with interest. Lucy is married & gone. Her husband is Dr Wislizenus. (of New Mexico memory). They are going to live at Washington, & you will have them for neighbours. I shall direct the cask of fish to the Smithsonian. Mrs Marsh joins me in warmest love to dear Mary as well as to yourself. Write soon

Yours affectionately

G P Marsh
Prof. S. F. Baird

-------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- [at top of page beginning "Constantinople Aug 23 1850"]
P.S. I have forgotten whether you know my very good friends the Gillisses. You know G. is gone to Chili, & his wife, who is one of the two or three best women in the world, is alone. I hope you & Mary will see her.

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