Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated August 13, 1861.

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Publication InformationNewport. 13 August, 1861.

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My dear Sir

I took the liberty of sending to you some weeks ago through Trübner & Co in London, a few copies of a review I lately wrote of a pretended translation, recently published in Italy, of Benvenuto da Imola's Comment on the Divina Commedia. The book is an extraordinary literary imposture, but I am not aware that its character has been exposed until now. Will you do me the kindness to accept one of the copies of my pamphlet, and to send the others to any students of Dante whom you may think likely to be interested in it?


The course of our public affairs at present is moderately satisfactory. The Administration has made some serious mistakes, and has disappointed a good many hopes, but the

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popular spirit and resolution are admirable. There is some disaffection and timidity exhibited in our great cities, but the mass of the people are thoroughly determined to carry the war at any cost to a successful conclusion. The defeat at Bull Run has produced a good effect. It has deepened the tone of feeling at the North, & forced men to sounder reflection as to the causes & objects of the war. It has made peace more difficult, and consequently, more likely, when achieved, to be satisfactory. The connection of slavery with the war is becoming more & more evident. General Butler's letter to Secretary Cameron, and the Secretary's very inadequate answer to it are likely to produce a great effect on public opinion. I cannot but think that Mr Cameron has committed a very unfortunate mistake, and one which the President will before long be forced

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into rectifying, in making the Government during the war the agent for holding the fugitive or deserted slaves of loyal (so called) masters. This is not only extra-constitutional, but totally opposed to the Northern principle of keeping the central government free from any connection whatsoever with slaves as slaves. The questions connected with the fugitives are perplexing, but Mr Cameron has certainly not found the true solution for them.

In spite of the almost engrossing interest of our own public affairs the news of Cavour's death was received here with very widespread & deep regret. The death of no other public man in Europe could have produced such a feeling of sympathetic, almost personal, sorrow. If hopes & sympathies could help a nation Italy would be greatly helped by ours.

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You will be glad to hear that our poor friend, Mr Longfellow, has now almost recovered from the immediate effects of the horrible calamity that has befallen him. His hands which were very severely burned are becoming once more serviceable. He is very much broken, & very desolate, but he is sustained and patient. I have never seen anyone bearing sorrow more simply, manfully & religiously that he bears his almost overwhelming grief. All that love & sympathy can do for him is done, but it is very little.

We are expecting Lowell today to begin a visit to us. He has given up the editorial charge of 'the Atlantic', & is better for being relieved of the work connected with it. He would, were he here, desire me, I am sure, to send to you from him messages of kind regard and respect.

I trust that you are pleasantly established at Turin, and that your eyes
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have improved.

My Mother & sisters desire me to give to you and Mrs. Marsh their kind regards & remembrances, in which I beg to join.

I am, with great respectsVery truly YoursCharles E. Norton.

References in this letter:

Trübner & Co., founded 1851 in London by Nikolaus Trübner (1817-1884), a native of Germany, published scholarly works for, among others, the Early English Text Society and the Royal Asiatic Society.

In A review of a translation into Italian of the commentary by Benvenuto da Imola on the Divina commedia, 1861, Norton pronounced the translation by Giovanni Tamburini "worse than worthless."

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.

In the first battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861, Confederate forces under General P. G. T. Beauregard defeated a Union army commanded by General Erwin McDowell in the first significant engagement of the Civil War.

On July 30, General Benjamin Butler sought clarification from Secretary of War Simon Cameron of the policy respecting slaves who sought refuge behind Union lines. Cameron replied on August 8, stating the slaves escaping from Confederate territory were to be harbored, while slaves escaping from loyal Union slave owners were to be returned under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act.

Count Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810-1861), one of the leaders of the Italian national movement and first prime minister of united Italy, died on June 6, 1861.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had been badly burned attempting to put out a fire that took the life of his second wife, Frances.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), poet, critic, and professor at Harvard, was editor of the Atlantic Monthly 1857-1861.