Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to CHARLES ELIOT NORTON, dated December 24, 1866.
I have prepared for the N.A Review an article on the origin of the
Italian language, in the form of a review of Cantù's prize Dissertazzione
sull'origine della lingua Italiana. There remain but about ten pages of note paper
to copy, and I have no doubt it will be ready to send off before the first of
January. I have no better reason for my long delay than numerous cares, sorrows and
interruptions, and, I fear I must add an indolent preference for work,
such as is required for the articles I prepare for the Nation
& other periodicals. I suppose this article will make 30 pp of the Review.
Of course one might discuss the subject profitably enough at greater length, but I
suppose I have written as much as anybody will care to read --- Is it true, as I
have been more than once told, that the Nation is in danger of stoppage for want of
patronage? If so, what a disgrace
to our people that the follies of Horace Greeley should be accepted as their daily food, and so wise counsel or that the Nation should be slighted!
I hope all this is but apparent, & that Greeley will not be followed by the North quite into the ditch. To be sure he is half right--universal suffrage--but then, as always, he is half wrong, universal amnesty, Jeff Davis in the presidential chair, Lee at the head of the Army, & Toombs bellowing again in the Senate. Well, I think the Italian gov't--Ricosoli excepted--is almost as inferior to its people in political wisdom, as our own has hitherto practically shown itself to our people. The millstone of the Roman question is still impenetrable to vision, but as long as Ricosoli--in spite of the French emperor--remains in France, I think a dishonorable solution impossible -- --
I am happy to say that Mrs Marsh, after a course of severe surgical treatment by our
(South) American Dr Sims at Paris, is very much better than she has been for twenty years, and seems to have grounds for hoping a nearly complete restoration. All apparently depends upon her securing a few weeks of repose--a thing in our position, and with her native energy, very hard to compass.
We read Lowell's Commemoration Ode--for which I believe we
are indebted to you--with great delight and admiration. It will not help his fame
with Saturday Reviewers, who will think "that means me", but he has a nobler public
than that of England at home, and can well afford to be patriotic. Godwin told me
lately--perhaps it was half-confidentially--that Seward,
towards the latter part of Lincoln's administration, said to him (Godwin) that if he
could have his way, he would suppress by force every newspaper in New York, except
the Herald, which alone had given proper support to the
"strong measures" of the government.
This tends to show how Bennett earned the offer of the mission to Paris. I hope that chapter of Mr Seward's history will some day be written.
I have ordered the N.A Rev. to be regularly sent through two channels, but get it from neither. If you print this article of mine I should like a dozen , which could be sent through the State Dept. By the way, I do not wish to be known just now as the author of an article which would some of my Italian friends.
Mrs Marsh joins me in kindest regards to the ladies of your family & yourself. Please also remember me to Lowell & Child.
I am, dear sir,very truly yoursGeorge P MarshC E Norton esq
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.
Horace Greeley (1811-1872), founder and editor of the New York Tribune, was opposed to the severe Reconstruction measures of the Radical Republicans.
Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) of Mississippi was president of the Confederate States of America 1861-65.
Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) of Virginia was commander in chief of the Confederate Armies at the end of the Civil War.
Robert Toombs (1810-1885) of Georgia, who was a U.S. Senator 1853-61, became Secretary of State of the Confederate States of America in 1861 and later a brigadier general in the Confederate army.
The "Roman question," like the "Italian question" which it superseded, dealt with the unification of Italy, which did not finally occur until Rome was formally incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1870.
Bettino Ricasoli (1809-1880), baron of Brolio, a leader of Tuscan liberal movements, was prime minister of Italy 1861-1862 and 1866-1867.
Dr. J Marion Sims, a gynecologist practicing in Paris, had operated on Caroline Crane Marsh for a noncancerous tumor of the womb in 1865.
James Russell Lowell's tribute to the graduates of Harvard killed in the Civil War bears the title "Ode Recited at the Harvard Commemoration, July 21, 1865."
William Seward (1801-1872) was U.S. Secretary of State from 1861 to 1869.
The New York Herald was founded in 1835 by James Gordon Bennett (1795-1872) and edited by him until his retirement in 1867.
French for to make sticky. Implied meaning is to put into a sticky situation.
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.