Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated November 15, 1871.
My dear Mr. Marsh
We all were grieved to hear, through Mrs. Marsh's and your kind notes, of the trial & suffering you have had to bear since we last saw you. We were glad to learn of the encouraging telegram from Miss Crane, which we trust may be only its forerunner of continued good accounts from her.
I was much obliged to you for sending me the Catalogue of old
Kirkup's library, and the message from Boone. I
will write to the latter in a day or two. The Kirkup Collection is a curious one,
even more so than I had supposed it, for the Dantesque part of it was the only
portion that I had really seen. But it is not a Collection which gives one much
regard or liking for the collector There is something very odious in a man's
spending years on the look out for the choicest rarities of licentious literature,--and in extreme old age becoming widely know as the possessor of an unusually extensive collection of the foulest books. I suppose they will sell at high prices in England, where there are not a few members of the upper classes who have a taste for such things,--a bad social symptom.
It is a pity that some one of our rich men will not buy all the Dantesque books for some public library in America. I would add my collection to it, and we should then have all the needed apparatus for any investigation concerning the life or works of Dante.
I have sent to Tübingen for a bookseller's Catalogue that I thought would interest
you, & which you shall have as soon as it comes to me. I would send you
my own copy but that I have marked it a good deal. It contains a large selection of recent German philological works, mainly in the region of the German language and literature, and mostly from Uhland's library. There are not many rarities, but a good many useful books, some of them not altogether easily obtainable, on the list. Have you seen, by the way, Raumer's "Geschichte der German: Philologie"? It is a useful, sensible compendium of information, without original views or philosophy. The Germans seem as industrious as ever, but not in the regions of pure thought and philosophy. They have become materially-minded like the rest of the world, and abstract speculation is in discredit. The effect of the war has been to stimulate the tendencies to positive science, and to material industries that were active enough before. Scholarship, I am told, is declining; there is no poetry, but a vast activity in the production of moneymaking manuals &
light literature for mere entertainment. Part of this condition is due no doubt to the mental energy of the Germans having been overstrained for two generations. They are experiencing a reaction from the excessive sentimentalisms and metaphysics of the Goethean-Hegelian period. From present appearances I fear they are going too far in the new direction; at least just now there is a common disposition to sneer at abstract studies & to deny the value of what are called spiritual pursuits.
I hope you will have no return of your painful rheumatic troubles and that your eyes
will serve you better than they did last year. We all are sorry not to be near you
this winter. Germany is admirably suited to make one miss Italy. Life is a
continuous moral effort here. However we keep well, and my Mother is, I am very glad
to say, surprisingly better & stronger than at any time during our last year
[The following appears vertically on the page beginning "Dresden. 9 Räcknitz Strasse."]
Italy. She desires me to give her kindest remembrances to Mrs. Marsh & yourself My wife & sisters join me in most cordial regards & respects to you both, and I am
Always sincerely & faithfully YoursC. E. Norton.
I took the liberty of giving the man servant who lived with me in Italy, a note to you, thinking that perhaps you might have occasion to recommend a servant to some one in need. He is a faithful & good Tuscan servant.
References in this letter:
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.
Seymour Kirkup (1788-1880), a British artist, was the leader of a literary circle in Florence.
Thomas Boone, referred to in Norton's letter of May 25, 1871, was the proprietor of the London bookseller firm of T. & W. Boone.
Johann Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862), German poet, philologist, and historian.
Rudolf Raumer (1815-1876) published Geschichte der Germanischen Philologie in 1870.