Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated 5th April, 1861.
My dear Sir
I am sorry to say that I have no list of words from the Morte d'Arthur to send you.
For several months after engaging to make a list of words from it, I was unable to
get a copy of Southey's edition of the book for use. It was
in November, I think that I at last received one from England. I then read over a
considerable part of the Romance, & marked a large number of words, but
finding that the copying out of the sentences in which they occurred was about to be
labor, & having meanwhile become engaged in other occupations, I deferred this work till a season of more leisure, meaning to take it up again this next summer at Newport.
I shall be sorry if this promise of mine shall have interfered with the prosecution of the work by any one else, who would have executed it more speedily.
I will, if my delay has not rendered it inexpedient, go on with the work to a certain
extent. I cannot engage to fulfil all the requirements of the
Society,--to do so would imply an amount of copying, I believe, at least equal to the contents of the volumes to be analyzed. But I will, if it be worthwhile, make say from 800 to 1200 extracts of passages containing the words & modes of expression which seem to me of most interest & importance.
And now let me thank you for your very kind note of the 30 of March. I
saw both Lowell & Child
yesterday, and each desired me to give you his best thanks for your very pleasant
message. Child will, I believe, write to you
himself in the course of a few days.
I hope that we may see you again before your departure. If you should be in Boston before embarking pray have the kindness to let us know of your being there.
With my best respects to Mrs Marsh & yourself, I am, Very truly YoursCharles E. Norton.
If I do not hear from you in regard to the Morte d'Arthur I will take it for granted that I am to go on as I propose.
References in this letter:
Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur, a prose translation of a 14th-century French poem about the knights of the Round Table, was originally printed in 1485.
Robert Southey (1774-1843), Poet Laureate of England, edited Malorey's Le Morte Darthur in 1817.
The London Philological Society, of which Marsh was the American secretary, proposed to create a New English Dictionary. The project foundered in 1861 and was not re-started until almost two decades later.
James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), poet, critic, and professor at Harvard, was editor of the Atlantic Monthly 1857-1861.
Francis James Child (1825-1896), philologist and professor at Harvard, was an authority on the ballad.