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Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated February 22, 1864.

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Title: Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated February 22, 1864.


  • Norton, Charles Eliot


  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882

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Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter



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Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated February 22, 1864., Original located at the University of Vermont's Special Collections in the George Perkins Marsh Collection, filed by date., (accessed December 17, 2017)

Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated February 22, 1864.

Transcribed by :

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

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Cambridge, 22d February 1864.
Washington's Birthday.

My dear Sir

Your very kind letter of 22d Jany reached me a few days since. I am very much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken concerning the Ms. of B. da Imola. -- Nothing could be more satisfactory than to have possession of Lord Vernon's copy of the Comment,--if the work is to be edited where the original mss. cannot be consulted. I have long had knowledge of this copy, & a description of it, but I had supposed that it was not to be obtained from Lord Vernon.

The fact that Lord Vernon himself, & then Sir James P. Lacaita, should successively have entertained & abandoned the idea of printing the Comment, I confess, staggers me a little. It would -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- seem that there existed some special difficulty to be overcome. Does it consist in the length of the Comment? "Seven folio volumes" is an indefinite description, but implies certainly a very considerable work.

If, however, these gentlemen should have abandoned the design of printing the Comment from mere whim, or from pressure of other occupation, & not on account of any unusual difficulty in the work itself,--that is a difficulty not to be surmounted by patient study,-- -- I should be extremely glad to have the manuscript sent to me,--or at least the earlier part of it. I will not, before seeing it, say that it shall be printed, but I should wish to examine it with a view to that end. I should therefore esteem it a great favor if Lord Vernon's consent could be obtained to the sending -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- of it to me. In that case, it might be put into the hands of my London booksellers (who are also Lord Vernon's) -- T. & W. Boone, New Bond St., with directions to case it & ship it to me, & to inform me of the shipment in order that I might obtain insurance upon it.


I hope that you may have received a letter I sent you at the same time that I despatched a small parcel of books to you. The books seem to have reached you, but when your letter was written mine had not come to you. -- Its main purpose was to thank you for your last preceding letter, and especially to beg you to give to Lowell & myself in editing the North American Review the invaluable assistance of your -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- pen. We are very desirous of giving to the Review the character & influence it ought to possess, & the chief difficulty in doing this is the difficulty of finding a sufficient number of able contributors. If the real students & real thinkers of the country will help us, we can make the Review serviceable to our national cause. Men's minds are roused by the events of the last three or four years, & there is a popular demand such as we have never before had for clear, sound thought, for thoroughness of learning, for serious criticism, & above all, for the most liberal & at the same time most searching discussion of the principles of religion, morals, politics, literature & art. -- The shallowness which has been the disgrace of so much of our literature, must cease to be characteristic of it. We are to have a new spirit -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- in letters as well as in government. Our literature is to become more & more democratic,--but this tendency ought to be and I think will be only favorable in the long run to its simplicity, directness, & force,--and to the breadth of the thought & depth of the learning of which it will be the expression. If we can educate our democracy in the right way, we shall have such a literature as the old countries have never known.

In the large correspondence with literary aspirants which the editing of the Review brings me, I have frequent occasion to refer to your books on the Eng. Lang. & Literature as models for their imitation. Most of our young writers are content to write for those who are ignorant as themselves;--& I refer them to your books as examples of the manner in which a genuine scholar not only instructs the unlearned but also extends the limits -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- of knowledge, & gives instruction to those who are best acquainted with the subject that he treats.

I said in my former letter, & you will let me repeat it here, that I wished we might count you among the regular contributors to the Review. Is this too much to ask?

The most interesting books of late with us have been biographies;--Mr. Ticknor's elaborate, sumptuous (shall I say aristocratic?) life of Prescott; Mr. Weiss's equally elaborate, poorly got up, & thoroughly democratic life of Parker; the Beecher family's Memoir of their father, the old Doctor, a book chock full of New England & unintelligible outside of New England; theology, politics, ways of life, ways of thought all of the Connecticut Hopkinsian school; in marked contrast to this book is Hunt's Life of Edward Livingston,--poorly executed but interesting,--Livingston probably was as opposite a man to Lyman Beecher as could be found among -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- his contemporaries. -- These four books cover a large field of American thought,--and embrace a large arc of the circle of our civilization.


The great interest of these present days is the course & success of Sherman's Expedition. It is plainly one of the most important military movements that could be made, & promises to change the appearance of the whole war. At last we seem to be using our vast advantages with true military skill; & nothing could be better devised to weaken, distract & hem in the enemy than this movement supported as it is by other expeditions both on the right & the left.

The passage of the Enrollment Bill has struck a very heavy blow against Slavery in the Border States, especially in Kentucky where it has been very hard to reach. -- Emancipation works thus far as well as we could expect.

-------------------------------- Page --------------------------------

The interest of the politicians at this time is in the next Presidency. Mr. Lincoln seems to be the popular choice, & I shall be glad if he be the Union Candidate. Indeed it seems to me of great importance that he should remain in office. Chase unfortunately is against him, & is working very hard for the nomination. Many of the extreme radicals, especially the Germans, are against Mr. Lincoln, & in favor of some impracticable man. The Democrats have tried in vain to bend Genl Grant into a candidate for their party, but they have not found him pliable. The pure Copperheads stick to McClellan. His Report is out as a Campaign Document, but it is not a good one for political profit.

My wife begs to join my Mother & sisters in sending very kind regards to Mrs. Marsh & yourself. I am always,

Very sincerely Yours

Charles Eliot Norton

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