Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated October 28, 1852.
Your pop-gun & Mary's six-pounder came to hand within twenty four hours last post and I hasten to reply, after remaining three weeks at Athens where I worked in the hottest weather I ever knew, almost, until I had put out my eyes with modern Greek laws & records, nearly brought on a brain fever. I fled to Gleichenberg a nearly-became-famous watering place in Styria, to give Mrs. M. the benefit of the waters, & myself time to write my reports. One was finished & despatched in a fortnight after I readied G., & the other went off on the 16'- of October from this place. They make over 100 pages of Report, & nearly 250 of translation, in closely written foolscap. The translations I had either to make, or revise & correct with an great labour as to make, and as the modern Greek manuscript character is totally illegible, & decipherable only by geniuses inspiration-wise, I am sure that I performed as great an amount of work as any government employé ever did in the same time. Let me be praised therefor. Also let great Daniel allow me time to rest my old blind eyes and shattered brain, & give me no instructions before Feb. 1.
I came hither because
our Gleichenberg physician said the doctors in this Residenz could & would cure my wife, eyes & back, & patch me up, so that I should run a spell longer. They have seen us, & though they won't promise to reinvigorate an old stump like me, they engage great things for my poor old woman, if Mr. W. will let us alone a couple of months, or three longer. On the way from Trieste to Gleichenberg, I visited the famous cave of Adelsberg, which a cave indeed. Also, upon the persuasion of Madame, who said that rather than Baird should not have it, she would carry it in her hand till she saw him again. I bought you a Proteus, the which abounds in these parts, pickled him incontinently, and he now lieth safely. The Lisknitza Sea I did not visit, though within two hours, because it rained continually, & the lake, being full, was like any other. Carniola is the strangest country under heaven. Undermined all over. All the rivers run into or out of caves, & there are other things I can't take time to tell of. Here, I went to the Thiergarten yesterday. No great rareties, saving two real Auerochs, which disappointed me in size, not being bigger than our ordinary Bos, (They look like Bisons lacking the hump) and four Bactrian camels, a male & three females, one of the latter born in the managerie. The
male is black, the females dun yellow, and one of them is gute Hoffnung. They are lower than the Arabian & Syrian camels, & more heavily built The humps are very thin longitudinally, so much so, in fact, & the supporting spinal processes are so short that they hang over on one side, have nothing of the solid substantial appearance of the dromedary hump. Apropos of camels, the very word makes me sick. I was never more ashamed of any thing than of my article & the shabby treatment it & I have received. I have never heard a word from Raymond on the subject, & I hope most devoutly it may not have appeared in the Whig Review. Rescue it, I pray you, from that fate, but don't print it. I believe it is the silliest thing I ever wrote, which is saying a great deal. The Am. Consul-Gen'l at Alexandria told me he has got an essay, full and complete, on the camel from Lenant Bey, who knows the African & Arabian animal better than any man ever did before because he has had the experience of an Arab, & has studied the beast with the intelligence of a Christian. The Consul G. said he should communicate it to the gov't & I think he has. Ask Markoe. If so, that will answer your purpos far better than mine. One thing is certain. The desert camel will never do. A Northern breed will alone answer. As to your using mine, you may use my facts freely-my words very
sparingly-on one condition, namely, that what you print is to appear distinctly, fully, & palpably, as & not that of any [...], clerks, or board, or committee. may have the benefit & credit of my observations-nobody else shall. I dread being turned out & going home, where nothing but poverty & mortification await me, but I shall be very glad to see you & Mary & my other good friends at Washington, none of whom so far as I know, have lost money by me, though I shall be ashamed to look anybody else in the face. I have been cruelly used, since I left the U.S. by some I had a right to expect from at least, & there are some singular, & to me inexplicable, circumstances in the conduct of some people about raising the salary. I don't dare tell you defeated it. I am afraid you are killing yourself with hard work. That I wouldn't mind, if you were wearing out to good purpose. What! are you good for nothing but directing & recording exchanges? Leave such rubbish, I pray you, & remember that the ten pounds you had were not given you to be expended in twine and cartridge paper. Why don't I ever get anything from the Smithsonian? I am ashamed to confess to inquirer that I don't know anything about it. Write soon about those confounded camels, & enclose your letter to G. Miller, U.S. Dispatch Agent, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London. My love, &, which is better, my wife's to you both, Yours Truly
Yours truyG P MarshMr S. F. Baird
P.S. The articles I sent Raymond were but a beginning. I had prepared completely another, entitled 'the Caravan: descriptive of the equipage and mode of travel with the camel, and have very copious notes, & detached descriptive sketches, of the physical geography of the Desert, and of the peculiarities of its human inhabitants, but I shall be very likely to burn the whole, some day.
As to the barometers, I continued to observe with them after I wrote you,
& the average difference between them was about .040. The vernier of
the cistern barometer has no adjusting screw, and it takes so long to set
it, that the heat of the body affects the height of the column, and the form
of the ivory pointer is irregular, thus: V. (this is magnified.) There is a
want of scrupulous accuracy in all the workmanship of both, there is no
indication as to how far the screw should be turned in the cistern
barometer, when reversed for moving, the lower edges of the
are less bright, & the reflection of the light from them is confounded with the light seen beyond. In short, they are both of the 'good enough', 'made to sell', kind, and if they were not turned off by some prentice, both are the work of Master Green himself, a certificate from all the 'scientific men' under Heaven wouldn't convince me, contrary to the testimony of my own eyes, that he is a man who has any higher standard accuracy than a pretty good guess. His thermometers are better, though carelessly graduated. I don't say all this to bash the poor man (I have sent orders to have him paid) but to let you know that he is not an exact precise workman, & do you believe me till you see (not hear) the contrary.
It is asked of me that I recommend one Bückel, Joseph Bückel Bückel & Waldstein of New York, optician, and I recommend him believing that there is good cause. Try him
G P Marsh
References in this letter:
A region belonging to Austria; since 1947 it has been part of northwestern Yugoslavia.
When the English instrument maker, James Green established a business in Baltimore in 1832, he brought with him the knowledge of the latest European technology to which he made substantial improvements. Green moved his firm to New York in 1849 and retired in 1885. His nephew, Henry J. Green, continued the business under his own name. Between 1840 and 1940 the firm manufactured most of the barometers for scientific use in this country.