Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated May 21, 1860.
Well, I will tell you about the book, and I should before, only I knew that you and
Gilliss were jealous of my superior attainments and growing reputation, an if you
were informed what I was doing, you and he, and Rosa Bonheur,
and Mr Buchanan, and Count Cavour, and Agassiz, and the King of Naples, and E. Merriam,
and George Sand, and Louis Napoleon, would do nothing for a month to come, but run about and
try to prejudice folks against me and my works. But Gilliss is gone, and without him, I don't think you and your other
confederates can do much, and so I 'll tell you.
Well, it's a little volumeshowing that whereas Ritter and Guyot think that the earth made man, man in fact made the earth. Now, don't roll up the white of your eyes, and quote that foolish old saw about the cobbler and his last. I am not going into the scientifics, but the historicals, in which I am as good as any of you. What I put in of scientific speculations, I shall steal, pretty much, but I do know some things myself. For instance, my father had a piece of thick woodland, where the ground was always damp. Wild turnips grew there, and ginseng, and wild pepper, sometimes. Well, Sir, he cleaned up that lot, and drained and cultivated it, and it became a good deal drier, and he raised good corn and grows on it. Now I am going to state this as a
I'm glad you've sent the books, and hope you have not stolen out any, and sold them, and pocketed the [...], or, more probably, spent them for rum and tobacco.
Give Mary my love and wife's. Shant we meet somewhere this summer?
Good byeYours G P Marsh
References in this letter:
The French painter and sculptor, Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), specialized in the realistic portrayal of animals.
Count Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810-1861), was a leader of the Risorgimento, the Italian swas founder and first prime minister of the unified constitutional Italian state.
Swiss born zoologist and geologist, Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) emigrated to the U.S. in 1846 to join the faculty at Harvard where he became a leading figure in American science. He a member of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian and initially supported Baird but later disparaged his scientific accomplishments and, in 1863, attempted to block Baird's election to the National Academy of Sciences.
George Sand is the pseudonym of Aurore Dudevant (1804-1876), the prolitic French novelist and feminist.
Louis Napoleon (1808-1873), the nephew of Napoleon I, was elected the first president of the Second Republic. In 1852 he was proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III by national plebiscite.
James Melville Gilliss (1811-1865) was both a naval officer and astronomer. He was responsible for proposing and supervising the building of Naval Observatory in Washington, DC (1842-1844). In 1846 he was assigned to the U.S. Coast Survey and spent several years in Chile conducting astronomical observations. The Gilliss family, based in Washington, became close friends of the Marshes and the Bairds.
George Perkins Marsh. Man and Nature; or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. New York: Scribners/ London: Low & Marston, 1864; revised and enlarged as The Earth as Modified by Human Action. New York: Scribners/ London: Sampson, 1874; revised, New York: Scribners, 1885.
Professor of geology at the University of Berlin, Karl Ritter (1779-1859) was one of the founder of modern human geographers. Marsh rejected Ritters idea that the earth was created for human need and its religious implication. His most important work is ULINE>Die Erkunde/ULINE>. 2 vols. 1817-18; revised and enlarged 19 vols., 1822-1859.
Swiss-American, Arnold Henry Guyot (1807-1884), taught physical geography and geology at Princeton University. Under Smithsonian Institution auspices, he set up a system of weather observatories that utimately grew into the U. S. Weather Bureau. His barometric tables, published as A Collection of Meteorological Tables, with other tables useful in practical meteorology, published by the Smithsonian in 1852, were very influential. Guyot's contribution to physical geography, Earth and Man (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1849) inspired Marsh, despite Marsh's disagreements with some of its premises.