Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated May 10, 1864.
My dear Sir
I heartily wish that your suggestion to Mr. Artoni to make a
Concordance to Dante might be carried out, but I am sorry to say that I am not able
at present to assist materially in the work. The depreciation of our currency has so
enhanced the cost of living that those of us who are dependent on fixed incomes are
obliged to diminish our expenses & to practice a pretty strict economy. This
is the more required of us, because of the frequent demands for contributions to
objects of national importance, & of the increase in taxation. I am
therefore unable to undertake the payment of Mr. Artoni's work, glad as I should be
under other circumstances to do so. If he should be able & inclined to
prosecute his work at his own risk I will with pleasure do everything in my power to
secure its success in this country. I have little doubt that an
order for one or two hundred copies might be obtained from some of our publishers, & that there would be a steady though slow demand for the work here.
I must once more offer you my sincere thanks for your kindness in the Benv. da Imola matter. I will, as you suggest, write at once to Mr. White & to Lord Vernon (under cover to Mr. White,) to acknowledge the offer of the manuscript & to express my thanks for its liberality. I have not seen Lowell since the receipt of your last letter, to consult with him as to going on with our original design. I trust he will agree with me that it will be well to do so, & in that case I hope we might be able to get the first volume ready for the REF TARGET="e5a" of 1865.
The events of the past week have been of engrossing interest. The
operations thus far in Virginia are indecisive, but the advantage seems to
be on our side. With much ground for hope, there is
still reason for serious anxiety. It would appear that another great battle must be fought before the event of the campaign can be decided. I wish that we may have news today or tomorrow that Sherman has gained a victory in northern Georgia. Affairs in the South West look gloomy enough. Banks seems to have shown himself utterly incompetent, & he has got his army & the naval forces under his command, into so bad a position that it may be impossible for even so good a soldier as Canby is said to be to effect their relief. Banks's civil administration has been as great a failure as his military campaign, and it will be difficult to undo the mischief he has wrought.
Congress still dawdles over business that ought to be & might be settled at once. The air of Washington seems to be fatal to efficiency, & destructive of good sense & right feeling.
Fremont has entered on a disastrous course, but if the
campaign in Virginia proceeds successfully his efforts after
the Presidency will result only in his own political ruin. There is no question that Mr. Lincoln is very strong in popular favor.
I am sorry to be obliged to write hastily & briefly today. I trust you have received my letter in answer to yours of the 14 & 29 March.
With my best respects & regards to Mrs. Marsh & yourself, I am, always,
Faithfully Yours,Charles Eliot Norton.
References in this letter:
An Italian who had spent twenty years in Philadelphia, Johseph Artoni served as Marsh's private secretary from 1861 until Marsh's death in 1882.
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 his letter to Norton of April 18, 1864, Marsh identified Arnold White of London as one of the two trustees for George John Warren, Baron Vernon.
George John Warren, Baron Vernon (1803-1866), lived mostly in Florence and published numerous Dante texts and commentaries.
James Russell Lowell and Norton had first broached the idea of an edition of Benvenuto Rambaldi da Imola's commentary on Dante's Divine Comedy in a letter of May 9, 1863.
Probably refering to the centennial celebration of the birth of Dante (1265-1321).
On May 5-6, 1864, Union and Confederate forces fought the inconclusive battle of the Wilderness, the beginning of a campaign by General U. S. Grant to defeat General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and bring about an end to the war.
On May 9, 1864, an inconclusive engagement at Dalton, Georgia, marked the first stage of General William Tecumseh Sherman's campaign to capture Atlanta, a crucial Confederate industrial and communication center.
General Edward R. S. Canby, commander of the Military Division of West Mississippi.
General Nathaniel P. Banks, commander of the Department of the Gulf, was in charge of land troops during the Red River campaign in Louisiana, designed to capture Shreveport and secure east Texas. On April 8, 1864, Banks's forces were routed by the Confederates at Sabine Crossroads, and on May 13 he was forced to give up Alexandria. With the defeat of naval forces under Admiral David Dixon Porter the campaign came to a disastrous end.
As the presidential election of 1864 approached, John Charles Frémont allowed himself to be put forward by the Radical Republicans as the Republican candidate, but withdrew his name in September and supported Lincoln's re-election bid.