Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to CHARLES ELIOT NORTON, dated October 17, 1863.
My dear Sir
You would be quite justified in holding me guilty of inexcusable neglect in not
sooner replying to your very acceptable letter of May last, and in so long delaying
to execute your commission with respect to the Ms of Benvenuto da
Imola, but the loss of time is not wholly owing to inattention on my part.
There are but two or three Dantophiles in Turin, so far as I know. One of these only
knows that L Vernon's intended edition was never
published and that Nannucci is dead. The other I have not
been able to see in consequence of his and my own occasional absences from town. I
had expected to go to Milan in August, but an indisposition on the part of Mrs Marsh
prevented the intended journey. I now design visiting both
that city and Florence in November & will make your request my first business in both. There is a paleographer of reputation among the attachés of the Ambrosian at Milan, but I observe one or two palpable misreadings in a Spanish tract edited by him, and hope he will prove more accurate in Italian. In any case, I will spare no pains to secure you an exact transcript.
I had become a good deal encouraged by our recent successes in the field, but Rosecranz's sad defeat disheartens me. As to Meade, I have never seen any reason to believe him capable of much, and
as he is said to belong to the class of ',' I strongly suspect
he will turn out another McClellan. In any event, Halleck will take care that he shall win no signal victory. We
are losing the confidence and sympathy of our best friends
in Europe, because irresolution, timidity and tergiversation of our government, its indulgent treatment of the rebellion, its stopping enlistments last year, and its failure to enforce the conscription at an early period in this, have given rise to grave doubts as to its honesty of purpose and especially as to its sincerity in respect to the slave question. The mission of that rank pro-slavery advocate Bishop Hughes did our cause great mischief in Europe. His hostility to liberty of all sorts--except the liberty of domination in his own church--was well known, and it was no secret, that, though professedly a Union man, the Union he preferred was a union under a pro- slavery government. That such a man should have been sent abroad as in any sense a representative of this administration, was thought an inexplicable mystery, and his late atrocious harangue to "the men called rioters"
which--obvious as its purpose was--has, so far as I know, met with no rebuke from the administration or its friends, has revived the feeling which his European mission excited. We must strike in earnest this winter, or we shall have a moral, if not a material, crusade of the whole world against us.
The conduct of the government, clergy, nobility, and press of England has surprised me in nothing except the boldness of the mendacity of all of them. Their malignity was not in the least degree unexpected to me. The success of the Puseyite movement revealed to me, more than twenty years ago, such a degree of intellectual decrepitude and of moral degeneration in the governing classes and in the church of England, that no iniquity or folly on their part has since seemed incredible to me.
You are doing an admirable work with your political tracts, and I am glad to see that
you have not neglected those renegades
Carlyle and Ruskin. One point I desire to see conspicuously brought out with reference to those gentlemen's present views of the analogy between the condition of the slave and of the European hired labourer. I refer to the Southern doctrine of the nature of the master's rights over the slave. The highest courts in both Carolina and Alabama, you know, have decided that the power of the master over the slave, unless limited by local statute, is as absolute as that of the owner over his ox. He may butcher him, and sell his skin to the tanner, his bones to the turner, his teeth to the dentist, and no indictment will lie for cruelty to the slave, or even for his murder, except where the legislature of the state limits his rights by enactments which a subsequent legislature may repeal. Could you send me some paper or pamphlet containing these decisions?
Not much is doing in a literary or scientific way at Turin.
You know the New Dictionary of Tommaseo, which has now published 22 or 23 covering some pp. into B. It is laboured, immensely so, and valuable, but philologically speaking, behind the times. The excerpts are all modernized in orthography, and there is no etymology. Fanfani at Florence has lately published a Vocabulary of Tuscanisms--2 vol. 12 mo which is convenient. He is now issuing a periodical--Il Borghini--devoted to the Tuscan speech. Two or three series of publications of old Mss & reprints of scarce tracts are going on, and I hope the newly awakened national Italian feeling will give us at last a history of the Italian language, or rather, what is better still, a collection of materials for the history of that tongue.
I occupied many months preceding August with writing out & preparing for the
notes & observations I have been for years making on Physical Geography as affected by human action. I do this to get out of my brain phantoms which have long been spooking in it, and have no notion of prosecuting such subjects far. The book must be now nearly ready for publication by Scribner of N.Y. It makes no scientific pretensions and will have no value for scientific men who will, of course, condemn it as trash, which very likely it is, but it may interest some people who are willing to look upon nature with unlearned eyes.
Mrs Marsh joins me in kind regards to your mother & sisters as well as to Mrs Norton and yourself. Yours very truly,
George P. MarshC E Norton Esq
P.S. I should have dated my letter at Nimes. We were driven out of Turin by repairs now making on our house and came over the Col de Genèvre and Lantaret to spend a few days in the heart of France. Nimes and most of the Rhone valley we knew before, but we have now seen for the first time Aigues Mortes, a jewel of the first water, which, like Nuremberg, ought to be kept under glass for the benefit of those who love to peek into the life of the Middle Ages.
References in this letter:
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.
George John Warren, Baron Vernon (1803-1866), lived mostly in Florence and published numerous Dante texts and commentaries.
Several works by the philologist Vincenzio Nannucci are in Marsh's library.
The Biblioteca Ambrosiana was founded by Cardinal-Archbishop Federigo Borromeo at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
At the battle of Chickamauga on September 19-20, 1863, Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg defeated the Army of the Cumberland commanded by General William Rosecranz.
Major General George Meade (1815-1872) was appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac on June 28, 1863, three days before the battle of Gettysburg began. Like Generals McClellan and Hooker before him, he hesitated in following up a military advantage and allowed General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate army to retreat without pursuit after they had been defeated at Gettysburg.
After many months of frustration with General George B. McClellan's performance as general in chief of the Union armies, President Lincoln removed him from the post in July, 1862.
Union forces under Major General Henry Halleck took Corinth, Mississippi, on May 30, 1862, a move which contributed to the Confederate evacuation of Memphis, Tennessee, on June 6.
John Hughes, archbishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of New York, toured Europe in 1861-62 as President Lincoln's unofficial representative to promote the cause of the Union.
Irish immigrants were prominent in the riots that swept New York city in mid-July 1863 in response to efforts to enforce the first federal conscription act. Bishop John Hughes and other Catholic clergymen pleaded with rioters to stop the violence, which finally ended with the entry into the city of five regiments of the Union army.
Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882), a professor of Hebrew at Oxford, was one of the leaders of the "Oxford movement," which, alarmed at the growth of rationalism in the Church of England, emphasized the "Catholic" aspects of Anglicanism, asserting such principles as private confession, priestly absolution, and monasticism.
Both Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) and John Ruskin (1819-1900) were unsympathetic to aspects of the Union cause during the Civil War.
Niccol Tommaso, Dizianario della lingua Italiana, 1861-79.
Pietro Fanfani published Vocabolario dell' uso toscano and Vocabolario della pronunzia toscana in 1863.
Marsh's library contains volumes 1-3 of Fanfani's monthly Il Borghini; studi di filologia e di lettere italiane, 1863-65.
Man and Nature; or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action, 1864.
The town of Aigues-Mortes, in marshy country near the Mediterranean, was founded by Louis IX of France in 1246. It is remarkable for its perfectly preserved fortifications, built in the shape of a rectangle measuring 600 by 330 yards.