Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated May 25, 1871.

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Publication InformationVenice, "Pension Suisse."May 25, 1871.

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My dear Mr. Marsh

It is 44 years ago that my Father began to buy books of Messrs. T. & W. Boone, 29 New Bond Street, London, and in that time they have done well both by him & by me. -- The address of the firm is as I give it above, but I believe both the original members are retired, & the business is now carried on by Mr. Thomas Boone, the son of one of them. I cannot speak too highly of his fairness, exactness, memory, & knowledge of books. I do not imagine that he will you; but I think he will not give you much reason to

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find fault with him. Child has employed him for years, with great satisfaction, in purchases for Harvard College in his special interest,--and the result is that in the Cambridge Library there is such a collection of the Ballad Literature of all nations as is not to be found anywhere else. -- I have had much help from the Boones in making my Dantesque collection.

I am glad,--truly glad,--for the fairly good news that your letter gives us of Miss Crane's health. I trust these pleasant days will entirely restore her,--and, (if I could go on with wishes to be fulfilled as in a fairy story,--) then I trust that Mrs. Marsh will recover from the fatigues & anxieties of the last twelvemonth & that your eyes, beholding her improvement, may become

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as strong as ever again.

I am glad you enjoyed your journey to the old Etruscan towns. I wish I had had the good fortune to be your companion. There are few regions in Italy that interest me more than that which is bounded by Arezzo Perugia, Chiusi, Volterra, & San Gimignano.


As for Venice its slow decay is only less sad than this horrid sudden destruction at Paris,--each is the symptom of the depravity of the people of the two cities. I am tempted to write much to you of what I have been enjoying & observing here, but I forbear in thinking of your eyes.

I have long known Jones Very's poems. They seem to me the work of a spiritual meditative, poetic nature, but of one not of wide range or deep insight, &

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& without any specially rare gift of musical modulation of verse. All Mr. Silsbee's contagious enthusiasm could not kindle my belief that he was a great poet. What you say of his lines reawakening in you the sense of the delight of life in close contact with nature, is the strongest testimony to his essential genius. When I return home I shall read him anew with fresh interest. I have thought of him as a provincial poet,--I shall be glad to find him universal.

I am sorry to say that my Mother, after enjoying two or three weeks of comparative health, had another sharp attack of illness which leaves her just now quite prostrated. She desires me to give her kindest regards to Mrs. Marsh & yourself. My sisters & Mrs. Norton join me in most cordial regards & respects to Mrs. Marsh & yourself, & in most sympathetic
[the following is written vertically on the page beginning "Venice, 'Pension Suisse.'"]
good wishes to Miss Crane.

Believe me,

Faithfully Yours.

I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Wurtz here the other day. He seemed rather bored by Venice, & thought that 6 weeks of it would kill him, but he looked hearty!

I shall ask Boone when I next write to send you his last catalogue, though now a year or more old.

References in this letter:

Francis James Child (1825-1896), philologist and professor at Harvard, was an authority on the ballad.

Caroline Crane Marsh had several nieces as companions at various times in Italy. The one here mentioned is called "Ellen" in a letter by George Perkins Marsh on May 24, 1871.

The Commune of Paris, an insurrection against the Third Republic which lasted from March 18 to May 28, 1871, resulted in the destruction of part of the Tuileries and other public buildings.

Jones Very (1813-1880) published Essays and Poems, edited by Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1839.

Probably Benjamin Hodges Silsbee (1811-1880), a prominent merchant and civic leader in Salem, Massachusetts, Jones Very's home.

George Washington Wurts, of Philadelphia, was Marsh's Secretary of Legation in Italy for many years.