Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to CHARLES ELIOT NORTON, dated January 22, 1864.
I wrote you from Nimes on the 17' of October, apologising, as well as I could, for my long delay in attending to your commission with respect to the Ms of B. da Imola, and I now report such further progress as I have made. -- Immediately on my return to Turin, I conferred with several friends on the subject, one of whom wrote to Momino d'Azeglio, requesting him to inquire of Lord Vernon whether he had definitively renounced his intention of publishing the commentary. After some weeks an answer arrived, saying that he had done so and that, thanking you for the courtesy of an inquiry, he had no objection to your undertaking the work.
I then applied to a gentleman to aid me in procuring a copy and collation of the MSs
at Florence, but before any conclusion was arrived at, I learned through Mr. Castillia, that Sir James P.
Lacaita, a member of the Italian
parliament, who generally resides in England, was in possession of the copy made for L Vernon, and would probably transfer it to you. I have now made the acquaintance of Sir James and ascertained from him the following facts. Lord Vernon caused a very careful copy to be made of the Ms considered by him and other competent judges to be the best. This was executed under the inspection of Nannucci who was to have edited the work, and fills seven folio volumes. It was carefully collated with several other Mss., and the various readings noted, is clearly and legibly written, and in all respects quite fit for the press. After L Vernon relinquished his purpose of publishing, he offered the copy to Sir James Lacaita for publication, on condition that it should be brought out in creditable style, That a certain number of copies (12 or 20) should be delivered to him, and that the
him uninjured, which would of course make it necessary to take a copy of the copy for the printer, L V's copy being employed only to correct the proof by.
Sir James accepted this proposal and received two vols of the Ms, which are now at his house in London; but he has decided not to go on with their publication, is willing to surrender his rights to you, provided L V. consents (of which he has no doubt), and promises to write immediately to Lord V. on the subject.
From Sir J's description of the copy, and the care with which it was made, I have no doubt it is more accurate than any you could procure, unless taken under your own inspection, and if Lord Vernon is willing to transfer it to you, it can be forwarded from England as soon as his consent is obtained.
Please do me the favour to say whether the conditions would be acceptable to you.
I received lately a copy of Stroud's which
I supposed may have been sent by you and which
will be quite useful to me, though I have abandoned the purpose for which I chiefly wanted such a work. I intended to prepare by help of the tracts of the N. E. Publication Society, and from other sources, a pamphlet in Italian on our internal struggles, & principally with reference to the slave question. But I find that anything on this point--at least anything on the evils, moral and economical, of slavery--is quite superfluous. The difficulty now is to persuade our friends on the Continent, that the President and his Cabinet are honestly and sincerely opposed to slavery, and really mean to make an end of it. I am often hard pressed on this point, and there are many facts and arguments employed by those who hope we are right, but fear we are not, for which I have no answer.
I much fear that we are in imminent danger of a disgraceful peace. The N.Y. Times,
which certainly is not an journal is evidently prepared for the
restoration of the Union with slavery
perpetually guaranteed by the Federal government--in short for a surrender to the South, upon one condition only--viz: that the candidate of the Times and its party shall be elevated to the Presidency. I hope we have not come to this, but I see no reason to think that we are safe from so terrible a result, and I discover in the American journals and in my private correspondence, no evidence of a popular feeling strong enough to compel the government to do its duty in this emergency. I am very far from believing that slavery has received a mortal wound, may now be left to Providence, and will die of itself if let alone. I hold that that accursed institution was never more vivacious than it is today, and if the rebel states are readmitted with the legal power to reenslave the liberated Africans, we shall find the slave power stronger five years hence, than it ever was since
since the adoption of the Constitution.
I have received the Janry No.of the North American--which I had already ordered through a bookseller--from some friend whom I desire to thank for so acceptable a gift. I am sure that valuable periodical will now assume a higher standard than ever. It has long been superior to any British Review, and I doubt not it will now take rank both morally and intellectually with the best French periodicals.
England seems to me fast sinking into dotage, and though I am willing to pay all honour to England, I cannot admit that a people which admires Mr Beresford Hope as the model of a Christian gentleman is entitled to the respect of any American. When our day of reckoning comes, I hope we shall exact an atonement that shall be remembered as long as the English name survives.
Very sincerely yours,George P. MarshC E Norton --
References in this letter:
Benvenuto Rambaldi da Imola's commentary in Latin on the Divine Comedy was one of the earliest and most valuable discussions of Dante's great work.
Massimo Taparelli, marchese d'Azeglio (1798-1866), Italian statesman and author.
George John Warren, Baron Vernon (1803-1866), lived mostly in Florence and published numerous Dante texts and commentaries.
Count Gaetano de Castillia of Milan.
Sir James P. Lacaita (1813-1895), educated as a lawyer at Naples, emigrated to England in 1852 but returned to become a member of the first Italian legislature 1861-65.
Several works by the philologist Vincenzio Nannucci are in Marsh's library.
George McDowell Stroud, Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery in the Several States of the United States of America, 1856.
The New England Loyal Publication Society was founded by Norton and others to influence public opinion in favor of the Union by selecting articles from periodicals, printing them as broadsides, and sending them to editors of northern and border-state newspapers.
Latin: "in the breast."
The North American Review, founded in 1815, was one of the most important American periodicals of the nineteenth century. James Russell Lowell was its editor, with Norton, from 1863 to 1872.
Alexander Beresford Hope (1820-1887) was a founding member of the Cambridge Camden Society, a group of scholars who wanted to reform the ecclesiatic architecture of England. The society felt only gothic architecture was appropriate for churches, and the literary movement of Romanticism of the Victorian era lead to a gothic revival in architecture.