Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated March 20, 1867.
My dear Sir
Your paper for the N. A. Review on the origin of the Italian Language has reached me safely, and I am truly obliged to you for it. It is a great satisfaction to me to have an article from you for publication in the Review. This essay is full of interest and instruction. I wish I might hope to have another paper from you before long. This article will appear in the July number of the Review, and I shall be much obliged to you if when you write next to me you will be good enough to tell me how the publishers shall transmit to you the sum in payment for it. I have good reason to believe that the Review is gaining the respect and influence which I desire for it. Its circulation is not large, but it reaches the best readers, and its authority is recognized.
The "Nation" concerning which you enquired of me in the last
letter I had the pleasure of receiving from you is, I regret to say, not yet
Its circulation, however, increases from month to month, and I have little doubt of its ultimate success and permanent establishment. Its very independence of partisanship, the freedom of its criticisms, and the absence from it of all "sensational" appeals to the public, interfere with its immediate popularity,--but in the long run I am confident that these qualities will secure for it solid support.
Congress has at length dealt vigorously with the question of Reconstruction. Its
plan is on the whole approved by judicious men, as well as by the mass of the
people. Present appearances seem to indicate that the South will make a virtue of
necessity, and will do what is required to secure the restoration of the seceded
States to a place in the Union. But after reconstruction is accomplished we shall
still have a hard task before us, and the political future is by no means so
unclouded as one could wish. The question of education at the South, the labor
question, the tariff, the existence of a soldiers' party based on purely selfish
considerations,--are among the matters which threaten to embarrass us. They
unfortunately present admirable fields for the practice of the
arts of demagogues; and the material progress of the country is so rapid as compared with its intellectual & moral advance that there is a constantly larger infusion of ignorance & what may be called uncivilization in our councils.
In regard to the question of protection and free trade a curious & instructive change is now going on. The East,--New England and New York especially,--is giving up its old desire for protection & is adopting free trade principles; while, on the other hand, a considerable protectionist interest is rapidly developing itself in the Western & North Western States. The policy of the country will, I incline to believe, incline more & more to Free Trade, though for some time to come we shall be compelled to maintain a high tariff for the sake of revenue.
Seward has destroyed what little remaining respect was left to him by the Motley Correspondence. The letters addressed by him to our
Ministers & agents abroad have made the whole country ashamed. He is
supposed to be the chief counsellor & upholder of Mr. Johnson in his
wretched course. A great personal & official power has rarely been more
rapidly annihilated than in Mr. Johnson's case. Two or three other reputations have
also of late been declining,--in each instance quite to the advantage of the public. Sumner has shown great want of statesmanlike ability, while his estimate of himself grows without stint. Butler has made a conspicuous failure in his advocacy of Impeachment; and Banks has no longer any position except with newspaper-correspondents. Stevens too is growing old, & his extravagances and follies are gradually putting him where he belongs.
The next number of the Review will contain an admirable paper by Lowell on Lessing, and a very pleasant one by Howells, whose book on Venetian Life has won a place for him among our most agreeable authors, on Contemporary Italian Poets. There will also be in it an exposure worth reading of the nature & practices of the Camden & Amboy Monopoly.
I watch with great interest the progress of affairs in Italy. I regretted what seemed to me the mistake of Ricasoli in the Church question. Is there any journal which would keep one of Italian affairs political & literary, & would not demand too much time in the reading?
It gave us all great pleasure to hear of the improvement in the health of Mrs.
Marsh. I hope that the gain will prove
[the following is written vertically on the page beginning "Cambridge, March 20, 1867."]
permanent. Will you be good enough to give to her the kindest remembrances & regards of the ladies of my family, & my own best respects.
Lowell & Child have asked me to send you their best remembrances. With sincere respect, I am
Very truly YoursCharles E. Norton.Hon. George P. Marsh.
References in this letter:
Marsh's "The Origin of the Italian Language," a 42-page review of Cesare Cantu's Sull' origine della lingua italiana, 1865, and other works, appeared in the North American Review for July 1867.
Marsh wrote many articles for the Nation, a weekly journal of politics, literature, and the arts founded by Edwin Lawrence Godkin in 1865.
Seward, hearing the American Ambassadors abroad were severely criticizing President Johnson, sent them letters inquiring about their conduct. One, John Lothrop Motley, the historian, who was stationed in Vienna, resigned in protest. Eventually the correspondence between the two men became the subject of a Senate investigation which damaged Seward's career.
Charles Sumner (1811-1874), a founder of the Republican party, was U.S. Senator from Massachusetts 1851-1874.
Benjamin F. Butler (1818-1893), a Union general during the Civil War, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives 1867-75, where he was a leader in the move to impreach President Andrew Johnson.
Nathaniel S. P. Banks (1816-1894), a Union general during the Civil War, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives 1865-73.
Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives 1859-68, was the leader of the Radical Republicans. After the war he was chairman of the Committee on Reconstruction, helped establish the Freedmen's Bureau, and led the move to impreach President Andrew Johnson.
Lowell's article on Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, the German dramatist and critic, appeared in the North American Review for April 1867.
William Dean Howells' "Modern Italian Poets" appeared in the North American Review for April 1867. His Venetian Lifewas published in 1866.
"The New Jersey Monopolies," which appeared in the North American Review for April 1867, was an analysis of the actions of the transportation companies of the state.
Bettino Ricasoli (1809-1880), baron of Brolio, a leader of Tuscan liberal movements, was prime minister of Italy 1861-1862 and 1866-1867.
James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), poet, critic, and professor at Harvard, was editor, with with Norton, of the North American Review1863-72.
Francis James Child (1825-1896), philologist and professor at Harvard, was an authority on the ballad.