Letter from CAROLINE CRANE MARSH to FREDERICK BILLINGS, dated October 8, 1882.
Dear Mr Billings,
I have just learned from the Rev Dr Nevin of your very generous intention
with regards to the Library of my late beloved husband, and I lose no time in
thanking you for it. It was Mr Marsh's strong wish that his books should go
ultimately to the University of Vermont and he would have given them outright to
that University had he felt he could do so in justice to those he was leaving
behind. It is therefore a great satisfaction to me to know that his wishes in this
respect are likely to be carried out through the liberality of a friend known to him
so long, and for whom he felt so sincere an esteem. It was also Mr Marsh's wish that
his bust, a work by Mr Simmons of Maine, and regarded by the
best critics as most admirable both as a work of art and as a like-
ness, should go, when I no longer needed it, to the University that might possess his books, and I shall take care that this wish of his is likewise carried out.
The impossibility of living safely in Rome during the summer months has for some
years past compelled us to have an apartment in Florence as well, and consequently,
the book[s] are now partly in that city and partly here. I returned to Rome a few
days since for the purpose of breaking up here, and have already had twelve or
fourteen cases of books packed carefully for transportation. I have endeavored to
keep sets together as far as the fact that a part of the books are in one place and
a part in another, and as other exigencies of packing, will admit, but if any book
should be missing it will be found either in another box or marked on the catalogue
as . trust, however, that there will be few instances of
this kind. On my return to Florence, which I hope will not be later than the
20, I shall, if possible, at once commence
packing the seven thousand volumes there. There is one circumstance, however, which may cause some delay. My dear husband, during the last two years of his life has given all the time and strength he could command to a careful revision of two of his works, and this revision is now so nearly completed that what remains to be done is rather mechanical than intellectual work. Still this will require some two months at least, and if Mr Marsh's publishers are pressing I should feel it my first duty to prepare the Mss. for them. On the other hand I should be very unwilling to have the books packed except under my own eye, and I should therefore have to ask your patience for this delay. Another motive for finishing the Mss. before parting with the books is the necessity of having them at hand for the purpose of verifying assertions and quotations made from memory when in Rome or Florence, while the authority was not within reach. There are also some questions to which it is important I should have answers before finally sending off the books. Shall American official publications generally,
political and scientific, be sent back, or be left to some Institutions in this country as was suggested by Mr Marsh in his former negotiations with the University? Shall the files of the scientific and Literary Periodicals taken by Mr Marsh, such as the , the , , etc. be sent? There are also full files of the London Daily News extending through the whole period of our war. Whether a part or all of these papers and Periodicals be sent is a matter of indifference to me, but I should be much obliged for directions in regard to them. There are certain packages of foreign Periodicals which have been tied up by Mr Marsh himself and directed to the Vermont University. These I shall send of course without further instructions.
Allow me, my dear Sir, to thank you once more most heartily for the generous liberality which has secured the fulfillment of one of the strongest wishes of him whom I now so deeply deplore, and consequently the strongest that I can have in this world. Hoping to have some day an opportunity of renewing to you in person the expression of my obligation
I am very truly yours,Caroline C. Marsh.
References in this letter:
Frederick Billings, (1823-1890), was a lawyer, statesman and president of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Billings gave George Perkins Marsh's library, a collection of 12,000 items, to the University of Vermont. He also provided funds for a building to house the collection, the Billings Library, now the Billings Student Center.
American sculptor Franklin Simmons (1839-1913) was born in Maine but moved to Rome in 1867. He specialized in marble busts and idealized statues.
The Athenum: "Journal of literature, science, the fine arts, music, and the drama." London: 1828-1921.
The Nation was founded in 1865 by Edwin Lawrence Godkin (1831-1902), a native of Ireland who emigrated to the United States in 1856.